Malacca: My Take

Christ Church Melaka (Malacca)

Christ Church Melaka in the early hours of the morning.

Even the hard-working aspiring writers find themselves struggling for words sometimes.  I was almost tempted to simply post these recent photos and let the images speak for themselves.  Besides, a picture paints a thousand words, right?  Yeah right.  But a part of me also believes that a thousand words paint a beautiful picture.  If you love writing, use it to make up for a lousy photography (which I have already done so many times 🙂 ).  This is a blog anyway so try to make use of what you’re paying for.  Use it or lose it.  Constantly moving or travelling does not always get you somewhere.  So we stop for a while and write about our most recent travels to help us articulate and reflect on the things that we have learned from them.  And what is a more perfect time to reflect and to remember than during the last Easter weekend?

For those staying in Singapore, Malacca is a favorite destination for long weekends and public holidays.  Much has already been written about this beautiful place which makes it difficult for me to write about something new and to find fresh inspiration.  So what can I write about?  How about food as a topic?  Nope.  Not that one.  Admittedly, I am a bit of a food junkie myself, but a really lousy food photographer. 🙂   By the way, the food here is really great and one that you should experience (the Malacca coffee is superb).  How about “Things to do in Malacca”?  Not that one either.  Too lazy to do those things; whatever activities those might be.  Top Family Attractions?  I travelled solo this time (surprisingly, and sadly).  So I guess that leaves me with “Top  Places to See in Malacca” to write about.  Nothing out of  the ordinary but something I really like; where I could put my photography into use.  But even that one was a bit frustrating.  The problem with major tourist spots is that they have been shot to death.  You find a beautiful place (and there are lots of it in Malacca) and shoot it from an apparently unique angle; only to find the same angle later already posted in the net by other photographers (ain’t the internet grand?).  So in the end, all I have is a set of beautiful postcards which are very special only because they were created by me personally.  So the photographs in this article do not really speak truthfully about its title.  Talk about originality.  So the only value of this post now is what you could learn from it.  Use this post as your travel guide; your visual companion to Malaccan architecture; or your encouragement to do better, creative, or original photography. 🙂

Malacca Street Art (Malacca)

Malacca Street Art along Malacca River.

Malacca is perhaps Malaysia’s most historical state.  It was here where European colonial forces first made contact with Malaysia, which eventually shaped and formed the country’s current political, cultural, and economic system.  The Portuguese, Dutch, and the British all made their marks here (with varying forms of responses from the locals); their strong influences basically evident in what remains of their public buildings, museums, churches, forts, and town squares.  Its rich and colorful (and complicated) history has created a feel and flavor that is uniquely Malacca today.  It is a seamless blend of cultures so to speak; with strong local traditions standing alongside modern lifestyles that will leave you in a swirl and in awe.  Malacca is currently a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  The major tourist spots can get really crowded (duh); obviously like all tourist spots we know.  So most of my photos here were taken either early in the morning or late in the afternoon when most of the crowds haven’t arrived yet or has already thinned out.  In between these times, tourists (who all look the same, and dress the same) come in by the busload every minute.  If you don’t mind having them in your photos, then shoot away anyway. 🙂

Needless to say, my bias has always been towards the architecture of a place.  This (alongside with the food which I enjoyed very much when the crowd at the tourist spots was at its thickest) is my best way to learn and appreciate a city’s history and culture.  I have featured below some of these wonderful works of architecture and picturesque places in Malacca.  My take (sort of). 🙂

A’Famosa Fort:  A’Famosa is perhaps Malacca’s most famous sighseeing spot.  It was built in 1511 to house the Portuguese administration and as an outpost in Malacca, which was an important link to the Spice Route in China during thr 16th Century.  It has changed hands from the Portuguese to the Dutch and finally to the British who ordered the destruction of the Fort.  Fortunately, Sir Stamford Raffles (founder of Singapore) visited Malacca in 1810; and because of his love for history, stopped the destruction of the Fort.  What remains to this day is the lone gate (Porta de Santiago) that stands at the foot of St. Paul’s hill.

A'Famosa Fort (Malacca)

The ruins of A’Famosa Fort at the foot of Bukit St. Paul.

Christ Church Melaka:  Christ Church is the most recognizable of the Malacca structures with its brick red exterior and large white cross.  It was built in 1753 by the Dutch to commemorate a century of occupation and to address the need for another place of worship other than St. Paul’s Church.  It has changed hands from the Dutch to the British who turned it from a Protestant church to an Anglican one.  The church sits squarely infront Dutch Square along Jalan Gereja.

Christ Church Melaka (Malacca)

Christ Church Melaka. The centerpiece of Dutch Square.

