Thursday, October 22, 2009

Majestic Kuala Lumpur Hotel in a sorry state

ONE would expect a hotel nestled in lush greenery and located on prime land in town to have booming business but the fact is that the Majestic Kuala Lumpur is as silent as a tomb. Passers-by will not even notice it, majestic or otherwise.

Designed by Dutch architect Von Leangeanderg, the hotel was built in 1932 and is located on Jalan Sultan Hishamuddin, opposite the Kuala Lumpur railway station and next to the KTMB headquarters.

Boasting 51 rooms, the hotel became a landmark of the town and was ranked among the best places to stay in the region according to Jery Kilker, 77, a retired officer with the World Health Organisation.

“I was excited at the opportunity to stay at the Majestic back in 1973. The hotel was ranked eighth in a popular guide but was more a basic travellers hotel than a holiday resort,” Kilker, an American living in the French Alps said in an e-mail interview.

Sad ending: An auctioneer showing a tea pot that was one of the many items including cups and saucers being auctioned off from the orchestra stand located in the Majestic Kuala Lumpur lounge in January 1984 when the hotel closed to make way for the National Art Gallery.

Kilker who was sent by the United Nations’ regional office in Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur for work then, stayed at the hotel for a week and remembers the building as having little decorative detail.

“Looking out a window at the back of the hotel, I saw a family of monkeys going about their lives as usual. It looked like a scene from a sunny forest glade and there were no other buildings in sight,” Kilker said.

The hotel was acquired by the government under the Land Acquisition Act in 1983 which resulted in a furore over the hotel’s fate. Some people were against changing it into something other than a hotel.

While the building’s future use became a topic of discussion at that point, the building’s fate itself was sealed as it was gazetted as a national heritage site under the Antiquities Act, thus it cannot be destroyed or changed in any way.

The reason the government gave for taking over the building was that only a few could appreciate it as a cultural site if it remained a hotel.

And so, on Dec 31, 1983, the hotel staff clocked out for the last time.

Broken: The Kuala Lumpur railway station can be viewed from the windows facing the front of the hotel.

Eventually, after much debate and an auction selling off all of the hotel’s officially stamped teapots, cups and saucers, the National Art Gallery moved into the premises in 1984.

The public’s access to the place lasted for only 14 years as the gallery moved out in 1998 to its own building that was built by YTL Corporation Bhd under a privatisation deal with the government.

In the deal, YTL Corporation will have to turn the former hotel building into a classic hotel that will be managed by them.

However, until today, the building still stands but falling into a state of disrepair.

An article in 1995 mentioned that YTL would be carrying out renovation work in the building’s interior and a new block with 300 rooms and other luxury hotel amenities will be added.

When YTL Hotels and Properties Sdn Bhd was contacted, a representative said that so far there are no new updates on the hotel plans.

Source : STAR
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