ONCE it was known as the Taj Mahal of Ipoh. Today it stands like a deserted partner beside the increasingly busy Ipoh Railway Station.
Boarded up and abandoned, it’s the only building that is dark at night.
Meanwhile, just a few steps in front is a colourful lights fountain. And just across, the Ipoh Town Hall is bathed in spotlights.
The station hotel has been left empty for the past five years.
Majestic Station Hotel, its last occupant, handed the property back to the Railway Asset Corporation (RAC) in 2011.
No decision has been made so far on what will be done with the vacated building.
But despite the shoddy treatment it’s been subjected to, the old station hotel is still an impressive landmark, said locals and tourists. And ideas are abrim on what RAC or potential investors could do with it.
“You need a visionary for a revival job like this,” said Fariz Alias, a travel writer who commutes between Kuala Lumpur and Ipoh frequently.
He was convinced the building’s vintage look is the key.
“Ipoh is not only about delicious kway teow dishes. It’s also about heritage – just look at the buildings in Ipoh town.
“This is good because people are bored with modern. People want the rustic and unique,” he said.
Jocelyn Lau, 20, mirrored this opinion.
“It’s such a pity for a nice place to be left empty like that.
“I wish they would turn it into a place for tea, coffee and scones,” she said.
Teing Tai Chee, 55, a teacher, had a different idea for the place, something it was once before.
“It’s high time it becomes another hotel. Tourism in Ipoh is booming now,” he said.
And to fit the authentic theme, kacang putih should be served in the rooms, quipped Fariz.
A mini museum on Perak’s rich mining past or its locomotive history would also be okay, said Zuhailah Ahmad, 33.
The nurse aide from Parit Buntar, who was on a stopover at the Ipoh station, said it will be an educational way for passengers to spend time while waiting for the next train.
Zuhailah, who was travelling with her four-year-old daughter Qaseh, said it is most ideal for those travelling with children.
Turn it into a shopping mall like klia2 was the idea offered by Syafiq Ahmad Ramli, Che Anis Salwani Nazeefah Abdullah and Fatin Nabihah Abd Mutalib, three 19-year-old medical students from Universiti Kuala Lumpur Royal College Of Medicine Perak. Be it shopping mall, cafe or another hotel, the facade and interiors must be preserved they insisted.
Bright ideas aside, president of Ipoh City Watch Richard Ng reminded the public not to forget the landmark is a railway station first.
He cautioned that the proposals raised will take up more of one precious commodity the station is already lacking – parking space.
Ng said some of the available space is already used by people who have turned the station square into an inline skating park in the evenings.
“The first priority should be the train passengers,” said Ng.
The winner of this toss-up was a no-brainer for Nor Farahwati Mat Radzuan, 28, a henna artist who operates here nightly.
“If the station hotel is to be revived, you will need more visitors.
“And turning the station square into a hangout for skaters and sightseers is a good start.
“If the council had never intended for it to become a gathering place for the public, why do they bother having a light and water show in the first place?” she said.
Khairie Nazwan, 19, a regular visitor, said as many as 100 people can be found enjoying the sights at the train square on week nights. On weekends, the numbers doubled.
Ooi Wei Herng, 18, a student from Ungku Omar Polytechnic, said judging from the numbers, the place would be ideal for a New Year’s Eve countdown.
Touching on the parking problem, Ooi and the medical students suggested visitors park further away and walk the remaining distance.