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52 years and still going strong, it must be love!

Her colleagues call her Nancy Ma (mother). With 52 years of service under her wings, this tag is most befitting.

Nancy Huang, room division manager, is 70 and she is still working at the Federal Hotel in Kuala Lumpur. She started working when she was 18 at the once-popular entertainment outlet Federal Bowling alley before moving on to become a receptionist at the hotel.

Since then she has walked along the corridors of this hotel thousands of times and know each nook and corner by heart. But the pages in her memory are filled with the colourful and interesting profiles of travellers who have set foot into the hotel.

The Federal Hotel Reception staff in the 1960s (Nancy Huang 1st from left)

“I started working here in 1967 and Federal Hotel was the best hotel in town. We were proud to be employed here as the guests included the rich and famous, sports celebrities from all over and high ranking politicians,” Nancy recalls.

Among the VIPs who had stayed at the hotel were Sir Robert Menzies, former Australian Prime Minister and Sir Malcolm MacDonald, who was involved in the making of the Federation of Malaya (the prelude to independent Malaya) which was inaugurated on 1 February 1948, earning him a significant place in the history of Malaysia.

Looking at the gallery of old photos on the wall at the reception and one of a young Nancy standing at the reception, you could tell these walls have seen many stories unfolded in this building.

And it is these stories of events and lives that came and went that made this a second home for many of the loyal staff there. Relationships amongst staff built over the years kept them serving for 20 to 50 years.

“Ironically, it was also an era where getting a job in the hotel was not regarded with much respect. People in general or parents did not want their children to work in a hotel because hotels were considered indecent places. During those times, especially when The Federal Hotel was an international class hotel, few would have a chance to come and see it for themselves.

“It was natural for them to think it was like the smaller ones where indecent activities went on.” Many of Nancy’s colleagues had little education and some service staff working in the food and beverage department were illiterate.

“It is remarkable how some of them who could not write would take orders by drawing. If you ordered fish and chips, he or she would draw a fish. So the orders would be in drawings of cow, fish and chicken,” Nancy still finds this amusing.

It is, for her, an admirable attitude of people who were proud of their job and were always willing to struggle and strive to do their best. She described them as “staff who worked and worked regardless of going way past their required working hours.

“It is this relationship and camaraderie that kept us here. We had a colleague who always had medicine and herbs with her to help whoever comes to her with ailments and injuries. Chang Mei Tzuen was a chief cashier who is well-loved and has since retired.

“She would even cook food for confinement for a colleague who had given birth. And we have also celebrated birthdays, our children’s weddings and babies’ full moon here. All the colleagues would come together to help out. Now isn’t that like one big family?”

It is this relationship that made celebrating Federal Hotel’s anniversary such a meaningful event for the staff who had a role to play in planning for the events in 2007.

Nancy far right with Hong Kong star Nancy Sit (third from left)

The Federal Hotel was the brainchild and vision of the late Tan Sri Low Yat, who had the foresight to build a new multimillion-dollar international class hotel to provide accommodation for all the distinguished guests and foreign dignitaries attending the historic day and celebration of Malaya’s independence.

Following that, most of the guests were Americans or British. This trend continued till the 80s when Malaysia’s Look East Policy brought Japanese here to start businesses and factories like the Mitsubishi. Nancy remembers a Japanese guest who first came to stay in the hotel in 1975 and kept coming back for long stay until the 90s.

There were also the Australian jockeys on weekends when races were in town at the then Ampang Racecourse which was where KLCC is now. The race days rotated between Kuala Lumpur, Ipoh, Penang and Singapore.

Nancy Huang

Being close to the Merdeka Stadium also brought many sports celebrities to the hotel. “There was Hong Kong popular star Nancy Sit, Alam Tam, Boxers Mohammad Ali and Joe Bugner and our own Thomas cuppers, just to name a few!”

The hotel boasted its Chinese and western night clubs – The Skyroom and Mandarin Palace. In their pomp and splendour, these were entertainment outlets for the rich and famous. “You needed to dress formally in a suit or jacket to come in. And if you didn’t have a jacket the hotel would provide you with one,” says Nancy.

“If you ask me why you should come to stay with us at the Federal Hotel,” Nancy says “I will tell you because we will take care of you, and take care of you well,” sounds like a promise one friend would make to another.

The staff who worked in the early years at Federal Hotel were grateful for this opportunity to build a career despite their lack of education and they showed it by their long service and hard work. Time and again this team spirit to help one another survived the test of time and their loyalty to the hotel naturally made it their second home.

Although there is only a handful of these “decades-old” old-timers around, they have served three generations of bosses with the fourth coming on board. They will make sure the spirit of togetherness will prevail and the Federal Hotel family will go for many more generations to come.

