Wander around Melaka’s old quarter, Bandar Hilir, for a glimpse of a ruined Portuguese fort, salmon-coloured Dutch Square and Chinese clan houses and temples – just part of the rich heritage of a town whose role in the early maritime spice trade with Europe kick-started the formation of the Malaysian state. Before the arrival of an invading Portuguese fleet in 1511, this was the capital of the powerful Malacca Sultanate, and it remains a thriving regional capital.
Since being awarded UNESCO World Heritage status in 2008, Melaka’s historic core has seen much renovation, with dilapidated old buildings gaining a new lease of life as heritage hotels and trendy cafés. On weekend evenings, Jonker St, the main thoroughfare of Chinatown, hosts an atmospheric Night Market specializing in antiques and handicrafts. Several lavishly decorated Chinese-Palladian townhouses belonging to the Baba- Nonya community have also been opened to visitors.