Because boutique hotel Liu Men sits where six individual houses were once situated along the historic, colourful stretch of Jalan Tokong in central Melaka, the name came easily to its owners – liu is the Mandarin word for six, and men means doors. Six is also an auspicious number symbolising smooth journeys and safe travels, and has proven to be a lucky number for the owners as well.
From its location — close enough to the action of Jonker Street but far enough to be unhindered by it — to its design, which combines oriental charm, Tudor-style influences and the geometry of the Art Deco style, Liu Men has much going for it. Less due to luck though, and more thanks to the three years’ worth of research, planning and painstaking restoration.
Owned by the Pang family, which founded and runs the Mamee-Double Decker food business, Liu Men is the hotel the larger Jonker Street area has needed for a while. Small homestays and hotels are aplenty, but there is a dearth of hotels for the more discerning holidaymaker.
Spacious, welcoming and peaceful, Liu Men’s story begins with the hotel’s façade — bright, white stucco walls decorated simply with the number “1939”, the year the building was first constructed. Glass doors open up into a reception area, which sets the tone for the whole property. There are black-and-white walls and flooring, with pops of colour and personality coming from Peranakan-style floor tiles, choice furniture and beautiful oriental décor, many pieces of which are from the Pang family’s private collection.
Jason Pang, the son of Mamee CEO Datuk Wira Pang Tee Nam, worked with architects and interior designers from Melaka and Kuala Lumpur to create the master plan for the hotel, and is proud of the property’s intensely local roots. The brief was to create a sleek, modern décor theme that pays homage to Melaka’s history without being overly ornate or kitschy. The Pang family are proudly Chinese, and were keen on having that element as a major aspect in the design. This can be seen in small touches like tasselled key chains as well as more prominent details such as the lanterns dangling in front of each bedroom door.
When seated in the the triple-volume lounge area that also serves as breakfast and tea room, keen eyes will spot unique designs woven into the black wrought iron banisters on the upper floors, as well as art-deco style lighting fixtures to break the monotony of the black-and-white theme. Using the white walls as a canvas, the architects created various vertical wall features matched with a unique selection of chairs and artwork — a clever design theme that also ensures adequate seating for everyone, even when the hotel is operating at full capacity.
The sun-drenched lounge space is easily my favourite, and not just because of how peaceful it is — it is a great display of the inspirations that inform the entire hotel’s design. Within dark wood cases, a vintage radio, charcoal iron and porcelain urns are proudly displayed, precious heirlooms that hint at the storied homes they came from.
Liu Men’s 30 guestrooms are split across five categories — the top-end Parameswara suite comes with a balcony and a spacious bathroom replete with a free-standing tub, while the Jebat and Kapitan rooms are smaller, but no less luxurious replica spaces. The Hang Tuah suite offers the best of both worlds, we think, with a spacious enough bathroom (it features a shower instead of a tub) and a balcony on which to soak up the sun. Each bedroom boasts herringbone wooden floors in dark wood and beautiful statement beds that make long lie-ins imperative, and indeed, the rooms are comfortable enough to warrant more than a late morning or two.
And because one’s ablutions are of paramount importance, the bathrooms are a masterclass in understated style – Peranakan tiles, ebony-framed mirrors and copper-finished fixtures make the space personal yet in keeping with Liu Men’s sleek, modern theme. Even the public access facilities on the ground floor are afforded the same treatment and have details such as a porcelain bowl repurposed as a sink. All the fittings and furnishings were custom-designed for the hotel, and it shows – the overall effect is both comfortable and effortlessly stylish.
This particular trip to Melaka was especially enjoyable, and was wrought with none of the issues that usually plague my journeys to the south. The weather was perfect and the traffic more forgiving, making me leave with a heavier heart than usual. Perhaps there is something to be said about the significance of the number six, I think, as we drive away. I will have to plan another stay at Liu Men to find out.
This article first appeared in issue No. 93, Autumn 2019 of Haven.