Think that Kuala Lumpur is just a stop over shopping destination? Think again! I’ll be convincing you to extend your stay by the end of this article! :)
You may recall thanks to my Instagram or Snapchat (@jenellewitty) that Monique recently invited me to be her photographer on a trip to Malaysia with AirAsia. I was more than happy to accept, fill my Samsonite case with the summer threads I was on the verge of storing away for the cooler months and grab my Canon to go!
We travelled with AirAsia on a very short flight- kindly given a row to our sleepy selves to nap and stretch out in the quiet zone and feel ready to go once we landed. I hadn’t flown with AirAsia before- I haven’t actually spent a lot of time in Asia to be honest (yet!). The flight was seamless, quiet and speedy. Definitely great value for the cost price when planning your trips! I call that a life-hack! :)
The train into KL takes less than an hour and stops at KL Sentral, which conveniently for us was across the road from our hotel Le Meridien. Greeted by the sweetest concierge (love that guy!) we were walking into the stunning lobby in minutes before taking the lifts up to the 31st floor. I LOVE heights so having an epic view (even if it does get steamy and foggy) is always a way to my heart. The hotel had also recently undergone a interior makeover, decking the rooms out in minimal, glossy and quality detail. Our Club Room was lush, welcoming and I later discovered had beds like clouds. Utter heaven!
Going chronologically, we spent our first afternoon at the hotel enjoying the facilities, so here is a bit of a profile…
LE MERIDIAN KUALA LUMPUR
Taking a tour of the hotel we were shown the presidential suite, which in my mind is where the likes of Gwen Stefani may stay. The long dining table and retro/ modern light fittings alone were stunning features, but it came complete with a generous spa, kitchenette and desk space for getting work done.
Throughout our stay we met with business men who rode the lifts with us and kept asking what kind of work we were in. I think our answers amused them, I can certainly see why they all told us that they insisted their trips to KL be booked into Le Meridien- and all of them seemed to tell us that it was the best hotel in the city and of their trips, I actually think the highlight of their visits. Known for being a business hotel, it perfectly meets all of the needs on location and facilities. The gym is huge, I wish we had had more time to make the most of it while the spa treatments also sounded beautiful.
We did make the most of the generous sized pool and enjoyed the rain and later lighting storm that blew in while we swam! The pool is lush and completely welcome after time spent in the city.
LE MERIDIEN DINING
The guys at Le Meridien are all about food! Well, given the number of incredible eateries within the hotel, I feel that this is an accurate claim. After our tour, Mon and I sat down for a healthy lunch in the elegant lounge bar Gastro Sentral, Mon tucking into her first Congee- something she became addicted to, but I could take or leave- the texture is a little off for me. The menu though was excellent, with a local twist on classic pub food. PRIME, awarded the ‘Best Meat Place’ by Time Out KL’s Food Awards for 2014 is one destination that I imagine is booked heavily. Located within the hotel, PRIME offers floor to ceiling wines (a large majority of which are premium Australian options), an open view into the kitchen where dinners can watch their steak of choice seared to their taste.
We dined at Favola, the Venetian inspired restaurant run by passionate Chef Domenico Piras. Born in Milan and raised in Sardinia, Piras creates traditional Italian dishes complete with colour, texture and full of course of elegant flavour. Piras brought out his Salmon & Sea Bass Carpaccio to begin, squid ink, saffron and glacé cherry risotto, for mains and finally the secret recipe Italian Tiramisu 1956. I have to admit, I ate better Italian in KL than I did last year in Italy. Not remotely kidding. The balance of flavours in each dish were interesting, complicated and delicious. That Tiramisu was one of the most incredible desserts I have ever had and I don’t often say no to dessert! I almost felt guilty that I was eating it and not able to share it with Mario back home! Sorry!!
Each morning we had breakfast in the Club Lounge, buffet style- with the option of requesting the chefs whip up anything from waffles to eggs which ever way you like them done. The Lounge offers views on either side, for an incredible view over the city. Of course, we made sure to stop in for a drink of the evenings as well and were attended to by the wonderful host staff. Everyone we met in KL struck me as happy. Genuinely content and happy.
