Imagine stepping back in time to indulge in the beauty secrets of one of the most intriguing cultures of Malaysia’s history. I did just that at Spa Village Malacca, the world’s only spa to base its therapies on the healing heritage of the Peranakan, a unique combination of Chinese and Malay influences.
Spa Village Malacca is a one-of-a- kind wellness center in a glorious classic hotel setting, The Majestic Malacca, quaintly positioned along the Straits of Malacca less than two hours south of Kuala Lumpur. Originally built in 1929 as the mansion of a prominent businessman, The Majestic reopened in 2008 to great acclaim as Malacca’s only 5-star boutique hotel and destination spa.
The Peranakan Chinese-Malay culture flourished in southwest Malaysia from the 17th century to its peak at the turn of the 20th. The Peranakan culture, also known as Baba-Nyonya — men were called babas, women were nyonyas — incorporated Dutch, English, Portuguese and Indian influences. The Peranakan were aficionados of Victorian fashion, as reflected in the elaborate architecture and fine design found in both the hotel and in-house spa.
After check-in and a nap, followed by a fabulous soak in my room’s ultra-deep, four-pedestal tub, I sauntered downstairs to the Spa Village. Cheerful hosts greeted me with a pot of tea and a luscious orange wrapped in bright-red ribbon, for prosperity. Next, I was led into the lounge — a spacious, sun-dappled room with a row of resplendent Chinese daybeds, colorful Portuguese-style tile work, and floor-to-ceiling windows with a view to a crystalline-blue pool.
I emerged from the changing room in lush terry robe and spa slippers, and my therapist escorted me through ornamental saloon-style doors into one of the hair treatment cubicles. Every signature treatment at Spa Village Malacca commences with a simple yet strikingly moving ritual taken from the 12-day Peranakan wedding ceremony: the Hair Combing Experience.
The ritual is intended to eliminate impurities and bestow good luck upon the betrothed. Although I’m nowhere near an altar, the ceremony began with my attendant pouring fresh water with tropical flower blossoms through my tresses to remove negativity. Following a fruit shampoo, her magic fingers applied acupressure in a stimulating scalp massage that swiftly found me drifting off to another time and place.
I reveled in my daydream of a Peranakan bride-to-be in Malacca’s golden era. My therapist poured rich olive oil through my long locks as she worked with a wooden comb and careful caress, tending to each and every strand. A refreshing rinse of fresh lime juice and banana conditioner topped off the treatment. Expertly, my mane was swept up into a 1940s twist. “For luck,” the therapist declared, as she pinned a fragrant sprig of white jasmine into my hair comb. And this was only the prelude to the Peranakan Experience.
The Peranakan pull their remedies and treatments from a mix of Traditional Chinese Medicine, tribal Malay wisdom and Indonesian influences. TCM considers a healthy person to have balanced yin (dark, or cold) and yang (light, or warm) energies. Upon check-in, I’d completed a survey with a series of questions concerning digestion and dreaming, skin type and sleep, to determine my body type. It turned out that I was a bit too yin and needed a warm-up. For me, it would be the Suam-Suam Panas Experience, or warming heat treatment.
All Peranakan treatments can be found in a typical Chinese-Malay mother’s cupboard. My practitioner presented a tray of totally fresh ingredients including gula sugar and honey, ground pandan leaves and coconut milk, toasted rice and nutmeg, tapioca and — surely a rarity in any kitchen and the crème-de-la-crème of skincare indulgences — bird’s nest saliva.
My body’s culinary indulgence began with an invigorating, all-over gula scrub, a sweet solution of grainy palm sugar and honey — chock-full of essential vitamins and minerals. The curious concoction, with a scent of crème brulée, was worked into every limb. Since I was supposed to be “getting warmed up,” I wondered if I might also be set to flambé. As the syrup was left to soak into my skin, the therapist treated me with the Pandan-Coconut Hair Mask, to moisturize and remove headaches in us “cold” types.
Nudged awake after another hypnotizing scalp massage — my body cast with a sugar-candy glaze, my hair frosted with coconut-flavored icing — my therapist coaxed me into the treatment room’s private shower to rinse all those calories away.
Next came the Nutmeg and Rice Rolling Massage, focused on removing my excess wind.
In TCM, it is believed that joint stiffness and poor digestion result from “wind” stored in the body. This blocked energy, or chi, is eliminated by vigorously rolling hot sachets of toasted nutmeg and rice mixture along the muscles.
Afterward, I felt warmed up and wind-balanced, ready for the peak of Peranakan pampering: the Bird’s Nest Facial. Dried bird’s nest saliva, found in the spittle of cave-dwelling swifts of Southeast Asia, is considered the “caviar of the East.” Chinese culture holds that bird’s nest soup, a delicacy, is an excellent restorative tonic; hence, the same ingredient is used in Spa Village Malacca’s signature facial. Blended with tapioca, the saliva’s mysterious properties made for an intensive skin-softening experience, bringing sweet hydration to my dry complexion. To cool me off a bit, as well as to tighten and soothe the skin, my therapist delicately maneuvered a pair of chilled jade rollers over my face.
