Charm from a bygone era
The Jesselton Hotel was Kota Kinabalu’s first post-war hotel.
Built in 1954, it was refurbished in 2008 in pseudo-colonial style, which today is looking a little dated. Regardless, it’s extremely well maintained and oozes charm.
The central location on Gaya Street is hard to beat, unless a sea view is required. Entering the marble foyer you are transported to another era — think plump chintz-covered armchairs, baby grand piano, historical photos. It’s not quite Downton Abbey, but perhaps a little like grandma’s parlour. The well-appointed rooms have large picture windows, some with street views, and some onto a rather ugly alley behind the hotel — request a street-facing room. The style is plush with carpeted floors, solid wooden furnishings, and all sorts of details alluding to Kota Kinabalu's colonial history.
While the overall effect feels a little old-fashioned rather than historical, we can’t deny it’s comfortable. All the amenities you would expect are supplied, including bathrobes and sarongs for a local touch. Soft and inviting beds are decorated with floral runners and white linen. Modern facilities include a flatscreen TV, minibar, free WiFi and plenty of power outlets. Marble bathrooms are complete with bath tubs, and the deluxe rooms have bidets. Staff are gracious and helpful. A pith-helmeted doorman only opens the doors on a Friday; other days you have to do it yourself (!). The services of a London cab for airport transfers is advertised on their website, but is no longer. The hotel’s in-house restaurant, Kudos, serves ‘modern British’ dishes using local produce and has an extensive wine list. It gets good reviews in its own right.
The Jesselton Hotel is a good midrange option for those looking for a bit of old-world service — it was good enough for Pope John-Paul (before he was pope) and boxer Mohammad Ali. Rightly popular, bookings are essential.
By Sally Arnold
Last updated on 2nd April, 2016.