THE ANTIQUE STREET
By Lee Min Keong
Malacca can rightly claim to have a prominent place in Malaysia's history,
it is in the city's Jonker Street that one can actually buy a piece of
history. This narrow street, which houses some of the Malacca's oldest
dwellings, is an antique shopper's paradise.
Given Malacca's colourful history and its unique blend of races, artifacts from the different periods of colonial rule - Portuguese, Dutch and English - are found in these shops. Many of the antiques available bear Chinese origins, reflecting the influence of the Straits Chinese (baba and nyonyas) and the later Chinese immigrants to then Malaya.
While at Jonker Street, one has to exercise caution and be fairly knowledgeable to avoid purchasing items passed off allegedly as antiques. Prices for similar items are sometimes known to vary widely among the shops, so be prepared to do shop around. Tough bargaining for items which interest you would definitely be a prudent practice.
However, most of the people who purchase antiques there are actually Malaysians. Antique dealer Sulega Moidu says almost 85 per cent of her shop's sales were from locals. She laments that tourists, especially those who arrive in tour buses, have hardly enough time to sift through the artifacts and make a purchase.
Moidu's shop, Abdul Company, was started by one of her husband's close relatives about 70 years ago. "We sell everything from antique furniture, Chinese porcelain, brassware, cast iron beds to lamps," says Moidu, adding the antiques are sourced from all over Malaysia.
However, Jonker Street is more than just antique and souvenir shops. Apart from small traditional businesses, there are also several art galleries.
A walk down the narrow street, now renamed Jalan Hang Jebat, is like walking back in time. Here, one can find houses built in the 17th century. Many of the dwellings are very spacious and up to 50 metres in length.
So, whether you buy a piece of history at the antique shops or just marvel at the old world charm that is uniquely Malacca, a visit to Jonker Street must be on your itinerary when you visit Malaysia's historical city.