ONE man, simply dressed, with a smile on his face, walks daily from Brinchang to Tanah Rata, Cameron Highlands, calling out to anyone he meets on the road.
One look and you would never have guessed that the cheerful man is a millionaire farmer who worked hard to become who he is.
S. Bala Krisnen’s is a story of rags to riches, of hardship and hard work.
Born into a family of seven, his mother, who plucked tea leaves for a living, could not afford to educate him after Form Three. So as the fifth son in the family, Bala began working in a vegetable farm to make ends meet.
Later at 27, he acquired his own farm and has never looked back since. As years passed by, he branched out into building townships and buying hotels but his first love is still farming.
“I started on my own at 27. I was a farmer then and I always will be,” he said with a smile.
For Bala, he has come this far due to his friends who are partners in his hotel business.
Among his close friends is Datuk Yee Shan Kon, a familiar face in the highlands and who also worked his way up despite his father’s influence in society.
Yee’s father, who was in construction, fell ill in 1973, leaving Yee to run the business at the age of 20.
Bala and Yee’s friendship is almost 20 years old and they ventured into development in 1987.
However, their most notable collaboration was in 1990, when Yee and Bala developed the Bandar Baru Brinchang township. A year later they opened up their first hotel, the Rosa Pasadena, and thus became hoteliers.
Today, they are proud developers of a fourth hotel owned by Bala but managed by their company.
Located just three minutes away from Tanah Rata, Hotel De’ La Ferns is a boutique hotel and the latest addition to the town’s growing wonders.
Although Bala and Yee are simple men, their ideas and designs for the newly opened hotel says otherwise.
According to them, the English Tudor themed hotel was inspired by their travels abroad.
The architecture of the building is to be marvelled at as it takes the shape of a fern leaf just like its name suggests.
“We wanted to build something different so people would want to come back,” Bala said.
The entrance is quite unique with a chandelier and the parking lot is spread around the hotel with bricks resembling a grand red carpet.
As you proceed into the hotel, the sofa set with arm chairs often found in English homes gives the place a warm and cosy feel.
The place is lit with specially designed rose lamps and the Fern restaurant has timber resembling heavy beams often found in old Irish bars. The al fresco dining area is set before a wall of Vietnam marbles that sparkles in daylight.
The restaurant is popular for steamboat for dinner and scones for high tea.
Each floor has a theme, be it summer, winter, autumn or spring and the five-storey hotel personifies the themes with coloured carpets, lighting and fixtures.
The 75 rooms are a luxury by itself with ample space for an extra mattress and with beautiful views of the countryside or golf greens.
Apart from that, the room has beautiful furnishings to complement the hotel. No two room is alike, whether in architecture, the fittings or the furniture. Each room has its own appeal.
There are also two pent suites, the Cameron Ferns and the Highland Ferns which cost RM1,800 each per night.
There is a lounge area on the lower floor to greet guests and a more intimate cosy lounge with bed and sofa upstairs. The bathroom has a powder room.
“We wanted to give the hotel one year to see its progress but the hotel including the pent suites have been full every weekend since it was opened three months ago,” he said.
The rooms are equipped with HD LCD TV, satellite television and movie channels plus broadband facilities. There is also a private electronic safe deposit box, an integrated coffee and tea making set and a fully stocked mini-bar as well as ironing facilities.
The hotel can accommodate 200 people for meetings at its largest meeting rooms and smaller rooms are equipped with Wi-Fi services.
Like true Cameronians, both Bala and Yee have displayed pictures of various Cameron Highlands landmarks, flora and fauna along the corridors and in the rooms.
“What better way is there to promote the Highlands than by displaying pictures with the names of places so tourists would be interested in visiting these?” asked Bala.
He also prefers employing locals, especially from the orang asli settlement, to help them earn a living.
For Yee and Bala, there is no end to their work and they want to continue bringing new things to Cameron Highlands and its people.
He hopes his three children would some day be able to take over his business and make Camerons’s a better place for everyone. His eldest son Saravana Kumar, 23, is already involved in the business.
The other three hotels in Cameron Highlands are Hotel Rosa Pasadena, Casa De La Rosa and Hotel Rainbow. Room rates for Hotel De’ La Ferns ranges from RM380 for the Superior Double and Superior Twin to RM 780 for the Family Suite that can hold a family of five.
Source : STAR
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