“WAIT, are you sure this flat white is only RM6?” we ask.
“Yes, it is. We brought down the price so that everyone, including uncles and aunties in the neighbourhood can enjoy a cuppa,” says Marcus Lim, co-founder of Tian Jing Hotel and Lim Kee Cafe.
As Lim brews the flat white we just ordered, we are left excited at the prospect of how this might just be the cheapest flat white in town!
Lim Kee Cafe occupies the ground floor of the 15-room Tian Jing Hotel which is made up of two connecting shoplots along Jalan Sultan.
Why did Lim decide to turn the ground floor into a cafe? “The ground floor of a hotel is usually designated as the lobby but that’s such a waste of space — my guests could enjoy a cup of coffee while waiting for their check-in,” he replies.
While some may associate the name of the boutique hotel with one of the major cities in China, Tian Jing actually means “air well” in Chinese (??), underscoring the building’s natural lighting and air ventilation.
“We want to differentiate ourselves from the other hotels on this street. So we thought of the old houses that have air wells and used that element as this hotel’s theme.
“We spent about a year to come up with the concept and then to refurbish the building. It was challenging for us to decide on the architecture plan and the interior concept,” says Lim.
The hotel’s neighbourhood has a colourful past. Prior tenants of the adjoining shoplots include a tea leaf vendor and a snooker centre.
“Thankfully, our building wasn’t run down so there wasn’t much restoration needed. We are not a heritage hotel — we incorporated heritage elements into our hotel’s concept with a modern twist,” adds Lim.
Indeed, Tian Jing’s aesthetic pays homage to the bygone days of the Chinese’s first arrival to Malaya. From four-poster beds to the push-button telephone and the ceramic teapot set by the bedside, all the furniture and decorations are handpicked by Lim and his team.
The Nanyang Lounge on the second floor, which serves as a breakfast or lounge space, is likewise meticulously decorated. The cement flooring, rattan chairs, wooden tables and wooden kitchen cabinets remind me of my late grandmother’s home in Salak South Garden, in Kuala Lumpur.
The corridors of the hotel are brightly lit with sunlight and the ground floor is enhanced with trees and potted plants, allowing guests to enjoy a bit of nature in an enclosed space.
The landscaping also extends to the balconies of each room, which also serves as a shower room. “We would like our guests to enjoy the natural setting of this hotel as they shower. But what about privacy? We’ve got that covered. Guests can let down the wooden blind when they shower and we have tried it ourselves — it’s impossible for anyone to peek into this area from any angle,” assures Lim.
Previously working in a property management company, Lim and his sister made the jump “to try things out and see where all these lead to”.
“We want the business to be a sustainable one so we spent a lot of time in selecting furniture across Malaysia that need minimal upkeep. It’s a long-term approach. To us, it’s the little details that count,” he said.
Lim and his team have even gone the extra mile to come up with their own list of food recommendations and tourists’ attractions called “Jalan-Jalan Map” for Tian Jing Hotel’s guests.
A quick look around Jalan Sultan shows that accommodations and cafes are mushrooming along the street. However, Lim is unfazed by the incoming supply of lodgings. Instead, he is happy because they are signs that the street is coming alive.
“Yes, many cafes and hotels or hostels are coming up on this stretch of the street. But we’re not worried because we offer a different experience as we are a boutique hotel.
“In the past few years, things are changing in Jalan Sultan, where more youngsters are visiting this area, sort of like a rejuvenation for this old part of the city. So we are happy instead of worried,” he says.
Even if you don’t plan to stay, drop by Lim Kee Cafe for a cuppa — who knows, you may be drawn to spend the night there as well.
Tian Jing Hotel:
66-68, Jalan Sultan, Kuala Lumpur
Contact: (03) 2022 1131/www.tianjinghotel.com