How to do Kuala Lumpur in high style

Go all out and see the most luxe side of the city, from the Presidential Suite at Mandarin Oriental, Kuala Lumpur


BY LEE COBAJ
Lee Cobaj is based in Hong Kong and writes about Asia for The Daily Telegraph, The Sunday Times and Tatler.

Conversations switch from Malay to Mandarin to Cantonese, Hindi, Tamil and English, monorails criss-cross over church steeples and minarets, mega-malls and monkey-filled rainforest, and in the background the gleaming twin spikes of the Petronas Towers punctuate the scene. There's sensational shopping and even more sensational food. Chow down on curries served in banana leaf, devour dim sum under a sea of red lanterns, feast on jungle nut curries, blue rice and dumplings served in the shade of ficus trees. Kuala Lumpur is Southeast Asia's coolest young capital, with heaps of history in its back pocket, too, and there's nowhere better to take it all in than from the sleek, centrally-located Mandarin Oriental, Kuala Lumpur.        

The suite life

It's all about the base. Requirements include a smack-bang location, peerless views, exceptional service and copious amounts of space for entertaining – look no further than the newly refurbished Presidential Suite at Mandarin Oriental, Kuala Lumpur. Handsomely furnished in muted shades of charcoal, silver and cobalt blue, its white marble bathroom features a tub-with-a-view that’s big enough for two, and there's a teched-up gym and a walk-in dressing room with enough storage space for the most maximal packer. Rounding up the experience is a dining room staring out at the Petronas Towers and the services of a private chef. 

For savvy shoppers

Malaysia is the birthplace of shoemaker extraordinaire Jimmy Choo and you might be surprised to learn that the country has a long tradition of creating fabulous footwear. Find catwalk-worthy, beautifully fashioned heels, mules, pumps and slingbacks at Christy Ng (a custom-made option is also available). For can't-find-them-anywhere-else homewares hit up Nala, a lifestyle store flaunting updated takes on traditional Malay textiles, Peranakan prints, handicrafts and trinkets. If your leanings are more artistic, don't miss Richard Koh Fine Art, a Bangsar-based gallery that showcases some of Asia's leading artistic lights. Look for works from homegrown talent, such as textiles artist Anne Samat and the geometric sculptures of Haffendi Anuar.  

The bars to know

Spot Formula One drivers and other celebrity types enjoying Jeroboams and clubbing the night away at violet-lit Kyō, one of Kuala Lumpur’s most exclusive venues, housed within Mandarin Oriental, Kuala Lumpur. Or go underground at PS150, a Chinatown cocktail bar housed in a colonial-era shophouse behind a cool toy-shop façade. The drink to order is a Jungle Bird, a fruity-bitter blend of spiced pandan rum, Campari, pineapple and lime.  

Building momentum 

Kuala Lumpur is a city on the up – quite literally. Currently under construction is the glacial KL118, which upon completion in 2024 will reach a neck-craning 630 metres and claim the title of the world's fifth highest skyscraper. Until then, visitors can make do with a stroll around the former world's tallest building, the Petronas Towers – ask the concierge to book one of the new premium tours, taking in the ethereal 41st floor sky bridge, the dizzying observation deck and more. Other notable KL architectural hot spots include the light-filled Islamic Museum of Art, Chinatown's rainbow-bright shophouses and the fairy-tale-pretty heritage buildings surrounding Merdeka Square.   

Where to wind down 

Kuala Lumpur's medley of Middle Eastern influences extends to its decadent spa scene. Head for Hammam Publika, a shimmering turquoise tiled oasis tucked away in the city's swankiest mall. Here you will be lathered with black soap, scrubbed with cold henna powder and sent to sleep during a heady frankincense and myrrh massage. Finish with mint tea and honeyed pastries. Alternatively, stay in your bathrobe and swan upstairs to the amber-hued Spa at Mandarin Oriental, Kuala Lumpur. Treatments include the indulgent Romance of the Rose ritual, two hours and 20 sweet-smelling minutes of petal foot baths, salty scrubs and rhythmic rubbing down.   

Photos: Getty Images, Alamy

Immerse yourself in Kuala Lumpur

Set between the flowering gardens of the KLCC Park and the dramatic heights of the Petronas Twin Towers, Mandarin Oriental, Kuala Lumpur offers impressive views, elegant interiors, spacious rooms and a wealth of dining options.