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Malaysia is definitely one of the must-visit countries among Bruneians and most people travel for leisure and of course, shopping.

In 2018 alone, Tourism Malaysia recorded 1.38 million tourist arrivals from Brunei, making it the top five countries to visit Malaysia.

Meanwhile, from January to September this year, 929, 789 tourist arrivals were recorded.

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The high volume of tourist arrivals into Malaysia is due to the proximity as it is easy and convenient to enter the country by land and air.

Moreover, the strong Brunei currency against Malaysia and the value for money are also contributing reasons to the figures.

Visit Malaysia 2020

For Malaysia, it is not just a shopping haven among tourists but also the preferred country for holiday destinations especially to the less explored states.

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Tourism Malaysia recently launched its Visit Malaysia 2020 campaign with hopes to welcome a total of 30 million tourists and register RM100 billion in tourist receipts by next year.

The campaign is based on the country’s Vision 2020 objectives that focus on sustainability of tourism, arts and culture.

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With the campaign, Tourism Malaysia is also encouraging tourists to visit places beyond Malaysia’s most favoured stop Kuala Lumpur but also to Terengganu, Pahang and Penang, among others.

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At the recent ASEANMEET 2019 held in Melaka, which was organised by Tourism Malaysia, several countries from the region were invited for a business presentation and B2B session with Malaysian tourism industry players.

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A post tour programme was assigned to the Bruneian delegates and Melaka was one of the must-explored destinations.

Despite the short stay at the UNESCO world heritage city, the delegates were already in awe with its historical architecture and tourist-friendly spots that are strategically located in the city centre.

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Melaka: a heritage city

Melaka is just a two-hour bus ride from Kuala Lumpur International Airport and a perfect mode of travel for those who enjoy some sights along the road.

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For first timers, it is a must to visit the state’s landmarks such as the Christ Church and The Stadthuys – they are located next to each other and painted in brick-red.

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At the city centre, you will notice that the buildings around have their own unique features such as the Christ Church, having a Dutch influence and restored townhouses bearing Chinese designs, among others.

Melaka’s strategic location on the strait was a suitable trading port in the olden days where it grew from a small fishing village, making it as one of the most important ports in the world.

The influence of Dutch into Melaka’s infrastructures was due to colonisation after taking the town away from the Portuguese. It was then colonised by the British and occupied by the Japanese.

Melaka is definitely a cultural melting pot. If you were to walk along Jalan Tokong Besi, do not be surprised to see a mosque, a Chinese temple and a Hindu temple.

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Although being colonised by several European countries, the prominent culture in Melaka would be the Peranakan – of Malay and Chinese heritage.

To have an up-close experience of the Peranakan culture, it is best for one to visit the Baba Nyonya Heritage Museum that was previously the home of Baba Chan Cheng.

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What’s interesting about the house is that four generations lived in the house before opening it to the public as a museum in 1985.

The famous Jonker Street

When visiting Melaka, it is often that people go to famous Jonker Street – a weekend night market situated in the centre street of Chinatown.

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The quaint street of Jonker in the morning will be transformed into a fully packed walking the street filled with vendors selling street food and affordable keepsakes.

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Do not let the crowd deter your adventure into Jonker Street because battling your way through is part of the unique experience of traveling.

The streets turned all vibrant as early as 5pm and you get to see, smell, feel and hear everything at one place.

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There’s music, candies, seafood, grilled chicken wings, fried food, foot reflexology, spices and chicken rice balls, among others.

You will not be hungry and be spoilt for choices when at the street as there also restaurants and eateries nearby which menu are of local, Asian and Western cuisines.

Portuguese heritage

Although the Peranakan culture is more visible in Melaka, but the city still has a hint of Portuguese influence and apart from the city centre, one can visit the Portuguese Settlement or sometimes known as Mini Lisbon.

The village is located just a few kilometers away from the city centre in an area called Ujong Pasir, home to a community of around 1,000 people who are descendants of early Portuguese settlers.

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If you want to have a humble feel of Portugal, then a visit to the village is a must. It comprises of few streets with names such as D’Alberquerque, Sequera, Eredia, D’Aranjo and Texeira.

During the day, the place may be a little quiet but it gets lively in the evenings and weekends especially when there are cultural shows.

Some other places of attractions with Portuguese influence would include the A Famosa, a former Portuguese fortress, and the ruins of St Paul’s Church located on the summit of St Paul’s Hill.

Melaka: aesthetically pleasing

Not only one will notice the red-brick buildings in the city centre, but one will definitely set their eyes on the colourful murals on the walls of the old antique and newer buildings.

The unique motifs and designs give life to the quaint city and of course, perfect photo opportunities for visitors.

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Just along the riverbank, there are plenty of arts to choose from ranging from abstract designs, portraits of legends to flowers and animals.

In daylight, the already vibrant buildings radiate a cheerful environment with reflections from the river projected unto the walls.

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Meanwhile, at night, other structures and features nearby the building such as bridges and trees are adorned in decorative neon lights that bring life to the riverbank.

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One way to explore the city is by going on a Melaka River Cruise to catch the breath-taking sights of both old and new facets of Melaka.

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The cruise is perfect to take just after the sun sets and takes about 45 minutes to complete a 9-kilometre tour.

At dusk, you get to see the best of both worlds; the natural beauty of historical Melaka and the illumination of lights that radiate across Melaka River.

This article was first published on December 14, 2019 in our Weekly E-Paper issue 67

MELAKA | The Bruneian

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