A classy welcome to JB

It’s a homecoming of sorts at DoubleTree by Hilton in the capital city of Johor Baru…

Jalan Ngee Heng, on which the DoubleTree by Hilton Johor Baru is located, is more than familiar to me because I used to live on the opposite side of this road.

A warm giant chocolate chip cookie, the signature welcome
of DoubleTree by Hilton JB
More than two years ago, when hotel general manager, Simon McGrath, took me on a sneak peek of the hotel in its pre-opening stages, I told him that I used to live in this area with my grandparents.

My grandfather’s house, a bungalow with an adjacent badminton court, was demolished in 1977 for the construction of the present highway. 

Recently I accepted McGrath’s invitation for a hotel staycation and am delighted to read his handwritten welcome note: “Welcome back to DoubleTree by Hilton Johor Baru, the hotel across the road from your childhood home.”

Warm Welcome

Hotel GM Simon McGrath, at the hotel
entrance on Jalan Ngee Heng, Johor Baru
At the reception counter, I check-in smoothly and the receptionist takes time to advise me about my breakfast options, either the breakfast buffet in the Makan Kitchen or an exclusive spread at the Executive Lounge on Level 29.

Aware of how guests may be attached to their handphones, the receptionist also guides me with the simple steps to log into the hotel’s complimentary wireless internet service.

Besides handing me the keycard, I also receive a signature giant chocolate chip cookie in its greaseproof packet; it still feels warm in my hand.

The concierge staff approaches me to offer help with my luggage bag but I politely decline because it’s really lightweight and I also want the experience of finding my own way to the room.

A choice of pillows for me!
Walking to the room, my thoughts drift to pillows because I know a good night’s sleep will let me wake up refreshed. Everyone may have a preferred type of pillow for their best comfort and I often advise hotels to stock a range of pillows to offer guests like me, a choice to pick from a Pillow Menu.

I step into the room and my eyes are riveted to the welcome note from McGrath on the table.  Feeling warmly welcomed by his written note, I turn to find a stack of extra pillows on the bed. I can’t help smiling because the hotel was certainly listening when I told them about providing a choice of pillows!

Dining Pleasure

Gwen and I shared an elegant High Tea
A staycation doesn’t mean I must laze around so I arrange a meeting for 4pm at the Axis Lounge.  My friend, Gwen, joins me at the lounge and we are thrilled at the prospect of having our meeting over an elegant afternoon tea set for two [RM58 nett].

We pick our choice of freshly brewed Lively Lime and Orange Fusion tea from the range of Dilmah Premium Tea [RM18] and let it infuse while we talked.  It’s all very civilized as we nibble on our tarts, sandwiches, canapes, cream puffs, bruschetta and two types of scones served with cream and jam.

Then I am invited by Executive Chef Jaffery Othman to dine at Tosca.  I know that chefs are like artists and need to express their creativity and it’s an opportunity for him to create some extraordinary dishes that are off the regular menu.

So tonight I’m seated at the poolside terrace, cooled by balmy breezes and ready to be wowed. A visiting photographer, Jeremy Lee, who’s also staying with the hotel, joins me for dinner.

The poolside section of Tosca
Chef Jaffery certainly outdoes himself as dish after dish is served.  An appetizer of Goat Cheese Panna-cotta drizzled in tomato essence is followed by Beef Short-rib on sweet potato mash, Ocean Trout with tomato relish, Turkey Ham-Cheese-Pineapple calizone and then a deliciously light pasta tossed in olive oil and butter, garnished with salmon chips and deep-fried basil leaves.

I’m sitting back and smacking my lips when Chef Jaffery comes to the table, wreathed in smiles and perspiring quite profusely from his efforts. He graciously accepts my compliments before returning to the kitchen to whip up a delightful macchiato dessert to end the meal sweetly.  I’m impressed at how the chef wasted no effort to give me such an amazing dining experience!

View of JB from the Executive Lounge on Level 29
After a comfortable night, I’m ready for a light breakfast. At the Executive Lounge on Level 29, I’m shown to a table by the window and as I sip my fresh brew of coffee, I’m enjoying the panoramic view of old and new developments in Johor Baru.  When I look down, the view directly below is the site of our grandfather’s house!

Heritage Walk

When I share the story behind the name of the road where the hotel is located, I see that it evokes Lee’s interest. I know there’s no better way to share a slice of JB’s heritage with him than to go for a walk through our Street of Harmony and the city’s heritage quarter. 

In-room dining for a leisurely breakfast 
Armed with his camera, Lee joins me on a walk down Jalan Ngee Heng that links to Jalan Trus and onwards to Jalan Tan Hiok Nee. He stops every now and then to snap photographs.  We pop into the JB Chinese Heritage Museum where the exhibits are the answers to his questions.

We slip into Jalan Dhoby and hike up Jalan Duke for a closer view of the majestic Sultan Ibrahim Building and the adjacent Johor Military Forces barracks before heading down the flight of stairs that border Galleria Kotaraya to reach Jalan Trus again.

I tell Lee about my visit to JB’s poor man’s pub and his interest prompts me to show him the toddy shop at Jalan Sulaiman. But we arrive at the shop to find it closed.  It’s disappointing but this also gives us reason to return again.

We make our way back to the hotel and the comfort of the Executive Lounge where we continue talking about the city’s heritage over tall refreshing drinks.

Fast Facts:

DoubleTree by Hilton Johor Baru
No. 12 Jalan Ngee Heng
80000 Johor Baru, Johor

Tel: 607 – 268 6868
Fax: 607 – 268 6888
Email: JohorBahru.Info@hilton.com
Website: www.JohorBahru.DoubleTree.com

A range of 333 well- appointed guest rooms and suites including 20 apartment suites.

Makan Kitchen [Local cuisine in a live, interactive kitchen], Tosca Italian Trattoria, The Food Store [Grab & Go casual café] and Axis Lounge [Afternoon Tea and Drinks]

Swimming, 24-hour gym, steam rooms and whirlpools.

Johor Baru’s Street of Harmony and heritage quarter, KOMTAR Johor Baru City Centre, Angry Birds Activity Park and Johor Baru City Square Mall.

Non-Smoking Floors, Executive Lounge, 24-hour in-room dining, wireless internet access, in-room safe, walking distance to nearby attractions in the city.

Building construction and upgrading road works nearby at no discomfort to hotel guests.


Start from RM 320++

A version of this was published in The New Straits Times, Life & Times on 27 April 2017

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