THE digital clock on the dashboard flashes 8pm while the robotic voice from Waze repeats its instructions to turn left at the junction when the traffic lights turn green.
Slowing down, I peer through the rain-splattered windshield looking for the cursive letterings that spell out Elegant Hotel. It isn’t hard to spot as the hotel is located off the main road of Jalan Tan Swee Hoe in Batu Pahat, Johor.
With its pale blue walls complemented by cream columns, Elegant Hotel has a simple and clean look. There’s no fuss about the facade, as with the car parks. There are a couple of reserved lots right in front of the hotel, with more bays available after 6pm when business hours for most of the offices beside the hotel end.
Occupying the length of two corner shop lots, this hotel is ideal for business travellers looking for a comfortable space to rest for the night. It’s also perfect for the occasional weekend tourist seeking a quiet getaway.
Situated in a satellite town affectionately known as Bukit Pasir, Elegant Hotel is located about 15 minutes’ drive from Bandar Penggaram — the town centre. The area encompasses a large neighbourhood made up of four residential neighbourhoods: Taman Bukit Pasir, Taman Flora, Taman Flora Utama, and Taman Maju.
As I open the glass doors to the modest reception area that features a single sofa and a high desk, Steven Cheng, the owner, greets me with a firm handshake.
Without delay, he instructs his employees to assign me the room key. It’s an ordinary Friday night and no public holiday in sight, but he confides that all 30 rooms in the hotel are fully occupied for the weekend.
As we walk to the lifts located around the corner from the reception desk, Cheng shares with pride that he personally oversaw the construction and decoration of the hotel.
“I went far and wide seeking each piece of furniture that you see here,” he says, adding: “I even personally hunted for the tiles and lighting and made sure that everything fitted beautifully.”
There’s an understated charm to the lobby with its all-brown colour palette. Light wooden parquet flooring makes a nice contrast against the simple furniture of wicker tables and chairs available for guests. This uncomplicated colour palette flows into the rooms here, broken only by the crisp white bed sheets and toilet fittings.
“I’ve adapted many conveniences from my many travels in the past. I make sure that switches are conveniently located and the lift is spacious enough to fit you and your luggage comfortably. There are also other minute touches that many people don’t really think about which I’ve included,” says Cheng.
My Twin room, where I’m lodged for the night, comes with two comfortable super-single beds, a toilet and shower facility encased in a glass cubicle in the corner (make sure to draw the waterproof curtains before taking a bath if you’re sharing a room), a medium-sized television, a desk, and a cupboard.
The tiled floors may get a little chilly from the cold air-conditioning, but there are bedroom slippers to keep your feet warm.
However, if you’re seeking a more value- for-budget space, opt for the Queen and Single room options which costs a mere RM100 and RM80 respectively per night.
“There are seven room varieties actually to suit everyone’s needs ranging from solo travellers to families. Most of the rooms are quite standard except for the Round and Super Deluxe room. What’s special about the latter room options is the addition of a jacuzzi inside,” Cheng reveals, eyes sparkling.
The only difference between them is that the Round room comes with a circular bed while the Super Deluxe contains a King-sized bed, and both retail at RM130 a night. It’s a real steal.
“I try my best to provide a five-star service with a three-star setup at one-star prices. It’s all about giving people a safe place to lay their head when they visit this small town,” he adds.
Soon after the quick tour, I enquire curiously about what’s good to eat around the area. Even before I could finish my sentence, the Batu Pahat local eagerly points out the various eateries within walking distance.
It seems that apart from being a booming business district with most of the financial institutions located here, this area is also a haven for foodies.
People are always hunting for food, doing business, and even shopping for essentials, adding to the bustle. The streets are usually not deserted until after midnight.
A quick 10 to 15 minutes’ walk to the left of the hotel are a slew of hawker stalls serving Chinese food.
I choose a stall selling duck noodles that’s said to be quite popular. The uncle who’s chopping up duck meat with precise skills tells me that he starts selling at 5pm and usually finishes before 11pm.
When I get my bowl of hot noodles, I eagerly slurp it down, while the people whom I’m sharing a table with tell me that the delicious herbal soup is regarded as the best hangover cure. The chewy braised duck meat is a great accompaniment to the soft white kuey teow too.
If you’re seeking dai chou (Chinese stir-fried dishes) cuisines, there’s a seafood restaurant down the road that cooks up a mean array of dishes served with a selection of rice and noodles. They also cater for the town’s numerous weddings.
Within a five to 10-minute drive, you’ll find many mamak outlets selling delicious soto ayam and lontong, fast food restaurants, a hypermarket, idyllic cafes, happening pubs, and even a family-friendly karaoke outlet.
A short weekend is certainly not enough to explore every nook and cranny of this little town but it’s sufficient to take away the lethargy that comes with working in the bustling city. Elegant Hotel is an ideal pit stop while you fish out hidden local treasures that are abundant in Batu Pahat.
Where No 28 & 29, Jalan Maju, Taman Maju, Batu Pahat, Johor