Nostalgia is tricky business. In megacities like Kuala Lumpur where development is king and the purpose of land is largely determined by dollars and cents, old buildings are rapidly torn down in place of the shiny and new.
The city’s history began in the middle of the 19th century with a thriving tin-mining industry. Chinese headmen were appointed by the British as Kapitans (or captains) to ensure law and order. The third, Yap Ah Loy, oversaw the golden rise of Kuala Lumpur from quiet town to Selangor’s most advanced city. As it survived the course of history, Kuala Lumpur has flourished organically, most of it without any central planning, resulting in a charming mix of architecture reflecting both its European colonial and Chinese influences.
While old buildings carry memories and scars of yesteryear, mindfulness and care in restoration and preservation work is integral to protect the soul of a place. Concorde Hotel Kuala Lumpur for example, manages to balance its modern façade with a touch of history. Previously known as the Merlin Hotel from 1957 till 1990, the hotel is an icon in central Kuala Lumpur where generations have dined in its ‘Dragon Court’ Chinese Restaurant (now known as XIN Cuisine).
In celebration of its heritage, Concorde Hotel Kuala Lumpur has preserved a magnificent pair of dragon pillars located in XIN Cuisine, original tiles on the 8th floor, which were manufactured in 1957, and a classic brick walkway with the Merlin Hotel initials (MH) in front of the swimming pool.
For Miss Tee Chai Wai, 57, who manages housekeeping at Concorde Hotel Kuala Lumpur, coming to work every day is like taking a walk down memory lane. She first started working at Merlin Hotel more than 30 years ago and progressed from chambermaid to a supervisor who oversees more than 100 staff.
“I love it here because we are like family,” she says. “There is a strong sense of belonging because everyone puts their heart into their work and over so many years we become more than just colleagues.”
Ms Chow Jie Jing, 27, remembers following her parents to work in the Chinese restaurant kitchen, where they were dim sum chefs. Today, while her sister works at XIN cuisine, Jie Jing is a marketing communications executive at Concorde Hotel Kuala Lumpur. “Memories make a place significant for me,” she says. “Especially when it bonds my family together.”
The hotel is also a short walk away from Saloma Bistro & Theatre restaurant, named after the famous Saloma Ismail, a Malaysian film actress and singer who was wife of P Ramlee, the icon of Malay entertainment in the region. The place serves a popular dinner banquet buffet every night with a cultural performance.
Concorde Hotel Kuala Lumpur
2 Jalan Sultan Ismail
Mon to Sat: 11.30am to 2.30pm & 6.30pm to 11pm
Sun and PH: 9am to 2.30pm & 6.30pm to 11pm
Saloma Bistro & Theatre
139 Pusat Pelancongan Malaysia (MaTiC) Jalan Ampang
11am to 12pm, daily
Located in the heart of the CityVisit Hotel Website