Thursday, June 23, 2011


'The Jewel in the Crown of Putrajaya' is the new, glossy and interesting coffeetable book published by Pullman Putrajaya Lakeside hotel and was launched by the Minister of Tourism of Malaysia, Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen, the first Chinese woman to be a Minister.
The VIPs; left, Franck Loison, GM of Pullman Putrajaya Lakeside hotel, Gerard Guillouet VP of Operations for Accor, Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen the Minister of Tourism, Datuk Azlan Abdul Karim, CEO of Putrajaya Holdings and Datuk Azizan Noordin, acting DG of Tourism Malaysia.
The Tourism Minister giving her speech
The cloth is removed to reveal the book which is much bigger than actual size. The blue cloth and blue sky on book cover perfectly match the Tourism Minister's dress
The Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen signs the cover
Big smile for the camera
Another autograph, this time on the actual book
Franck Loison removes the book
The book 'The Jewel in the Crown of Putrajaya' is launched as VIPs look on
A job well done!
The Tourism Minister is given a framed architectural drawing of the hotel as a token of appreciation.

The simple but meaningful ceremony was held in a function room of Pullman Putrajaya Lakeside. Like the book 'The Jewel in the Crown of Putrajaya', Pullman Putrajaya Lakeside hotel suffers from an excessively long name but I must admit the lengthy names are appropriate for both book and hotel. Still, I fear some hotel guests might faint by the time they mention both names in one go! I am also sure the book will be called 'Jewel' and the hotel simply 'Pullman'! Imagine having to say "I got this book 'The Jewel in the Crown of Putrajaya' while staying at Pullman Putrajaya Lakeside hotel" in one breath. But I guess the lengthy names are appropriate to describe both book and hotel.

But I digress. First I was stunned by the hotel's magnificence and munificence. I had vaguely heard of it but for the last 2 years it kept a low profile as I never read any news about it and had forgotten it even existed until I saw what seemed like a Malay palace from the Kelantan Sultanate days. It is designed by top architect Raja Dato Kamarul Bahrin Shah of Trengganu so he is bound to say Pullman is Trengganu inspired but we all know only Kelantan could produce this kind of splendid architecture since the days of Che Siti Wan Kembang. I am, ahem, from Kota Bharu, Kelantan of course.

Only for the Minister of Tourism who I respect deeply did I force myself to wake at the unearthly hour of 6.30am to get ready by 7.30am for Deborah Loo, not Henry, from Brandthink PR to pick me. Upon arrival at 8.20am I realised I had 1.5 hours to wait and was ravenously hungry. Pugenes the deputy marketing communications manager rushed to get coffee and some nibbles but the food meant for the media was not ready.

I was about to collapse from starvation when Datuk Azizan Noordin the acting Director-General of Tourism Malaysia arrived, saw me lounging listlessly on the sofa and saved me from certain death by offering to pay for breakfast at B's the lovely restaurant. I overdosed on nasi lemak, char kway teow, 2 fried eggs, fruits and 3 iced chocolate drinks. By then I was ready to ask Rudi Putra, director of sales and marketing, to get me a room but the Minister was about to reach.

As usual, the Tourism Minister spoke without a prepared text though I saw her scribbling some notes as she sat listening to the welcome speech by Franck Loison the dashing General Manager of Pullman Putrajaya Lakeside hotel. Other VIPs were Gerard Guillouet, VP of operations for Accor Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia, Datuk Azizan Noordin the acting DG of Tourism Malaysia and Datuk Azlan Abdul Karim CEO of Putrajaya Holdings which presumably owns all of Putrajaya.

"Pullman Putrajaya is unique as it offers 4 main themes which reflect the 1Malaysia concept and national unity through diversity. You have the Malay, Chinese, Indian and Bornean architecture in the 4 interconnected wings so in the sales pitch the hotel can truly claim to be 'Malaysia, Truly Asia'!

