06 October 2013

Kuala Lumpur - The Majestic Hotel : Majestic Wing

Date of Exploration : 4 - 5 May 2013

Political conspiracies, secret intelligence units, an attempted murder, grand parties with musical legends... they read like the pieces of a puzzle that come together in a blockbuster thriller except for one thing. They all really happened here at The Majestic Hotel Kuala Lumpur.

According to historians and eyewitness accounts by former patrons, the idea for United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) was first hatched within the walls of The Majestic, and secret units of World War 2 Allied forces allegedly exchanged information at the hotel. Then there was the story of a murder foiled by bad English at the bar, which also heard the chords of the likes such as The Mills Brothers, Freddy Cole and The Original Rat Pack. And this is only the tip of the iceberg of The Majestic's colourful past.

The Majestic Hotel tour bus with a reflection of the Railway Administrative Building. First opened on 15 August 1932, Hotel Majestic, as it was known back then, was the choice hotel for many travellers entering Kuala Lumpur. Despite its popularity, the hotel was closed half a decade later on 31 December 1983.
I had the good fortune of being invited for a staycation at The Majestic KL and sampled YTL Hotels' brand of class and luxury. But before we check into The Majestic, I would like to show you the hotel's location, which has within its neighbourhood two of KL's most magnificent heritage masterpieces... the Old Kuala Lumpur Railway Station and Railway Administration Building (now the head office of KTM Berhad).

Art framing art... Vew of the KTM Admin Building through an arch of the Old Railway Station.
The KTM Admin Building is an excellent example of Moorish architecture that glorified the Ottoman and Moghul stylings in the 13th and 14th centuries and blended with Gothic and 14th century Greek designs.

An immaculate mishmash of Neo-Moorish, Moghul, Indo and Neo Saracenic architectural styles that were popular at the turn of the 20th century gave the Old Railway Station a regally handsome appearance.

Both buildings were designed by Arthur Benison Hubback who served the British Public Works division in India for a while before he hybridized classical architectural elements from the different countries and periods in a number of Anglo-Asian monuments in the region. The Old Railway Station was completed in 1910 while the KTM Admin Building was finished in 1917.

Like massive historical lungs that breathe life into the modern city's culture and heritage, it's hard not to notice their presence despite being upstaged by the PETRONAS Twin Towers.

Pull back the camera angle a little further and sitting there next to the tanned KTM Admin Building is another icon of colonial Malaysia, Hotel Majestic.
The Majestic Hotel - Majestic Wing

Built as much by cement and mortar as it is with the sands of time, The Majestic KL is a living monument intertwined with Malaysia's history as well as a place of nostalgia for many yesteryear explorers who have passed through its halls. 

Hotel Majestic was more than just a luxurious accommodation but a venue where foreign dignitaries, celebrities and local luminaries mingle and socialize. The hotel played host to numerous events big and small until the end of 1983 when it was closed. As the hotel had proven itself to be an icon of the Malaysian social tapestry, the building was retained and converted into The National Art Gallery.

And now, almost 30 years later, Hotel Majestic has been revived by YTL Hotels to reawaken the glamour and splendor of this national treasure.

The veil of time lifted to welcome a new chapter in the hotel's history.

Something old, something new. The Majestic Hotel comprises 2 wings... the Majestic Wing (which is the original 5-storey Hotel Majestic, refurbished) and the Tower Wing (a new 15-storey addition to the site).

Corridor leading to the private reception of Majestic Wing.

Felt like I walked into a period movie set or a Jane Austen's novel. The restorers took pains to recreate the hotel's neo-Renaissance meets Art Deco design and stylings.

Security personnel with pith helmet and specially tailored uniform! Hotel staff are dressed in costumes authentic to the era. It's as if the mid 1900s never left.

Remember I mentioned about an intended murder screwed by bad English? Here's what happened... One day, a lady stomped into a dining hall where her husband was eating with another woman (presumably his mistress). When the restaurant captain approached the wife to take her order, the infuriated woman ordered "code 55 and 2 bulat". That baffled the captain as there was no cocktail by that name on the menu. Apparently, she had asked for a "Colt 55 and 2 bullets"!

Thanks to the mispronunciation, bloodshed was spared and The Majestic bar turned this unfortunately fortunate incident into a signature cocktail. So yes, Code 55 and 2 Bulat (pictured above) is now on the cocktail menu! Cocktails are priced at RM48++.

Resurrecting the colonial flavours on a grand scale at The Tea Lounge and The Bar of The Majestic KL.

A very interesting incident happened while I was trying to photograph the pianist playing the grand piano. He is none other than Mr Ooi Eow Jin, a talented musician cum composer who produced some of the biggest Malaysian hits in the 70s.

As I approached to take his picture, he immediately stopped and sprang to his feet. "You've never seen a piano before?" he asked, visibly displeased. I was taken aback at his outburst and explained that I just wanted to take a photo of him with the piano because I think it was very charming.

"I'm a staff here, not something for you to take photo!" he replied irritably. I wanted to reason with him but I realised I haven't been sensitive and intruded on his performance. So here's the only photo I have of this living musical legend. His back.

Apart from the open Tea Lounge, patrons can also enjoy a cuppa in this private and cozy room. 

What a beautiful setting to sip tea!

This scene is an automatic pinkie lifter.
The Majestic Suites

Having seen the main hall's gorgeous Colonial mien, my anticipation was mounting to see the Governor Suite which I'll be staying in. The Majestic Wing has a total of 47 classic suites with personal butler service!