St. Paul’s Church Ruins:  The beautiful ruins of St. Paul’s Church stand on top of St. Paul’s Hill which can be reached via a long flight of stairs from the lone gate of A’Famosa at the bottom of the hill.  The original structure was built by a Portuguese captain as a sign of gratitude to the Blessed Virgin Mary for saving his life during a storm at sea.  The ruins is now famous for its breathtaking views of Malacca City below it.

St. Paul's Church (Malacca)

St. Paul’s Church at the top of Bukit St. Paul.

St. Paul's Church (Malacca)

The beautiful and eerie ruins of St. Paul’s Church.

Malacca River:  Malacca River was once called the “Venice of the East”.   Now it is famous for the river cruise that takes tourists past several riverside establishments, bridges, Malay villages and settlements.  It is considered the birthplace of Malacca because it was here where the Sumatran prince Parameswara established the Malaccan sultanate.

Malacca River View (Malacca)

Malacca River at Twilight.

Malacca River View (Malacca)

A view along Malacca River at night.

Casa del Rio (Malacca)

Casa del Rio Hotel along Malacca River.

Masjid Terapung Selat:  This mosque is situated on the man-made island of Pulau Melaka facing the Straits of Malacca.  It is perhaps the only Middle Eastern-inspired structure I have seen during my stay there, and a much more recent building compared to the ones mentioned earlier.  Tourists come here for the magnificent view of the mosque against the sunset.

Masjid Terapung Selat at Sunset.

Malacca is usually a day trip destination for most tourists visiting Kuala Lumpur.  From Kuala Lumpur, take a bus to Malacca where you will alight at the Melaka Sentral Bus Terminal off Jalan Tun Razak.  From there, a taxi can take you to town where all the major tourist attractions are located.   Most parts of the town can be explored by foot as the major attractions are near each other.

So there you go; my take on this beautiful and quaint city.  I hope I have kept you inspired in this adventure of exploration.  Enjoy the images as much as I do.

See you in my next post.  Cheers!!!

 

Advertisements

Putrajaya Architecture Ramble

IMG_0625

Putra Mosque at twilight. Putra Mosque is the principal mosque of Putrajaya.

This is another one of those times when you get to choose last-minute holiday destinations.  We took one week off in the office to celebrate the Chinese Lunar New Year.  At the back of my head, I was hoping that our company would send us to somewhere really cold or even exotic to spend the one-week holiday (like what our company usually do).  Well, that didn’t happen this year.  The announcement came in a bit late so most of us had to scramble and decide whether to go back to our respective hometowns or go somewhere else.  The plane ticket to my hometown (Manila) could get a little pricey this time of year, so I just decided to go to nearby Malaysia.  It seems that Malaysia for me is the default destination for long weekends and short road trips; for obvious reasons.  From Singapore where I am staying, it is only a few minutes or hours away depending on your destination.  Architecture, food, historical sites, beaches, nature, or theme parks; Malaysia has all that and more.  You choose.

So why Putrajaya?  Well for one thing, it was a day-trip destination that I wasn’t able to see the last time I was in Kuala Lumpur.  It actually rained that day last year I planned to visit the place.  But of course, my main reason for coming back to Malaysia now is Putrajaya’s architectural wonders.  A Malaysian colleague told me that you could actually tour and photograph the place and its notable landmarks in a day.  I know he’s right.  That’s why they call it a day trip (do I really have to say that?).  It is much like hitting Macau while you are in Hong Kong; or Abu Dhabi while in Dubai.  So why spend the entire week and book a hotel in such a small place? 🙂

Well, you have to understand photographers.  Photographers are weird.  The best colored landscape and architectural photos have to be taken only at certain times of the day (mostly at dusk or even sunrise) when light is low (and its quality is at its best) and when building lights are on which add drama to the scene.  So if you’re planning to shoot a number of locations or buildings, you’ll be needing a couple of sunrise or sunsets.  All sorts of silly stuff like that.  And you can’t post a photo right away.  A bit of image editing needs to be done to remove blemishes caused by a dirty camera sensor and to correct distortions resulting from a cheap lens and camera (which is definitely my case here).  Only then can you post an image.  But who cares anyway?  Only a photographer will understand.  Nobody could have cared less about the story or technicalities behind a photograph; or all the trouble you went through waking up early before sunrise or staying out late at night just to capture an image.  In a selfie generation, this is not your idea of creating a travel photo.  Well for me, the best way to ruin a travel photo is to include yourself in the picture.  Forgive me on that one.  I am too camera shy and not that photogenic (#bitter, #resentful). 🙂

IMG_0474

Seri Wawasan Bridge. One of the most beautiful bridges in Malaysia using the latest cable-stayed technology.

