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Tag: Melaka

Majestic Malacca: A Glimpse Of Old Opulence

Every building has a story, particularly heritage buildings that have weathered the storms and survived to bear the footprints of this generation. I entered the modest lobby of the Majestic…

Every building has a story, particularly heritage buildings that have weathered the storms and survived to bear the footprints of this generation. I entered the modest lobby of the Majestic Malacca and felt perfectly at home. The warm lighting from the porcelain umbrella lamps and the old-fashioned chandelier set the place aglow. Large leather-bound armchairs and wicker furniture beckoned me for a rest.

MajesticMalacca

As I looked around, I found a few glass containers filled with familiar childhood goodies – preserved sweet plums, peanut biscuits, tou chee phaeng – tiny plain biscuits topped with a swirl of colourful harden icing sugar (in English, it’s translated as belly button biscuits), green peas, salted peanuts and coconut candy. These munchies brought back many memories and are reminiscent of Malacca’s rich culinary heritage – especially the coconut candy that taste almost like Gula Melaka.

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The beautiful Spanish tiles and solid timber staircase, reception and bar counter evoke an air of opulence in the days of past. I learned that this building was once a mansion belonging to a wealthy rubber tycoon who had four wives and he lavishly designed his home with the best fittings and furnishings. The decadence continued even after he passed on when a hotelier bought over the mansion and transformed it into a hotel bearing the same name “Majestic”.

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The reception and bar counters have been kept intact since the 1920s. The Majestic played host to traveling merchants and British planters. It was then lauded for its grandiosity where big banquets and important meetings were held within its walls. But its glory soon faded and was converted into a simple guesthouse and soon after abandoned.

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Walking into the Library, a lounge and lunch area with a floor to ceiling bookshelf filled with historical reads, I get a sense that the mansion was painstakingly and delicately restored to keep its charm and history unflawed. The cosy Library with its large wooden shuttered windows with warm natural light streaming in and soft arm chairs makes for a cozy curl up and read. This space was formerly a bedroom space which now has been aptly converted into a relaxing lounge where lunch and tea is served.

LIbraryMjestic

I spent an afternoon sipping on green tea and nibbling on fine local and European tea snacks served on a three-tier platter – scones with clotted cream and jam, creme brulee, cheese tarts, macarons, finger sandwiches, kuih lapis, blue glutinous rice cakes, ondeh-ondeh, spring rolls and samosas. Full and satisfied after tea, I settled in and buried my face into a book trying not to feel guilty for the calories I’ve piled on. But my conscience did not waver, so I visited the hotel’s gym and spent an hour sweating it out. The fully equipped gym is small, but has all the essential equipment for a good workout.

TeaatLIbrary

Overlooking the gym is a lap pool and it connects to a tall building where all 54 guest rooms are housed. My room was just as homely as the lobby, elegantly designed in neo Asian-colonial style with timber floorings, a teakwood four-poster bed and a sprawling daybed overlooking the Malacca River. The open bathroom with wooden sliding doors offer a chic accent with black and white marble floor and a large clawfoot bathtub.

Bedroom4Bedroom3Yet, even with the most luxuriate furnishings, what stood out was the warm, friendly hospitality of the people who work behind the scenes. Upon check-in, a wicker basket with porcelain teacups and a teapot filled with soothing warm Chinese tea was served to me in my room. I later requested for some nibbles to munch on and it promptly delivered to my room without fuss.

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Dining at The Mansion just above the lobby area was pure delight. Tunes from the grand piano piped through the entire building filling it with a sense of nostalgia. The spacious windows draped with elegant curtains boast views of the glistening Malacca River and Kampung Morten with dancing night lights as the city comes to life in the evening. The menu is simple and uncomplicated, it celebrates the best of Malacca cuisine; the perfect blend of Portuguese, Dutch, English and Baba-Nyonya cultures.

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From the food, to the service, to the hotel’s fine furnishings – the Majestic Malacca triumphantly captured the opulence of its heyday. Not many hotels are successful in telling their story so well, still not many are able to preserve a history that spanned almost a century old and to this day dwell in its confines. A visit to Malacca would be shortchanged if you did not stop by the Majestic for a stay or even stop over for a cup of Chinese tea.

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Preserving Fading Cultures & Trades

If you’re exploring Peninsular Malaysia and nearby stopovers destinations while transiting in the capital Kuala Lumpur, then put Malacca (Melaka) on the list. It’s only a two-hour drive from Kuala…

If you’re exploring Peninsular Malaysia and nearby stopovers destinations while transiting in the capital Kuala Lumpur, then put Malacca (Melaka) on the list. It’s only a two-hour drive from Kuala Lumpur and is brimming with culture, rich heritage and an abundance of good food. Since young, Malacca has been one of the places I frequented for short family getaways, aside from the equally charming state of Penang and nature-rich Pahang.

