TRAVELIFE Magazine Publisher Christine Cunanan checks into a hotel with a colorful history in Malacca
First-time visitors to Malacca will undoubtedly be charmed by its picturesque views and old-fashioned atmosphere. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is both enchanting and comforting, with 600 years of diverse architecture and multi-cultural flavors. And in such a charming city, it's worth staying at a boutique hotel that is up to the task of completing this unique travel experience.
The Majestic Malacca is simply magical. We arrived at this boutique hotel - Malacca's best - after a two-hour drive from Kuala Lumpur. This restored 1920s mansion undeniably complements the city's ancestral houses, colonial squares, and well-preserved ruins. It has an equally colorful history, having once belonged to a prominent Chinese businessman who reportedly lost his fortune to gambling after only two years. The mansion had to be sold and it became a backpackers' hotel for many years, until a local Malaysian company recently revived it as Malacca's finest luxury hotel.
East meets west
A gentlemen in a white suit and a lady in a modern kebaya welcomed us at the hotel's old-fashioned lounge, an inviting space with antique furniture, masses of flowers, comfortable pillows and glass jars with sweet treats and biscuits in every corner, instantly giving a feeling of home. The beauty of this hotel is evidently in the small details: its original porcelain flooring and ornate window works, graceful furniture, Peranakan vases and intricate artworks.
This hotel has all the conveniences of a five-star hotel, including a swimming pool, gym, and full-service spa, but everything is just sized smaller - which adds to its charm. For example, the swimming pool is large enough for exercise laps but it's really a small oasis of water sandwiched between the hotel's original structure. Meanwhile, the gym has everything you need for a proper work-out, but it's a tiny room with floor-to-ceiling glass windows facing the pool.
On the other hand, the Spa Village Malacca boasts of an extensive menu of beauty and relaxation treatments, many using local ingredients and using traditional Malaysian beauty practices. It's probably the only spa in the world to base many of its therapies on the healing beliefs of Peranakan culture. Peranakan culture, which is also known as Baba-Nyonya culture, is a mix of Chinese and Malay influences.
I loved my 35 square-meter deluxe room with a four-poster bed finished in rich teak and dressed in cool cottons with an ornate silk runner across. The bespoke furnishings, silk drapes and warm timber floors provided a luxurious and yet homey atmosphere. I lazed away a couple of afternoons on the comfortable silk lounge with a view overlooking the river dotted with ornate bridges.
Home away from home
All the hotel rooms are alike save for the two 70 square-meter suites on the top floor. The Majestic Suite and the Tranquerah Suite have their own sitting room and powder room, and boast of amazing views of Kampung Morten, the traditional Malay village by the river.
On my first afternoon, I enjoyed a lavish high tea of British treats like scones and cucumber sandwiches and also Malay favorites like samosa and curry puffs at the hotel lounge. Then, for my first walk around this heritage city, I took advantage of the services of the hotel's resident guide, a lively lady who brought me on a walking tour to famous landmarks like the rose-brick Dutch Square and the Peranakan Museum.
"Malacca is a beautiful old town molded by so many different cultural influences," she said. "It's a mix of Dutch, Portugese, Malay and Peranakan influences. We also enjoyed the exposure to other cultures brought to Malacca via the trading boats that plied the Malacca Straits, one of the busiest waterways in the world for centuries."
I had many favorite moments in Malacca, but many of them had to do with savoring the atmosphere and classic, understated grandeur of The Majestic Malacca. The hotel serves some of the most authentic Peranakan cuisine in Malacca, and dinner is a sumptuous selection of Nyonya favorites served in a beautiful dining room with a view of the river.
Nyona food is alternately sweet, sour and spicy. On my last evening in this lovely old city, I enjoyed a Nyonya feast here, with a grand finale of a spicy laksa which I savored till the very last drop - a fitting end to my Malaccan soujourn.
How to get there
Malaysia Airlines flies daily to Kuala Lumpur International Airport. From Kuala Lumpur, Malacca is a two-hour drive away.
THE MAJESTIC MALACCA
188 Jalan Bunga Raya 75100 Melaka, Malaysia
Tel. (60) (3) 2783-100
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