Wednesday, December 31, 2014
Chasing the Portugese ..Malaca
Chasing the Portuguese :Malacca
on April 1511 eighteen Portuguese ships had sailed from Goa on the west coast of India which was a Portuguese colony .
Alfonse de Albuquerque headed the mission and reached the straits of Malacca and took over the sultanate ofMalacca and ruling it till 1641 when the Dutch would take it from them, they would then rule till 1798 and then the British would till 1946 and then it would become part of Malaysia .
The Portuguese would go on to china to take over Macau and Timor in Indonesia as their colonies from Malacca .
.Having born to a family from Calicut with links to the zamorins who fought the Portuguese bitterly and later having lived for a better part of my life in Cochin with a rich Portuguese history and several visits to Goa I was eager to visit Malacca specially after I went to Macau recently .
It was almost like chasing the Portuguese !
History is infused in our souls we just need to reflect back to understand our present,
one needs to savor the past to the living of the present
Places like Malacca are visible signs of such history where the sites, the people, the architecture ,the cuisine have all been churned through the mills of time ,
Travelling to such places become full only when we digest this perspective,
our imagination should be allowed to float back in a time machine when the very streets would have thundered with the clopping sounds of horseback Portuguese and their war cries or their elegant courts and buildings or the fine food that was served or the nimble feet which danced in those courts
So this month when I was in Kuala Lumpur I made it a point to make a quick trip to Malacca .
Express luxury buses sped one in two hours from KL to Malacca a distance of 148 km
I had to reach Tasik Bandar Selatan bus station of KL in its outskirts to get them so I took a taxi
Cab drivers have always been excellent conversation material for me,
this young man who drove me was into philosophy of life ,I was spellbound by his convictions and clarity of thought .
TBS stand was constructed like an airport ,the bus was spacious roomy and comfortable ,and we reached Malacca.
I hopped into another cab to take me to the historical tourist center, he left me in a square dripping with history
There were buildings , churches , flowing river ,cemeteries ,museums ,and busy traffic all around and it was thronging with tourists children romantic newlyweds and colourful rickshaws waiting for custom ,
the buildings were mostly Dutch in origin some were Portuguese specially the St Pauls Church in Bukit st Paul ,
I made the climb to the small hill and it offered a magnificent view of the port city
the breeze was soothing as I explored the red sandstone buildings standing with dignity
the church of st Paul with a part of it a wreck a
I ventured into a contemptory museum of artefacts belonging to the Governors of Malacca
The real Portuguese settlement was some distance away I heard
On descending the hill I saw the epitaphs and memorial stones of the Dutch cemetery
If one had time one could read the stones in detail and paint a picture of the life lying below in death but I just had none
I came down to enter the famous legendary Jonker walk
This was a road lined with shops ,Chinese temples restaurants mosques and churches .it was crowded and busy and by evening it would be a restricted area for vehicles turning into a hawkers paradise and a walkers delight
I walked the whole length my senses filled with colour sounds and delighted with the cacophony
There is always so much life in such market places where one could observe people and their myriad body languages and goods strewn in such array that the market is a microcosm of the macro world,
I love to sit in a sideway café in such places sipping my cafe latte and biting into a cookie while I watched the world go by
.I was just part of the furniture with my camera recording for posterity and my mind being imprinted by millions of sensory pings .
I prefer to to travel to places of special interest like Malacca alone as any company would break the spell
By the time I retraced my steps from the far end dusk was slowly descending down and lights were twinkling the street quickened its activity and came into more of its life as it became a pedestrian paradise ,hawkers expertly unfolded their temporary awnings and the roads narrowed while new shops became open it was like the metamorphosis of a butterfly from a larva as Malacca unfolded its beauty to the beholder
Hunger pangs were hitting me in full force as I had skipped my lunch so far for a scrawny cookie and coffee and I looked around for a Portuguese speciality restaurant,the place was full of Chinese ,Malay ,nyonya places to eat but the Portuguese had clearly stayed away
I even entered an upmarket quiet restaurant attracted by its ambience but made a quick diplomatic exit when I saw a menu which would never satiate a glutton like me as it was for nibblers and for a price that would empty half my wallet too
Finally I did land one by providence in a side street
After a satisfied tucking in of fiery chicken vindaloo and rice which any self-respecting Goan cook would not feel ashamed of, and washing it down with an ice cold sprite to cool my burnt insides
I let out a belch to pollute the Malacca air and quickened my pace to a cab which took me back to the bus station and uneventful trip back to KL
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