Malacca, the Chinese settlement

I decided to add one day of holiday to a business trip to Malaysia, to visit the old city of Malacca. Like Shanghai, Malacca was a western settlement in an Asian country. The first to settle were the Portuguese, replaced by the Dutch and then the British until independence in the 1950’s. What really links Shanghai and Malacca is the large Chinese communities that settled in Malacca since the 17th century. This give to the city a whole new dimension. Like in Shanghai Chinese design and western technology mixed to create a lifestyle and buildings that are very unique.

Most of the Malacca houses have the traditional shape of 2 story Chinese houses with the shop facing the street and the living quarters above them. The typical Malacca style mixes it with western details such as Corinthian column top, painting of colorful flowers on the walls. This mix of western and Chinese style are quite similar to the one to be found in¬†China’s Guandong province, in particular around Kaiping. I could also see number of buildings with colored glass windows like one can see on buildings in Shanghai. Buildings from the 1930’s and later often have iron windows like the one in my apartment in Shanghai.

The whole Chinese city of Malacca has a very nice colonial atmosphere. Many cafes are open to the street. My two preferred places where the Lin Loke Wee Coffee Shop, at the corner of Jalan Tokong and Jalan Portugis (just the name of the street is an evocation to travel). This a very local place, in a corner building surely from the 1930s. Age old wooden tomette chairs, wooden table with stone top, the decor has not changed for decades, not even the fridge in the back that seems straight out of a 50s movie. You can have noodles, drink the local soja drink or a great ice coffee with milk or Sugar. This place is authentic Malacca style.

A little further on Jonker is street is the new and attractive¬†Geographer Cafe, keeping the colonial atmosphere while creating a modern touch to it. This place reminded me of other travels cafes I have been to, like the Foreign Correspondent Club in Phnom Penh. Decor is great, food was fine (a little too western to my taste… but great to tourists). I enjoy it tremendously… The decor upstairs is all made with antic maps, old pictures and postcards… not far off my dream cafe if I ever make one.

Jonker street, the central street of the Chinese city is also packed with antic shops, where I was looking for treasures and ended up buying a number of things… including the promotion flyer for “Fantomas”, a French film from the 1970’s at the Cathay Theater (reminded me of the Shanghai one). It was just so out of it’s place that I could not resist. Looking for Shanghai related items, I found a postcard sent to the “Hotel des Colonies” in the French concession.

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