Sunday, 2 March 2014

A Contemporary Sanctuary in an Old Charm City ... M Boutique Hotel Ipoh

Ipoh is my second home. Well, I’ve many second homes actually. 

I even consider Singapore as my second home but nothing is closer to me than the old world charm of Ipoh.

Of late, I’ve been working too hard and not to forget, socialising hard too as KL is brimming with events at this time of the year. At certain point, my body was clamouring to me that it needs some rest and relaxation. 

At first I tried to ignore it but at last, I’ve made up my mind and Ipoh is the best place for me to do so. Reason being a) it’s quiet; b) I can go around town on foot; and c) I was craving for the oxtail soup and fried rice from First Coffee House.

Hopping aboard the electric train, it took me just 2 hours and 30 minutes from KL Sentral to Ipoh Railway Station. 

Unlike road travelling, the train is rather smooth and free of any bumpy rides. It was a sunny day in Ipoh and as usual, when it is sunny, the heat can be absolutely scorching, even at 5.30 p.m. in the evening. 

From there, I walked all the way to Kampung Paloh, where my personal sanctuary the M Boutique Hotel is located. I call it my personal sanctuary because it jives well with my soul and my arty personality. No other hotel in Ipoh could give me the kind of experience I had at M Boutique Hotel.

The distance between the railway station and the M Boutique Hotel is not too far away; approximately 10 minutes by foot or 5 minutes by vehicle. 

Passing by the busy streets, one can always make pit stops at Ipoh’s points of interests such as the Little India. 

In a gist, Little India to Ipoh is what Brickfields or Jalan Masjid India to the KL residents: a commercial and cultural enclave dominated by Indian traders, brimming with century-old shop houses doused in coats of colourful hues.

After the Little India enclave is another historical point of interest, the old mosque and Muslim cemetery of Kampung Paloh. 

According to historical records, the mosque was built in 1912 by Wan Muhammad Saleh, Superintendent of Penghulus and assistant collector of Land Revenue during the Frank Swettenham administration.

Finally I saw the glimpse of my personal sanctuary just a few metres away. Upon arrival, I was assisted by one of the friendly staff and was given the key card to my room. 

Just as when I came here for the first time, my heart was filled with excitement; anticipating the kind of surprise that awaits me in my room. 

I then took the lift and made my way to the first floor – the adventure floor – the same floor where I stayed during my first visit. If the previous trip saw me luxuriating in a sizeable room with a lofty queen bed and rustic settings, then surprise, surprise … my accommodation for the night was the Adventure Club suite.

Boasting similar interior decoration to the previous room that I stayed – known as The Queen – there’s only one difference between the suite and the other rooms – it is much loftier. 

The walls are decorated with Portuguese text (Espingardas, Revolwers Pistolas) that can be roughly translated as rifles, revolvers and pistols. 

There is an interesting stiory behind the text. According to Mr Lloyd Gan, General Manager of M Boutique Hotel, the origin of the text can be traced back to a local historical figure by the name of D’Arcy Hugh Hilton Bird. Originated from Yorkshire, England, D’Arcy came from a lineage of Portugese master swordsmen, known as Esgrima.

D’Arcy was thought the finer points of medieval sword fighting techniques passed on by his Grandfather. In college, D’Arcy later developed a keen interest in the art of gun making, especially of that of his Portuguese lineage, drawing reference to the book Espingarda e Perfecta (The Perfect Gun). 

It was written in the closing years of the 17th century in Lisbon, and describes the work of three brothers, leading gunsmiths of their day, two of whom signed the book and the third of which remains anonymous. In the later years, D’Arcy was enlisted in the Militia and was assigned to the Fourth Battalion.

Local folklore has it that due to the wealth of opportunities offered by the new colonies of British Empire, D’Arcy made his way to Malaya and settled in Ipoh. It was said at this very location (where the M Boutique Hotel stood today) D’Arcy opened a trading and information post selling his handmade guns and teaching sword skills to the locals. 

