Who is Hang Tuah?

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January 9th 2011
Published: January 13th 2011
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This is just in front of Christchurch and Victoria Fountain. We walked from St. Francis Xavier Church after the 9am service towards this square.
Malacca. It is old Malaysia. Not the ultra-modern Kuala Lumpur, the capital. But Malacca or Melaka, with vestiges of its Dutch, Portuguese, Chinese and British influences. The place is so ethnically diverse -- the stuff that makes it legendary.

And speaking of legends, Hang Tuah is one legendary warrior/hero who lived during the reign of Sultan Mansur Shah of the Sultanate of Malacca in the 15th century. Touted as the greatest of all the warriors or "laksamana" , Hang Tuah was known to be a ferocious fighter. Judging by the many shops, streets, restaurants and buildings named after him, Hang Tuah is obviously held in the highest regard in present-day Malaysian Malay culture. Since I found him to be the most well-known and illustrious warrior figure in Malaysian history and literature, I thought I should start my history lessons for my own little cruising warriors on Melaka's famous hero. But I am getting ahead of my story.

Off the Cruise Ship, On to Melaka

We took a tender from the big boat to reach the Melaka Jetty Port. Credits go to the crew of Royal Carribean's Legend of the Seas for a seamless disembarkation and distribution of tender tickets. Our family chose not to join any of the offshore excursions and to simply do the sightseeing on our own. After all , we had plenty of time. The ship docked at 7am, by which time we were nicely seated at the Windjammer's Cafe for our buffet breakfast. The ship departs by 6pm , so there's plenty of time. By 8:30 am, we were riding the tender to shore. All of 10 minutes or so, and we reached the no-frills jetty port. By that, I seriously mean "no frills". One simply gets off the tender, helped along by strong muscled Malaysian jetty hands, onto a wooden boardwalk, and out in the streets.

It was refreshing that there were unbelievably no touts around the jetty port to harass us. Sure, there were rickshaw or tricycle and taxi drivers offering to take us to the city center or to give us a tour of the city, but they were not pushy at all. Without a single ringgit in our pockets, we negotiated with two taxi drivers to take us with our Singapore dollars. We knew the rates they quoted were padded, but we caved in. Very easily, I must say. There was a 9am Sunday mass at the St. Francis Xavier Church that we didn't want to miss, even if the service was in Tamil. And there was only 10 minutes to spare. But it was a very short ride to the Church and we made it with a minute to go.

Stadthuys, ChristChurch, Bukit St. Paul, Porta de Santiago

After the service, we walked along Jalan Kota , alongside the river, towards the red-bricked Stadthuys (in Dutch, this means Town Hall) and ChristChurch. It was tempting to linger and shop among the many stalls. But no ringgit, remember? So we walked towards Bukit St. Paul and climbed up the steps towards St. Paul ruins. My buffet-fed family took the stairways painstakingly slow, and I didn't know whether to worry or to laugh.

A little bit of history here. The ruins of St. Paul's Church was built by a Portuguese sea captain in 1521. This is meaningful to many of us Filipinos. I mean the year 1521. It was in 1521 that the Portuguese Magellan, working for the Spanish monarchy, discovered the Philippines. This means that
Porta de SantiagoPorta de SantiagoPorta de Santiago

The gateway with a cheery rickshaw waiting for a client. This (plastic)flower-bedecked tricycle roams all around Melaka to pick up passengers. Some double up as tour guides as the city center can be rounded up in less than an hour.
at the time our islands were discovered, this Church was already standing on top of this hill overlooking the Straits of Malacca! The ruins included tombstones and some nice brickwork. It is not huge, but it was good to be reminded too that this was the last church St. Francis Xavier ministered before his death.

Atop this hill, we had a view not only of the Malacca Strait but also of our cruise ship! At the foot of the hill is Porta de Santiago, or what's left of it, which served as the gateway. One can only imagine this fortress with a clear view atop the hill of any invading enemy ships. The Portuguese colonized Melaka by dividing and conquering Melaka's sultan rulers. And so the saying "Divide and Rule" truly rings true, ei?
A Mosque once stood here, was torn down, and replaced with a fort called "A Famosa". The sole surviving relic of this fort is the Porta de Santiago. A silent reminder of what it was once.

The Sultanate Palace and the Story of Hang Tuah

Right on the left of the Porta de Santiago is the Sultanate Palace.
One of them must be Hang Tuah?One of them must be Hang Tuah?One of them must be Hang Tuah?

The other must be Hang Jebat (?) who avenged his friend's death.
This houses a massive wooden replica of a sultan's palace. As it was high noon, it was refreshing to get into this Palace Museum . The airconditioning re-energized our sweaty bodies.

