Forget Jonker Street. Here are three alternative things to do to live like Peranakan royalty on a quick jaunt to Melaka.
#1: Go trigger happy without even leaving the hotel.
The moment we enter The Majestic Malacca — not-so-fresh from a three-hour bus ride — it’s as if we’ve time-travelled to the ’20s and stepped into some really, really wealthy towkay’s mansion. In fact, we are. The sprawling two-storey structure built in 1929 originally belonged to a Chinese tycoon… and his four wives and 12 children. Since a makeover nine years ago, every nook and cranny is now spruced for a photo opp — or just to take things slow like it’s 1929 again. Whether you make like a Straits businessman getting a tipple at the bar after a day of trading at the port, or a bibik of leisure getting some me-time in the serene library, you’re spoilt for choice in the quaint colonial surrounds that’s reminiscent of a cosier Raffles Hotel.
#2: Take a walk on the outside.
If jostling in Jonker Street that’s teeming with tourists isn’t your idea of fun, take the road less travelled just a skip away. After snaking through back alleys with kopitiam bars where daytime drinking is a way of life, then crossing a village bridge where fishermen used to trade, we arrive at Tofu Street (no relation to the Ch 8 drama). It takes us a while to make it through the street. After all, we’re exploring the last bastions of heritage businesses here — we stepped back in time at the last surviving shops hawking handmade basket-woven furniture and traditional gold Chinese signages. Burn extra calories and rent bicycles at the junction of Iron Street and Goldsmith Street to explore this charming ’hood.
#3: Get kneaded like a piece of kueh.
The Spa Village prides itself on its unique Peranakan treatments that leave you pampered like a Nyonya matriarch in days of yore. We find ourselves in the middle of a traditional Peranakan wedding ceremony, groom not included. Our therapist sprinkles water at us (apparently it’s good luck for the bride), and proceeds with a traditional hair wash (a mandatory pre-spa treat at The Spa Village) while we watch old P. Ramlee films playing on a screen installed on the ceiling (Note to self: Suggest this to our hairstylist.) The list of ingredients in the hairwash reads like a cocktail recipe (lime juice, jasmine flower water) but leave our mane incredibly smooth and luscious for the next two days. We slink over to another room for our massage, but feel as though we’ve stepped into someone’s kitchen. A claypot with rice and nutmeg is stewing over a stove in the middle of the room, in preparation for our nutmeg rice rolling massage. It’s meant to warm our ‘cool-body type’, according to a questionnaire we’d taken before the treatment. (In contrast, hard-boiled eggs, not rice, is recommended for ‘warm body types’.) As the therapist uses the warm pouches of rice and nutmeg for our much-kneaded massage, our mind starts to drift to the next pertinent question: What’s for dinner?
#4: Feast on actual Peranakan makan.
We schlep to the spanking new Melba at the Mansion restaurant downstairs. Among the lavish spread of traditional Melaka-Portuguese dishes from Chef Melba Nunis’ family recipes are this authentic kaldu laksa Malala (top) and kari debal (bottom). Both are so comfortingly yum, we forget for a moment the instrumental traditional folk soundtrack that’s been playing on loop the entire meal...and all of the following day.
The Majestic Malacca is at 188, Jalan Bunga Raya, Melaka, 75100 Melaka, Malaysia. For more info, go to http://www.majesticmalacca.com.
Photos: The Majestic Malacca and Jasmine Teo