In 1405 it was visited by Cheng Ho, a minister of the Ming dynasty of China, and given protection by the dynasty which meant lots of Chinese people moved here. There's a museum about Cheng Ho here that I went to yesterday. He made seven voyages from Nanjing as a representative of China, going all the way to Arabia and Mogadishu before China decided upon an isolationist policy in the 1430s. There's even a theory that he or some of his second-in-commands went to America, Australia, and New Zealand before Europeans did. (The book defending this theory is '1421' by Gavin Menzies. According to him, the evidence for the NZ contact are (1) the spherical Moeraki boulders on the Otago coast, which allegedly were ship ballasts, and (2) parts of ships allegedly embedded in the cliffs near the boulders. These got there, according to the theory, when a comet fell to earth nearly hitting the Chinese ships and the sea throwing them into the cliff where they became embedded in the cliffside! I was at Moeraki last year with Lauri-Lee and Richard and I remember them telling me about this theory, though they were skeptics as I recall. The theory also alleges something to do with Chinese DNA present in Maori.)
Melaka, valuable as a strategic point for trade, was conquered by the Portuguese in the 1500s and then by the Dutch in the 1600s. A lot of Dutch buildings and churches remain, including one central one called Christ Church. I was surprised to see souvenirs being sold in this church and almost told them that was offensive but then thought 'who am I to defend church values?' The British got Melaka from the Dutch in 1824, exchanging it for Bengkulu, the place in west Sumatra where I stayed a week or so ago and where I had to stay longer than expected to wait get sorted out after my wallet was stolen. Sir Stamford Raffles was involved here, as he was in Bengkulu and Singapore. He sounds an interesting guy who I'd like to read a biography about. The world's biggest flower, the Rafflesia is found around here and is presumably named after him. (I haven't seen one yet.)
Malaysia was occupied by Japan in the Second World War and then after the war there was a struggle for independence. It seemed to take a long time to achieve this, partly due to much disagreement about what form of government to have, according to a Museum of Democratic Government I visited today. Malaysia became an independent country in the 1950s, with Singapore part of it for only two years before going independent itself. An alliance of political parties worryingly called the 'National Front' (Barisan Nasional) has ruled with a large majority ever since then, though in recent times its support has declined slightly but it still has a majority. I couldn't quite work out the constitution from the museum but I know there are two houses of parliament (the House of Representatives and the Senate), a monarch, and state governments, and elections are held every five years. Melaka is a city with the state of Melaka and there are twelve other states in Malaysia, plus three federal territories of which the capital, Kuala Lumpur, is one.