February 15, 2009

A historical site gone wrong

On Saturday, my wife and I was in a town which is deemed to be where Malaysia had it's birth. It was also where the Malaysian royalty supposedly came from. Malacca was the name of the town in English but it's true name is Melaka. The name came from a tree where a king called Parameswara fell asleep and dreamt of a deer fighting off dogs which is considered as an omen of good things which could happened there. That was when Melaka was found and then became a port where the East and West met. 

That was hundreds of years ago. Now, Melaka is just a small town where it's histories are taught and learnt areound the world by all Malaysian schoolchildren who will then goes to visit all these places that they read. Most schoolchildren in Malaysia including me will at least have one trip to Melaka to see the A'Famosa, the Stadhuys, the Hang Li Po well to name a few. All these will be visited again and again by the Malaysian people and the tourist from all over the world. Most of these sites can be found in the centre of Melaka town and it was seen the minute you turn a corner at one point of the town.

The announcement of Melaka as World Heritage City

Ten years ago, Melaka started to lose it's lustre. These old buildings are just old buildings no matter it's history. People come and go but never really contribute to the coffer of the local council and the state government. So, a rejuvenation was seen made by the state government. There was an empty filed just before A'Famosa where it was used by the locals to have picnics on weekends and where most tourist use it as a landmark to get their bearing of the Melaka town. Just of the field, the Melaka straits can be seen.

The Melaka government started something a few years ago. They built a mall on the field. A sunken mall where people can come buy stuff as there is now a Carrefoure to serve the people. The river is cleaned up as much as they can and through the nine kilometer that served as a boat cruise area, they also tidied up it's riverbank. These was all done with a lot of haggling with the shopowners who some of them protested as they had to change the way they have done business all these years. Last year, a coup de grace happened when Melaka together with Penang were admitted into the acclaimed UNESCO Heritage Site where a city is considered as a historical site like anyone of those found around the world.

The A'Famosa

As I mentioned earlier, the solution to turn the town from a normal historical site to a profit centre by the government has been critisised by a lot of people. When I came to the town on Saturday, I didn't understand at first why is it so. The town looks clean. There was ample parking and the tourists seem to have come back. There are these trishaws which dominates the scene with their yellow colour as they were sponsored by  a telecommunication company in Malaysia which use them as advertisement boards. 
Then, when I start to take out my wallet, I realised that coming to the town can cause one a few hundreds ringgit in parking fees, entry fees and all the normal amusement park charges. I also realised what the government is doing was turning it from a cost centre where they have to bear the price of everything for the people, who might or might not appreciate it, to a profit centre. That may be the price that one has to pay for a historical site to be preserve. It just a shame really as I heard even the pyramids of Giza might also be taken off the site that one can visit as the cost of maintaining them has become more and more expensive.
The newly added mall which is NOT historical at all


Ratty said...

While it may not be quite the same, I remember when I was a very small child, our zoo was free if you walked to get there. They only charged money for parking. It was enough back then. Now they charge a lot of money to get in, and it is not nearly as good as it used to be.

kruel74 said...

I think it is related in a way as it is so hard nowadays for a zoo or a place where you remember as a place where you can lounge for free or just hangout have to be maintained with the cost being past to you. Signs of the time...

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