9th August 2014: The A&W Bears & Beer Party, at A&W Petaling Jaya Drive-In.
This is probably their most famous outlet, near the Taman Jaya PUTRA LRT station and Amcorp Mall. Of course, to describe its location as such would be unfair – it’s Amcorp Mall and Taman Jaya PUTRA LRT station that opened near A&W, decades later.
This relic from 1965 is still around, but will be demolished in December 2014 to make way for two office towers, called KUB Tower, according to KUB Malaysia Bhd, who holds the A&W franchise in Malaysia and Thailand.
It survived, when 27 outlets were closed down, mostly in shopping malls. This is one of the two birthday party rooms!
A hidden stairway!
This used to be my playground. An epic A&W Bearland. Unfortunately, I cannot find any pictures of the epic Mighty Maze!
This is what remained of the playground. It was gone at least since 2004 when I visited it.
“The company subsequently opened a Bearland playground at the PJ Drive-in outlet in 1990 with activities such as a Magical Maze, The Balance Bridge, The Serpent, Burger Fun Ball game, a merrygo-round and the Devil Tree, as well as a patio area for birthday parties.
The playground, costing RM200,000 and covering 650 square metres, was touted as the biggest A&W outdoor playground in the world.”
I remember a very tall staircase going up from the entrance of Bearland, to a tall tower, with a giant metal slide, that ended up in the Magical Maze, a maze made of wooden walls, painted dark blue, with stones on the ground. You’d walk around it and hear the stones crunch. The squarish maze was where this little playground set is now.
This sign is probably the only remaining relic. You might notice that the bad English got worse.
The other patio for birthday parties. Also, interesting balcony!
The distortion is from my Sony Alpha 7s with the Sony E 16mm F2.8, with its rear baffle removed so it became a full-frame lens. Well, sort of, with strong vignetting and distortion. I also had to disable automatic APS-C crop mode.
From the inside, looking at the party room entrance.
Nuggets and fried chicken! I don’t know why I never discovered how awesome this was. I’d always have coney dogs and waffles.
Party of grown-up kids!
Chak Onn Lau, after lining up for half an hour for waffles, got a number.
Curly fries. The best way to eat this is to dip it in the Root Beer Float’s foam and scoop up a bit of the float. (McDonald’s fries in vanilla sundae greatly pales in comparison.)
I’d discovered that everybody eats their waffles differently. I’ve not even tried their chocolate ice-cream version. I usually went for the waffle with maple syrup and butter, and ordered a Root Beer Float, then scooped the float onto the waffle. This was my mom’s budget pro-tip.
Nabilah bites into her chicken burger!
Finally, coney dogs!
The Commutasaurus cometh!
Left to right: Stephanie Goh, Nadra, Davina Goh.
Davinasaurus is a vegetarian so she has her burger bun with sauce. It’s vegetable sauce! Too bad the waffles had not arrived because waffles should be vegetables too.
I spotted a tint of purple, like a fighting fish!
Filmmaker Benji Lim came as a three-headed snake!
Then came the highlight – the A&W Root Bear! Here, Davinasaurus is excited to see it.
I could not stop smiling when I saw this. It was hilarious to see that it would walk with a wiggle in the bum automatically, and put its beary paws to its mouth ever so often. Quite like the staff behind it.
This time, Root Bear knows who it is hugging!
The Root Bear is Asian, definitely.
Chak’s cool bear shirt and the Root Bear. Note the worn-out nose. Interestingly, not all Root Bears have solid noses – some are made of cloth.
Derrik is tall.
I wonder how the articulation within the costume’s hand is.
The Root Bear looks awesome from the side too.
Chak getting chucked out of the game.
We could not stop taking pictures with it.
I wonder how the costume wearer knows which way to hug the picture subject, other than by touch, since he/she can’t see beyond its black eyes.
Photobombed by Davinasaurus!
Next game: blow balloons until they explode.
What is in the prize pack? Party stuff.
According to Nicholas Chin, there’s a A&W in the Botanical Gardens in Seremban, Negeri Sembilan, with its epic big playground still intact, but if this picture I found is any indicator, it is probably long gone. (I hope it’s a different outlet!)
So I wondered if the onesie could completely cover the face…
Now, without the hood.
Grace “Pocahontas” Ng (in the middle) who shares my birthday. The theme for the party was orange, and I was fortunate that the company that I worked for made orange shirts at one time.
A&W Root Beer has since been rebranded RB.
Interestingly, it seems that the A&W franchise was previously held by the PAS state government of Terengganu in 1999 – and the federal government sabotaged them such that ads would not appear on TV and newspapers, relegated to Harakah, PAS’ newspaper. The franchise was then sold in 2001 to KUB. Up to 2012, it was still called Root Beer, maybe because of JAKIM insisting they remove the Beer word when recertifying their halal certificate.
The above paragraph takes claims from Faidzal‘s posts in this thread on Lowyat.net.
The party hat. I remember the Root Bear face masks with holes for the eyes, and elastic bands that would get in your hair!
I spotted Liyana from far away, and pointed her out to Davina, saying, “Hey look it’s Samantha out there!” I meant Liyana, of course, but my brain got confused for a while, from stuffing myself full of Root Beer. She wore this T-shirt for you Davina!
Nabilah shows us how to have a good time.
Random throwback to 2013, for Ann Na and Jeremy’s birthday waffle.
And now, for a throwback to 2012, when A&W had a new outlet in Jalan Bukit Bintang, next to the first McDonald’s in Malaysia.
This was the view from the balcony. Nothing more awesome than curly fries dipped in a Root Beer Float with a coney dog. It is now a Starbucks. Interestingly, the first Starbucks in Malaysia was in front of KL Plaza (now Fahrenheit 88), but has since closed down.
27th September 2009, before A&W was there, was a Roxy Quiksilver shop.
This was another outlet that no longer exists, in Kompleks Desa, Kepong. I went here a lot as a kid. It had an awesome double slide.
There was one on Jalan Pudu, opposite Pudu Sentral, that I don’t think I ever went to.
The phenomenon of downgraded playgrounds was not just observed in A&W – all McDonald’s outlets I had been to recently, had downsized their playgrounds. This is McDonald’s Kepong #017. I remember a much grander playground. I also remember a merry-go-round in McDonald’s Section 14 #004. (If you observe McDonald’s receipts, they print their branch codes there, so you can know how old each McDonald’s is. I’ve been collecting these numbers, but I haven’t posted this blog entry.)
Fortunately, the first A&W in Malaysia, on Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman, was still open. Next to it is a KFC that has since closed down. The first KFC in Malaysia was not this outlet – while the first outlet was opened on Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman, it moved around a few times along the road – even having four outlets along this road at one time!
My interest in the history of our urban city is also fueled by people who have lived long enough to see development, over at the Rakan KL Facebook group.
This is the inside of the first A&W. Doesn’t look retro at all, and very modern. Can’t say I prefer this!
So you might ask – where were the first 3 A&W outlets? I knew about #1 for a long time, and always thought PJ Drive-In was #2, but I checked with Adeline Chua, who wrote this article, and found out that it was in fact:
1) Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman
2) Menara AIA, Jalan Ampang (closed down)
3) PJ Drive-In, Lorong Sultan, Petaling Jaya
Meanwhile, here’s a Facebook Page called Save Iconic A&W.