"Putrajaya has grown by leaps and bounds since 2003 when I moved in. I am proud to say I am one of the first to recognise and appreciate Putrajaya 8 years ago. Back then Putrajaya was quiet and rather empty so I could pick and choose which house I wanted as Deputy Minister. I chose one in Precint 10. It was wonderful though my boys complained at night there was little to do but it was good for bringing up children as they couldn't get up to mischief.

"In July this year the Ministry of Tourism will move to Putrajaya and we will definitely be giving Pullman Putrajaya business by holding our events and using your facilities so I hope you can give us good discounts!

"I am pleased to say the parks in Putrajaya are really beautiful. There is not one or two but seven parks here! After my Ministry's successful participation at Chelsea Flower Show last May, we are getting tourists who will be coming mainly to enjoy our parks. These are high end travellers as the packages are over L2,000 or RM 10,000 per person. Many love visiting parks and there is even a series by BBC called '1,000 Parks to Visit Before You Die'! To visit Chelsea Flower Show, you have to buy tickets in advance costing L 55 (RM 275) and latecomers had to pay L100 (RM 500). Here the Putrajaya parks are free!

"To promote tourism, we wanted a Floral Parade for Putrajaya Floral Fest but the weather is too hot during the day so we will have Night Floral Floats which will be so magical as we will install lights on the floats. Many tourists will come and stay at Pullman Putrajaya and the room rates will increase over time so the savvy should book hotel rooms now for the next 10 years and lock in the rate! Night tours are getting popular as proven by the night events and parades at Shanghai Bund and Guangzhou. Tourists coming from KLIA can admire the magical lights of Putrajaya which has been a great success.

"The president of Kazakhstan visited Putrajaya 9 years ago and was so impressed he built his new capital Astana based on Putrajaya!"

The Tourism Minister pointed out a little known fact---there are 47 ethnic groups in Malaysia! "Many think there are 4 or maybe 6 but we have 47 ethnic groups though of course the top three are Malay, Chinese and Indian.

"Ten years ago we had 10 million tourists, now we had 24.6 million tourists last year. The World Travel Organisation lists Malaysia as the 9th most visited country in the Top 10 list. In Asia, the only other country is China. The most popular are France, Spain, Germany and USA."

She pointed out how blessed this country is. "We are spared the wrath of mother nature as we don't have volcanoes and we don't suffer from typhoons, earthquakes or tsunamis. So we can look forward to 2020 when we expect to have 36 million tourists generating RM 168 billion. We are developing airconditioned walkways for enhanced shopping for duty free goods and are attracting high yield tourists who typically spend RM 2,700 to RM 4,000 per person and tend to stay longer than 3 days."

Then it Q & A with the Minister and the hot topic was the ridiculous charge her Ministry spent RM 1.8 million setting up their site on Facebook. "The Opposition continues to twist the facts by insisting I spent RM 1.8 million to create 6 pages in Facebook. We do advertise in social media like Google and Facebook but that was only RM 360,000. Other costs include prizes, contents and technical support which was another RM 500,000.

"To keep abreast with changing times, we need to use social media like Facebook, Google or Twitter apart from traditional medium like newspapers, radio, television and billboards. There are some 700 million members in the social network so we need to tap this resource or we lose out. Australia spends RM 150 million on social media promoting its attractions. Philippines spends around RM 7 million! So this is the way to go!

"I also realised the sad fact some people just refused to accept the truth. So whatever I say they will refuse to believe but persist in twisting and turning the facts! Yesterday I ordered my Secretary General to phone MACC to come to my office and investigate. Everything is transparent and we have nothing t0 hide."

She suddenly laughed. "I think the Opposition is getting nervous we are entering their domain. After all, they have been very 'pandai' (clever) in using social media for their own purposes!"

Tourism is Malaysia's second largest foreign earner and so vital to our economic health we cannot overestimate its importance.

As for the Bersih demo this 9 July, the Tourism Minister said sharply, "They are totally irresponsible!"

Dato Raja Kamarul Bahrin Shah was given the brief in 2000 to create an iconic building encompassing the four cultural elements of the Malay, Chinese, Indian and Bornean societies.

