- 2009/03/18 The Majestic Hotel in Malacca

The Majestic Hotel Malacca was once one of the city's most admired mansions.

It epitomised the melding of the Portuguese, Dutch, British and local Baba-Nyonya cultures that reflect Malacca's rich cultural past.

The Baba-Nyonya people are a result of the fusion of Malay and Chinese cultures in the Straits of Malacca that have given rise to many distinctive forms of architecture, food and custom.

After standing witness to many of the 20th century's momentous events, now, after years of neglect, the Malaccan matriarch has been finally restored to her rightful place and is among the top historical attractions to the recently World Heritage-listed city.

This grand old dame started life in 1929 as a private residence to a Straits Chinese merchant from Malacca's Baba-Nyonya community, who had made a fortune from rubber plantations.

No expense was spared on her floor tiles, stained glass windows, wooden louvres, teak staircases and floorboards.

However, misfortune soon knocked on her door when Leong Long Man, the proud new owner, succumbed to tuberculosis in 1931.

A second calamity would soon befall her. Leong's No 1 son had an extravagant lifestyle that included numerous mistresses, and was soon forced to sell the grand residence to another family member.

By 1955 the building had once again been sold and was operating as The Majestic Hotel.

Occupancy would never drop below 80 per cent. Its 24 rooms now ringed with life and the sounds of guests that included the political elite of the day, local and foreign dignitaries along with a smattering of artists and movie stars.

Thirty years on and her guest list was even more intrepid and varied.

For between $7 and $15 a night The Majestic was now a favourite haunt of hippies and backpackers making their way along the Malay Peninsula.

"It was constantly lively here and there was always some interesting or eccentric travellers to meet," Lim Fang Biau, son of the then owner, and now in his fifties, told the English language newspaper The Star in September last year.

In 2000 the land was bought by the state of Malacca and the hotel was closed and its surrounding land used as a car park for the adjacent hospital.

The old mansion looked destined to end her days as landfill when YTL Hotels, owners of the Eastern and Oriental Express and numerous five-star properties around Malaysia, drew up a rescue plan.

It took two years, but with restoration and the construction of a 15-storey block behind it, The Majestic was proudly revived as a luxury boutique hotel.

Keeping the original fittings and restoring those lost, YTL now had a Baba-Nyonya jewel to set off its property portfolio.

Each of the old mansion's new guest block's 54 room features four-poster beds draped in rich silks and fine cottons and bathrooms with porcelain claw-footed tubs for two, large flat-screens, day-beds and wi-fi connections.

The Spa Village is the world's only spa based on the hot and cold healing qualities of the Baba-Nyonya culture Ė a mix of Malay and Chinese medicines and relaxation techniques.

For the more physically inclined there is a glass-enclosed gymnasium situated next to an infinity pool that recedes into the building's columns.

Set deep in the building's cool interior is the library with its thick, padded leather armchairs, book-laden shelves and the daily ritual of Tiffin tea.

Dinner in The Mansion dining room, overlooking the Malacca River, sees the region's famed Baba-Nyonya cuisine highlighted, along with Malay, Indian and international delights.

The now 84-year-old daughter of the original owner, Leong Sui Ying, who lived in the mansion for 23 years, sums up her feelings for The Majestic when she says, "If I sit here quietly, I can still remember how it used to be my home".

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•  2008/09/21 The Majestic Hotel in Malacca, a house of memories

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