The Federal Kuala Lumpur Timeline



  • The Federal Hotel was the brainchild and vision of the late Tan Sri Low Yat, who had the foresight to build for our nation, a new multimillion-dollar international class hotel at that time, to specifically provide accommodation for all the distinguished guests and foreign dignitaries attending the historic day and celebration of Malaya’s independence.
  • The Federal Kuala Lumpur, the Hotel for Merdeka, opened her doors on 28 August 1957 and had the privilege to bear witness to Malaysia’s declaration of independence on 31 August 1957.  The 90-room 9-storey structure was then one of the tallest buildings in the city and the opening was officiated by the first Prime Minister of Malaya, Y.T.M. Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al Haj.  On the eve of Merdeka Day, an official reception was held at the Banquet Room, attended by 175 local and foreign guests.  From the moment at the venue of choice for many government functions, events and meetings, and thus the birth of our renowned hospitality and service known around the world to this day.
  • The first resident to register as a guest at The Federal Hotel was Bunny (Ms Nancy Simmons, a government driver in London who chauffeured Tunku around during his negotiation talks for Malaya’s Independence in London).
  • The second guest registered at The Federal Hotel was Tan Sri Datuk Dr Haji Yahaya Ibrahim.  He was then one of those young Malayan civil servants assigned as a protocol officer to take charge of the 12-man Japanese delegation representing their government at the Merdeka celebrations at Stadium Merdeka on 31 August 1957.


    • “In 1959, Prime Minister of Australia, Sir Robert Menzies visited The Federal Hotel during his visit to Kuala Lumpur together with his delegation’ recalled Frank Murray, the former Australia High Commission in Kuala Lumpur.


    • Federal Hotel Extension behind the original 10-storey designed by Japanese architect, Yozoshipada was completed in 1963 with a revolutionary Revolving Bintang Restaurant located on the 18th
    • Another 300 rooms were made available making a total of 450 rooms. The Federal Hotel then had added more facilities for the convenience of Hotel guests, Coffee House & Bar, Piano Bar, Coral Bar, Mandarin Palace (night club), Kontiki Restaurant poolside), Bintang Revolving Lounge, Federal Bowl (the country’s largest bowling alley), Federal Health Club, Laundry & Valet services, several of these features were previously unknown in Malaysia’s hotel history.
    • Federal Hotel became the home for British movie crew while filming The Seventh Dawn and the Durian Tree starring by international actors and actresses namely William Holden, Capucine, Suzannah York, Michael Goodlife and Tetsura Tamba, which was released in 1964.
    • Sir Robert Menzies, former Australian Prime Minister also stayed at the Federal Hotel as did Sir Malcolm MacDonald who occupies an important place in Malaysian history owing to his involvement in the making of the Federation of Malaya (the prelude to independent Malaya) which was inaugurated on 1 February 1948.
    • Other dignitaries who frequently used The Federal Hotel’s facilities included the late Tun Dato’ Mustapha, Federal Ministers such as Mohd Khir Johari (the late Tan Sri); and the late Tan Sri Dato’ Dr Haji Abdul Majid Ismail.
    • From that moment on, the Federal Hotel became the choice for renowned personalities who came over to Kuala Lumpur. Among them are Pulitzer Prize winner, James A Michener, former World Heavyweight Boxing Champion Muhammad Ali, Jose Frazer, author of South Pacific and his wife Mari Yoriko Sabusawa.


    • The Big Fight in 1973 – Former World Heavyweight Boxing Champion Mohammad Ali and Joe Bugner were guests of the Federal Hotel


    • 28 August 1985, Tan Sri Dato’ Low Yow Chuan launched the Hotel Management Company, Federal Hotels International (FHI) (to replace Federal Hotels Management Services established on 16 August 1961) together with its FHI Corporate Logo.
    • The late Y.T.M. Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj was invited to launch Federal Hotels International (FHI) & the new FHI Corporate Logo on 28 August 1985.
    • Hong Kong TVB Stars namely Kenneth Tsang Kong, Meg Lam Kin-ming, Lau Dan, Rebecca Chan Sau-Chu and Simon Yam Tat-Wah were guests at the Skyroom on New Year’s Eve Celebrations.
    • American Pop Singer, Johnny Tillotson performed at the Skyroom on Christmas Eve on 24 December 1987.


      • 3-Phase expansion and renovation programme to provide and further upgrade it to an international deluxe standard be completed over 5 years.
      • First phase – intensive renovation of the original 10-storey building which was completed in 1990, and the entire block was renamed as Merdeka Wing with 150 rooms and 4 suites.
      • Second phase began in November 1991 and completed in May 1992. The Hotel then had new mini computers from Hewlett Packard, Sanctuary Café & Bar and an all-glass exterior at the Hotel front thus completely changing the façade of the Hotel.


