It was just after lunch when I decided to visit Villa Sentosa, known as “The Malay Living Museum.” It’s a 100-year-old house that is located in Kampung Morten, a heritage-protected village a few kilometres from Melaka’s Historic Town Square.
Although there are a number of ways to get to the Villa, including by taxi or hiring a bicycle, the means I’d decided on was to walk up the Melaka River until I reached one of the cruise ship hop-on points, catch one of the frequent cruise boats, and view the scenery from the river.
However, the more I walked along the Melaka River, the more I wanted to keep walking, as the scenery from the shore was quite a surprise and could be easily missed if seen from a fast moving boat.
The surprise was that for much of the two kilometres or so on either side of the river up to Kampung Morten, many buildings, shops, and houses are covered in colourful and varied forms of street art.
But it wasn’t always so.
15 years ago, the Melaka River was a heavily polluted waterway that was used as a dumping ground for rubbish as well as a place where untreated sewage flowed.
There were no decent walkways along either side of the river, and weak or non-existent embankments resulted in frequent flooding. Obviously, there was no incentive to maintain the areas immediately behind the buildings that backed onto the river, which added to the general disrepair of the river.
However, local authorities decided that a full scale rejuvenation of the river and its surrounds was in order, and a multi-phased project was born to bring the river and its immediate neighbourhood up to the state it is in today.
Some of the practical works included dredging up toxic sediment, establishing walkways along the river, strengthening the concrete river banks, and ending the flow of untreated sewage.
Then, in 2010, the Melaka River Art Project was established. Artists were commissioned to paint colourful murals on a series of buildings to brighten up the area. This has continued on, with many building facades transformed through various forms of art.
As a result of the rejuvenation, the river is now a lot busier than it used to be, with many more pedestrians and bicycle riders on the walkways and a constant stream of ferries and water taxis cruising up and down the river.
I never did catch one of the boats. I had taken my time, and over the next hour had captured as many of the sights as I could along the river, including popping into the empty Pirate Park, until I reached Villa Sentosa.
Villa Sentosa (meaning Peaceful Villa) is located in the south east corner of Kampung Morten, the heritage-protected village that has over 50 traditional Malay houses.
Walking through the front gate, I was greeted by an elderly lady, who is the current owner of the house and a descendant of the original owners.
She gave an interesting room-by-room tour of the house which included a description of the previous way of life and look at the many objects on display including the original furniture, tableware, historic ceramics, and different types of dress.
Don’t miss the opportunity to have a photo taken in the marriage chairs. Also, you may be offered the chance to ring the gong prior to leaving.
Entry is by donation.
Have you visited Villa Sentosa, the Malay Living Museum? Let me know of your experiences in the comments below.
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