The Melaka River Cruise is one of the main tourism attractions of Melaka. The city of Melaka is one of Malaysia’s top tourist destinations because of its heritage from the 15th Century. The Melaka River Cruise is the only river journey in South East Asia that takes you back through these 600 years of history.
It was the Melaka River that offered a safe harbour for the ships and it became a thriving trading hub from the 15th Century.
The historic city of Melaka together with George Town in Penang is listed by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites in Malaysia. These 2 cities have over 600 years of trading and cultural exchanges between East and West. The influences of both Asia and Europe have endowed these two cities with specific multicultural heritage both tangible and intangible aspects.
The river cuts through the centre of the UNESCO heritage site. On the North side, the culture of the Peranakan is showcased in Jonker Street (renamed as Jalan Hang Jebat). This area is largely made up of shop houses built during the “Dutch” period. They are long and narrow as the property tax was based on the width of the property.
This is the commercial tourist area with shops and street food. However, there are the intangibles or cultural aspects like the Melaka museums (Cheng Ho Cultural Museum and the Baba Nyonya Heritage Museum), Peranakan Restaurants and the oldest Chinese Temple built in 1645. Melaka is well known for artisans who craft beaded shoes.
The South side of the river is dedicated to the heritage buildings. The Dutch Square is the centre for visitor activity with food stalls, street artists and a pick up point for the flamboyantly decorated Melaka trishaw taxi. This end is where the tangible aspects of the heritage are – Queen Victoria’s Fountain, Christ Church and the old town hall (The Stadhuys) which are painted in terracotta colour. This is also the starting point for walking routes to the Sultanate Palace, St Paul’s Hill, A’ Famosa Fort and others.
The departure area is near the replica of the Flora de la Mar, a Portuguese galleon that sank off the coast. This replica is so prominent that it can hardly be missed.
The boat seats 40 passengers. Most of the seats are under cover but not the front row seats which have the best views. People in the front row seats are however, subject to splashes from the bow wave.
The cruise starts off in the UNESCO heritage site. On the North side are the old commercial buildings where many have been converted to riverside bars, café and hotels. There are murals of street art with many depicting the history of the Sultanate of Melaka. On the South side are the Heritage buildings and a Church of Gothic design – Church of St Francis Xavier.
Many people have found the best time to take the Melaka River Cruise is in the evening when it is cooler. The buildings and murals are lit up to highlight their best features. During the day, the strong tropical sun appears to bleach the colour of the walls.
When we visit a destination, we would specifically look for the food that is unique or characteristic of that place. In Melaka, it is Peranakan food. This is a local speciality where the local ingredients are cooked using Chinese techniques.
There is much to see in Melaka as it has a history going back some 600 years. A tour guide would be useful to show and explain the main attractions. Melaka can be divided into 2 parts – the tangible and the intangible. It is straight forward to get explanations of the tangible parts – the ruins of A’formosa fort gate, the church at St Pauls Hill and the Malay Sultanate Palace. However, it is more difficult to explain the intangible – Peranakan culture, which is characteristic of Melaka.
Frequency – it depends on the demand. The intervals can vary between 10 to 30 minutes.
Duration of Boat Ride – A return journey of about 45 minutes of a distance of 9km.
The Melaka River Cruise is certainly a worthwhile trip for your visit to the historic city of Melaka. It is a river that is embedded in history and made this city a success in the first place.
I would certainly recommend taking this cruise in the evening as part of winding down the day’s activities.
The Start Point of the Melaka River Cruise: By the Maritime Museum next to the replica Portuguese Galleon.