Established in 1896, the Baba & Nyonya Heritage Museum in Melaka was once the family home of a prominent Peranakan family prior to being converted into a heritage museum in 1985. In fact, it was the first private museum to be set up in Malaysia!
Dating back to the 15th – 17th century, the Peranakans refer to descendants of the immigrants who married the locals of the Malay Archipelago and British Malaya (now Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore). Many of these immigrants were Chinese, hence the Peranakan Chinese were also known as Strait Chinese. The males are named Baba and females are named Nyonya.
Upon gaining entry into the Baba & Nyonya Heritage Museum, one would be struck by old-world charms and dignified opulence. Bare walls were lined with portraits of ancestors, framed by ornate brass carvings. As in Chinese traditions, the males were positioned on the left and the females were on the right. The sweet scents of aged wood bespoke lives that span several generations!
Tip#Photography is not allowed in the museum BUT your eyes are the best camera. Take in your surroundings and indulge in the moment of being here.
As we meandered through the different halls and rooms, our candid & humorous guide, Emily, painted a vivid picture of the past. For several moments, I felt as if I have been transported back in time whereby young ladies of the household peeped through holes of the screen from the thethia gelap (dark hall) into the thia besar (reception hall) where only men were allowed.
The Lavish Blackwood furniture from China, inlaid with mother of pearl and marble, took my breath away. Even the slabs of marble were specially selected for its natural patterns that depict mountains! As we explored further, the exquisite interior design showed Dutch, Portuguese, Malay, and Colonial influences that make a Straits-born home unique. Family portraits and daily household items also gave insights to a lavish lifestyle.
Tip#Wear sandals or footwear that are easy to remove, as you’d be required to take off your shoes prior to heading up level 2.
Thanks God Looks Can Be Deceiving.
It can be hard to imagine how this beautiful home managed to escape unscathed during the World War II but it did. Interestingly, the houses on Heeren Street were spared, due to their old and shabby exterior. It is true that one must never judge a book by its cover. During World War II, the invaders bypassed these homes of treasure, having judged that nothing of value could be gained from the worn exteriors.
If you are planning to visit Melaka, I would definitely recommend a visit to the Baba & Nyonya Heritage Museum. You may either explore on your own with the in-house printed guide or join the tour. The latter costs RM15 for 45 minutes and it is definitely worth joining!
Baba & Nyonya Heritage Museum
Address: Nos. 48 & 50 Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock, 75200 Melaka,
Contact No.: +606-283 1273
Daily Tour Times:
10am – 1pm (last morning tour 11:45am)
2pm – 5pm (last evening tour 4:00pm)
The above information has been compiled based on various sources, including my own experience and should only be used as a reference. For more information on the destination, do check out http://babanyonyamuseum.com/.