My book with friends at Impiana Senai

Finally, the arrangements were made. Since the Impiana Hotel Senai opened last October, my Editor wanted me to do a hotel review* for Life & Times Jom.

Johor brand coffees served in the Living Room,
Impiana Senai Hotel, Johor
So once the hotel was up and running, I arranged to go to the hotel in Senai for a stay.

The drive from Johor Baru was smooth and quite straight from the city center via the Skudai Highway but I left a little late so with the pouring monsoon rain, I arrived just slightly later than planned.

They were waiting for me. Shirley Hoo, the hotel group’s Director of Marketing & Communications, probably thought I got lost so she called to check if I was on my way to the hotel.

“Yes!” I replied with my apologies as I drove into the hotel compound and found a parking space quite conveniently close to the porch.

Signing my book with friends at Impiana Senai Hotel,
[L to R] Shirley, Izwandy and Hanis] Florence [Right]
The rain was still beating down in a steady shower so I swept into the hotel in a rush of raindrops, closing my umbrella quickly and hoping it would not cause a puddle on the highly polished floor.

I could barely catch my breath when I was warmly greeted by Shirley and Hanis Hud, the hotel’s Marketing & Communications Executive.

As I registered for my room at the Reception counter, I was presented with a welcome drink and cold towel to freshen up on arrival.

We sat down in the lobby while the concierge team loaded my luggage on the trolley to wheel it to my room. Then the hotel group’s Director of Sales, Zane Nohr, introduced himself – with contrite apologies for his casual outfit (Read: shirt, shorts and loafers!) because it was his day off!

An autographed book for the hotel with
[L to R] Hanis, Izwandy, Zane and Shirley
Before my seat was warmed on the comfortable sofa, I was ushered from the lobby into The Living Room, a lounge located off The Tiffin, the hotel’s all-day dining café, for a cup of coffee.

The hotel’s Food & Beverage Manager, Izwandy Nordin, introduced their menu of warm beverages and highly recommended a choice of Johor coffees – either Kluang coffee or Muar coffee.

I’m familiar with the taste of both these popular local coffee brands and was glad that the hotel is promoting local fare to their guests.

I liked how it was served in traditional ceramic cups and saucers – just as in traditional kopitiam (coffee-shops) – and noticed how the coffee was topped by a layer of froth, probably because the barista could not resist pulling (tarik!) the coffee in the traditional way to create a better presentation!

When Shirley – who is based in Kuala Lumpur – learnt that I was coming for their hotel review, she did her ‘homework’ and came prepared for our meet-up.

Book-signing in the Living Room
So while we were sipping our coffee, she whipped out my book from her bag and requested for an autograph!

In her quest for a copy of my book, My Johor Stories: True Tales, Real People, Rich Heritage, Shirley confessed that she went to a total of six (6) MPH bookstores and was disappointed at five outlets because it was all sold out!

At the MPH Bookstore at Publika Mall – her sixth stop – she finally got her hands on one precious copy. This was the book she brought along for me to sign.

It was humbling to know that Shirley went through all that time and trouble just to get a copy of my book for me to autograph while I was in-house at their hotel. She certainly scored full marks for her dogged determination to get hold of it!

Then we talked about my book, in particular about how my Johor heritage stories are giving both local and visiting readers, fresh insights into Johor’s culture and heritage.

Waiting for our dinner [by the pool] served
from The Tiffin in traditional tiffin carriers!
Later I discovered how the hotel is also preserving Johor heritage in their own way – from the local food in their café menu as well as from the local names they had given to their event halls – Maharani (Muar!), Mersing, Endau and Senai.

That night, when we met for dinner at the airy poolside, Izwandy had arranged for a delicious meal of local Malay favourites from The Tiffin and it was aptly served from charming traditional tiffin carriers!

The next day, Shirley was with me for lunch at The Tiffin – a delightful buffet spread – and while we were eating, Hanis came to join us after she had completed her work.

When I saw her passing my book to Shirley, I realized that one of the errands she had accomplished was to drive to the nearest MPH Bookstore, located within the Senai International Airport terminal, to get another copy of my book!

Shirley and her autographed personal copy of my book!
Hanis confessed that she merely drove the car and it was Zane who hopped down to the bookstore (while she waited in the car!) to buy my book!

I was deeply touched by their effort and teamwork, and it was my pleasure to autograph it for Shirley who wanted a personal copy for her own collection.

Maybe after reading it, the hotel will favourably consider placing my book in their executive rooms and executive lounge for the guests’ reading pleasure, just as several other hotels in Johor have done.

Thanks very much, Shirley, Zane, Hanis and Izwandy for your kind hospitality at Impiana Hotel Senai and for your interest in my book, My Johor Stories: True Tales, Real People, Rich Heritage. Happy Reading!

*More on the hotel in a separate story.

P.S. I was notified by MPH Publishing that the stock of my books at the five MPH Bookstores in KL where it was sold-out last week, has since been replenished! 

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