Refreshed from a final shower, hair swept again into a vintage twist, I relaxed in the private parlor corner of my treatment room. At the settee, a fresh pot of tea awaited, alongside a small dish of acar — a spring vegetable pickle used for relaxation in Baba-Nyonya cuisine. Quite unlike the post-spa scone I usually like with my tea, but I was pleased to find the spicy concoction delicious and refreshing.
After tea, I glided back up to my chambers at the Majestic — a perfect blend of class, charm and modernity. Peering out toward the Straits, with a mesmerizing view of the meandering Malacca River and a sunset exploding with orange, pink and blue hues, I felt like nothing less than a true Peranakan princess.
Spa Village Malacca
The Majestic Malacca
188 Jalan Bunga Raya
75100 Melaka, Malaysia
tel 60 6 289 8000
West Palm Beach, Florida, recently welcomed AKA West Palm, a hotel residence offering long-stay accommodations. As AKA’s second South Florida property, AKA West Palm features 215 hotel residences comprised of studios, one- and two-bedroom spaces, and Penthouse suites. The five-story hotel blends modern luxuries with comfort and simplicity, with sleek kitchens, washers and dryers, and private terraces. Room furnishings contrast with a backdrop of stone, metal and wood to create simple, clean lines with minimal contrast.
ISN’T IT TIME? It's time to treat yourself to the vacation you deserve, and Celebrity Cruises® offers the perfect escapes. With an award-winning fleet of ships that sail to more than 300 destinations around the world, Celebrity will take you almost anywhere you want to go in style. Enjoy stunning staterooms and suites, culinary experiences imagined by Michelin-starred chefs and intuitive service. Celebrity makes sure your vacation is effortless from the start, which is why drinks, WiFi and tips are Always IncludedSM on every sailing.
Birmingham, Alabama, was named for the city in the English Midlands that kept the fires burning, warmed the homes and made much of the steel for the United Kingdom’s industrial revolution. Decades later, the American city also made steel, so much of it, in fact, it became known as the “Magic City” for steel production, and the moniker stuck. But today’s Magic City makes more than steel, taking the raw product a few more steps to become a major center for automobile parts manufacturing and more, including Honda, Mercedes-Benz and U.S. Steel. Thanks to local leadership and long-term planning, the magic still works for Birmingham, as evidenced by its role hosting The World Games 2022 last summer.
As New York City’s leading Latino cultural institution, El Museo del Barrio welcomes visitors of all backgrounds to discover the artistic landscape of Latino, Caribbean and Latin American cultures. El Museo’s wide-ranging collections and exhibitions represent these cultures’ richness, complemented by film, literary, visual and performing arts series, cultural celebrations and educational programs. Ranging from pre-Columbian to modern and contemporary art, the permanent collection totals more than 8,000 objects.
There’s no better time to plan the vacation you’ve been missing. Step aboard with your better half, your friends or the whole family and reconnect, reunite and rejoice with 25 percent off cruise fares for all guests. We’ll also help everyone get there with 25 percent off airfare from 20 major gateways across the country or $100 savings per person on flights from all other gateways when you book your air travel using Flights by Celebrity.*
Fairmont Washington, D.C., Georgetown recently reopened its Fairmont Gold, introducing amenities, a contemporary new style in the Fairmont Gold Lounge and dedicated concierges. The 48-room, three-suite Fairmont Gold, positioned as an urban oasis, takes over the entire ninth floor of the hotel and delivers exceptional service to meet guests’ needs.
The results are in! For the 19th consecutive year, Global Traveler conducted its GT Tested Reader Survey, asking frequent luxury travelers to name the best in a variety of travel-related categories. More than 22,000 people responded. Global Traveler’s inaugural awards were celebrated in 2004.
United Airlines remains firmly committed toward sustainability in aviation. The latest development in its eco-conscious goals includes working with Oxy Low Carbon Ventures to commercialize the production of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) with biotech firm Cemvita Factory. Cemvita looks to develop a revolutionary new way to produce SAF by using carbon dioxide and synthetic microbes. Additionally, United Airlines Ventures (UAV) recently announced an equity investment in Fulcrum, and United has invested more in SAF production than any other airline in the world.
Originally a thriving Colonial seaport, Newport became the summer playground for the Gilded Age’s elite in the late 1880s. Today their mansions dot the coast of Aquidneck Island, and their favorite pastimes — sailing and tennis — still dominate the city’s recreational offerings. In fact, Newport hosted the first U.S. Open tennis championship in 1881 and golf tourna- ment in 1895 and hosted the America’s Cup from 1930 to 1983. You can experience most of Newport on your own, including the mansions, but don’t rule out a guided tour or two when you visit.