Kidding aside, these places are too good to be just day-trip destinations that you could stamp on your passports to be used as bragging rights.  Much is to be appreciated and learned from the stories of these places and how they came about.  Just a few quick facts about Putrajaya:  Putrajaya is Malaysia’s “Intelligent Garden City” and its Federal Administrative Center.  A vision of establishing this new Federal Government Administrative Center to replace Kuala Lumpur came about in the early 1970s.  The relocation was to help decongest Kuala Lumpur and to ensure that KL can develop and focus on being Malaysia’s principal business and financial district.  A 4,900+ hectare palm oil plantation in Selangor’s southern Prang Besar estate was later earmarked and called Putrajaya (in honor of Malaysia’s first Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj).  The main feature of the city is the responsible integration of man-made elements with the natural environment; a city that integrates technology, culture, and nature.  Manicured parks, greeneries, and bodies of water create natural separations between the business and residential sections of the city.

The highlight of the trip for me of course would be the city’s architectural wonders which feature Malay and Arabic influences; and which form part of Malaysia’s National Heritage.  These are evident in the city’s several mosques, bridges, and public buildings some of which I have featured below.

Putra Mosque:  Putra Mosque (or Masjid Putra) is perhaps for me the architectural centerpiece of Putrajaya.  The mosque is distinguished by its pink dome and rose-tinted granite exterior.  The mosque can accommodate 15,000 worshipers at any one time and also houses function rooms and learning facilities.

IMG_0450

Putra Mosque at the Golden Hour.

Seri Wawasan Bridge:  Seri Wawasan is one of the most beautiful bridges in Malaysia built with the latest cable-stayed technology.  The bridge is enhanced and illuminated at night by the changing colors of the street lights below it.

IMG_0483

Web of Lights. Seri Wawasan Bridge at night.

Seri Gemilang Bridge:  This bridge serves as the main entry route to the city core.  The bridge focuses on very fine Islamic motifs and detailing which emphasize Malaysia’s Muslim faith and culture.  The bridge also leads to Putrajaya International Convention Center (PICC) which is located at the southern part of the city.

IMG_0518

Seri Gemilang Bridge with Putrajaya International Convention Center (PICC) at the background.

Masjid Tuanku:  Masjid Tuanku or “The Iron Mosque” is Putrajaya’s second principal mosque.  Slightly larger in floor area than Putra Mosque, it can accommodate 20,000 worshipers and caters mostly to the government workers from the nearby city center and residents from nearby precincts.

IMG_0553

Masjid Tuanku (The Iron Mosque) at the blue hour.

Perbadanan Putrajaya:  Also called Putrajaya Corporation, it is the local body that administrates the Federal Authority of Putrajaya.  Framed within the arch of the building is Istana Kehakiman (or The Federal Court) which is the highest court and final appellate court of Malaysia.

IMG_0577

Perbadanan Putrajaya at night with Istana Kehakiman (The Federal Court) framed in the background.

The best way to get to Putrajaya is to take the KLIA Transit train from Kuala Lumpur International Airport and alight at Putrajaya / Cyberjaya Station.  From the bus interchange at the station, buses can take you to the different routes within the residential, commercial, and government precincts of the city.  The bus routes could get a little complicated for a tourist.  So for the most part, I took a taxi (available 24 hours) to get to the locations I plan to shoot.  Cost is reasonable since the hotel is just near my planned shooting locations.

So there you go.  My first photo walk for the year and happy to have made use of the time given to us; and even happier to start the year doing the things we love the most and care passionately about.  I am currently looking at traveling outside the region which might take a while to happen because of some logistical concerns.  Meanwhile, enjoy the images as much as I do as well as the New Year.

See you in my next post.  Cheers!!!

 

A Toy Story

IMG_0285

Enter My Dreams. The gateway to Legoland Malaysia. Surprisingly, the place was not as crowded as I had expected.

This day trip to Legoland Malaysia just happened without much planning.  To be honest, it was a result of simply having nowhere else to go.  Legoland Malaysia is just a 1-hour bus ride from Singapore (where I am currently based) so it’s funny and embarrassing to admit that it was one place that I had yet to visit.  I finally got my chance during a public holiday.  The holiday fell on a Friday and I suspect some office colleagues already planned their long weekend somewhere really nice.  And here I am.  Stuck.  I needed to go somewhere too.  Somewhere.  Anywhere actually.

IMG_0532_v2

Legoland Hotel. Stay close to the action by checking in at this hotel located just across the park. The interior of this hotel is a theme park in itself.

But honestly, maybe at the back of my mind I already had a reason for visiting this place.  I wanted to go back to how I started; on how I became an architect in the first place.  When I started this blog, I was hoping to share about photography and the places that I will be able to visit; with perhaps a detailed account of what I will do and eat during each day of the trip in those places.  It’s what most bloggers do :-).  And believe me, I wanted to do the same.  But then, I realized you might as well buy a travel guide.  The accounts about the places (and the food) will be more convincing.

