I do not remember whether the bell rang or not but the Red Clock Tower caught my attention as I passed by the Dutch Square. It was already six in the evening, which came as a shock to me. I didn’t realize that my friends Ces and Astrid and I had been walking around Malacca for several hours now and the sun, which was still burning oh so brightly that time, left us disoriented about time. (You see, the sun sets at around 6pm here in Manila.) We decided to cease walking and rest for a few minutes at the Square.
The Dutch Square is probably the most recognizable landmark in Malacca. It harbors some of the city’s most popular buildings including Christ Church, the Malacca Art Gallery and Youth Museum, and the Stadthuys, all surrounding the Queen Victoria Fountain and the Red Clock Tower. Trees rise from a blanket of red, orange and yellow flowers adding more vibrance to the already colorful plaza. Throughout the day, dozens of tourists flock around the Dutch Square trying to have photos of themselves taken at the square.
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The Tan Beng Swee Clock Tower
More commonly known as Red Clock Tower, the Tan Beng Swee Clock Tower stands tall at the center of the Dutch Square. While it was named after Chinese billionaire Tan Beng Swee, it was actually his son, Tan Jiak Kim, who had this built in 1886 to fulfill his father’s promise. Tan Beng Swee was a rich Chinese man who lived in Malacca and was known for his philanthropy. He donated the land where the city’s Chinese cemetery now lies and the bridge just beside the tower.
For almost a century, the clock installed on top of the tower was from England. In 1982, however, it was replaced by a Seiko clock, which was not received well by the older residents of the city and caused an outrage because many of them still remember the suffering they experienced when Japan occupied the city decades ago.
Queen Victoria Fountain
Although it stands at the center of the Dutch Square, Queen Victoria Fountain is one of the last remaining architectural footprints of British rule in Malacca. (The British colonized Malacca after the Dutch.) It was built in 1901 in honor of Queen Victoria and to commemorate his diamond jubilee. The century-old fountain still functions perfectly even up to this day and serves as a popular backdrop for tourists at the Dutch Square.
Because of the number of tourists flooding to and crowding around Dutch Square, a number of stores are set up within the area. There’s a lane of souvenir shops between the Christ Church and the Stadthuys, offering a wide array of mementos — from key chains to dancing cat toys. A few ice cream stalls are also around the area. We really enjoyed looking at the items sold at these shops and we even bought a few.
When the dark swallowed the city, the square remained a bright spot as the fountain, the clock tower, and the facade of the surrounding buildings were illuminated artificially. Even the heavily decorated tricycles turned into a festival of lights on wheels, a charming touch. When we all agreed that it was time to move on, we trod towards the terminal of the River Cruise. Looking back as I walked away, I saw that crowds continued to gather around the area and learned just how irresistible the Dutch Square really is.