Closure of a hotel jolts an old memory

Palace Hotel (Hotel Istana) at Jalan Raja Chulan.

KUCHING: The hospitality industry has been devastated by the Covid-19 pandemic, bankrupting some businesses and causing others to downsize drastically.

Recently, the crisis claimed another victim — Palace Hotel in Kuala Lumpur. The 23-storey five-star hotel had to close down after operating for over 29 years. 

With 486 rooms, the hotel located at Jalan Raja Chulan was owned by Tradewinds Corporation.

Captain Azamsah Apearal

But this article is not about the hotel or the pandemic. It is a story about one Captain Azamsah Apearal from Kampung Sentosa Salim in Sibu for whom the hotel was a lifesaver although he had to spend nearly RM800 for a 15-hour stay 16 years ago.

Understandably, Azamsah was shocked when he heard that the hotel was being closed down.

“If it was another hotel, I might not have been as surprised because I am aware that the pandemic has affected the hotel industry, but it’s the Palace Hotel. It saved me from nearly being robbed by two men in May 2005,” he said.

He recounted that he was strolling around the city on a weekend looking for a mobile phone and clothes to buy after receiving his first salary.

“Since it was my first time being in the metropolitan city, I was not yet familiar with the area. Hence I just roamed around freely. 

“While walking around Bukit Bintang, I noticed that I was being followed by two men. It was very obvious because they followed me wherever I went for about 30 minutes.

“I started to feel worried and afraid that something bad would happen to me. I was really anxious so I continued walking for about 15 minutes until I saw the Palace Hotel.

“Without wasting any time and only thinking about my safety, I went to the counter.

“Unfortunately, the cheapest regular room which was priced around RM400 has all been booked. I had no other choice but to take an available room that would cost me RM788 for one night.

Location of Palace Hotel in Google Maps

“I could not believe that my first salary had to be spent paying for a hotel room. To me it was so expensive since I just started working that month.

“I felt relieved after checking in at 9pm and although I had to pay a lot of money to stay there, I was grateful that I was not robbed. That incident was one of the unforgettable moments in my life,” he said.

Azamsah, who was then working at the Forces and Training Division of the JPA3 Headquarters near Jalan Padang Tembak, said after that incident, he never went to Bukit Bintang again or stayed in an expensive hotel.

“That was the first and last time I stayed in that hotel. The exclusive room which I stayed in for about 15 hours was really great. It even had a living room.

“I felt like a prince living a fairy-tale life because the room was so spacious and comfortable,” said Azamsah, adding that he was 21 years old then.

On whether he did buy what he was looking for, he said that he only managed to buy a shirt.

“I only managed to buy a phone the following month, in June,” he said.

On the current situation the country is in, he hoped recovery would come soon to save various sectors of the economy. 

Azamsah is currently a Malaysian Civil Defence Force officer in Pekan District with the rank of captain. He previously led a similar force in Betong.