A small community in Tengkera where progress had left behind, time had stood still, but age keeps mounting. A small community of businesses, activities, old architectures, beliefs, and people surrounded by 17 million tourists arrivals in 2018, yet invisible.
A Community Forgotten
A stone throw away from the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the City of Melaka lies a forgotten Taoist community of Lorong Kapitan (Captain's Lane). A Kapitan in its heyday was an all-powerful figure representing the Chinese community in Melaka. He had a strong voice to determine trade and economic policies for this historical city. This was one of his settlements. Now, that symbol of power is reduced to a small lane.
Altar Hock Soon (2019-03-01) by Nikt WongMelaka in Fact
The Hock Soon Temple serves the small community of Taoist. Erected in front of Lorong Kapitan, it was established more than 200 years ago. The Hock Soon Temple is not in any of the glossy tourism brochures nor can it compete for tourist donations with other Taoist temples. It is only sustainable by the generosity of the ageing community left behind by the younger generations in search of bigger fortunes. Those that stayed still prays for their health, longevity, and prosperity of their person and their businesses as they had been religiously for several decades and by generations before them.
The Hock Soon Temple standing in isolation, disconnected to its surrounding.
Hock Soon Photos (2019-03-01) by Nikt WongMelaka in Fact
Days of Glory
Old photographs adorns one wall of the temple indicating the once glorified center of religious events graced by prominent personalities of the past.
Interior Hock Soon (2019-03-01) by Nikt WongMelaka in Fact
The interior of the temple shows old timber materials.
Hock Soon Gates (2019-03-01) by Nikt WongMelaka in Fact
Lady in Front of her House (2019-02-28) by Nikt WongMelaka in Fact
Lorong Kapitan House
A resident of Lorong Kapitan stands proudly in front of her home. She frequents the nearby temple praying for health and long life.
Note the original windows. The window bars are wooden.
Pink House (2019-02-28) by Nikt WongMelaka in Fact
Another wooden house on Lorong Kapitan stands in the midst of further encroachment of development of a fast growing city.
Chinese House (2019-02-28) by Nikt WongMelaka in Fact
With a little bit of extra financing, residents could upgrade some parts of the façade with concrete structures.
The Business of Economy
Across the temple in a typical fashion of Jalan Tengkera, assortments of Dutch architecture periods - some maintained and some left alone, reflecting the generations of businesses that once flourished. The height of these individual shops indicates the age. The shorter, the older the architecture. There are still some of the traditional businesses on this street.
Hock Soon Temple consumables like joss sticks still enjoy brisk sales.
There are still wood carvers among the congregation maintaining the altars of the temple that needed part replacements. To supplement their livelihood, they also service custom orders.
Cakoi (2019-02-27) by Nikt WongMelaka in Fact
Chakoi by Hand
Some of the older members of the community still trade in hand-made Cakoi, a very popular breakfast item or snacks.
"Putu Mayam" Business (2019-02-25) by Nikt WongMelaka in Fact
Putu Piring is an old recipe of of the area. On regular nights, patrons would be lining up right up to the street waiting for their freshly steamed putu piring.
The Spice Trader (2019-02-26) by Nikt WongMelaka in Fact
Melaka in the 15th century was world-famous for its spice trade, where fierce sea battles were fought for the control of the city. Now very much quieter for the older community.
The traditional Chinese medicine shop too awaits for customers to drop in.
Not Grey's Anatomy
On the wall of the Chinese medicine shop adorns the acupuncture pressure points. It is still on offer as a service for the other old folks.
Flowers for the Dead (2019-02-28) by Nikt WongMelaka in Fact
There is an old business of selling fresh flowers that went together with the casket maker next door. With depleting sales, flowers are now available for any festive occasions.
Fishy Business (2019-02-26) by Nikt WongMelaka in Fact
In this old Dutch made structure is a pet shop selling only exotic fishes and birds. A couple of stores next door, the business has closed down.
Melaka in Fact is interacting with the Taoist community surrounding the Hock Soon Temple and the businesses. Recording memories, stories, photographs, and capturing little details. Should the tourists come in and drive the cultures and traditions out by bringing in manufactured "heritage" or should this community be left quietly alone?
Photographs taken by Nikt Wong and Mahen Bala.
Words by Bert Tan, a native of Tengkera.