Village life in the city
On a bend in the Melaka River, enclosed by ever sky-reaching buildings, the tiny Malay village of Kampung Morten is an anachronism.
Ironically, increasing urbanisation was the reason the village was established in the early 1920s, when the development of a market in nearby Kampung Jawa forced the residents to look for a new home. The swampy plot filled with mud crabs by the river was up for grabs, but the 10,000 straits dollars asking price was a prohibitively high sum for the villagers. The village head approached the British Land Commissioner, Frederick Joseph Morten, who helped secure a loan and the area was subdivided into 100 affordable plots. In recognition of his assistance, the villages voted to name the new kampung after the Commissioner.
As the surrounding streets and villages changed from colonial to Malay names, the residents of Kampung Morten refused to alter theirs, remaining loyal to the man who had helped establish their village.
Today, Kampung Morten is listed as a heritage site and despite the years, the village has retained its customs and traditions and the charming traditional wooden stilt homes have been lovingly maintained. It’s a delight to wander the narrow streets and chat to the easygoing residents, but the highlight is a visit to Villa Sentosa, a kampung house open to the public as a “living museum”—it's stuffed with photos, memorabilia, frilly curtains and plastic flowers.
We visited as part of the terrific free guided walk programme held every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 16:00 by GoHeritage Melaka. Not only will you see the museum, but the excellent guides will lead you on an enjoyable and informative 90 minute meander around the streets where you’ll learn the history, be challenged by traditional puzzles, meet the locals and get to taste some delicious local snacks. We loved learning about (and tasting) the local fruits and herbs and meeting a man who makes miniature traditional Malay houses fashioned from wood scraps. Try and make the free tour but if you can’t, Villa Sentosa and the kampung itself can be visited independently. As it’s a traditional village, modest dress is appreciated.
To register for the free Kampong Morten guided walk, meet at Villa Sentosa at 15:30 to start at 16:00. Villas Sentosa operates on rubber time, but is usually open daily 09:00 to 13:00 and 14:00 to 17:00.
Kampung Morten is on the west bank of Melaka Rivera, a pleasant one-and-a-half kilometre stroll along the riverside from Dutch Square, opposite The Majestic Hotel. A walking bridge from the east bank leads directly to Villa Sentosa.
Address: Jalan Kampung Morten, Melaka
Coordinates (for GPS): 102º14'57.98" E, 2º12'12.88" N
See position in Apple or Google Maps: Apple Maps | Google Maps
Admission: Free, but donations are encouraged.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.
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