Calling the Petronas Towers neighbhors, and occupying a most privileged location in Kuala Lumpur, the Mandarin Oriental has the style and comfort you'd expect and so much more
While on a recent trip through Asia, we had a layover in one of our favorite cities -- Kuala Lumpur. But rather than spend the day at the airport, we decided to extend our time in Kuala Lumpur, and stay for a few extra days. The city has this juxtaposition - a contrast if you will - between high end glamour and traditional charm. It's a place where you can surround yourself in luxury, and then hunt around for street food and bargains through chaotic night markets. It’s a huge melting pot of different cultures, each adding their own flavor and making the city special.
The city has many great landmarks, the Merdeka Square, Masjid Negara and the National Monument to name just a few of them. The most iconic building in the Malaysian capital however, is without doubt the Petronas Towers. These architectural marvels shoot 450 meters into the sky, and are surrounded by shops and restaurants. They mark the center of the city’s business district and sit in the busiest part of the city. In other words, this is where you want to be and staying right next to them is an opportunity too good to pass up.
The Mandarin Oriental certainly gives you that chance. It is right in between the KLCC park and the towers, giving it one of the best locations in Kuala Lumpur. Just next door is the biggest shopping mall in the city, whilst the Klang river flows serenely by just a block away. After touching down at the airport, we weaved our way through the busier and busier streets until we arrived at the front door. The city center is about an hour drive from the airport, and the trip can easily be done by private car or taxi. This is how we got there, and it is also a great way to get a feel for the city on your way in.
The hotel is extravagant and glamorous, yet amongst the sophisticated crystal chandeliers, engraved pewter columns and massive fresh floral arrangements is a welcoming atmosphere. The staff will go out of their way to provide great service and they are genuinely anxious to share their fascinating country with you. Much like the city itself, the hotel is a melting pot of cultures, tastes and sounds. It is the same classic Mandarin Oriental experience you get at all their hotels, and the whole place felt elegant and modern.
We stayed in a club deluxe city view room and it was absolutely fabulous! It was fresh from a renovation the hotel is doing, and the room was bright, well designed and very comfortable. The view through our floor to ceiling window was very nice, as was the marble clad bathroom. The decoration was light and open, with dark wood furniture adding a touch of style to the space.
Whenever we can, we go for “club level” access – if you stay at any of the Mandarin Oriental hotels (especially the Kuala Lumpur branch) you should do the same. Alongside the special room we stayed in, you get access to a private area located on one of the top floors of the hotel. The club lounge has spectacular views, in fact this has to be one of the best views of the city! You get much more than this of course.
There is the wonderful breakfast buffet, the lunch set up and dinner bites, complete with cocktails. We took advantage of this relatively private space to catch up on work (ok, I spent a lot of time staring out at the views instead of at my computer), and combining this with some relaxation over a cocktail. After breakfast we would linger up there as well, while we planned out the day ahead.
Despite loving the club level, we didn’t eat too many meals up there, thanks to the vast array of options at the hotel. The Mandarin Oriental takes their food and dining very, very seriously here, and with ten different options there is a bit for everyone! With its poolside location, Aqua Restaurant and Bar was my favorite. They had such a great selection of local dishes as well as a selection of other tasty bites including papaya Thai salad, wood fired pizzas and potstickers...random I know, but so good!
If you like Cantonese food, then Lai Po Heen is a must! It feels very upscale, and they serve classic dishes with a few interesting items paying homage to their surroundings. The Durian pancakes were delicious, and give you an authentic taste of the local Chinese influenced cuisine. For something a bit more casual, try Mosaic. We are not really “buffet” people, but this was one of the yummiest we’ve been to. When we saw stations serving Indian, Thai, Sushi, and grilled meats, we knew we were in good hands. Best of all was the dessert selection, so make sure you save some room!
We also have a thing for MOBar - the in-house drinking establishment found at Mandarin Oriental Hotels across the world. They are always consistently great places to be, and the bartenders always know how to create an excellent cocktail! We were excited to see some of our favorites on the menu, and to try some of the welcome new additions on offer.
One thing you should know about Kuala Lumpur is that it is hot and humid. Just being outside and seeing the sights is enough to work up a sweat, so one of our best moves we made during our time in Kuala Lumpur was to hire a private driver through the hotel. We did this not once, but twice during our stay, and it was definitely worth it. Apart from the heat, the city is spread out and some of its attractions are around its edges. Having a driver takes the hassle out of things, and lets you relax in cool comfort, while you explore the city.
During the day our driver took us on a tour of the city’s highlights. We started at the Batu Caves and ended at Thean Hou Temple - both definite musts while in Kuala Lumpur. By night we had our driver take us to hit up the Chinese Night Market as well as the Jalan Alor street food market. This part of the world has some of the best street food we’ve come across, and you can find everything from Chinese to Indian and all kinds of fusions in between! For about the equivalent of $10 USD we feasted on tasty Malaysian specialties and ice cold beer.
If you choose to stay in, there is plenty to do at the Mandarin Oriental. In fact they have some pretty unique amenities. There is the indoor golf area, which uses giant screens and high-speed tracking to give you the experience of being out on the course. They have electronic recreations of 48 of the world’s top courses and provide you with real clubs and balls. Despite the hotel’s city location and skyscraper design, they also have a tennis court and offer lessons with professional coaches. If you need to cool off afterwards there is the incredible rooftop infinity pool which overlooks the city and the park below.
Best of all however, is the spa. Not only do they offer an array of treatments by one of my favorite skincare lines - Biologique Recherche, they also have an incredible couples suite and their therapists do an amazing scrub and massage. Did I mention that they make their own scrubs and oils using local herbs and spices.
Chris and I did a couples version of one of their signatures treatments, the Tropical Rainforest and it was heaven. We had a ritual foot bath, body polish, a wrap and a massage in one of the most beautiful treatment rooms. I actually just let out a bit sigh as I typed that out. The facility and treatments were incredible, and because I’m a bit obsessed with Biologique Recherche, I went back the next day to get an update on my skin and do one of their “skin instants.”
We loved Kuala Lumpur and there was so much to do in and around the city. Whether you want to explore the caves and the street markets or just relax and stay in, the Mandarin Oriental is the perfect place to base yourself. It doesn’t matter if you are there for business, pleasure or romance, this hotel will suit your needs. By the end of our stay we had decided that the Mandarin Oriental in Kuala Lumpur is one of our new favorite places to call home.
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