City vibes and local culture
December 2, 2018
|The reception lobby is located on the 1st floor
I love the conveniences that come with staying in city centre hotels. The first advantages that come to mind are connectivity (easy access to anywhere in the city) and the vast choices of food.
As a visitor in another country or city, I wouldn’t want to stay somewhere that requires me to spend precious time (and money) to get around.
For instance, the months-old Cosmo Hotel Kuala Lumpur is not only right in the heart of KL but it’s also just a couple of minutes’ walk from the Masjid Jamek LRT station which, in turn, is connected to the KL Sentral transport hub, from where the ride on the ERL to KLIA is just 33 minutes.
Even better, I find out that Cosmo Hotel Kuala Lumpur has a KL City Discover package at RM288 nett per room per night that includes breakfast, set lunch and dinner for 2 persons.
|Masjid Jamek LRT station is just two minutes walk away
Initially, I am sceptical about having all three meals in the hotel as there is only one food outlet. But I have to admit that the hotel kitchen at the all-day Café Mint does produce some delectable dining options.
|All-Day dining at Cafe Mint
|Cosmo Lounge for relaxing with drinks
The spread at breakfast may not be endless but there are pastries, salad, sausages and eggs with local favourites such as fried noodles, roti canai with vegetable curry and the all-time Malaysian favourite, nasi lemak, with sambal, condiments and fried chicken or beef rendang. There’s also Cosmo Lounge for drinks or light meals.
|Fried noodles, baked beans and sausages at breakfast
|Fried eggs done two ways
|Bread, pastries, cakes and salad
At lunch, we fill our plates at the salad bar and grab some soup. The yum woo sen (Thai glass noodle salad) hits all the right spots. Main courses are cooked to order and served piping hot. Choices include beef steak, chicken chop and fish & chips. Portions are huge and I find it a challenge to finish the two big pieces of deboned fish fillet, fries and coleslaw. Then, there’s a selection of fresh fruit and jelly mousse as well as hot coffee and tea.
|Yummy Thai glass noodle salad
|Beef steak to order
|Fish & Chips with coleslaw and french fries
Dinner is served buffet style, with salads, mains and dessert as well as drinks. The apple salad is refreshing and if you prefer vegetables, there are salad greens with a creamy dressing and a chilli-hot onion-tomato-spinach salad.
I love the kerabu fried rice, served in individual bowls. It has carrots, peas, onions and ikan bilis while herbs give it a tantalising aroma.
|Fusilli with capsicum, tomato and black olives
|Kerabu fried rice
|Grilled lamb, Spicy grilled prawns and roasted chicken with potato mash
Other choices are grilled lamb, spicy grilled prawn and roasted chicken with potato mash, mushroom and zucchini. Love pasta? There’s fusilli stirfried with capsicum, tomato and black olives. For dessert, a mango pudding is the highlight, accompanied by freshly cut apples, oranges, dragonfruit and water melon.
If you need to work out after all that food, head for the hotel gym on the 15th level.
|The hotel gym on the 15th floor
Cosmo Hotel KL has 347 rooms and suites as well as meeting rooms of different sizes. The rooms are well designed and equipped with modern amenities, in-room wifi, TV with satellite channels, mini fridge, complimentary water, hair dryer, iron and ironing board and coffee/tea making.
|One of the well-designed rooms
|Compact living area leading to the en-suite bathroom
Best of all, it’s walking distance to the city’s many attractions including the banks, Central Market, Chinatown, historic Masjid Jamek, River of Life, Telekom Museum, Sultan Abdul Samad Building and Merdeka Square.
For shopping, there’s Jakel Mall, Sogo Shopping Centre, Lulu Shopping & Hypermarket and KLCC while Little India is practically just at its doorstep.
|Telekom Museum is just around the corner from Cosmo Hotel
Right after breakfast, we take a brisk walk to the jungle in the city: The KL Forest Eco-Park, gazetted as a forest reserve in 1906. One of the oldest tropical rainforest reserves in Malaysia, it is also the last stretch of permanent forest in the city. Spread over 9.3 hectares, the lowland dipterocarp forest park is home to indigenous old trees, palms, bamboo, two species of monkeys, bats, squirrels, birds and all kinds of insects.
|Entrance to KL Forest Eco-Park with KL Tower in the background
|DBKL brings Lat's cartoons to life. This one is right outside the Forest Eco-Park
A guide brings us on one of the many trails that wind through the Forest Eco-Park, including a scenic 200m canopy walk that offers a view of the tree tops and the city beyond.
|The canopy walk allows visitors a fantastic tree-top view of the park and the city
|Sneak peek at family of possums in KL Tower's mini zoo
It is not only enjoyable but very informative as we learn about the various species of trees, shrubs and herbs. We even manage to take a sneak peek at a family of raccoons in the adjacent KL Tower mini zoo enclosure.
