AQUARIUM. Fish. Into the blue. These images swim into my periphery as soon as I step into the spacious lobby area of Le Meridien Hotel Kota Kinabalu, my “home” for the weekend. Sober dark wood are combined with soothing lighting that segue from blue to pink.
With its elevated ceiling, wide open spaces, fancy architectural lighting, it’s certainly an impressive introduction to this hotel that overlooks the South China Sea which is proud to trumpet the many facets of its recent refurbishing exercise.
Glad to have found an air-conditioned refuge from the blistering sun outside, I make my way to the reception counter where I’m meeting my contact, Jacqueline, who’ll be my guide for the duration of my stay in Sabah’s bustling capital.
I’m excited as it’s my first time here and although I’m looking forward to a relaxing sojourn just lazing by the pool here, said to be the longest lap pool in the city centre, with the only exertion coming from my planned food crawl of the hotel’s various eateries.
I also can’t wait to see what lies beyond the walls of this hotel, which is located at the doorstep of Kota Kinabalu’s famous waterfront esplanade, bustling markets, shopping complexes and business districts.
“Miss Intan, right?” I feel a gentle tap on my shoulder. The voice, soft and tentative, belongs to Jacqueline, who smiles widely in welcome. The preliminaries all wrapped up, she invites me to join her for lunch at the hotels’ Azure Pool Bar and Cafe on Level 2.
It’s a beautiful day to be dining al fresco and looking out to the panoramic vista of deep azure waters glimmering under the sultry afternoon sun. Adjacent to the cafe is the swimming pool where sunseekers, in their various guises and comprising mostly foreigners, pay homage to Mr Sun, their already-tanned bodies glistening as they languidly unwind within the urban jungle.
“Mad,” the thought crosses my mind, as I chuckle at the folly, suddenly recalling the phrase from Noel Coward’s song (1931), “. only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun”!
Following my gaze, Jacqueline grins and asks whether I’d like to take my food by the pool area. We both laugh as it becomes obvious that neither of us has any plans to venture beyond the air-conditioned comfort of the cafe proper where smiling chefs are waiting to demonstrate their skills.
“Perhaps we can hang out there in the evening and catch the sunset,” I suggest to Jacqueline, suddenly remembering that some of the most magical sunsets can be viewed from up here.
As we enter the contemporary inner sanctum of the poolside cafe, the smell of caramelised onions wafts from the direction of the open kitchen where a chef decked in his toque blanche and stripey blue uniform is swaying a pan, his body moving in synchrony with it like in a dance.
A flurry of action ensues as orders are taken. “Make Your Own Burger” is the pull here where diners are invited to do just that, exercising their creativity at creating their own burger masterpiece.
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