In the heyday of 1930s Malaysia, plantation owners, local nobles and glamorous expats alike would gather in the halls of Hotel Majestic in Kuala Lumpur. With distinguished guests clutching cocktails and dancing in its roof garden, the neo-classical hotel — opened in 1932 and designed by Dutch architect Van Leangeanderg — was the perfect venue to mingle with the country’s colonial elite.
But after decades of use the historic hotel fell — like the British domination of the country — into disrepair. After closing its doors in 1983, it lay derelict and remained a shell of its former glory until the iconic building was reopened to much acclaim last December.
Years of careful restoration work, under the direction of architect Zaidan Tahir and the YTL hotel group, have introduced the opulence of yesteryear to a new audience. Careful research into the hotel’s past was carried out to ensure that its rehabilitation was in tune with the building’s original character and that its legend did not die.
After passing by concierges in elegant traditional dress and sashaying up a covered walkway to its entrance, modern day visitors can relax beneath the bar’s original domed ceiling — a stunning feature that was saved and inlaid with gold to add a touch of contemporary grandeur.
Spiralling staircases in a huge, airy atrium have been carefully restored in dark wood, while guests can slip off to the hotel’s attached ‘gentleman’s club’, featuring a billiards table, a barber’s shop and a selection of smoking jackets.
The design of the attached spa was inspired by Scottish design icon Charles Rennie Mackintosh, while hundreds of orchids decorate a sumptuous conservatory.
On any given afternoon, scores of high society once again flock to the hotel for afternoon tea, where delicate cakes and scones totter on art deco style stands.
As gentle piano music rings out amongst the clang of teaspoons, and despite the addition of an ultra-modern new tower wing, it’s as if the hotel never closed.
For more information, visit majestickl.com. Words by Ellie Dyer.