The Majestic Malacca’s past is about as storied as the town itself. Built in 1929 as a sprawling private mansion for local businessman Leong Long Man, it first became The Majestic Hotel in 1955. For the next 20 years the hotel hosted a ritzy clientele of British planters and Malaysian politicians, before its declining years saw it fall into disrepair and eventually close in 2000. YTL Hotels stepped in to restore the building, re-opening it as The Majestic Malacca in 2008. The central building was rebuilt in its original glory of Victorian tiling and handsome teal-coloured Straits Settlement windows, with a new accommodation tower added at the back of the property.
Situated just north of the historic trading centre of Melaka, the Majestic sits among a small cluster of hotels with views over the winding Malacca River and historic Villa Sentosa. Just outside the centre of town, it means you can dip in and out of the hurly-burly as much as you like. It’s barely a five-minute walk to Lorong Jambatan bridge, which doubles as a back door into historic Melaka, with all its heritage trails, cafes, bars and restaurants.
Look & feel
Getting into Melaka — particularly on a public holiday, when we visit — can be a mission; the main arterial seizing up with traffic. Arriving at the Majestic, then, is much like arriving at a serene oasis. The decision to house all 54 of its rooms and suites in the new tower was inspired; it lends the original property an airy, welcoming grace, much how you imagine it felt when it belonged to the Leong family. Throughout, it’s plush carpet and the yards of opulent black marble, which — along with the claw foot baths — has almost become a signature feature of YTL’s Majestic hotels.
Set aside a night — perhaps your first — to dine at Melba at the Mansion. YTL have looked to hardwire the Majestic to local history with award-winning chef Melba Nunis’ (Melba Nunis) Kristang cuisine. The Kristang are a creole ethnicity of mixed Portuguese and Malaysian descent, and Nunis’s menu encapsulates this giddy mix of cultures: think baked stuffed crab, seabass cooked in lemongrass and panfried eggplant in soy and lime gravy. With Melba herself on-hand to explain her cuisine and its history, it’s like being handed a Rosetta Stone to Melaka’s remarkable past.
Likewise, Majestic Malacca’s Spa Village keys right into local culture, but this time offering Baba-Nyonya (or Peranakan Straits-born Chinese) treatments. After filling out a simple questionnaire, the therapist diagnoses you with either warm or cool energies, and then prescribes a treatment to suit. I’m marched off to receive a cooling treatment, which after a thorough massage involves the careful rolling of a couple of hard-boiled eggs across the entirety of my body. Maybe it’s the methodical application, but the whole affair puts me in a mild trance. Every treatment is introduced with a hair care ritual typical of Baba-Nyonya wedding ceremonies; the ancient Tan Sri P. Ramlee films playing quietly overhead an inspired touch.
It’s hard to find an inn in the world that does high tea better than Malaysia’s Majestic hotels. Majestic Malacca’s is served in the original building’s library and is the perfect way to get acquainted with the hotel and its lovely, personable style of service. Besides, in the late afternoon, with the sun shimmering through the windows, it’s just a pleasant place to be.
A brilliant touch is the hotel’s own walking tour, conducted at 5pm six days a week. It quickly places the hotel in the context of the wider town and gets you up-to-speed with Melaka’s shapeshifting colonial history. Take it on the first afternoon of your stay to get your bearings.