And this is where I bring you back to the legend of Hang Tuah. Hang Tuah is famous for quoting the words "Takkan Melayu Hilang di Dunia" which literally means "Malays will never vanish from the face of the earth" or "Never shall the Malay race vanish from the face of the earth". The quote is a famous rallying cry for Malay nationalism.

Hang Tuah, you may say, is the Sultan's favorite. He acted as general, advisor, ambassador. As such, he stirred jealousy within the ranks. One story tells of how a rumor was spread of Hang Tuah's illicit love affair with one of the sultan's stewardesses. The Sultan thus sentenced Hang Tuah to death without trial. Another romantic tale tells of how this injustice prompted Hang Tuah's childhood friend Hang Jebat to avenge his best friend's unjust punishment and death. How? By wreaking havoc on the royal court and inciting rebellion.

There are many versions of this legend. One version tells that Hang Tuah lived to a ripe old age because his executioner did not carry out his sentence. This version goes further to say that Hang Tuah was "recalled" to stop and kill his friend Hang Jebat when the latter rebelled against the Sultanate to avenge his friend's "death". To this day, it is said that the many versions of the legend is a constant subject of discussion among scholars and students. Loyalty and Justice. You bet there are varying opinions on this legend.

As for Martin's version? Hang Tuah is that soldier who was killed because of a gossip. So what do you think, guys? That was an epic fail in story-telling, huh? Or maybe adults embellish stories so much so that many versions come off the same story. Ten-year olds like Martin has no patience for long-winding stories. The poor guy was gossiped about, and was killed. End of discussion. 😞

Additional photos below
Photos: 37, Displayed: 26


The Sultanate PalaceThe Sultanate Palace
The Sultanate Palace

If you want a break from all that humidity and a shade on your head, visit the Sultanate Palace. It is also a good pee-break ;-)
Not New York. This is Melaka.Not New York. This is Melaka.
Not New York. This is Melaka.

Same horse-riding policemen, except that this pair from Melaka is a bit camera-shy.
Come on guys,  come join me up here!Come on guys,  come join me up here!
Come on guys, come join me up here!

My buffet-fed family painstakingly, slowly scaled these steps towards the ruins of St. Paul's Church. Ohh, all that pasta, burgers, pizza, steaks, sugars, etc!
The Ruins of St. Paul's ChurchThe Ruins of St. Paul's Church
The Ruins of St. Paul's Church

St. Francis Xavier's last parish was this one.
The Town Square.  The Town Square.
The Town Square.

This is the famous landmark in Melaka. Victoria Fountain. Stadthuys. ChristChurch. Melaka River on your left. Rickshaws on your right.
Along Jonker WalkAlong Jonker Walk
Along Jonker Walk

No ringgit in our pockets, so we made it through Jonker Walk without spending.
Everyone Off The Sultan's BedroomEveryone Off The Sultan's Bedroom
Everyone Off The Sultan's Bedroom

No one allowed inside for fear that someone might assassinate the Sultan.

13th January 2011

Fascinating blog, thanks! The place looks lovely, although spectacularly un-Asian! All those European influences really show. Even the Sultanate Palace looks like a large country house here in Russia!
14th January 2011

Malacca does have a European feel
We couldn't believe how European Malacca felt when we went...it was a very strange feeling, but then again Malaysia is very British feeling anyway! It's a shame you didn't get a chance to eat the rice balls which Malacca is famous for. We tried them and just found them plain weird - maybe on your next visit?! You should have just rolled your family up and down the hill after eating your huge buffet breakfast!! Happy travels Donna and Neil
14th January 2011

rice balls
@Donna and Neil: We did find the place along Jonker street but the line for those rice balls was way too long! Had a feeling all passengers off the ship queued up for those balls. Maybe next time :)
6th June 2013

Been there last holy week and it's a nice place. We visited Melaka after Kuala Lumpur then we took the bus to Singapore. I love Casa del Rio along Melaka River. Bukit St. Paul is very similar to Macau's "Ruins of St Paul". They even have a smaller counterpart of our Intramuros (Theirs is Fort of Melaka and Porta de Santiago). I'm so impressed of how they converted Melaka River into a tourist attraction which our country could also replicate for our Pasig River. Ours is even bigger in width and more lengthy than Melaka River. I think our D.O.T. has so much tp learn from Melaka in terms of how they have developed and protected their heritage sites and made them tourism haven.
6th June 2013

Agree 100%!
I hear ya, Floro. I likewise lament how so little is being done to our heritage sites. And I don't mean that in terms of appearances alone. Our school system needs to instill that sense of nation to the children too.

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