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Georgetown & Malacca, MalaysiaMarch 12, 2009 By: Mark Rogers Travel Agent
A Deluxe King Room at the Majestic Malacca Hotel features a four-poster bed and 1920s' period furnitre
This past July, the Malaysian cities of Malacca and Georgetown got a huge boost when they were singled out as UNESCO World Heritage Cities. With more than 500 years of trading and cultural exchanges, the two cities form a bridge between East and West in the Straits of Malacca. Both cities were—and still are—multicultural melting pots, with influences from the Portuguese, Dutch and British, as well as Asian countries such as China.
A Deluxe Bathroom with freestanding tub at the Majestic Malacca Hotel
A real plus for Malacca and Georgetown are the cities’ preserved historic quarters. The port city of Malacca still has government buildings, churches, squares and fortifications from the 15th-century Malay sultanate, as well as historic buildings from the Portuguese and Dutch periods, which began in the early 16th century. Georgetown, the capital of Malaysia’s island of Penang, displays the influence of the British era from the end of the 18th century.
One of the key requirements of remaining on the list is a commitment to protecting the World Heritage values. UNESCO is presently embroiled with Georgetown in arguments that the city kept news of its future high-rise development under wraps during the vetting process. Georgetown is holding its breath at the prospect of losing its status, which is still under review. Making matters worse, if it were to lose its status, Malacca would also be stripped, since the two cities are linked in the eyes of UNESCO.
Penang and Georgetown History
The tropical island of Penang lies in the Indian Ocean, just off the northwest coast of Peninsular Malaysia. Back in 1796, an Englishman named Francis Light convinced the Sultan of Kedah to cede Penang to the British East India Company. Light had a creative solution to clearing the land: When he placed anchor at what is now Georgetown’s esplanade, he fired cannons loaded with gold coins into the surrounding jungle to inspire locals to clear the forest in search of coins.
Points of Interest
Major historic sites include Fort Cornwallis, located on Georgetown’s esplanade. The fort was built in the shape of a star on the site where Captain Light landed. The only actual buildings still standing are the outer walls, a gunpowder magazine and a small Christian chapel.
Georgetown’s various ethnic neighborhoods, such as Chinatown and Little India, offer lots of local color and opportunities for shopping. The city is famous for its three-wheeled trishaws operated by pedal power. The trishaws are especially picturesque at night, when they are decked out with lights.
There are plenty of domestic flights from Kuala Lumpur to Penang International Airport. The island is connected by regular ferry service and by an 8.2-mile bridge (the longest in Asia) to the mainland.
Georgetown’s outstanding historic hotel is the venerable five-star Eastern & Oriental Hotel. E&O first opened in 1884, established by the Sarkies brothers, the siblings behind Raffles Hotel in Singapore.
The hotel’s Writers Suites are named after famous guests, such as Sir Noel Coward, Rudyard Kipling, Hermann Hesse and Somerset Maugham. These are oversized suites with a separate dining area and opulent bathrooms equipped with his-and-her hand-basins, a traditional claw-and-ball bathtub and a separate shower stall. Of these, the Rudyard Kipling Suite (#2225) is a real standout, with its separate dining lounge and bar, guest bathroom and spacious balconies looking out on the sea.
Deck chairs overlook the garden at the Eastern & Oriental Hotel
The most opulent accommodation is the one-bedroom E&O Suite. This suite has a private study; lounge; walk-in dressing room; bathroom with gilt fixtures, spa bath and TV; and a separate formal lounge linked to a private dining room for up to 22 people.
The hotel’s 1885 Restaurant’s signature dish is Oven Roasted Wagyu Beef Fillet, served with potato and mushroom risotto, sautéed spinach and Shiraz glaze. For those who want to be noticed, book Table 2.
The travel agent liaison is Mohamad Saad, senior sales manager (011-604-222-2049, [email protected]).
The colonial city of Malacca is in Malaysia’s southern region, about 86 miles from Kuala Lumpur. Visitors arrive by either train or car. Portugal controlled Malacca in the 16th century and a Portuguese influence can still be felt throughout the city, especially in Malacca’s Portuguese Square. History buffs will want to visit Bukit China, the oldest and largest traditional Chinese cemetery outside China, containing 12,500 graves. Some graves can be traced back more than four centuries to the first Chinese immigrants in Malacca.
Like Georgetown in Penang, Malacca is famous for its trishaws. The best spots to hire a trishaw driver are Dutch Square and outside the Mahkota Parade shopping center.
Malacca also has a standout historic property in the four-star Majestic Malacca Hotel, which dates back to the 1920s. The hotel has 52 Deluxe Rooms and two Suites. Key features throughout include freestanding bathtubs, wooden flooring, four-poster beds, floor-to-ceiling windows and period furniture. All rooms have views of the Malacca River.
Families traveling together will want to consider booking the hotel’s two-bedroom suite. It has a king bedroom, a twin-bedded room, living area and powder room.
Spa Village Malacca has six treatment rooms and one suite. We hear the most popular masseuse is I Dewa Ayu Putu Suartini. You can book treatments for your clients in advance of arrival by contacting Spa Director Alice Yap (011-606-289-8000, [email protected]).
The hotel’s restaurant serves Western and Peranakan cuisine. Peranakans are descended from Chinese migrants who came to Malacca centuries ago. They adopted Malay customs and created a unique heritage referred to as “Straits Chinese.” The Peranakans are celebrated for their Nyonya cuisine, which combines Malay ingredients with Chinese cooking styles. If you’re looking to enjoy an intimate dinner, reserve one of the restaurant’s four alcove tables.
All travel agent bookings go through YTL Travel Centre, the hotel’s travel office in Kuala Lumpur. The contact person is Yanna Chin, (011-603-2783-1000, [email protected]).