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Monday, May 12, 2014

A day trip to Masjid Lama Machap, Melaka

A day trip to Masjid Lama Machap, Melaka

as recounted by Joon Wan

 The morning of 8th May 2014 found me behind the driving wheel of a car heading towards Machap in Melaka. Accompanied by my papa and Koko Cheng Neo, we were making our way to Masjid Lama Machap. I was told, whenever my late grandmother made her annual offerings ( bayar niat ) at the sacred tomb ( keramat), they would sometimes accompany her. However, the annual trip came to an abrupt end when the surrounding area was flooded to make way for a reservoir.  

As it was my first trip to Durian Tunggal and Machap I was not too familiar with the road, but fortunately Koko Cheng Neo was at hand to guide us to our destination ( better than the GPS: no wrong turning and unsolicited advice ).

  We took the Air Keroh turn off and drove passed Kampung Padang Keladi up to Durian Tunggal town, a short stretch of shops on both sides of the road. At the intersection, we turned right and a short drive ahead, we spotted a signboard indicating the direction to Machap Umboo.

 The car was soon humming its way along a hilly terrain with well-paved, two-lanes road flanked with verdant, towering oil palm trees. Except for the occasional oil palm tankers and 4-wheel drives, there was hardly any vehicles on the road. I was  negotiating the twists and turns of the sinuous course when suddenly I heard a voice next to me.

"That's the reservoir," papa said, as he pointed at a wide expanse of water.

I slowed down the car, as the rising road offered a stunning vista of a serene, shimmering water that stretched towards the distant mountains and murky woods. Unfortunately, I had to concentrate on my driving and was unable to take a snapshot of the picturesque view. 

We reached another inter-section with Machap Umboo to the left and Machap Baru to the right and Koko Cheng Neo asked me to take the right turn.

 About 1 km ahead, we spotted a small sign on the right side of the road which read: "Masjid Lama Machap". At intervals we passed by rubber trees with  gnarled trunks and tapping scars that had virtually reached the base of the trunks: testimony of their age and exploitation.

 We soon found ourselves on a thinly tarred, single lane road and so I had to keep a constant lookout for on-coming vehicles.  

Suddenly, we came upon a breath taking view _ a sea of emerald green lotus leaves studded with myriad of fully blossomed pink lotus. 

A sea of pink lotus

Then at the end of the road, through a line of trees, we could make out the shape of a building. 

"That must be the keramat," said, koko Cheng Neo.

 A small golden dome, perched on top of a tiled roof, soon came into view. We had finally arrived at our destination.

A small dome on top of a tiled roof, reminiscent of a Chinese temple

As I brought the car to a halt at the entrance, I noticed two other cars were parked outside the gate. We later learned that one was the mosque caretaker's car while the owner of the other car and his companion had gone fishing at the nearby reservoir. A notice at the gate informed visitors that visiting hours were from 5am to 5pm. There was also a notice reminding visitors to refrain from indulging in practices that were not in accordance with Islamic teaching and to adhere to the dress codes. 

A notice at the entrance

There was also a plaque recounting the origin of the keramat Datuk Machap. I took a photo of the plaque, unaware that my reflection had appeared on the plaque. 

A plaque with a brief description on the origin of
the Datuk Keramat Machap ( no mystical figure, just my
reflection on the the plaque )

Papa inquired about the Keramat Datuk Machap from a middle-aged Malay man who was probably the caretaker and he was soon telling us about the changes that had taken place.

Listening to the 'story-teller'

According to him, the mosque and tomb were formerly situated at the top of a hill and visitors had to climb up a flight of steps to reach the site. The lower part of the land is now filled with water and the mosque and the tombs now stand on the same level as the surface of the water. Initially, after the reservoir was constructed, visitors had to take a sampan, from the main road to the mosque but later, a road leading directly to the mosque was constructed. He told us many Singaporeans still come to pray  at the keramat but they are not allowed to place joss sticks at the tombs. The joss sticks must be placed under the tree opposite the tombs.

We took a leisurely walk round the mosque, taking in the interesting sights and savouring the rustic charm and  tranquility of the place. 

Tomb of Datuk  Machap, a Makasar descendant who did business in
Melaka during the time of the Melaka Sultanate

A geduk ( Malay drum ) on display.

Chinese characters carved on a marble slab

A close-up shot of the marble slab

A wall of the mosque embellished with ceramic tiles mural

From our vantage point at the mosque we had a spectacular view of a lotus-filled lake bordered with trees and mountains.  

A spectacular view of the surrounding landscape

Directly below us we could see partially submerged stilts which are remains of a bridge and a hut used for slaughtering animal offerings.

Remains of a bridge and hut

After we had taken in the sights, we proceeded to Machap Baru, as Koko Cheng Neo wanted to consult a fortune teller at a temple which she frequents almost annually. ( mau tengok nasib bila boleh beli empat ekor dan naik Genting ).  

On our way back we stopped for lunch at a nearby restaurant in Machap Baru. Although the restaurant is well known for its exotic meat dishes, we were not as adventurous as culinary connoisseur of bizarre food, and so we  were content to settle for the more familiar local cuisine of fish, vegetables and tofu.

While the trip had provided me with a new experience, for my papa and koko, I am certain,it had helped them to bring back a flood of interesting memories _ memories which I hope they and the other older generation can share with us.

Other stories by Joon Wan. Click below link

Nationality Matters

Related article
Click below link

Lost Orchard


  1. Interesting piece, and very well written too! Let's hope that such gems of places with historical and cultural value will continue to be preserved.

  2. Wan, I don't know this masjid exists until I read this well written article. Thank you. If I ever go to Machap Umboo again, I will stop by to visit this place. Have you tried 'meehoon cili api' & Curry chicken in a coffeeship beside a Tadika at Durian Tunggal town? It is situated opposite BSN & a SJKC. Next time when you are there, don't forget to stop-by & try this delicious food recommended by me, ok?

    1. Hi Fun,
      Thanks for your support and encouragement and also for the info.on the food outlet in Durian Tunggal. Will try to visit the place the next time we are there.

  3. Hello there. As a Malay and Muslim, I've never seriously understood the belief in a 'keramat' or 'datuk' of a site since we have disassociated 'old beliefs' from our faith. I did became curious when I visited this old Machap Lama mosque on 1st May '14. I was impressed with the 500-year old mosque's history. More importantly, I grew to understand there exists a relationship between the Malay and the Peranakan/Chinese communities. Underneath, perhaps the relationship is good...

    1. The religious conservatism and segregation of communities are a new phenomenon and is a result of politics. On the ground, people, cultures and beliefs have been living together and mixing for centuries. The local Chinese are still worshipping historical Malay leaders as deities.