      • The late YABhg Datin Paduka Endon Mahmood graced the occasion of the Merdeka Fund Raising Charity Gala Dinner to commemorate the Federal Hotel’s 46th Anniversary Celebrations on 28 August 2003.
      • Favourite Dishes from Tunku’s Kitchen Cookbook was launched by the former Minister of Tourism, YB Datuk Dr Leo Michael Toyad on 29 September 2005.
      • Hidangan Kegemaran dari Dapur Tunku (the Favourite Dishes from the Tunku’s Kitchen cookbook) was launched together with FHI Merdeka Charity Event by the former Deputy Director General of Tourism Malaysia, Datin Dalilah Ahmad on 24 August 2006.
      • The Federal Hotel as at 2007 entered the grand golden era with a complete makeover to ensure total guest comfort while retaining the old world charm and traditions that has made the Federal Hotel so special. The Federal Hotel comprised 3 sections – the original 10-storey Merdeka Wing, the 21-storey Federal Tower, and the complex which housed the swimming pool, ballroom and banquet hall as well as the former Federal Bowling Alley.
      • New York based Malaysian designer, Zang Toi designed limited-edition bags to commemorate The Federal Kuala Lumpur’s 50th Anniversary Celebrations, launched by the 13th Yang Di-Pertuan Agong of Malaysia, Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin and Raja Permaisuri Agong Tuanku Nur Zahirah at Bintang Revolving Restaurant (now known as Bintang Lounge & Restaurant) on 21 August 2007.
      • To commemorate the 50th Anniversary Celebrations, Federal Hotels International (FHI) & The Federal Kuala Lumpur (The Hotel for Merdeka) together with Malaysia Airlines (as part of MAS Let’s Fly Malaysia Campaign) & LSG Sky Chefs Brahim, were proud to present the Merdeka Inflight Dining Experience with Favourite Dishes from the Tunku’s Kitchen on board Malaysia Airlines (on all classes) from 1 August until 30 September 2007 on selected routes to Europe, Australia and New Zealand regional & domestic (Sabah and Sarawak) routes.
      • The 5th Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Tun Jeanne Abdullah graced the 50th Anniversary Celebrations of The Federal Kuala Lumpur on 28 August 2007.
      • Datuk Lee Chong Wei (Malaysia No. 1 badminton singles shutter) and Tan Boon Heong (former World No. 1 Malaysian badminton player in the men’s doubles) attended the Proton Malaysian Open Super Series 2007 Welcome Dinner on 16 January 2007.


      • Former Deputy Minister of Federal Territories, YB Datuk Dr Loga Bala Mohan (5th from right) graced the launch of The Merdeka Wing and The Verandah on 24 November 2015 at The Verandah- another unique new revolution unveiled by The Federal Kuala Lumpur with the official opening of the Merdeka Wing and The Verandah – Celebrate, Stay, Dine and be entertained!
      • The Federal Kuala Lumpur celebrated her 60th Anniversary Celebrations on 28 August 2017 with meaningful activities lined up on our Calendar of Events:
      • The Federal Kuala Lumpur played host for one of the SEA Games Team Contingents, the Myanmar Team during the KL SEA Games 2017.
      • Modern Grand Hotel – A Story Telling musical concert held on Friday, 8 September to Saturday, 9 September and Friday, 15 September to Sunday, 17 September 2017
      • Official Hotel of the Hands Percussion 20th Anniversary Concerts namely Percussion Paradise and Inner Voices which is part of DiverseCity’s KL International Arts Festival (KLIAD) 2017
      • The Federal Kuala Lumpur joined hands together with its sister hotels namely Hotel Capitol Kuala Lumpur and The Grace Sydney launched the Anniversary Indulgence room package.
      • The Federal’s Fun with 60 creative photos social media contest.
      • HE Mr Andrew Goledzinowski graced the Inaugural Launch of Discover Australia – A Taste of Australia at The Federal Kuala Lumpur from 13 July – 29 July 2018. Discover Australia – A Taste of Australia food festival was jointly organized by Federal Hotels International (FHI) together with its FHI Hotels in Kuala Lumpur and Sydney Namely The Federal Kuala Lumpur and The Grace Hotel Sydney, with the support from the Australian High Commission, AUSTRADE, Tourism Australia and MLA Meat & Livestock Australia and Citibank.

      Today’s Grand Dame of Kuala Lumpur

      • The Federal Kuala Lumpur has renovated its Merdeka Wing Rooms, Ballrooms, Kontiki Restaurant and the brand new lobby lounge, The Verandah.
      • The Federal recently unveiled stylish new looks and introduced new facilities showcasing our FHI Group’s philosophy of creating an effortless experience and venues that allow guests the time and space to focus on and make the most of what is important to them, includes guestrooms, meeting spaces, innovative restaurants and lounge, to enhance their stay with us, as our guests are our best ambassadors.
      • The Federal Kuala Lumpur’s newly renovated Merdeka Wing Rooms, with a super comfortable bed, plus down duvet, bathroom and a rain shower, quality amenities plus exclusive privileges, are designed with pleasure and convenience in mind.

      Federal Hotels International (FHI) has over six decades of experience in the Malaysian hospitality industry. FHI is the pioneer Malaysian Hotel Management Company, established in 1957, to manage the first international hotel in Kuala Lumpur – The Federal Kuala Lumpur – that opened its doors on 28 August 1957. Today, FHI manages The Federal Kuala Lumpur, Hotel Capitol Kuala Lumpur, The Grace Hotel Sydney and Tribeca Serviced Suites Bukit Bintang.