Photo: At the Cheng Ho Cultural Museum.

Chinatown walking tour

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The streets and alleyways of Chinatown on the west bank of the Melaka River are the nerve centre of Melaka and the UNESCO World Heritage-listed city’s most fascinating area for a wander.

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Begin from the river along Heeren Street (officially Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock), formerly Heeren­straat or “Gentlemen’s Street” and the address of the upper-crust since Dutch times. From the mid-18th century to the early 20th century this was the choice neighbourhood for wealthy Straits Chinese (Peranakan) who had made it big in the rubber trade. Many of the flamboyant “Chinese Baroque” homes have been restored and converted to hotels, guesthouses, antique shops and museums.

Historical charm. Photo taken in or around Chinatown walking tour, Melaka, Malaysia by Sally Arnold.

Historical charm. Photo: Sally Arnold

One interesting feature of the houses here is that they are relatively narrow, but can stretch back some 50 metres or more; they were built this way to minimise tax calculated on street frontage at the time. Interior open courtyards provide ventilation and light. At number one, Heeren House was formerly a warehouse, and is now a simple guesthouse and cafe. What’s interesting about this relativity modest building is the addition of shuttered windows along its side, a bonus river view for guests.

The grand four-storey house at number five has been beautifully restored, and hiding behind the gilt door is Melaka’s finest boutique hotel, unambiguously called 5 Heeren. If it’s within your budget (or even if it’s not), we recommend a splurge. Note the ceramic phoenix and peonies above the awning, decorative motives commonly used by Peranakans—the phoenix symbolising harmony and luck, and the peonies for prosperity. This style of three-dimensional mosaic work is called chien nien or ceramic cut-and-paste ... Travelfish members only (Around 2,300 more words) ... please log in to read the rest of this story.

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A selection of some of our favourite places to stay in Melaka.

What next?

 Browse our independent reviews of places to stay in and around Melaka.
 Check prices, availability & reviews on Agoda or Booking
 Read up on where to eat on Melaka.
 Check out our listings of things to do in and around Melaka.
 Read up on how to get to Melaka.
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