A perfect holiday

How do you define a perfect holiday? Must it involve a stay at an elite hotel, dining at only the finest restaurants, transfers via stretch limousines, and destination experiences at top-end attractions?

Maybe. But for me, I think I’ve discovered that definition in Malacca.

Forming part of that definition is where Joshua and I stayed. We stayed in a beautiful Peranakan-style boutique hotel – Courtyard@Heeren – which has no more than 20 guestrooms.

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Run by a family, the hotel sits just metres from Jonker Street, which transforms into a lively pub street at night and into an exciting market street on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. We could not have asked for a hotel with greater convenience.

Step through the front of the hotel, and you will enter a well-lit courtyard that is reminiscent of a traditional house in the olden days. Old-fashioned armchairs line against the wall, offering a serene rest spot for weary guests.

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The guestroom’s decor draws on Peranakan features but also offers modern comforts, such as a flatscreen TV and rainshower. The bathroom is spacious and the wash basin looks out to a private little courtyard, with pebbled floors and a lone, slender tree.

ImageBeautiful decor, clean interiors, friendly staff and bloody affordable rooms at no more than S$250 for two nights – Courtyard@Heeren is a wonderful accommodation choice. Frankly, I ought to be selfish and not tell you too much of Courtyard@Heeren. I should keep it a secret so that not too many people would book at this hotel and make it harder to secure a booking the next time I want a holiday in Malacca.

But I am too nice a person. :)

Anyway, too many Singaporeans already know of this hotel. The private carpark in the back, which is watched by a steely man every night, is full of Singapore-licensed cars. *sigh*

The hotel has recently expanded its cafe and moved it to another shophouse, across the street. Cafe@Courtyard is beautifully made out too. We had our breakfast there.

ImageContributing to the definition of a perfect holiday was also the ability to sample the best culinary delights without breaking the bank. In the three days we were there, we had 7kg of the freshest, sweetest crabs, no less than 20 plump prawns, probably two squids for dinners on two nights at the Portuguese Settlement, a liberal dosage of baba laksa and cendol from our favourite haunt, Jonker 88, and a spectacular Peranakan meal at Kocik Kitchen.

We love seafood – crabs, in particular. While one could get crabs almost anywhere, a crab and seafood feast in the Portuguese Settlement costs under RM$400 (or less than S$200) for the two nights. A kilogram of crabs in a decent restaurant in Singapore would cost at least S$30 – you do the math. :)

ImageAnd we love the Portuguese Settlement for its simplicity. You could eat till your face is all greasy, and no-one bats an eyelid because they too are enjoying their meal too much to care. Then when you are done eating, you wipe your mouth on the back of your forearms and have a bottle of chilled beer and one or two ciggs. Bliss, my friends, bliss.

Then there is also the must-have baba laksa and cendol at Jonker 88. Better still was the fact that we planned this trip over weekdays, which allowed us to escape the throng of people usually seen inside and outside of Jonker 88. That place has gotten much too popular.

ImageAnd finally, there was our dicovery of Kocik Kitchen, an unassuming restaurant along a quieter stretch of Jonker Street. The chef is brilliant, whipping up some really mean Peranakan dishes. Our lunch of kueh pie tee (a crunchy pastry cup holding tasty shreds of stewed turnips, a prawn and fragrant chilli paste), ngoh hiang (rolls of minced, spiced meat), bakwan kepiting soup (a savoury soup with meat balls made with crab and pork) and ayam cili garam (chunks of tender chicken fried with a sweet and thrilling chilli paste).

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Joshua and I died and went to heaven with every bite.

Forming the third part of the definition of a perfect holiday was our shopping haul. Malacca is full of shopping malls now, and some shops within are unique to the destination. What that means is you get to buy some interesting things and decent clothes and accessories at local prices. Yay!

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What we have on in this photo, except for his watch, are among the many things we bought in Malacca. Heh. :)

And the last factor contributing to the collective definition of a perfect holiday was how we did not have to rush to anywhere. We slept as much as we wanted, went for lunch and dinner wbenever we wanted, walked slowly through Jonker Street and explored any quirky shop that caught our fancy. And because we were already familiar with Malacca, there was no stress from losing our way.

This, my friends, is what I call a perfect holiday. It is perhaps one of the best short breaks I’ve ever had, and a brilliant way to celebrate my birthday. :)

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