Tourists are creatures of habit. They tend to stick to the familiar and that is very much the case in Malaysia. There are fabulous beaches and the city lights of the capital, but there is charm and history waiting to be discovered in Malacca and it’s only a few hours drive from Kuala Lumpur.
According to 16th century Malay historians, the city was founded by Parameswara, a Palembang prince who, fleeing from his Japanese enemies, eventually found himself on the west coast of the Malay peninsula. While hunting near the mouth of a river called Bertam, he rested under a tree and spotted a white mouse-deer. This timid animal kicked one of his hunting dogs which fell into the river. The prince was so impressed by the deer’s brave attack that he decided to build a new city on the banks of the river. He asked one of his servants the name of the tree under which he was standing and was told that the tree was called Malaka. Parameswara named his city after the tree.
By the first decade of the 16th century Malacca was a noteworthy international seaport and a centre for the trade of silks and spices from both China and India, and this inevitably attracted the attention of foreign powers. The Portuguese under the command of Afonso de Albuquerque arrived first in the early 1500s and after taking the city by force he constructed the massive fortification of A Famosa on the coast to deter any future counter-attacks. A small part of the fort can still be seen today, although it’s now a little further away from the sea due to modern land reclamation.
A Famosa remained until 1641, when the Dutch invaded Malacca after an eight-month siege which left the city in ruins. They rebuilt it over the following 150 years but in 1795 Holland was captured by French Revolutionary armies and they handed Malacca over to the British to avoid its capture by the non-revolutionary French forces.
Malacca changed hands several times over the following years due to its strategic location, but from 1826 the city was ruled by the East India Company. It was, along with the rest of the peninsula, occupied by the Japanese from 1942 to 1945. Independence from the British government was not achieved until 1957 with a proclamation of independence by His Highness Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj, Malaysia’s first Prime Minister.
Chinese, British, Portuguese, Dutch, Thai and Arabs have come to trade or invade over the previous centuries and each one of them has left their distinctive mark on Malacca. It is considered Malaysia’s most historically significant city and it’s easy to see why. The rendered walls, painted doors and windows, tiled roofs combine to give a very particular ambiance. It’s a living and energetic city but there are those charming architectural features that remain, allowing the visitor to take a peek at the past.
The Majestic Hotel in Malacca provides all that the discerning traveller might want. It’s unique and nothing like the usual 5* hotel which although well-appointed will have a degree of familiar sameness – yes, very comforting but one might awake wondering if this is Brussels …or Bratislava, as the drapes are the same. No, The Majestic is bespoke, polished and full of local character.
The imposing frontage of The Majestic hints at the quality and style within. Its painted shutters and shady veranda hark back to a gentler time of rubber plantations and unabashed style. The original section of the hotel was built in the 1920s as a private home and only later became a hotel. It was purchased by YTL Hotels in 2007 and reopened as The Majestic we see today with its 15-floor extension creating 52 sumptuous rooms and suites.
The ground-floor reception and bar offer dark wood and tiled floors which are original. It’s the attention to detail in the public spaces that points to the accessible luxury throughout the hotel. Jars of local sweets and treats tempt the visitor to linger but more awaits in your room.
Dark wood and swathes of silk fabrics help to create an exotic nest for the guest. Bathrooms are big here in every regard. Claw-foot roll-top baths partner spacious showers, and those facilities become part of the bedroom when the wall shutters are slid back. Rooms at the Majestic are designed for those who expect and appreciate the best.
But tourist cannot live by unadulterated in-room pampering alone. There is also a celebrated spa for those who can drag themselves away from charming private opulence, and a restaurant that should be on the list of must-experience culinary delights to be enjoyed by hotel guests and Malacca residents alike.
Chef CK Pow presents a Nyoya or Peranakan menu and its dishes are memorable. One can dine, or one can learn at one of the regular cooking classes. The dining room is beautifully appointed and the perfect spot in which to sample some of the iconic dishes of Asia’s original fusion cuisine. It’s a tasteful melange of Chinese and Malay spice palates: Pie Tee are crunchy pastry shells filled with vegetables and shrimps – they make a popular Peranakan starter. The Laksa in Malacca is unlike the more common Malaysian varieties as it’s a coconut curry-base with fish cakes. Kuih are Peranakan cakes or desserts and are a must-try; Onde Onde are rice dough balls filled with liquid palm sugar and coated in coconut shreds. Bright blue Pulut Tai Tai are delicious sweets, and isn’t blue food novel?
The Majestic Hotel in Malacca is a diminutive resort in its own right. There is a small library for those solitary sorts who relish the quiet of that veranda out front. There is a pool for cooling dips on sultry afternoons, a gym to work off those Kuih, and don’t forget that spa for recovery after the gym. This hotel has polish and panache but it remains cosy with the lingering ambiance of the original home. The Majestic Hotel is a destination within a destination. Don’t miss either.
The Majestic Malacca
188 Jalan Bunga Raya
Travel and Hotel review by Chrissie Walker © 2018