“We are not makers of history, we are made by history.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
Kuala Lumpur is known for its vast and progressive development. With unending days of improvements and construction, it is easy to lose sight of the historic vestiges and legacies that once gave identity to this capital city. To understand how Kuala Lumpur came into being and become what it is today, Cosmo Hotel has created a new tour package called the City Discovery Package for history buffs and general adventurers to truly experience the ‘real side’ Kuala Lumpur. Guided by award-winning independent tour guide Jane Rai and the hotel’s staffs, this tour takes guests to Kuala Lumpur’s significant attractions, which turn out to be eye-opening to say the least.
Prior to the tour, Gaya Travel Magazine team first checked into our room in one clear Saturday morning. At first sight, Cosmo Hotel’s facade appear imposing, extending high into the sky next to the other buildings that dominate the area. But as we stepped into the hotel, we were welcomed by an air of cosiness. The radiant lighting and plush, contemporary neoclassical-inspired interior of what was once an edifice containing offices piqued our interest. The rooms are designed to relaxation and stimulate at the same time, with bold carpeting and patterned wallpapers. Complete with modern necessities, the hotel is perfect for a business visit or staycation.
Our lunch at the hotel’s food and beverage outlet Café Mint consisted of multiple choices of hearty, filling and succulent dishes such as rib-eyed steak and chicken chop. This outlet is a crisp and suave looking restaurant, minimalistic with two ostentatiously hung chandeliers. The breakfast and dinner buffet served at Café Mint are respectively impressive with abundant choice and sizeable portions.
After breakfast, we were given a short brief on our trip to KL Forest Eco Park, also known as Bukit Nanas Forest Reserve, located on Jalan Raja Chulan, a mere 10-minute walk (2 kilometres) away from the hotel. Known as the green lung of Kuala Lumpur, this forest reserve is a family friendly spot for those in need of refuge amid verdant tropical greenery right smack in the centre of Kuala Lumpur, making this park the only forest reserve in the world that exists in the middle of a metropolis. You are recommended to follow the 200-metre long canopy walk, which gives you the chance to view Kuala Lumpur’s concrete jungle from a different angle while healthily sweating it out.
After exploring the KL Forest Eco Park with the park’s own guide, we walked back to the hotel via the bustling thoroughfare called Lebuh Ampang that is known for its quaint collection of hip, sophisticated cafes and specialty shops. Along the way, we laid our eyes on a pretty mural on a side of a shoplot, including the view of the charmingly colonial St. John Cathedral with the soaring KL Tower as its backdrop.
Soon after, we were introduced to an ex-journalist, Jane Rai, who captivatingly shared her colourful story about the historically significant area of Kuala Lumpur, as well as her experience as a licensed tour guide.
We started walking right across the hotel, at the banks of the newly beautified confluence of Gombak and Klang rivers, where Masjid Jamek is located. The beautification is part of the government’s River of Life project to turn the rivers, into the pride of Kuala Lumpur because the city traces its beginnings from them, thus bear strong connection to the founding of Kuala Lumpur. Masjid Jamek is known as one of the oldest mosques in Malaysia, designed by Arthur Benison Hubback and was officiated by the then Sultan of Selangor in 1909. Jane explained how the plot of land close to the mosque was once a Muslim burial site, and then the remains were required to be relocated to a newer site on Jalan Ampang. She highlighted the importance of the confluence as the point where Kuala Lumpur began, including the banks of Klang river, where Yap Ah Loy (a key historical figure who helped in the development of Kuala Lumpur) built his house around 161 years ago. Now the river bank is an urbanised and trendy venue filled with youthful attractions and mesmerising fountain and light shows.
We continued our walk by heading to the back lane of the popular Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman (TAR), where we feasted our eyes and taste buds at the night market that sells a multitude of affordable good and wares, including snacks. This place teems with shops like Bak Tailor that handmakes traditional Malay clothes like baju Melayu (Malay male set of top and trousers) since the 1980s and stores selling handmade songkok (a close-fitting Malay male rimless cap with a flat top). Next to them is a humble and aged barbershop manned by experienced barbers known to have their very own set of customers who follow them like a cult. We subsequently stumbled upon several pre-war shophouses and buildings that sport art deco design such as the Coliseum Cinema, which has been operational since 1921. These days, the cinema primarily plays Indian movies.
During the walk, we managed to sample some local food at selected eateries, one of them was Jai Hind Restaurant (+60 03-2692 0041) that serves delectable Punjabi cuisine and desserts. The store is vegetarian so Muslims can be rest assured that the food can be consumed with peace of mind. As we returned to the back lane of Jalan TAR, we stopped by to have a sample of apam balik (Malaysian sweet pancake with peanut and sugar fillings) that was fresh off the pan. We then quenched our thirst at the 97-year old Coliseum Café and Hotel. This establishment’s bar and interior have not changed much since 1921, and it is famous for serving classic bestsellers like steaks and signature mocktail (non-alcoholic and refreshing mixed beverage) called Gunner B, which is a must-try.
Before ending the night, Jane made sure that we savoured the South Indian version of a good dinner at Saravanaa Bhavan Vegetarian restaurant. You should order the drink called the Three Flavoured Lassi, which explodes with tangy, sweet flavour and a slight kick, to wash down the finger-licking meal.
Cosmo Hotel’s three-hour City Discovery Package tour is definitely an interesting approach to further learn about Kuala Lumpur’s history and be immersed in the city’s local urban environment and day-to-day living. With the combination of insider information, lip-smacking food, and exposure to the quintessential aspects of the city, it is hard to simply move on from the experience. The tour costs RM250 per person, which is separate from the room rate.
For overnight stay that is part of the City Discovery Package, Cosmo Hotel charges RM288 nett per room night inclusive of breakfast, set lunch, and dinner for two persons, including a flexible check in time and full 28-hour stay, complete with complimentary access to the gym and in-room Wi-Fi.
This article is featured in Gaya Travel Magazine Issue 14.1. Read other contents HERE.