Return to Jalan Ngee Heng

I received a giant cookie when I checked-in!
I’m counting and it’s been 37 years since I lived in Jalan Ngee Heng with our grandparents in our home at No.154.  We made many memories in this friendly neighbourhood but it was a sad day for us when Ah Kong or grandfather received a letter from the government advising him to vacate the house because the land was being acquired to build the highway.  I remember being part of the team along with my mum, aunts and grandma, who had the challenge to pack away everything in that double-storey bungalow and shift out after living there for about 50 years.

In 1977 Ah Kong’s house with an adjacent badminton court was demolished and the site became part of Jalan Tun Abdul Razak.  What remains of our grandfather’s house today is a tiny wedge of land situated directly opposite the Wisma Maria Medical Specialists Centre.  Part of this bit of land is occupied by an advertising pylon while an enterprising hawker has claimed our former driveway for his business!

My half-eaten cookie...
I’m glad the row of double-storey shops next to Ah Kong’s former house still remain and its original architecture still preserved.  I remember how we used to patronize the two family-run Chinese provision shops and were friendly with the operators of Indian laundries, a coffee shop, a tinsmith and the families and tenants who lived upstairs.  These buildings are now renovated for new businesses like restaurants, specialist clinics and medical laboratories and with DoubleTree by Hilton Johor Baru open for business now, they are poised to bring new life to this old road.

In April, I had the privilege of a sneak peek into the DoubleTree by Hilton JB hotel (Reinventing dear Jalan Ngee Heng, NST Streets Johor dated April 22) and I saw workers installing fixtures and putting finishing touches to the décor.  Suppliers delivered furniture and workers were tinkering away as I walked through the ground floor restaurants and I also saw the Level 13 restaurant and swimming pool.  I was simply exhilarated and amazed as I never imagined that an international brand hotel will be opened at No. 12, Jalan Ngee Heng and with all the work going on, I could imagine the elegance when they welcomed guests into their stunning hotel.

Night view of the swimming pool on Level 13 of
DoubleTree by Hilton Johor Baru
On May 30 I was pleasantly surprised to receive an invitation from the hotel to go for a trial stay and all I had to do was to confirm my check-in date.  As I replied with my preferred dates, I’m aware of what was involved in a trial stay and mentally prepared myself for the experience.  But most of all, I was just thrilled that I was going to stay in Jalan Ngee Heng again!

Guests at the DoubleTree by Hilton JB enjoy a parking privilege in the basement car-park so I drove along the one-way street down Jalan Gereja around Menara Landmark to reach the hotel porch to turn into the car-park.  I like the freshly-painted, brightly-lit basement car-park that has spacious driveways and wide parking lots.  Following the signs, it was easy to find my way to the hotel lobby and on checking-in I was presented with my room keys along with DoubleTree’s signature giant chocolate chip cookie!

The cookie-with-check-in is a delightful DoubleTree by Hilton gesture to welcome guests and I could not wait to taste it as it felt warm and heavy in my hand.  As soon as the bell staff dropped my bags and left the room, I reached for my cookie and started to munch on it while I inspected the room facilities.  One bite led to the next and I almost finished the 0.056 kg (almost 2 ounces) cookie filled with generous sprinkles of melting chocolate buttons and chopped nuts before I remembered and stopped to take a photo of it!

Ah Kong's former house was at the top of
Jalan Ngee Heng at the end of the row of shops [Right]
Members of Hilton HHonors guest loyalty programme, invited guests and representatives from the media like me, thronged the hotel for an experience before it opened on July 1. 
We sampled a wide range of local cuisine served from live cooking stations and buffet spreads in the Makan Kitchen and savoured snacks, sandwiches, salads and pastries with brewed beverages at the Food Store.  Refreshing drinks were enjoyed at Axis Lounge in the lobby and by night, the charming ambience at the Level 13 poolside was the preferred place to chill out after dinner.

Concierge staff helping me upon my check-out
My stay was not a laze-and-eat time but I was tasked with the responsibility to use the hotel facilities and experience the outlets to give constructive feedback in forms provided.  The hotel is committed to their hospitality brand and takes a serious view of my comments after I had sampled food and interacted with staff for my experience of food quality, facilities and service standards.  While hiccups are expected in pre-opening operations, I’m glad that everything is being done to give guests a special experience at the first DoubleTree by Hilton hotel in Johor.

When I snuggled down to sleep, the bed was oh so comfortable but their pillows were just too soft for me.  The Housekeeping Department was still in the process of preparing a menu of pillows so I made do with my usual modification of adding a layer of fluffy towels to my stack of soft pillows.  The sun was peeping in from the edges of drawn curtains when I woke up and I was shocked to see the time because I had slept so soundly but it felt so good to wake up in Jalan Ngee Heng again, just as I did 37 years ago.

A version of this article was published in The New Straits Times, Streets Johor on 21 July 2014

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous8/18/2014

    I like you Peggy, you always lure me to nostalgia.

    southern sailor.