One of our life coaches taught us the lesson of the empty cup.  It’s a reminder to be teachable; on not to think so much of yourself as someone who has already arrived; and not to underestimate the power of a small person or place to teach or remind you of something important.  That happened to me here.  So, may I request that you indulge me once more in sharing my gleanings on this recent road trip and I promise next time, I will write about what most bloggers write in their blogs :-).  Thank you very much.

IMG_0288

Color My World. The LEGO-inspired detailing of the Legoland Hotel facade.

Nearly everyone I know who grew up in my generation had their affair with the LEGO.  There were other toys before that but most did not offer much of a breakthrough compared with the creativity and imagination inspired by the LEGO.  I loved drawing when I was a kid and our bedroom walls were proof of that passion.  I know my parents had no problem repainting them regularly.  I had the drawings and the building blocks of the LEGO to work and to build with.  Growing up, I believe I enjoyed the high feeling created by the smell of freshly poured concrete and the way things were put together.  Everything fell into the right places.  I knew I had to build.  I wanted to be an architect.  And so an architect I became.  So now needless to say, I found this Legoland trip right up my alley.

The Big Shop. The place for the ultimate LEGO fan.

At the facade level, the place looks just like your usual theme park designed only for children.  And like most theme parks I know, the place could be really hot and sweltering (sadly though, it actually rained most of the afternoon).  Unless you’re a LEGO fan, have children, or just plain curious; I am not sure you’ll think of coming here almost all by yourself.  But what awaits inside is something that can thrill people of all ages.  Honestly, for a moment I was a child again (I was trying my best not to make it sound like second childhood).

The park has several attractions (namely:  The Beginning, Lego City, Miniland, Land of Adventure, Imagination, Star Wars, Lego Kingdom, Lego Technic, and Water Park).  Depending on who you are with, your interest and your bias; you could spend an entire day in just any two or three of the attractions.  I tried some of the rides (the “adult-friendly” ones) if only to make use of the RM235 I paid to get to this park :-).  The last time I took a crazy ride was with my daughter when she was 12 years old.  I was a little younger back then and I was happy having created that memory for her.  Nowadays, I would have none of it :-).

IMG_0309

Water Fun. Take the plunge at the Dinosaur Island.

IMG_0318

Imagination. This is the place for the true LEGO fan where families can build and play with the LEGO bricks.

IMG_0417

LEGO Academy. This area is also home to Mindstorms, where you can build and program LEGO robots.

Not surprisingly, what caught my attention was Miniland:  a miniature showcase of some of the iconic buildings of Malaysia and Southeast Asia.  LEGO released its architecture series a few years ago and featured some classic American buildings as part of its collection.  But to see some of the Asian buildings in a LEGO rendition and in a very impressive scale was a real treat.  I have seen some of the actual buildings so I couldn’t help but look closely at the miniatures.  The level of accuracy and detailing was absolutely incredible!  Back in our time, models were made using wooden blocks or cardboard to show clients the massing and placement of buildings.  Those however did not include details as we know them now.  Much of what’s to be expected was left to the actual completed structure.

A LEGO version of the Singapore Marina Bay Waterfront buildings with the Merlion Park in the foreground.

A LEGO rendition of the Putra Mosque, the centerpiece of Putrajaya in Malaysia.

The Taj Mahal in miniature. The level of detailing is incredible.

But you know what surprised me the most at the end of this visit?  It’s actually the kids and the families working together on the LEGO.  I don’t know where I’ve been lately but honestly, I haven’t seen that for quite a while.  I grew up in a time without computers.  It wasn’t always the best of times but it somehow taught me the ever-increasing value of face-to-face conversations, collaboration and high-touch, tactile activities;  especially in these times when our kids have more facebook friends and high-tech gadgets.  It makes us want to consider carefully the balance of the types of toys we give to our kids.  Maybe it’s the reason themed places like this still thrive.  People still do recognize its significance after all.

Star Wars Museum. The latest addition to the Legoland experience. The museum features miniature versions of the Star Wars landscape as well as a new indoor visual experience.

My daughter also grew up without a computer.  I didn’t decide on that.  I just couldn’t afford it back then :-).  The only good that came out of it was that she learned how to draw and to work with her hands (yes, she also knows how to draw.  I even tried to sell her the idea of taking up architecture, but in vain).  Thanks to the upcoming movie installment of the Star Wars saga, the LEGO is back again with its Star Wars characters collectibles; and it’s a funny and creative way to get my daughter interested in the LEGO (of all things, she bought a Darth Vader key-chain / LED light to start with).  Now, whether or not this interest will lead her to the path of her lifework is another story.  Until then, I wait :-).

See you in my next post.  Cheers!

 

Click here to browse through the photo gallery of this day trip.

(Note:  Legoland Malaysia is Malaysia’s first international theme park that opened in Nusajaya, Johor, Malaysia on September 15, 2012.  Located at 7 Jalan Legoland, Bandar Medini 79250 Nusajaya, Johor, Malaysia.)