When it comes to nations that are renowned for their cultural diversity, there is no doubting Malaysia’s prominence as a melting pot for people from all walks of life. As the home of three major races and individuals of numerous other ethnicities, it would only be accurate to describe this Southeast Asian country as being incredibly colourful and vibrant.
Naturally, such a vivid canvas was not painted overnight—which also translates to say that Malaysia is filled with history and is defined by an immensely rich past. The fact that the country is the host of four UNESCO World Heritage Sites should testify adequately to this.
As such, what better way to learn more about both these elements than through the country’s destinations and architecture?
Here, we zoom in on seven of Malaysia’s prominent historic locations and equip you with brief explanations on the significance of each, so that your next trip to Malaysia proves to be a truly immersive walk through history.
Formerly a commanding fort that was built during the reign of Alfonso de Albuquerque to protect Malacca, the remains of this structure now stands as a reminder of the fact that the state was once a Portuguese colony. It dates back to 1511, and would go on to fall into the hands of Dutch and British forces during their respective conquests of Malacca. It is easily identified by the Porta de Santiago gate, which is the only construct from the original fort that has withstood the tides of time and history.
This cemetery is the resting place of many key figures in the history of both Penang Island and Malaysia, including Sir Captain Francis Light, who is often regarded as Penang’s founding father. A substantial number of frangipani trees are scattered throughout the cemetery’s vicinity, giving it a calm and sweetly-scented atmosphere that matches the classy and elaborate nature of the tombstones that have been resting in it from as early as 1786.
Also known as Dataran Merdeka amongst locals, this destination was where the Malaysian flag was raised for the first time at midnight on the 31st of August 1957, thus declaring Malaysia’s status as an independent nation to the world. It rests near a few other prominent Malaysian structures and destinations, including the Sultan Abdul Samad building—pictured above in the opening of this piece—and the shopping haven that is Petaling Street or Chinatown.
Fort Cornwallis was built back in the late 18th century, shortly after the arrival of Sir Captain Francis Light of the British East India Company and his founding of Penang Island. Covering an area of over 400 square feet, it was constructed to serve as a defensive barrier against pirates and those who were considered to be a threat to the island and Light’s administration at the time.
The Stadthuys is arguably the most famous historic Malaysian destination in Malacca, with its distinct red-coloured body that carries vivid hints of Dutch colonial architecture. It was built between 1640 and 1660 to function as the state’s administration office, during the reign of Dutch forces over Malacca.
Built in 1879 during the reign of the second Rajah of Sarawak, Sir Charles Brooke, this English castle-themed landmark was once a celebrated point of defence against pirates for the state of Sarawak. It sits by the Sarawak River in Kuching, and is greatly valued as a historic destination that was born during the rule of the White Rajahs of Sarawak throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.
When it comes to sheer grandeur and magnificence, it is hard to top or outdo Khoo Kongsi. Known for its incredibly ornate architecture, this building’s significance stems from its status as a reminder of the glorious past of the Khoo clan, which was a group of wealthy traders from China who settled and rose to eminence on Penang Island, especially during the 19th century.
Now that you’re done reading about these historic destinations, why not visit Malaysia and experience them in person?
Concurrently, if you are interested in spending a day or two in just one Malaysian destination to fully indulge in its history and other offerings, here are some ideas on what you can do—according to Jonathan Putra and his brief adventure in Malacca!