Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Dutch Bastion the latest Malacca Tourist Draw.

Malacca now boosts another tourist attraction to cash on the tourism dollars. The replica of the Middlesburg Bastion is now opened to public when I visited there on Dec 9, 08.

The project is not without controversy from the first day its foundation was unearthed by workers constructing the Taming Sari Revolving Tower.
A few parties have voiced conflicting views how best the monument should be preserved.
A Badan Warisan columnist even go so far to acknowledge the site as the next most important archaeological find in the Malay Peninsula after the discovery of Hindu Cendis in Bujang Valley, Kedah.
For hard core conservationists, no viable option except to leave the bastion foundation unmolested.
On the other extreme, policy makers were more interested in turning the site into a grand tourism scheme by 'remaking' the bastions.
RM12.8 million and almost a year later and you've another tourist attraction.
Needless to say, critics of the project were aghast at the turn of event.
No expert could verify the authencity of bastion design or the height of the wall first constructed by the Portuguese and reinforced later by the Dutch before demolished by Farquhar in the 18th century.

All reference were based on illustrations and tell-tales provided by ancient sea farers.
Yet the conservationist experts who mooted the rebuilding task were adamant about the go-ahead.
Nevertheless, a bastion replica serves remarkably well for lay men. It works wonderfully to stir-up their imagination of the ancient bastion.
The fact of the matter is that they are the bulk of the visitors to Malacca and historical sites like Middlesburg appeal to folks more interested in snapping some memorable pictures but hardly excited with the historical value of this momentous archaelogical find.
Fortunately in my view, a few ingenious designs have been incorporated into this pricy project and we are able to appreciate the remnants of the original bastion foundation and the coral rocks hidden underneath.
Walk around the structure and you could find a few ground openings previously discovered by the archaeologists are decently preserved to show the original rocky foundation.
There are no captions currently available but I believe this would be overcome soon.
My favorite is the one closest to the main structure. A glass bridge is built to allow visitors take a walk over an original rock foundation on their way to the top of bastion.

If you think rebuilding the bastion structure goes against the exceptable heritage norm then surely the VOC cannon replicas found on top of the bastion is another symptomatic example where the lines of conservation and tourism blurred alarmingly in Malaysia.
Such manipulative interpretation of history would irk those who want to protect heritage at its core but they are slowly but surely silenced by groups calling for better cash cows for the economy.
Middlesburg buried over two centuries and thought to have lost forever but in a bizarre twist of fate, is now basked in all its glory.

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