Ten years after being placed on the UN World Heritage listing, Malacca (capital of the state of the same name) has major ambitions to further its cultural impact on the world.
The most recent example is the opening, in July, of the “Encore Melaka” theatre extravaganza: a timely, and extremely powerful addition to the city’s collection of treasures.
Encore Melaka, a scenic venue overlooking the Straits of Melaka, is a purpose-built 2,000-seat theatre, designed for the high-tech telling of Melaka’s rich history. Encore Melaka presents a mesmerising performance with a series of touching life stories of the locals. It is not designed as a cultural performance for tourists, but more as a performance that reflects a society that embraces diversity and inclusiveness.
In a 70-minute show, the audience is led through six centuries of history, crossing through time and space. What they take home is not merely the story of a rich historical place, but an intellectual reflection of the true essence of Malacca – a model of multicultural coexistence. Expect emotive storytelling, high-energy choreography, vivid stage settings with creative lighting and unbelievable stage effects along with a score of moving music that will not only inspire audiences but capture their imagination, too.
Acclaimed as the most innovative director in China, Wang Chaoge serves as the chief director of Encore Melaka. Wang pioneered real-scene performances in China and has taken the Impression & Encore Series to a commercial success internationally. During the 70-minute live performance, about 200 local performers from all over Malaysia, aged between 18 and 63 years take to the stage.
A new landmark in Melaka: The theatre itself is a work of art. Overlooking the scenic Straits of Melaka, it sets a new landmark in Melaka with its contemporary design. The façade is tiled with fish scale-like LED panels which reflect light from the ever-changing and vibrant sky of Melaka. It is the largest permanent theatre in Malaysia designed by chief architect Wang Ge from the Beijing Institute of Architectural Design, and is purpose-built solely for Encore Melaka. The Encore Melaka theatre is part of a larger waterfront integrated mixed development called Impression City Melaka which encompasses hotels, serviced apartments, commercial complexes, office towers, educational and wellness facilities, a shopping mall, retail shops, a yacht club and a marina. The landmark 56 ha project with a gross development value of RM7 billion, is being developed by Yong Tai Berhad and expected to be ready in eight to ten years’ time. The Encore Melaka theatre will remain as the centrepiece of this new destination.
Astoundingly Rich Cultural Heritage Leads to Ongoing Tourism Growth
Malacca is of course famous for its rich cultural heritage, subsequent to the colonial rule of Portuguese, Dutch and British.
Already in 2017, Malacca is reported to have registered 16.7 million visitors, a new record for the state, placing it as the main single tourist destination in the country outside of Kuala Lumpur, with the majority of tourists coming from China, Singapore, Indonesia, Hong Kong and Taiwan. It is projected that 17-million people will visit the state in 2018.
With a diversity of cultures and races, similar in some ways to George Town in Penang, the city of Malacca is primarily known today for its Baba Nyonya culture (couples formed by the marriage of Chinese men with local women), and Kampung Morten, where one can find a collection of almost 100 fascinating traditional Malay houses.
Melaka River – a growing attraction
Once a pivotal trade route during the 15th century, Sungai Melaka (Malacca River) adds a great deal to the charming atmosphere around the town’s central area. Early in the morning, or late in the afternoon capture beautiful water reflections. A river cruise is an increasingly popular way for people to see the sights of Malacca at a leisurely pace, in comfort and without breaking the bank.
The river is where the town’s history began, and it has played a key role over the years.
A few decades ago the river was a smelly waterway lined with dilapidated houses on stilts and the untidy rear-side of crumbling shop-houses. In recent years, it has had a major facelift, with great efforts being made to preserve many of the historic buildings and bridges along the river. Some buildings are painted with colourful murals depicting different aspects of the town’s rich history and culture. The river tour takes the visitor back through more than 600 years’ history in the region. The total journey takes around 45 minutes. It operates from day to night and both offer a considerably distinct experience.
A Veritable Centre of Heritage
Christ Church, St. Paul’s Hill, and Cheng Hoong Teng Temple are just a few of the headliners that attract tourists from all over the world to Malacca. Kampung Kling Mosque and A Famosa Fort should also be on anyone’s list when visiting the city.
It was in 2008 that Malacca was named UNESCO World Heritage City. Today there are plenty of sites to visit over the course of a few of days, and the list continues to grow.