Ascending the steps to certain luxury...

Hallway leading to the rooms.

And this is the interior of my Governor Suite's living room. It's G-O-R-G-E-O-U-S!

When it comes to interior décor, I'm more of a minimalist-Zen kind of guy who gets dizzy when there are too many colours and textures going on in a room. But this, this me likey!

Love the "high-society" feel of the suite and it comes with complimentary drinks (juices, soft drinks, beers, and wines) in a mini fridge concealed under the flat-screen TV. The open doorway on the right leads to the room.

The bedroom... again, it's G-O-R-G-E-O-U-S! I think I should just copy the 'G' word and just paste it on all the photos in this post.

The bathroom's checkered tiles and fittings remind me of a chic boutique salon.

A bathtub with feet? This is the first time I'd seen one. The double-ended clawfoot tub really upped the retro-luxe ante and quite a stunner!

Breaking dawn... As I peeled back the curtains, happiness flooded my room.

Having been to KL many times, this is the first time I caught a sunrise in the city. I imagined the splendour of watching this sunrise back in the 1930s without the modern high-rises.

My morning reverie was interrupted by a ring of the doorbell. The butler-served in-room colonial breakfast I ordered has arrived.

I asked for something extra on top of my Western breakfast... a couple of toast with homemade kaya just like the old times. The kaya's taste, texture and consistency sweetened up my morning.

Having breakfast in the suite was so relaxing and offered much comfort to start the day. I really enjoyed my night in the Governor Suite. It felt like a home I never had.
Retrolicious at Colonial Café

Bringing together the best of classic European favourites and Asian culinary traditions, the Colonial Café offers an extensive menu that marries the East and West on our lunch table.

For hot appetisers, Fried Chicken Wings are found on the same page as Escargots while the mains see Rosemary Lamb Chops given equal billing with Old-Style Hainanese Chicken Rice Ball. And if you look closely, you might spot some hilarious menu offerings such as the Old Style Faggots (wild mushroom mash with mace infused sauce) and the Spotted Dick!

Colonial Café may have a Western set-up but the menu offers both European and Asian delights as well as Colonial Cuisine (I call it 'Eurasian Food').

I had this Baked Seafood Crab Shell (RM55) that looked really good.

For my main, I went for the Baked Honey-Glazed Cod Fish made taller with Battered Onion Rings (RM130). Tastes good but the serving size is kinda small for the price.

This is the Spotted Dick (RM45)... which is a rich dessert pudding with spices, currant, orange peel and custard. It's a mouthful of creamy cumcome-and-get-it.

Goreng Pisang a la Mode (RM45) is a Eurasian fusion of deep-fried banana fritter we so loved with vanilla ice-cream. I don't know how it is possible but the batter for the banana was really light and fluffy.
The Smoke House

This one's more for the guys. The Smoke House is an extension from the Majestic Wing that houses a cigar appreciation room, pool table and bar, private dining room, and men's grooming salon by Truefitt & Hill.

Recognised as the Oldest Barbershop in the World by the Guinness Book of World Records, the Truefitt & Hill men's salon offers all the grooming pampering a man can need. From a hair cut to facial hair landscaping to Face Massage, this is the gentleman's personal care haven! Prices range from RM30 - RM110.

The Majestic Spa by Spa Village

A separate annex building next to the Majestic Wing is YTL Hotel's signature Spa Village that harvests indigenous therapeutic massage techniques and improve on them for the relaxation and wellness of patrons.

Enjoying a cuppa and camwhore moment while waiting for our massage rooms to be readied. Lulu looks so comfortably demure in her bathrobe. LOL.

One of the cool thing at The Majestic Spa is that you can order an alcoholic cocktail! None of the spas I've been to offer anything other than tea and having light booze before a massage at The Majestic Spa was so much more chillaxing. If you are not allergic to alcohol, definitely opt for the alcoholic cocktails when offered a pre-massage drink.

Working the art nouveau style of Charles Rennie Mackintosh's (gasp, he's not selling computer?!) famous Willow Tearooms décor, The Majestic Spa has a rather enchanting country house appeal.
We meet again at The Majestic Spa! This is my therapist, Saroj, who gave me a very good rub down at Gaya Island Resort (another one of YTL Hotels' vacation must-go).

A herbal foot soak and bath primed me for my massage session. It was so cool that the water for my foot bath was poured from a porcelain jug like the olden days!

I went for the 2-hour Herbal Sports massage (RM550++) that revitalises overworked bodily systems and tense muscles with a herbal poultice blend of rosemary, thyme, mint, lavender and rose.

It was the first time I experienced a massage using steamed herbal ball compress and the botanic scent coupled with the warmth was extremely soothing and tension relieving.

The Majestic Spa patrons get to chill by a pool reserved exclusively for them. After my massage, I eased over a pot of chamomile next to the blue to extend the bliss.
Staying at The Majestic Hotel's Majestic Wing is definitely a teleport back in time where the illustrious and halcyon years come alive once again. With its exquisite suites that come with personal butler service, retrolicious Colonial Café to enjoy high-tea and scones or dine on East-West classics, and the various exclusive pamper houses, living it up gets taken onto a whole new level at this time capsule.

And who knows, you just might make it into the new chapters of The Majestic Hotel's vibrant history!

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