As years ensued, he made many friends and organised numerous safari trips into the jungles of Perak, armed with his homemade guns for protection. He later married a local woman, embraced Islam and was named Ismail bin Abdullah. D’Arcy passed away on 25th of November, 1950 and was buried at the Muslim cemetery of Masjid Paloh – the mosque that I passed by on the way to the hotel.

Portuguese text on the wall aside, I simply could not resist the tempting call of the 1 foot thick mattress so I immediately jumped on it. Truth is told, as I sunk my back on to it, I felt as if I was reclining on the clouds – fluffy yet firm at the same time. 

The evening sun permeates through the sheer curtains, layered by beautiful square-patterned shadows of the façade. 

Recalling my craving for First Coffee House fried rice and oxtail soup, I left the room and make my way to the town on foot. From the hotel to the main part of the town is quite of a distance but it didn’t matter to me because I lived in this city before and the entire Ipoh is on the back of my hand.

Even at almost seven in the evening, the sun was still rising but in orange-esque hue. There were many vehicles on the road but the streets were not as hectic as what I have used to in KL. 

Heritage buildings as old as time could tell were in their utmost splendour as the evening sun cast its light on. My usual gastronomic jaunt Burps & Giggles were filled with people, ditto its neighbour the Patisserie Boutique where I saw people flocking in to take photos using their smartphones.

After 10 minutes of walking in an “open air architectural museum”, I reached my destination and immediately ordered the set dinner, consisting oxtail soup for starter, fried rice for main and two desserts – yes, TWO – a slice of watermelon and a bowl of cendol.
 
Post sumptuous dinner that only costs me RM 16.00 (tax included), I made my way around the town which to KL standard, might be quiet even though there were a number of shops opened. 

I loitered down to the Gerbang Malam or night flea market where you can find antiques or used items of all sorts at bargain price. Of course haggling is a must and the best hagglers always win.

Post Gerbang Malam, I hailed a cab and asked the driver to take me to M Boutique Hotel. A hot and comforting shower with M Boutique’s specially concocted shower gel, shampoo and conditioner ensued. One good thing that I like about M Boutique Hotel is the emphasis on individuality. 

For example, all items in the room such as robes, the bath towels (the terry fabric is so plush, I love it) or the slippers are handcrafted in small batches. And when they are made in small batches, rest assured one can be assured by its unparalleled quality.

Since I was too tired to venture out of the hotel, I made my way downstairs and met the amicable General Manager himself. So we headed to Myth – a newly opened eatery outlet sporting thematic décor akin to hotel itself - where we had intellectual conversation on almost everything amidst thirst-quenching passion fruit soda served in jars – so New Orleans indeed.

Our conversation that evening covered almost every topic possible and there were so many things I discovered in one night throughout the conversation such as the specific name for the old shop houses that I always encounter in every part of this country – it is known as Straits Eclectic; neither neo-classicism nor baroque – and the history behind the Portuguese text on my suite walls.  

By the time the clock stroke 12, we decided to call it a night. Retreating back to my room, I felt so bored and I need to do something to make me fall asleep. 

Thank goodness for an interactive space at the other wing of the floor that houses a gym, a self-service laundry area, a conference room and two MAC computers with high speed internet.

An hour later, I decided to officially call it a night and retreated to my Adventure Club suite. I tucked myself under the cover and sleep, anticipating to a beautiful morning. 

The mattress was so comfortable indeed; I refused to wake up albeit my train was scheduled to leave at 12. But all good things must come to the end. I left my abode for the night and made my way to the check-out counter. 

Over all, I must say that M Boutique Hotel has brought a fresh breath of air to Perak’s hotel industry.  The friendly staff, the great attention and service as well as the outstanding characteristic possessed by the hotel will always be the main reasons why I will keep coming back to this sanctuary.

Once again, thanks a billion to Mr Lloyd Gan and the M Boutique Hotel team for the kind attention and assistance during my stay.

*Photos by me

M Boutique Hotel - 2 Hala Datuk 5, Ipoh, Perak, 31650 Malaysia

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