Although Rebecca Ilham no longer calls Ipoh home, a stay at M Boutique Hotel comes close enough
IPOH was home during my adolescent years. However, after moving away about 10 years ago, I have never been back. Thus, the prospect of returning for a weekend, while exciting, is also nerve-wracking.
Through the grapevine, I heard that Ipoh is no longer the quaint little town I used to know.
If that hasn’t scared me enough, there’s the delicate matter of where to stay. Having called it home, I have never associated Ipoh with hotels and the likes.
Thanks to the Air Asia Go app, the matter of deciding where to stay is a hassle-free affair.
My criteria is simple — the hotel must be in a central location, affordable and, most importantly, while being no-frills, should be pleasant enough for a comfortable stay.
To cut a story short, after sorting through the list of suggested accommodation, I end up at M Boutique Hotel on Hala Datuk on a late Friday afternoon.
I have no prior expectation about the hotel, apart from its architecture, which is exceptional.
Walking into the small, yet very cosy lobby gives an illusion of being more spacious than it truly is — thanks to transparent glass walls and chic decorations. I am not disappointed.
The rustic industrial charm of the hotel transports me elsewhere. Even before checking it, my eyes are already wandering around, committing every nook and cranny filled with stacks of oversized leather luggage, hanging light bulbs, carefully curated potted plants and plush sofa to memory.
The homely ambience is complemented by warm customer service at the reception.
Here, staff are known as their plume de nom, based on their favourite characters from movies, anime and drama series.
I am checked in by Mary Jane, who minds the desk with another staff who is definitely not Peter Parker.
Their hospitality goes up a notch when I ask about things to do (and eat) around town: Mary Jane quickly produces a list of eateries serving delectable local cuisines such as nasi ganja, mee kicap, dim sum, noodle soup, nasi vanggey, nasi lemak ayam kampung and white coffee.
Enticed as I am with the gastronomic offerings of Ipoh, I first make my way to my room.
Consisting of three levels, the hallway and public spaces on each level of M Boutique Hotel is furnished with a different theme.
Level 1 is all about Adventure, Level 3 is Excelsior while Level 2, where my room is, is Majestic.
Here, the theme is interpreted through three features: Bare walls (concrete and red bricks), dangling light bulbs attached to exposed wiring and framed numbers that tell interesting tales.
I am pleased to see that these features are extended to my room, dubbed The Two Twins.
The queen-sized bed is obviously the star, but I find myself impressed by the clever utilisation of space.
The room isn’t big but is well stocked with the usual amenities. I am partial to the white coffee options provided (both with sugar and sugarless) and the re-packaged snacks from Kampung Kacang Putih — both are local delights!
Meanwhile, the well-thought-out furnishing placements gives it a spacious appearance while still maintaining an intimate ambience.
My favourite part of the room is the toilet and bathroom, simply for its monochrome tiling and stainless steel finishing. It’s effortlessly simple, yet elegant. The only thing that is missing is a bath tub.
Before allowing myself some quiet time to truly enjoy the room, I explore the common spaces on Level 1, where there are two sections similar to that of a living room.
One is furnished in a retro-like manner, while the other is more casual.
There are also two computer stations with Mac computers nearby — the hotel’s version of a business centre. A meeting room is also available (for a fee) and there’s a gymnasium well equipped with basic necessities.
But the biggest surprise are the self-service laundry facilities and ironing room. These amenities definitely re-write the general definition of hotels, but are perfect for light and long-term travellers.
A GOOD BREAKFAST
After a great night’s rest, I am ready for a good breakfast. M Boutique Hotel doesn’t run its own restaurant but partners with others to provide dining options for guests.
I try both the Grand Old Town White Coffee, a premium version of the famous kopitiam-styled restaurant, and Myth, a cafe that serves Western fares.
I must admit that Old Town wins hands down. Its fluffy, piping hot nasi lemak comes with fancy condiments that go well with the staple sambal, ikan bilis and hard-boiled egg while the coffee is dark, thick and fantastic.
The same cannot be said about Myth — the waffles are of the frozen variety and its coffee, weak.
I spend a part of the day outside before returning to my room. Just before the day ends, I give the treadmill in the gymnasium a try. A good 8km run on the sturdy machine ensures another good night’s sleep and justify the dry wantan noodle and a cup of steaming white coffee the following morning.
Ipoh might no longer be a place I call home but that short stay in M Boutique is close enough.
M BOUTIQUE HOTEL
2 Hala Datuk 5, 31650 Ipoh, Perak
Tel: 05-255 5566
GPS Coordinates 4°35’18” N 101°4’40”E
STAY The hotel has 93 guestrooms that range from standard single and premier triple to suite and family suite. Rooms are furnished and decorated based on the level they are located on. M Boutique Hotel maintains a policy of not selling rooms by themed floor but by room category instead.
EAT Two on-location dining options are available: The Grand Old Town White Coffee (opens until midnight) for slightly upscale kopitiam fare and Myth (opens until 10pm) for western food. Room service is not available.
DO Apart from working out at the gymnasium and relaxing, there isn’t much to do.
GO The hotel’s lack of internal attractions is easily compensated by its accessibility to Ipoh’s many gems: The Jejak Warisan (Heritage) Trail that goes through historical landmarks such as the Ipoh Railway Station, City Hall Building, Perak State Museum and JWW Birch Memorial which are less than a 10 minute-drive away. So are Padang Ipoh, Concubine Lane, Dataran Ipoh, Kinta Waterfront and Ipoh Parade.
HIGHS The thematic interior design is unique and captivating while striving to maintain the element of comfort and intimacy, making guests feel right at home. Customer service is warm.
LOWS The hotel is designed for guests to stay out during the day as reflected by the lack of in-house facilities such as pool, spa and wide dining options.
BOOKING YOUR STAY
It’s easy with the AirAsiaGo mobile app. You are just a click away to your next staycation in this chic and stylish hotel.
To enjoy more discounts, look out for the 10 per cent Mid-Month Madness promo code on AirAsiaGo’s Facebook, on top of its daily mobile exclusive deals that can go up to 75 per cent.