Be warned, this is a long review, mainly because there were so many beautiful things to photograph!
The Touch City is a very oddly named place, which used to be called Auyin Garden when it was first opened in 1990. After falling into some disrepair, it has mostly been refurbished and reopened in September 2016 with its new name. There is still some work going on, though.
You might have noticed I haven’t said what the Touch City actually is… to be honest I’m not completely sure! A Chinese statue park? A peaceful place for reflection? A Buddhist theme park? Perhaps I had better ask the owners.
“This brand-new concept hopes to propagate the legacy of both Chinese culture and Nanyang customs, advocate the culture of right path, and most importantly, promote the sense of goodness such as filial obedience among the children.”
I’m informed that the lack of focus on the Buddhist elements – and also the absence of any detailed signage to explain what everything represents – is apparently due to potential difficulties in getting a licence to operate from the authorities. So my comments here are my impressions plus any info gleaned from my fiancée and friends.
You enter along a pathway lined with painted tile pictures, which tell of scenes from Chinese history. Some of these are surprisingly racy for Malaysia!
At the top of the path is a Chinese General, guarding the park. There is then a corridor of Chinese lanterns to lead you to the ticket booth. If you go in the lunar month following Chinese New Year, there is a hefty discount of more than 50%. Make sure you pick up a map here, as following the numbers leads you along a broad almost-figure of 8 path including a couple of places to get a cold drink.
Entering the park, you’ll see a long green dragon, the East Sea Dragon, which represents a dragon prince killed in one of the various legends of divine battles.
Lining one of the sides of the dragon are 11 of the 12 Chinese zodiac animals, in warrior form. The twelfth is situated in pride of place at the entrance, being the current zodiac animal, the rooster (Feb 2017).
Keep walking towards the back and you will reach a small shop, the Sage of Longevity’s Hall, selling drinks, food supplements, and some vegetarian food – including, strangely to a Brit, Bovril. Invented in the UK, Bovril is a beef extract paste, commonly diluted into beef tea for drinking at football matches. However it seems in Malaysia that it is just yeast extract, similar to Marmite. I grabbed a pear and sage iced tea here.
The shop is next to the Colossal Gourd, which does what it says on the tin. It is a huge concrete gourd. Currently it has a couple of holes in it where it is being repaired. Still pretty impressive.
Following the numbers, you should come to a café, or Tea Station, overlooking the lotus pond, but it was closed when we visited. Shame, because it seemed to have a nice balcony area. Instead, we walked on to the Spiritual Journey and the Garden of Four Seasons.
Here, there is a nice pond around a yin and yang symbol, featuring a spitting male mask fountain facing a female mask. There are also figures of famous warriors performing martial arts. One seemed to be modelled on Bruce Lee, but that is probably western bias… you can also see a couple of pagoda sculptures which I thought were attractive.
Next comes a Tibetan style stupa collection, featuring eight pagodas on another pond. Beautiful, and designed to represent the eight stages of life in Buddhist teachings.
Just past these are the ten disciples of Lord Buddha, statues of thin men in gold and green. It is possible to stand in the middle and have them all ‘look’ at you at once.
The Blue Dragon Pavilion provides a couple of needed drink vending machines and a place to rest out of the sun for a while before moving on.
The Magical Archbridge and the viewing bridge which stands opposite were still under repair when we visited, but you can get close enough to take a good look at the red white and blue horses riding a rainbow.
After this, you go to the Bird Park. Still under construction and nearly empty of avians, there seem to be planned enclosures for birds of prey and possibly waterfowl. There are a few caged parakeets and love birds in a corner, but this isn’t really ready now. Nice and bright though.
Along a walkway are Tengu’s Pavilion and the impressive Imperial Dragon, with a vanguard of cannon.
Stroll back over the cross of the figure 8, through a giant coin for luck in the money stakes (maybe), stopping for a blessing from the Smiling Buddha (warning, may induce fertility), and head past the gourd to the next area.
Here you will find the Joyous Hall, where they have calligraphy lessons for children, and two impressive murals.
Either side of the Hall, there is a ‘Stairway to Heaven’, which leads to the Heavenly Supreme Incense. I confess we were too hot and tired to attempt the climb, so we missed out on what might be the world’s largest sculpture of a joss stick.
Instead we took a look at the blissfully air conditioned Cultural Promenade which shows you the history of Melaka and the Peranakan people through the medium of 3D art photography. Nicely painted, you can interact with this and take some pictures of your friends hanging from a masted ship or flanking a Chinese princess. It’s also the only place with detailed information boards.
Outside, the souvenir shop stands next to a Buddha sheltering from the rain under a cobra. We forgot to return to the souvenir shop, unfortunately.
Instead we popped into the Mun restaurant. This is a completely vegetarian place, which was doing a Chinese New Year buffet, but they were happy to do some snacks for us from their normal menu. Their head chef, Mr Sing, has been poached from a local 5 star hotel, and he and the restaurant marketing manager came for a chat with us after we ate, which was interesting.
We had Mongolian ‘ham’ and cheese rolls, which were deep fried steamed buns with slices of processed cheese and mock meat with a peppery sauce. Very nice bread, with a crispy outside and fluffy middle. We also tried the Portuguese peonies, which were grated yam and sweet potato lattice fritters. Very artistically served with spicy mayonnaise, these lived up to their looks and were delicious. Only RM14 for the pair of dishes.
On the final of leg of the park, we took a look at the dragon turtle, which is a turtle with the head of a dragon, so combining longevity and patience with courage and purpose. Quite cool, with a fountain and water cascade beside it, though neither of those is really in my photo.
Two more dragons waited at the base of the waterfall featuring a rotating statue of the Prince Siddartha, with a fun pond with concrete water lily stepping stones.
After that there was time for a quick look at the Auspicious Star Pavilion with its figures representing gods of health, wisdom and fertility, before a stroll along the battlement wall.
This overlooks a mixture of palm plantation, jungle and University (in the distance). It brings home how this park is quite a long way from Melaka town.
Finally we walked to the enormous gates, which can actually open and close to allow buses through, and said goodbye to the chatty security guard.
Overall, I enjoyed my time at the Touch City and there were definitely loads of things to see. I wished, however, that there had been more information about each of the statues at the place. If you don’t mind being a little in the dark, or are prepared to interpret things in your own way, then it’s probably worth a trip out of town.
To get to the Touch City, drive out of town through the UTeM campus or Durian Tunggal and look for the white castle walls! You’ll probably need to get a cab, as I’m not aware of any public transport which goes here.
Address: MC 13, Simpang Gading, 76100 Durian Tunggal, Melaka