We start at the entrance located off Jalan Raja Chulan (next to the Telekom Museum) and exit at the Jalan Bukit Nanas exit, across the road from St John’s Institution, one of the oldest schools in the country.
After lunch and a short rest, we set off on a Guided Walkabout, a tour of historical and cultural spots in the neighbourhood surrounding the very spot where KL is said to begin – the confluence of the Gombak River and Klang River, where Masjid Jamek stands.
|Masjid Jamek stands at the confluence of the Rivers Gombak and Klang
|KL's River of Life
|The iconic Sultan Abdul Samad Building
|Jane Rai showing us pictures of old Kuala Lumpur
At RM250 nett per person for City Discovery Package guests, the walkabout includes a three-hour guided tour and food samplings. Our guide, Jane Rai, is a master story-teller who has, for 30 years, kept visitors and locals
enthralled with tales of the city. First, we stop at the confluence of the two rivers where Jane brings to life the bustling trade carried out via the rivers and we can almost “see” ancient Kuala Lumpur, where Mandailing merchant Sutan Puasa first set up a trading post, followed by Kapitan Cina Yap Ah Loy and the British.
Today, there is much talk about The River Of Life, a project that will transform the Klang River into a vibrant, liveable waterfront. The project is slated to complete in 2020.
Jane then brings us to the Jalan Benteng neighbourhood to visit Jai Hind, a Punjabi sweets shop and restaurant. Here we stop for drinks and nibble chapatti as well as an awesome halwa (made with carrot, semolina and milk) before we cross the road to the Masjid India enclave.
|For nearly 65 years, Jai Hind Restaurant iin Jalan Melayu is popular for its Indian sweetmeats
It is late afternoon and evening traders are busy setting up stalls at the pasar malam or daily night market. The smells and sights are wondrous. Jane continues to spin her tales of old Kuala Lumpur and we listen, spellbound though occasionally, we are distracted all that’s going on around us, especially the aroma of kway teow being fried by a young “masterchef”, a 12-year-old boy who handles the wok and ladle with practised flair and a makcik who sells packets of nasi lemak (only on Saturday) for a mere RM1.50 each.
|The 12-year-old frying char kway teow and the makcik who sells nasi lemak only on Saturday
|Young henna design entrepreneurs
We tarry a while at Masjid India, which serves the community of Indian Muslim merchants in the neighbourhood. The original structure built in 1863, has undergone massive renovations through the years to the impressive building it us today.
Jane introduces us to songkok makers and barbers as she shepherds us through narrow lanes, stopping while we are bedazzled by the displays at gold merchants even as dusk falls and visibility is lowered. We watch young girls seated at simple tables, drawing intricate henna patterns on hands of customers and am tempted to join a train of customers sipping hot fresh milk.
With so much going on, it’s a wonder we manage to extricate ourselves and emerge at Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman (a.k.a. Batu Road) to admire an old film projector that once churned out films at the Coliseum Cineplex. We then head for KL’s oldest bar (since 1921), Coliseum Bar & Restaurant, to chill with juice or Gunner A, a non-alcoholic cocktail made with bitters, ginger ale and ginger beer. I am totally chuffed to know I’m leaning against the same bar where author Somerset Maugham would have downed stengahs (half-whisky-half-soda) with his British planter pals. Hanging on the walls here are pictures from the old colonial era, including a portrait of Maugham.
|The Coliseum Cafe & Bar, open since 1921 to cater to British planters
|Old film projector
Refreshed, we head back to Cosmo Hotel but Jane is not quite through yet. She points out artworks based on the caricatures of beloved cartoonist Lat, such as Tiga Gadis (3 Girls).
Lebuh Ampang, where the hotel is located, is popular for Indian cuisine, in particular vegetarian restaurants. We stop at Saravanaa Bhavan, where we sample steamed idli, crispy fried medhu vada and dip paper-thin dosai in dahl curry and coconut chutney, washing everything down with stainless steel mugs of triveni, a combination of grape and pineapple juice with ginger.
Back at the hotel, we recharge with a cosy buffet dinner in Café Mint. Then it’s back to the room to turn on the rain shower and let the hot water stream down my back to relieve sore, underused muscles protesting at having been stretched on the long but interesting and informative walk.
|Tiga Gadis, another of cartoonist Datuk Lat's drawings
|Heritage houses along Lebuh Ampang
|Platter of idli and medhu vada with condiments at the vegetarian Saravanaa Bhavan restaurant
|Life in the streets of Lebuh Ampang. Indian florist (left) and father and son feeding pigeons (right)
COSMO HOTEL KL
13-15 Lebuh Ampang
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
KL City Discover package at RM288 nett per room per night, inclusive of breakfast, set lunch and dinner for 2 pax and the optional to join a guided walkabout tour of the neighbourhood for RM250 nett per person.