When I was a kid, we moved a lot - 10 times to be exact! Melaka (In English: Malacca) was one of the states that we stayed in. At thirteen, my family moved to Kuala Lumpur (KL).
When we have our own cars, Melaka becomes the annual road trip agenda for my friends and I. Mainly because, it is only about 2 hours drive from KL. I've been going back there countless times on short, mostly unplanned road trips - Christmas Day breaks, my birthday, bringing friends from overseas day, etc.
But to be honest, in all those times I was in Melaka, I had never set foot in Kampung Morten. So this time around, we decided to visit the place.
So, what place is Kampung Morten anyway?
Kampung Morten is a riverine village located by the Melaka River. "Kampung" is the Malay word for "village". According to Wikipedia, Morten is the name of the British official who was responsible for the setting up of the village.
Kampung Morten has been gazetted as one of Malaysia's national heritage sites. What's interesting is that it is a village located amidst the busy Melaka city (the capital of Melaka). And, the small village is made up of houses built in the traditional Melaka Malay house style.
To be honest, I would say that Kampung Morten - is more of a living museum than a typical Malay village. This means that you will not be able to see much of the typical lifestyle/activities that takes place in a village (like agricultural or fishing activities), at Kampung Morten.
Nonetheless, you will definitely be impressed by the beauty of the well-preserved wooden houses. To keep up with the spirit of the historical city, the houses are each painted with a different color - mint green, bright yellow, brown, pale blue, etc.
Melaka has a long history of diverse cultures, customs and influences - Dutch, Portuguese, English - to name a few.
So it is not a surprise to see the decorations on the concrete steps of a traditional Malay house echoing the decorations on the walls and floors of the Straits Chinese houses. And it is not a shocking thing to see the design of windows of a Straits Chinese house looking very similar to that of a Malay house.
The traditional Malay house architectural style vary from one state to another. But, one thing they all have in common is that back in the day, the houses were built to stand on stilts or wooden posts. This was to protect the household against wild animals and floods, as well as to support ventilation.
Due to this design, all Malay houses would have steps leading up to the anjung or porch. And while we're on the subject, the typical Melaka house would normally stand on 12 to 16 stilts.
The one thing that has always fascinated me about the Melaka houses, which is also coincidentally its very distinct signature is their "tangga batu" or "concrete steps".
Unlike the other traditional Malay houses, the steps of a Melaka house are usually painted in bright colors, and decorated with intricate patterns made up of colorful tiles (often with floral motifs).
So, if you are ever in Melaka, take a stroll to Kampung Morten. Probably, like me, you will not mind exploring the exterior of one house to another - studying the beautifully crafted windows and their decorations, And of course, admiring the beautiful tangga batu as you accept the host's invitation to step into the house.