Malacca’s history holds great intrigue, a city once ruled by Portuguese, Dutch and British leaders. The Straits of Malacca was a strategic waterway and as a result, the city played host to Chinese, Indian and European merchants who brought with them spices, silks, ornamental carvings, porcelains – and of course, cultural influences to the local people. The traces of Malacca’s rich history can today be seen in the design of the shophouses, its cuisine, existing (but slowly fading) businesses and religious centres.

z2The best way to explore the city is by foot – so I joined the free walk tour hosted by the Majestic Malacca for her guests. We meandered through tiny lanes exploring small shophouses, some dating back 100 years and lasting through four generations. We watched tinsmiths, prints-men, barbers, goldsmith, Chinese tea sellers and tailors busy at work, unperturbed at the speed of the day, but drumming to their own carefree rhythm.

Old barber

We stopped at a century-old bar where the owner is thought to have extraordinary knowledge in concocting healing medicine laced with alcohol. We stopped by a wood carvers workstation, thought to be the only wood carver in Malacca that made Chinese signboards by hand. I revelled in the skill and patience of the carver – attentively chiselling away from the wooden plank.

Chinese caligraphy

Then we stopped at a shophouse where skilful shoemakers with perfect vision sat attentively stitching small micro-beads to make beautiful beaded shoes for ladies. It takes up to a month to complete a pair of shoes and they retail for a few hundred ringgits, but every cent spent on a masterpiece like this is worth it, because these skills are slowly fading, one generation at a time.

Shoes

The gruesome foot binding practice which originated in China was also introduced to Malacca during the fusion merchants boom. Apparently, there were several shoe makers who specialised in foot binding, but only one remains today in Malacca. The practice, however, has been put to a stop due to the inhuman implications on young ladies who failed to walk or even perform day-to-day activities without falling over or aided with a walking stick. I held a shoe in my palm and was baffled at a how a foot can fit in – it was smaller than the pair of shoes my almost three-year-old wore. The shop still makes these minute shoes for keepsakes.

Shoe bindsTour guide

Beelining past busy Jonker Street where activity is abuzz, we stepped into Masjid Kampung Kling. The mosque, built in 1872 resembles a Chinese temple at first glance, with the minaret resembling a pagoda instead of a dome. The interiors of the temple are decked with wooden wall carvings and hanging chandeliers, with its structure held up by Roman pillars.

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When the mosque was restored in 2013, craftsmen replaced old and missing tiles by replicating the design of old tiles. Our guide told us to look closely at the tiles to spot the difference. The new tiles were stamped with the year ‘2013’ while the old tiles remained as is. This interesting observation applies for many other restored shophouses and buildings within Malacca.

Tiles

The refurbishment of these old buildings, shophouses and religious centres have much to be celebrated. I returned from my three-hour walk tour and stood in awe of Majestic Malacca, once an old mansion owned by a wealthy businessman with four wives who tragically died from tuberculosis and whose sons squandered his fortune leaving the beautiful structure to waste. Many years on, the mansion was bought over by a hotelier who found the house too big for his family and so he converted the first floor to a simple hotel with single bedrooms and shared toilets. On the ground floor, his family lived in four spacious rooms and he built bar and reception which still remains today in the modern-heritage Majestic Malacca.

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The hotel survived 20 dark years of abandonment after it failed to fly with the rise of larger hotel chains. It also faced the threat of being torn down – but hope arose when YTL Hotels bought it over and delicately restored it to its former beauty. Today, the unsuspecting mansion still stands, sandwiched between a towering hospital and some shophouses while overlooking the glistening Malacca River.

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Philea Resort, Malacca: Log Cabins In The Tropics

The unusual and distinctive usually catches my attention. While I’m more incline to travel local and see, experience and do things that are connected to local cultures and heritage when…

The unusual and distinctive usually catches my attention. While I’m more incline to travel local and see, experience and do things that are connected to local cultures and heritage when I’m on a holiday, I also sometimes divert and try something different. So when I heard about the “First Log Resort” in tropical Malaysia, it piqued my curiosity to find out more. I drove to Melaka, south of Kuala Lumpur and exited at Ayer Keroh. The resort is located very close to the Ayer Keroh highway exit.

I entered the lobby, I noticed odd shaped furniture and bits and bobs of wooden wheels turned into benches, chairs and tables. I later found out that they were actually reclaimed parts from several shipwrecks off the Melaka shores. Observing other details such as the staircase and railings, I was told that 8000 pieces of disused railway sleepers for fencing and staircase were used in the resort.

I checked in and made my way to my suite, passing by an open courtyard with double storey log stacked chalets on my left and right. The chalet’s exteriors are not Malaysian kampung inspired, instead it looked more like chalets you will find on the Swiss Alps or holiday homes on snow-capped mountains. Very un-Malaysian, but I guess variety somehow attracts tourists. Philea_Ardent Traveler_5Philea_Ardent Traveler_3Philea_Ardent Traveler_2 I arrive at my suite, a single storey log cabin with an open patio at the front. Walking up the small steps leading to the heavy glass sliding doors, I heard calm showers coming from the pool, just a stones throw away. Waters from the streaming waterfall flowed into the pebble clad swimming pool that is within sight. Sun seekers were decked out on the beach chairs soaking in the glorious sun waves.