Beside the Club Lounge, we had the option to dine at Latest Recipe, the hotel’s all-day dining venue, with five distinct open kitchens, Indian, Chinese, Malay, Japanese and Western, by award-winning chefs. Latest Recipe was always buzzing, which given the food options (and candy bar) on offer, is no surprise. Finally Mon and I were treated to some French inspired treats from Latitude 03, the coffee lounge and pastry spot in the hotels lobby. The macarons were very welcome!
MUST SEE / DO IN KL
The Petronas Twin Towers are the obvious spot to visit in KL, I haven’t ever made my way up to the top- you have to organise tickets early as the access is capped each day. The shopping mall below the towers is fun to explore- we may have tried on a few things at the Gucci store and made our way through the cosmetics stores- Nars, MAC, Urban Decay etc. The KLCC gardens outside of the towers are nice to wander through, it makes a nice break from the buildings! The city can feel pretty warm, sticky and grey, so I appreciated the greenery.
On our first night we also took in a musical. Yep. I was surprised too. KL’s longest running musical Mud, tells the story of the settlement of KL and the dramas that unfolded with natural disaster after the other. The cast were fun, talented and very encouraging of audience participation, so we both found ourselves on stage. I left with a much better understanding of how KL came to be, so would include this in the ‘must do’ list.
AUTHENTIC MALAY FOOD TOUR
Getting off the beaten track is one of the best decisions on any trip. Finding those out of the way places and experiences is something that I love to share, so I was pretty excited to be taking a Flavours of Malaysia food tour with Simply Enak. Mimi, our friendly local guide knows the Chow Kit area very well. The area has been known as a seedier neighbourhood, having been home to some rougher types a long time ago. During our tour we didn’t run into any other tourists and observed as locals bought their groceries from the markets on their way home from work. We went into shanty type tents which were about the hottest and most humid places I had ventured, so local fruit/ tea drinks were pretty welcome, as were the satays and Murtabak we tasted. Our tour was small- with only one other couple joining us.
Moving through the wet markets, we got to check out the fish, meat and vegetable merchants all of whom were friendly and welcoming. It is not a classic tourist tour- you certainly need shoes that you don’t mind getting wet, as you immerse yourself within the culture, tasting and smelling all sorts of market goods. Personally I loved the fruits we tasted including Durian, which although I wouldn’t eat again, I am glad to have tried. The steamed coconut and rice rolls – Putu Bambu were super tasty, with or without the sugar on top! Our last two stops were Restoran Kin Kin for Pan Mee and an Indian spot for sweet and savoury Roti Canai. Though the tour could have been a lot shorter, it gave us a great opportunity to step into an entirely different part of the city, taste food that I sometimes felt a little unsure about but ultimately proved to be delicious and chat with Mimi about the cultures, lifestyles and families in KL. I wouldn’t necessarily head out to Chow Kit on my own, though the people are super friendly, I preferred to have Mimi to navigate and introduce us to the sights and tastes on offer.
Find out more about the Simply Enak tours here.
Last by not least…
My final word on KL? I have been before (this was my second trip, but the other was many years ago) and I would travel through here and do this again for sure. This time around we walked through the Merdeka Square at night, which was alive with live music, markets, pop-up food vans and even a band of bagpipes- (random!) but it’s gorgeous colonial architecture is best explored by day. Further more there is Petaling Street which is home to China Town to wander through and of course day trips- such as heading out to the Batu Caves. The people are some of the kindest and happiest I have ever met, we both had grins on our faces throughout the trip. Plenty of curious locals were waving at us and asking someone to translate something to us so they could ask for a photo or ask where we were from.
This is definitely a destination that you can absorb in a few nights, but trust me when I recommend Le Meridien, that place made our stay.
WEARING: GRANA SILK DRESS, SOLUDOS // DENIM SHIRT, ONE TEASPOON SHORTS, ADIDAS STAN SMITHS
PHOTOGRAPHED/ EDITED BY: JENELLE WITTY (PICS OF ME KINDLY SHOT BY MONIQUE CECCATO)
Written in collaboration with AirAsia and Le Meridien