Let me be clear. It might work if you’re besties with the hotel GM. And even then, make sure you get a booking confirmation number. But a tenuous link through the wife of your second cousin’s best friend definitely won’t cut it. And never, ever play the “Don’t You Know Who I Am” card unless you have a preference for broom cupboards with brick wall views! Politeness over pouting works every time with front-of-house staffers if you want to hear those magic words: “We’ve upgraded you to a suite.”
Feet up, lazing back on a tastefully upholstered sofa in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, I’m having a sweet suite moment peeling a perfect mandarin orb. Over the ensuing two days that we’re holed-up on the 27th Club floor of this classic Kuala Lumpur hotel, an exotic variety of Asian fruits are presented daily from a crimson dragonfruit with delicate scales, a hairy-skinned rambutan that, with a small cut of the knife, reveals sweet translucent flesh and my personal favourite, the textured pulp of the duku langsat that segments like grapefruit but without the bitter taste.
Looking through floor-to-ceiling windows, the sun dances off the city’s iconic titanium-clad Petronas Twin Towers which gleam like icy temples at night adding drama to a licorice sky. To many celebrity travelers, Mandarin Oriental’s global network of hotels have become their preferred pied-a-terre and they, in return, have become founder members of a fan club which over the years has featured many of them in glossy advertising campaigns.
For a humble travel writer, occupying one of the 148 guest rooms located on seven private Mandarin Oriental Club floors, this is an opportunity to press pause on the everyday domestic and fast forward to the high life.
Check-in is discreetly undertaken in the 24th level Club Lounge and one fragrant cool towel and aromatic iced tea later, we’re escorted to our suite which has all the luxe touches expected of a marquee brand hotel group. Expensive restraint oozes from every corner (this is no place for shabby chic) as smooth, cool white bed linens, plump pillows and a fragrant box of pink and red roses placed next to the bed signal a soothing night’s sleep ahead. Sleek woodwork, a capacious sand and black marble bathroom, comfortable couches and the practical elements of iPod docking station and WiFi meet all the expectations of 21st century global roamers.
Lobby doormen, resplendent in their baju melayu, a loose white tunic over trousers with a richly woven sampin or sarong wrapped around the hips, quickly provide directions to the adjacent KLCC’s world class shopping centre. Kuala Lumpur is renown for its hawker food but the bonus for Club class members is the opportunity for all-day grazing in the Club Lounge from breakfast through to a dainty high tea, cocktails and hors d’oeuvres. After pounding the hot, humid streets of Malaysia’s bustling metropolis, returning to this calm sanctuary to refuel is restorative.
Non-smoking restaurants are new to KL’s dining scene and at the signature Mandarin Oriental Grill, smokers are seated (not always happily!) at an adjacent bar. The Grill’s mod-Scandinavian décor features blonde timber flooring, cool grey marble and white walls spliced with an orange perspex screen that affords kitchen glimpses. Fresh, modern and inviting, it’s clearly being enjoyed by the luncheon crowd. International accents swirl around from jovial French businessmen to shy Indian honeymooners, a bevy of black-clad Japanese graphic designers to a tweedy English couple with cut glass accents. Lunch is both quick and economical with three courses served in 45 minutes for just AUD30.
On the first floor amongst the flaming woks, a hierarchy of Chinese chefs set the scene at Cantonese restaurant Lai Po Heen that’s styled like a wealthy tycoon’s turn-of-the-century home and lavishly furnished with museum-quality antiques from Malacca. With so much to eat and so little time, a visit to the Vitality Club equipped with the latest gym technology including running machines with touch screen TVs is essential before more lounging, freshly squeezed juice in hand, by the infinity-edge swimming pool perched above the shimmering city.
Tropical night falls like a velvet curtain and the MO’s Sultan Lounge beckons like an opulent Arabian tent in the desert. Serving freshly shucked oysters, caviar and champagne fit for an Arabian prince, it’s the perfect entrée before sinking into plump sofas for an informal soiree in the seductive Casbah where an extensive mezze and tapas menu transports us to the Eastern Mediterranean, North Africa and Spain. As the mood lighting syncs with exotic Arabian rhythms, this is one hot spot where the cool set chill-out.
Links: Air Asia – Mandarin Oriental – Tourism Malaysia
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EXPRESS CHECK IN
The Peninsula Bangkok
Whether you arrive by car, boat or helicopter, the blue chip Peninsula is an egalitarian resort-in-the-city boasting river views from every spacious room and a staffing ratio of 740 to 370 rooms – client comfort guaranteed. Leaving the comfort zone, take an exhilarating ride in the Peninsula’s liveried tuk-tuk to Thabin Dang market, raid the hotel’s kitchen garden for a clutch of naturally grown herbs then sharpen your culinary arts with chef Chomnan at the waterfront Thiptara Thai restaurant. There’s jazz-accompanied afternoon teas in the lobby, aperitif-sipping, eye-dazzling sunsets at the River Café and Terrace and soothing spa menus to consider along with world-class shopping just a short ferry ride away.