Oh I was ready to rub shoulders alright! But it was more than shoulders as at times I had to squirm my whole body way out of the crowd, moving and flowing in different directions at Jalan Hang Jebat Street in Melaka popularly known as the Jonker Walk. Last I was here, we only ventured this famed street boasting of well preserved Peranakan Houses dating back to 1800s during daylight. This was I was looking forward to my re-visit in this vibrant city, to experience the Jonker Walk Night Market.
The words “Peranakan” and “Baba-Nonya” would usually pop out when in the vicinity of Melaka. To explain briefly, Peranakan, is a Malay word which meant locally as “local born” and it was the word coined to the descendants of 500 Chinese Men who arrived in Melaka between 1400-1500s and married Malay locals. A male Peranakan is called “Baba” and a female is called “Nonya“. The Peranakans is a proud bloodline, they are distinguished by their signature dishes, highly adorned apparel and elaborate architecture. Some pure Peranakan descendants are living till this day though their numbers are dwindling. The guide we had before was a pure Peranakan but nowadays, they were not as strict as before as they are now allowed to marry outside their bloodline.
The Jonker Walk (or Jalan Hang Jebat Street) is at the heart of the residential area of Melaka where the roads are mostly 2 way streets and flanked by rows and rows of shophouses. It’s a delight to walk these streets at daylight and appreciate the varying styles of Peranakan Architecture. The style evolved from the 18th century with the usual louvered window shutters, timber walls and plain masonry. Eventually, the designs and styles became more elaborate with the addition of ceramics figures, friezes and later on tiles. Jonker Walk has many shophouses exhibiting these designs and in good form – one of the reasons why Melaka was included in the UNESCO Heritage City List.
The Jonker Walk Night Market
Come early evening every weekends (Friday to Sunday), vehicles are no longer allowed to pass by this street. Vendor stalls take their places by the pedestrian walkway and the people starts to stream in. The place becomes really lively without being too rowdy. Merchandise sold here are a mix of local and imported products. Mostly souvenirs and if you’re lucky some rare antiques. What I do like is the many eateries found clumped together at the northern end of the street near the stage where amateur artist and groups perform and a number of elders gather to watch. Food comes in really cheap with noodles starting from RM5.
Yes, Jonker Walk had made a name for itself especially with this night market. But the transition wasn’t as easy for the residents here at first. These shophouses were home to them but they had to move out due to the noise and hard commute especially on weekends. But there seems to be no signs of stopping this commercialization. As some residents leave or lend their old homes, new establishments would take place. But as it stands, Jonker Walk Night Market is one of the main draws for visiting Melaka. And yes I had fun strolling this busy street.
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.