- Category: News
- Published: Monday, 09 May 2022 11:58
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They may not all have modern conveniences but David Bowden reflects upon the history of some of Malaysia's legendary hotels.We seek comfort in reflecting on the past, returning to places that we're familiar with or, the notion that things were better in the 'olden days. While some of us can't survive without WiFi, dégustation dinners and cable television, it's refreshing to be immersed in an old-fashioned bathtub or have the staff recognize you and remember your preferred beverage. It goes without saying that a grand hotel must be, grand and this is something that can't be created; properties become legendary with age. Therefore, it can be assumed that a new hotel can be a great hotel but not necessarily a legendary hotel.
Sadly, heritage isn't universally valued and many of Malaysia's early hotels are no longer standing. Neither are many government rest houses that once graced major towns and destinations such as the Gap near Fraser's Hill which is now derelict and a lost opportunity for a destination boutique hotel and iconic restaurant. Here are some of Malaysia's legendary hotels to seek out - not all brilliant nor necessarily old, but all are reminiscent of the 'good old days'.
CARCOSA SERI NEGARA, KUALA LUMPUR
Carcosa is included not because guests can stay here anymore but because this gracious property is part of Malaysia's heritage. It once operated as a boutique hotel but that ceased years ago and its status is now unclear. Few Malaysian properties have had as many dignitaries pass through them as Carcosa. This was the Queen of England's preferred residence but that had a lot to do with the colonial mansion once being the High Commissioner's residence. Hopefully, it will reopen, fully restored and revitalised.
THE LAKEHOUSE CAMERON HIGHLANDS, PAHANG
What I like about legendary hotels is that they're places to experience not just venues in which to sleep. So, they're places to fully utilise the room and public spaces. The Lakeside is a boutique country house opened in 1970 by retired British Colonel Stanley J. Forster, who set out to recreate a British B & B in the cool Cameron Highlands. He successfully incorporated a sumptuous lounge room with a fireplace and small bar. This is the perfect venue to settle into a high-backed lounge with a book or good company. It's a place to chat, enjoy a board game or a card game and, of course, sumptuous afternoon teas here or on the adjoining terrace. Take a stroll around the manicured gardens, enjoy traditional English fare or local dishes and retire early after a fireside nightcap.
THE MAJESTIC HOTEL KUALA LUMPUR
The Majestic was once the hotel of choice for colonials and the nation's social elite before the original hotel closed in 1983. Built in 1932, opposite the grand KL railway station, the 51-room hotel was important when rail travel was important. When it closed, the building reverted to the National Art Gallery until 1998. The Majestic Wing reopened and a new 15-storey Tower Wing opened in 2012. Rooms in the original wing are preferred by traditionalists. Patrons can enjoy food and beverage facilities in period surroundings at The Colonial Café, The Bar, The Tea Lounge, The Orchid Conservatory, The Drawing Room and The Cigar Room. Contemporary facilities include a pool, spa and gym.
THE MAJESTIC MALACCA, MELAKA
Set back from Sungai Melaka, the Majestic was originally a local tycoon's private mansion. Built in 1929 in Straits Settlement style with tiled floors and teakwood detail, it was converted to a hotel in 1955 and remained open until 2000 when competition from newer hotels forced it to close. It reopened in 2008 with the original mansion and a modern annex behind it. New facilities include a pool, gym and spa village while history hounds will seek comfort in the refined precincts like The Library, The Bar and the restaurant with dishes inspired by Kristang, Chinese, English, Indian, Nyonya and Malay cuisines.
YE OLDE SMOKEHOUSE FRASER'S HILL, PAHANG
Heat and humidity took its toll on colonialists who craved England's cooler weather. Fraser's Hill developed in the 1920s as a refreshing and healthy venue for soldiers to recuperate after World War 1. Companies and government departments also established bungalows for staff to holiday in. Ye Olde Smokehouse opened as a soldier's convalescent home but became a hotel in due course. It now appeals to those seeking the nostalgia of an era when Fraser's Hill was popular with expats. What it lacks in slick contemporary facilities it makes up for with a tranquil garden setting, period furniture, comfortable lounges and a small bar with a fireplace.