I arrive at my suite, a single storey log cabin with an open patio at the front. Walking up the small steps leading to the heavy glass sliding doors, I heard calm showers coming from the pool, just a stones throw away. Waters from the streaming waterfall flowed into the pebble clad swimming pool that is within sight. Sun seekers were decked out on the beach chairs soaking in the glorious sun waves.

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The suite is a single spacious room with a large double bed decorated with rose petals and swans twisted by towels. A large arm chair sits in one corner and a small study area on the other. The interior design takes on the local Malay inspiration with embroidered pillows, rich floral printed black out curtains and wallpaper. The room leads to a wooden sliding door and opened to an expansive bathroom with vintage shower heads, brass dials and a deep standalone bathtub. Philea Resort

I visited Philea with my husband and baby son and I found the resort very children and baby friendly. The pool is massive with cascading waterfalls and a children’s wading pool. The resort also has an indoor play area for kiddies and a butterfly and reptile park to keep young ones occupied.

The 15 acre land is well designed with plenty of shade and cover.Upon nightfall, the resort dazzled with tiny stringed lights and paper lanterns. For safety reasons, if you leave the hotel after sun down, a buggy will come and fetch you to and from your suite upon request.

Something For Everyone: Couples, Corporate Groups And Families

This Valentines, Philea is offering a getaway package for couples priced at RM2,999 nett for 3 nights at the Philea Suite. The package includes 2 dinners, including a candlelit dinner at the suite’s open patio, daily breakfast and an in-room massage for two. It comes with other fringe goodies such as sparkling juice, daily refill of the mini bar and return airport transfers to and from KLIA. It’s a great retreat that is easy to get to for KL folks or international travellers looking for a different stopover from busy KL.

For corporate companies, Philea’s 201 room capacity makes a great option for corporate events and large group functions. The resort also boasts a large pillar-less ballroom that’s really popular for weddings.

And for families looking for a different holiday option that’s not too far from KL, the Philea Villas (only two) is fantastic! The Villa has 3 rooms and sleeps up to 8 people. It has all the comforts you need including an indoor jacuzzi, coffee machine, microwave for warming food, a private outdoor plunge pool and a special in villa dining experience (upon request).

Get on their website for more information on up and coming offers: Philea Resort.

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Local Delights In Malacca

Take advantage of long weekends and head to the famous UNESCO World Heritage city of Melaka. Famed for its rich Portuguese and Dutch heritage from years gone by, this city…

Take advantage of long weekends and head to the famous UNESCO World Heritage city of Melaka. Famed for its rich Portuguese and Dutch heritage from years gone by, this city is flocked by hundreds of tourists on a daily basis. But if you look hard enough, you’d find great local gems away from the tourists’ hotspots.

Cultural-walls

Being in a town where food literally dominates the scene, I dived into a controlled gastronomic fare. My mantra: Eat only to satisfy the palate and never enough to satisfy the tummy. And that was how I kept to moderation! A must try is the durian cendol on Jonker Street, a creamy dessert of shaved ice, green stringy jelly, beans, corn, dollops of the durian flesh and a hearty drizzle of thick palm sugar. Look for Jonker 88, you won’t miss it as there is a perpetual line of customers waiting to be seated.

For mains, try the Nyonya Laksa and Popiah at Poh Piah Lwee located at the intersection between Jonker Street and Tun Cheng Lock. The small shop often goes unnoticed as tourists bypass it to get to the buzz at Jonker. The laksa soup is velvety with a mild piquant taste stirring my appetite for another bowl – but I resisted. The popiah, a local veggie spring roll oozed with flavour. Unlike other boring veggie rolls, this kept me hungering for more. At the end of the meal, I finally found the secret ingredient tucked among the healthy greens, tiny pieces of fried lard! (Not so healthy anymore…)

 

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The next day I discovered another hidden gem called Baba Charlie, a haven for homemade Nyonya kuih. Located at No.72, Lorong Pantai Tengkera 2C (about 2 minutes’ drive from Jonker along Jalan Tun Cheng Lock), the house exterior actually looked like a mega-sized kitchen with trays, pots, woks and kitchen utensils decked all over. I started to doubt if I got the right place, but as soon as I stepped into the house, my doubts melted away. A colourful patchwork of delectable kuih’s filled the table. A fickle mind and a growling stomach did not help with the selection. Everything looked good and the kuih’s came in different sizes, colours and filling. A tip, ask if you are unsure. Other customers are more than willing to help you choose the best buys.

Kuih

For lunch, I fortuitously stumbled on the Hajjah Mona Assam Pedas Restaurant located at No. 6, Taman Kota Laksamana (just a few streets away from Jonker). It was actually the smell that wooed me in. If you are up to a hot and spicy meal, don’t miss out on this. This Malay restaurant serves up the best assam pedas; fish bathed in red hot assam pedas gravy served with hot steamy white rice.

Finally to seal the night with something sweet, try Putu Piring, light fluffy cake dough filled with palm sugar bits that melt in your mouth. There is a warning that if you start, you cannot stop! Find the tiny stall located along Jalan Tenkera at No.252 (next to the Sports Toto shop). It only opens in the evening from about 7pm till late.

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