Malaysia’s oldest Chinese temple, first constructed in the 1600s, is still a fully operational place of worship for followers of the three doctrinal systems of Taoism, Confuicianism and Buddhism. It’s also a standout destination in historic downtown Melaka, where the entire city center is a UNESCO cultural heritage site for its role as a major East-West trading hub.
A few blocks from the Sungai Melaka river, the temple served for centuries as the center of a burgeoning Chinese immigrant community, and the former administrative offices of the Capitan—the community leader, spokesperson and liaison with the British administration—can now be seen on a self-guided tour. Incense wafts from the elaborately lacquered prayer hall, while monks and nuns based at the temple occasionally wander the grounds offering a shared prayer. The deities of mercy, justice, well being and seamen decorate the ornate main altar.
Malacca River cuts across the city of the same name on its way to the Straits of Malacca. Just a few decades ago it was a drab, grey waterway lined with crumbling houses on stilts, but the river has since transformed into a top tourist attraction, with both Malaysians and international visitors coming to soak in its history and marvel at the diverse architecture.
Clearer water and an effort to preserve the historic buildings and bridges along the river have helped Malacca become a tourist destination; even its newest buildings are adorned with colorful murals depicting the city's rich culture and its history as a former Portuguese, Dutch and British colony. On a boat trip along the river you’ll pass ancient churches and temples, beautiful bridges, old warehouses and whole villages, gaining a sense of how the area has changed over the years.