The last time I was in Melaka, Jonker’s Street only came alive during week end nights when they’d close the streets for some 300 shops and their pedestrians. Daytime would find the streets along Jonker’s Walk largely deserted – like a crumbling old part of town with rickety houses that have seen better days. A ghost town, if you must. These days, Jonker’s Street at daytime bustles with activity, characterized by a brisk turn over of tourists finding their own personal discoveries in the antiques that were once owned by the street’s rich populace up until the Great Depression when rubber plummeted and many Baba families lost their fortunes. An Indian trader from Kerala bought much of these stuff for reselling – and his descendants – the Kuthys - in modern Melaka still engage in similar trade in the same street .
Jalan Hang Jebat is Jonker’s Street’s main road, but this should include its adjacent lanes, like Jalan Tan Cheng Lock. Roughly translated to “Young Noblemen Street”, Jonkers was inhabited by the affluent families of old Melaka. It is now the premier hunting ground for antique items in Malaysia!
Antiques don’t do much for me, but it is interesting to wander around a street that richly tells stories of days gone by! Like ghosts that never quite leave the past. They hang on to the present.
From the Red Square, I was excited to visit Jonker’s Street. It was just across Jalan Laksamana (which they used to simply call “Riverside”). There were boats plying the murky Melaka River – at 10 ringgit a ride. I was wondering why the river was in such quagmire. At least Bangkok’s Chao Phraya River has cleared up a bit in the last 5 years or so. Melaka River meets up with the ocean further ahead.
I crossed the concrete bridge and walked north. Within 5 minutes, I found Jonker’s Walk. Its main avenue is Jalan Hang Jebat, just straight ahead. It is a narrow street filled with antique shops and restaurants specializing in chicken ball rice and Nyonya dishes. There’s a few temples at Hang Jebat. The first one you will encounter (to your left) is Hookien Huang Kuan, the clan’s ancestral temple (which you can check out free of charge)!
If you head to its adjacent street, Jalan Tan Cheng Lock (just at the next block), you will find Kampung Kling Mosque and Cheng Hoon Tieng Temple (Malaysia’s oldest Chinese temple). UNESCO conferred Cheng Hoon Tieng Temple a special citation for its preservation and restoration – a feat only equaled by Georgetown’s Teochew Temple (Penang) for culture heritage conservation.
On my way back towards Red Square, I noticed the nearby bridge heading west from the river. It’s the Tan Kim Sieng Bridge that appears as ordinary as the real “London Bridge”, but bears a historical significance to the city. It bears the name of the wealthy early19th century Chinese philantropist, Tan Kim Sieng, who donated it to the town. Born a Hokkien in Malacca in 1805, Tan Kim Seng amassed a fortune as a trader. During the Dutch and Portuguese war, the Dutch secured the bridge to gain advantage against their enemies. They eventually conquered Malacca.This is the Eye in the Sky!
Jonker's Street - Jonkers meant "young noblemen" in Dutch. Here's wikipedia's take on its etymology: "Jonkheer" or "Jonkvrouw" is literally translated as "young lord" or "young lady", or "esquire". In medieval times, such a person was a young and unmarried son or daughter of a high ranking knight or nobleman. Many noble families could not support all their sons to become a knight because of the expensive equipment. So the eldest son of a knight was a young lord and his brothers remain as esquires." I love these little bits of history.
Up next: Taming Sari Tower, Maritime Museum (Flora del Mar Galleon) and more!
Part 1 - Overview: A Little History of Melaka - http://eye-in-the-blue-sky.blogspot.com/2010/08/melaka-giddy-with-delight-in-new-old.html
Part 2 - Christ Church and Stadthuys - http://eye-in-the-blue-sky.blogspot.com/2010/08/christ-church-and-stadthuys-red-square.html
Part 3 - Roaming along Jalan Merdeka, plus The Maritime Museum - http://eye-in-the-blue-sky.blogspot.com/2010/08/roaming-along-jalan-merdeka-melaka-part.html
Our first ever Melakan visit here - http://eye-in-the-blue-sky.blogspot.com/2007/12/fascinating-malacca-malaysia.html
Acknowledgment: TourMalaysia.com and wikipedia for some of the historical facts provided here!