Saturday, 1 August 2009

Kuala Lumpur, June 2009

From Singapore it only took a very short, SilkAir-operated flight to get to Kuala Lumpur. On arrival at the impressive KLIA airport, we went straight for the official Airport Taxi Desk, which seems to be subsidised, offering really good rates for what is quite a long drive actually (almost one hour) to get to KL city. There are several types of official airport taxis so just make sure you specify the type you want: Budget, Premium, Family, ... We had booked Traders hotel after having read some really positive reviews on TripAdvisor. On arrival we were greeted by Ronaldo who took care of our luggage and made sure to show us to the check-in desk on the 32nd Floor of the hotel. We had booked a Traders Club room, which gave us access to the Club Lounge with its own reception desk for fast check-in and check-out. The Club Lounge is available for breakfast (instead of the more extensive breakfast selection on the 5th floor) and complimentary afternoon tea, but this place really gets buzzing from 5:30pm onwards when the complimentary cocktail hour starts (until 7:30pm). Even though it is advertised as "nibbles", the food during cocktail hour is actually really good and I'm sure it would be challenging for anyone's stomach to go out for dinner afterward. We enjoyed many G&Ts and snacks here, and also used cocktail hour to do some online research using the free WiFi. The Sky Bar on the 33rd floor of the hotel is a definite must-see and while during the day the same space functions as the pool area, it is at night that it is at its best. It feels and looks a bit weird during the day with people trying to catch some sun coming in via the open side windows. The loungy cushioned seats are being used as improvised sun loungers, so in the evening you might end up sitting where previously had been some sweaty backs.

Our room offered an excellent view, with the Petronas Towers just in front of us. The room itself was decent, but not as functional storage-wise as one would expect.

Even though Traders hotel caters mainly to a business crowd, some of the facilities such as the complimentary business centre (free Internet and printing) and free cocktails and nibbles in the Club Lounge make it enjoyable to the leisure traveler. A special mention for Nick at the Concierge Desk. His recommendations were excellent, he checked us in for our flight while we were having a chat and also introduced us to Shangri-La's new resort on the Maldives. We didn't have time to explore much of KL but we went to Chinatown for some compulsory
knock-off shopping and we picked up a Malay SIM card in order not to get hammered with roaming charges when making local calls. KL's Golden Triangle, where many of the popular hotels are located, is trendy, high-tech and looks very cosmopolitan. In the evenings we went to Bukit Bintang and had a few drinks, while Jalan Sultan Ismail also is a popular spot for bars and restaurants.

Even though Kuala Lumpur is a top-notch South-East Asian capital city, it didn't have that "unique" feeling you get when going to Bangkok or Singapore. Even though everything is really good, nothing really "stuck" with us except for
the quality of the hotels. Which leads me to the Mandarin Oriental hotel. We stayed there for one night on our way back home from Pulau Perhentian. Now, if there is one thing I will remember from KL, this will be it! Together with Ca' Sagredo in Venice (even while being very different), this is the best hotel we have ever stayed at.

Service was second to none, the room was fantastic, the bed and pillows were outstanding and the room service was of excellent quality (and the aircon worked properly all of the time, something that Sentosa Resort nor Traders Hotels seemed to manage).
We booked this last-minute on the phone, while staying on Pulau Perhentian. With it being weekend we were offered the room (and one breakfast) for less than £100. Amazing value for money! Since we had a late flight, we asked if it would be possible to accommodate us with a late check-out and we were immediately offered a complimentary 3pm check-out. This already made things much easier, but since we would only be leaving at 6:30pm we still needed "a solution" for the next 3 hours. Now, we had been told locker rooms and showers were available (near the pool) for us to change before our flight, but we didn't expect these to be as good as they actually were. The so called locker rooms offered dressing tables with toiletries, several different types of showers, a jacuzzi, sauna, steam bath and relaxation lounge. Absolutely flawless!

Before booking the Mandarin Oriental, I also called the Shangri-La hotel because of our previous positive experience in Traders, but the booking agent on the phone was much less helpful and when I asked what the options were to accommodate a late check-out I was immediately told "50% of the price for 1 night", nothing else. I even asked if they would have a complimentary late check-out (which I know they do from a couple we met on Pulau Perhentian), but I was told that we would need to pay an extra 50%. This was in stark comparison with the telephone booking agent for the Mandarin Oriental, who couldn't have been more helpful, accommodating and polite. The entire process from calling the Mandarin Oriental to book a room, to actually leaving the hotel was flawless. The words "benchmark" and "best practices" come to mind when thinking about the Mandarin Oriental hotel.

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