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Saturday February 21, 2015 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Saturday February 21, 2015 MYT 8:11:11 AM
by philip golingai
THERE I was, in a revolving restaurant at the 18th floor of The Federal Kuala Lumpur, feeling as if I was in the middle of a monopoly board game surrounded by prime real estate like Plaza Low Yat, Berjaya Times Square and Pavilion.
As the Bintang Revolving Restaurant in the historical hotel revolved, I had a 360° view of Kuala Lumpur’s golden triangle while I fed on a medium 300g prime rib eye.
It took an hour for the revolving restaurant to go full circle. It gave me a perspective of the heart of the city that I wouldn’t have seen from the street level.
I was amazed that the two towers flanking Berjaya Times Square were tall (203m twin towers), Sun Complex looked like those decrepit flats in Tsim Sha Tsui and Hotel Capitol was grand.
Romance was in the air in the restaurant (which is Malaysia’s first revolving restaurant).
A 20-something man was proposing to his girlfriend, I’m assuming, as he was holding her hands tightly over the table and whispering something that made her glow. On second thought, perhaps he was playing Jedi mind tricks on her.
A few tables away, there was another couple who were so in love. The girlfriend was especially happy. She was constantly taking selfies of herself. The revolving restaurant gave her iconic buildings such as KL Tower, Maybank Tower and the Twin Towers as a background for her selfies.
The view inspired me to do a Salomon video advertisement. My favourite outdoor brand is Salomon. It has a video – runners (of course, wearing Salomon gear) exploring the stairways and avenues of Paris –that I really love. The next day, I ran (of course wearing Salomon trail running shoes) to Pavilion mall to check out the Salomon flagship store.
It was the most relaxing family dinner I ever had of late. At 9pm, Sylverius Junior, my 16-month-old baby, slept in my arms. I took the lift to the ninth floor of the hotel and set him to sleep in the newly refurbished Merdeka wing while my wife and six-year-old daughter enjoyed their dessert.
I was staying in Federal Kuala Lumpur, as I wanted a holiday during the Chinese New Year break. I wanted to visit Bangkok but the air tickets were too expensive for a family of four.
The other option was visiting Penang island (as my kid loves Escape outdoor theme park) but the thought of the balik kampung exodus on the packed highway discouraged me.
So I decided on a “staycation” (a vacation spent at home or nearby) after I saw a Federal Hotels International (FHI) Group of Hotels’ Romance in the City room promotion on The Star Online.
“Explore Kuala Lumpur (and Sydney) and what the city has to offer as it is a prime destination for affordable romantic indulgences and enjoy the city that you know and love,” the online advertisement enticed.
“Experience the energy of the famed shopping, dining and entertainment hub outside your door, then unwind together above all the action. Reconnect while you indulge and make the most of every moment.”
I was enticed. In the last 10 years, it has been rare for me to visit the heart of Kuala Lumpur. The two main reasons are traffic jams and the rise of the malls in the suburbs.
In the 1990s and 2000s, Kuala Lumpur was a must-visit for entertainment and shopping (Sungai Wang Plaza). Every weekend I would be shopping (more like window-shopping) in the city.
Now, I really need a very good reason to drive to Kuala Lumpur city. My two main reasons are to visit the Salomon flagship store (which has the latest products) and meet up with contacts from out of Kuala Lumpur.
I also decided to stay in Federal Kuala Lumpur as I have a fond memory of it.
When I was a college student in the 1990s, I would stay in Federal Hotel (that was what it was called then) when my late father, who lived in Kota Kinabalu, visited the city for work.
I also love the hotel because of its history. It was the only international-class hotel in Malaya in 1957. It was built by the late Tan Sri Low Yat to house foreign dignitaries who travelled to Kuala Lumpur to witness the birth of a nation on Aug 31, 1957.
Around 9.30pm, a Sabahan politician, who was on a business trip in Kuala Lumpur, WhatsApp-ed me: “I’m in town. Let’s go for a drink”.
Usually, I would decline such a last-minute invite, as I’m uninspired to drive 27km from my home in Subang Jaya to Kuala Lumpur.
I, however, said “yes” as his hotel was not far from Federal Kuala Lumpur.
We met at his favourite watering hole, La Rambla Cafe and Pub, in Megan Avenue 2, Jalan Yap Kwan Seng. Around 1.30am, after a few bottles of Strongbow and juicy Sabah political gossip, we walked back to our hotel.
I felt like a tourist during my three-night stay in Kuala Lumpur. I did what most tourists do – shop. Most of the major shopping malls were walking distance from Federal Kuala Lumpur.
I asked Simon Leong Chee Meng, the general manager of Federal Kuala Lumpur and Hotel Capitol, what his guests’ favourite destinations were.
“Plaza Low Yat (it is famous among tourists as a tech mall), Pavilion and Berjaya Times Square (shopping), Changkat Bukit Bintang (night spots) and Jalan Alor (food),” he said.
I did his list and it was fun to be a tourist at your own backyard. The best part is after shopping I didn’t have to drive back to Subang Jaya.
I shopped and then “dropped” in Federal Kuala Lumpur.
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Opinion, Philip Golingai, columnist
A ‘staycation’ in a historic Kuala Lumpur hotel proved to be a chance to rediscover the federal capital, on foot.
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