Every visitor to Melaka explores Chinatown and sees the Malay settlement of Kampung Morten from the river cruise, but the Portuguese Village on the outskirts of the city receives few visitors. Make the trip out to learn more about the descendants of Melaka’s first colonisers, or at least to enjoy a delicious seafood dinner by the coast.
Melaka was a colony of Portugal from 1511 till 1641. Although their rule ended when the Dutch arrived, marriages between Portuguese and local people resulted in the creation of a unique “Eurasian” culture that has survived the centuries.
However, the Portuguese Village was only created in the 1930s when the British colonial government granted 28 acres of seaside land to the Portuguese descendants. Many speak a dialect called Kristang and are devoutly Catholic – there is an active convent and a shrine to San Pedro (St Peter), the patron saint of fishermen.
The small Portuguese Settlement Museum chronicles the history of the settlement and the traditions of the Portuguese descendants. There are some interesting artifacts recovered from sunken ships, old photographs, traditional wedding costumes and displays about Portuguese festivals. The museum is maintained by Mr Edgar, an elder from the community, and he’s usually around from 09:00 till 17:00 on weekdays, but it’s worth calling to confirm (06 284 9157). Admission is free.
Except for the museum and the occasional fishing boat, the Portuguese Settlement is very quiet during the day. When it does come to life is at night, when the seafood restaurants open and people flock here for an al fresco dinner. On weekends there is often entertainment in the form of Portuguese music and dancing at the outdoor stage. In addition to the fresh crab and fish, the restaurants serve Eurasian specialties like “devil’s curry” (which isn’t nearly as spicy as it sounds).
Another great time to visit the Portuguese Village is during a festival. The biggest is the Festa San Pedro (feast of St Peter) which takes place every year during the week leading up to June 29. Portuguese descendants from across Southeast Asia make the trip to Melaka for this religious holiday, and the village comes to life with music, dancing and feasting. Easter and Christmas are marked with processions and decorations.
The Portuguese Village is located along the coast about four kilometres east of downtown Melaka. It’s ideal for a bike ride or you can get here via bus #17 from Dutch Square.
How to get there
The Portuguese Village is located along the coast about four kilometres east of downtown Melaka. It’s ideal for a bike ride or you can get here via bus #17 from Dutch Square. The Portuguese Settlement Museum is maintained by Mr Edgar, an elder from the community, and he’s usually around from 09:00 till 17:00 on weekdays, but it’s worth calling to confirm - (06) 284 9157.
By Tanya Procyshyn
Last updated on 1st September, 2014.