MELAKA: A holiday in Melaka is considered as ‘incomplete’ without getting on a cruise along Sungai Melaka that snakes through this historical city.
The beauty of this river, enhanced via efforts of the state authorities, exudes more brilliance at night due to the thousands of lighted bulbs strung on new and heritage buildings as well as on trees that lined the 4.5km stretch of the river right from the ‘spice park’ to the estuary.
Tourists can hop on 40 boats provided by Melaka River Cruise, a company owned by the Melaka River and Coast Development Corporation (PPSPM).
The cruise is on from 9.30am until midnight daily.
“More than 40,000 tourists visited the river each month and they enjoy taking the river cruise”, PPSPM chief executive officer Baharom Majid told Bernama here.
Baharom said the Melaka River Cruise began as a commercial venture in 2006 with two boats which saw the service attracting 3,290 passengers that year.
The figure shot to 51,100 visitors in 2007 with 12 boats in service, followed by 350,000 people in 2008 with 20 boats available.
The figure for 2009 was 591,000 people with 30 boats in use.
He said the PPSPM targets 600,000 visitors (with 40 boats in service) this year.
Baharom said the number of visitors is expected to increase due to the intensive roadshows staged by the PPSPM locally and abroad with collaboration of the state and tourism authorities including Tourism Malaysia.
Various packages are on offer for tourists like that for holding dinners and wedding functions on the boats. Tourist guides well-versed in the history of Melaka and also on facts of the river are also provided.
The Melaka River Carnival held annually has also attracted both the domestic and foreign tourists, he added.
Among the objects that lined the riverbanks which captured the tourists’ attention and their cameras are the mural paintings on walls of buildings as well as the Melaka tree, from where the state got its name.
Soon, the visitors would be able to enjoy the river’s beauty on rides in the monorail coaches over a stretch of 1.6km from the Jebat Station in Taman Rempah until Tuah Station near the Eye On Melaka, another tourist attraction.
The transformation of Sungai Melaka can be tagged as ‘out of the ordinary’.
From a river which was once muddy and choked with floating garbage, Sungai Melaka has been transformed into a clean and beautiful river.
No more of the dirty backyards of shops and houses.
No more of the rather repulsing or revolting scenarios where rubbish was seen dumped into the river.
Instead, there are stunning landscapes that attract the attention of the camera-happy tourists on the rivercruise boats.
Now Sungai Melaka is a major tourist attraction for this world heritage city and also part of Melaka’s economic cake.
The Melaka River Beautification Programme was inspired by a similar effort done on San Antonio river in Texas, United States which is famous for its beauty and able to draw some 13 million tourists a year.
The programme to enhance the beauty of Melaka river was implemented under four phases at the cost of RM30 million that began in 2002.
PPSPM was given the task of regaining the glory of Melaka river, once known as the ‘Venice of the East’ when it became the trading point for merchants from the East and West.
Sungai Melaka’s estuary is at Bandar Hilir here and the river flows into the Melaka Straits.
The river, which was at the peak of its glory during the Melaka Malay Sultanate, gradually lost its lustre under the rule of the colonialists — Portuguese, Dutch, British and Japanese.
The pro-active measures implemented by the Melaka government.
Spearheaded by Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam, in the development of Sungai Melaka over the past decade had ignited and catalysed new economic activities along the river stretch.
Mohd Ali who expressed confidence in the river’s potential has invited entrepreneurs to establish, among others, hotels, restaurants and gift shops along the river, at the cost expected to reach more than RM1.0 billion.
“Apart from the existing ones, more hotels will be built along Sungai Melaka including that by Uda Holdings Berhad,” he said.
He also said the residents of Kampung Morten, the old Malay settlement in the heart of this world heritage city, would soon be selling souvenirs to tourists.
Kampung Morten is among the popular stops by visitors to Sungai Melaka as this settlement showcases the Malay traditional houses in their originality.
It is like a package for these visitors who can also make stopovers at Jonker Walk, Taming Sari Tower, Merdeka Memorial, A Famosa fortress, Stadthuys, Padang Nyiru, Taman Rempah and the theme park during their visits to the river.
Tourists can also shop at the commercial zone nearby like the Dataran Pahlawan Mega Mall.
The river had also created a mark in Malaysia’s modern history when in 2005, during the Rulers Conference on Nov 21-24, the Malay rulers accompanied by dignitaries took a recreational cruise along the stretch of Sungai Melaka. — Bernama