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From old men leafing through newspapers to children running errands, mornings in Malacca radiate a timeless charm


Photos by Robert Lie


In Malacca, once considered among Southeast Asia’s greatest trading ports, nothing parallels the hotchpotch heritage better than the locals inhabiting its labyrinthine alleys. After being discovered by a wandering Srivijayan monarch from Sumatra, the humble, strategically located 14th-century fishing village on Malaysia’s southern peninsula enjoyed its golden age monopolising trading routes from China to India and bursting at the seams with settlers.

Following colonisation by the Portuguese in 1511, the Dutch in 1641, and the British in 1826, and – finally – independence, once-bustling Melaka gradually reverted to its original state as a sleepy backwater, while her sister cities rose to favour in their turn. Today, the web of cultural influences that form this UNESCO World Heritage Site’s complex identity still whispers old secrets from historic buildings and shopfronts, melting into a variety of sights, sounds and smells for intrepid travellers.

Time has resumed its leisurely pace here. The air is still; life, languid. Without the skyscrapers of Kuala Lumpur or the congested motorways of Johor Bahru, locals potter about, at their own rhythms, as daybreak comes to tranquil streets.


Robert Lie is an Indonesian travel photographer and an Artiste Federation Internationale de L’Art Photographique (FIAP). His award-winning work has been published in regional magazines and at exhibitions across Indonesia, South Korea and the UAE. He was an invited speaker at  the Contemporary Photography Festival 2018.