Now that the hotel is up and running, the book 'The Jewel in the Crown of Putrajaya' is truly handy as it highlights not just the hotel but Putrajaya, the pride of the nation. Pullman, owned by the French hotel chain Accor, is number two in status after Sofitel in Accor's eyes. To me, Pullman is as good if not better than Sofitel.

This list is Accor's ranking of the hotel brands they own; Sofitel, Pullman, MGallery, Novotel, Mercure, Suitehotel, Ibis, all seasons (all in low caps as this is not a typo error), Etap Hotel, Formule 1 and Motel 6.
There will be a Pullman Bangsar opening next year so KL is in for a treat!

The 84-page book is rather slim and its dimensions allow it to be slipped into a handbag, very useful when you are exploring Putrajaya. It will be a premium gift to guests of the hotel but you can buy a copy at reception.

Strangely, it is researched, written and art directed by Indonesians. I suppose Malaysians are not good enough so Pullman Putrajaya Lakeside had to go searching for foreigners to write about the attractions of Putrajaya and its environs. But the Indonesians must have been approved by the higher powers since the forewords are written by Tun Mahathir Mohammad our former Prime Minister, Datuk Azlan Abdul Karim the CEO of Putrajaya Holdings Sdn Bhd and Gerard Guilouet of Accor.

The English is quaint at best and faulty at worse. 'Human civilisation recognises several planned capitals in the universe' sounds rather trite and pretentious. I haven't heard of any planned capitals in Jupiter, Mars or Venus.

This is outrageous English--- "The need of having a new capital for Malaysia has come into scene in the early 70's when the Prime Minister then, the late Tun Abdul Razak bin Haji Dato' Hussein observed that the Federal Capital of Kuala Lumpur was already showing a sign of strain as a result of rapid urban development"!

The grammar is also wrong in this sentence as the past tense should be used; "It takes not less than 15 years of painstaking works ...". It should be "It took nearly 15 years of painstaking work..." since the lake has been completed.

Another gem; "Chinese architecture heavily incorporates the principal of Balance with emphasis on Building Articulation and Symmetrical Pattern." Er, we talk of a 'school principal' but when it comes to a doctrine, law, edict or standard, it is 'principle'! A 'principal' refers to the order of importance, as in 'principal or main cities' or money lent or invested as in 'earning interest without touching the principal'. In addition, 'Balance', 'Building Articulation' and ' Symmetrical Pattern' should be in small letters, not capital letters.

I practically fell off my chair when I turned the page and saw this under Jasmine Wing---Indian Design; "Its basic principal is to create a harmonious living environment that suites the laws of nature". Two mistakes in one sentence! It should be "Its basic principle is to create a harmonious living environment that suits the laws of nature"! The author has confused the meaning of 'principal' and 'principle' and used them in the wrong context!

A casual glance at Rafflesia Wing---Borneo Design produced this blooming mistake; "...a giant smelly flower commonly found at Borneo forest" should read "...a giant smelly flower commonly found in Borneo forests".

Actually after a while, I started to enjoy reading the book as it is fun and entertaining to be assailed by spelling mistakes and scandalously wrong grammar! For example on page 54 you get this unforgivable error---"...leisure travellers who wants..."! I verily believe it should be "leisure travellers who want" or " leisure traveller who wants"!

Anyway, Pullman Putrajaya Lakeside can put such grammatical mistakes to good use by organising a contest for its guests to spot, correct and count the number of the mistakes. Guests whiling away an afternoon in the garden or balcony can put on their thinking caps and start marking the mistakes.

The hotel can also hold another contest on captioning the photos. Guests will have to thoroughly explore the hotel to be able to caption the photographs correctly. The photos are mostly fabulous but the total lack of captions leave the poor readers in the dark as they can hardly be expected to know the names of the restaurants, dishes, public areas, hotel rooms, facilities and meaning of architectural motifs. I am also disappointed in the Cruise Tasik photograph on page 17. It shows the monolithic bridge ( I think so as there is no caption!) but the water is so pitch black I initially assumed it was an asphalt road and the boat was a train!