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Mandarin Oriental Hotel resides within the massive development of Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC) fronting Jalan Pinang. There is pretty much just one-way street to get into the hotel building from Jalan Pinang which is from either Jalan Ampang or Jalan P Ramlee. Most taxis and stage buses will have KLCC in their itineraries and the hotel building is just a short walking distance from either Suria KLCC, the Petronas twin towers and even the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre.

The best way to get to the hotel is via the Putra LRT which stops at the underground KLCC station, provided that you are traveling lightly without big luggage to carry inside the often-packed trains. Upon disembarking at the KLCC station, make your way through Suria KLCC to the hotel building via a number of exit points from the shopping mall.

Gracing on one side of the renowned Petronas twin towers, once was the tallest building in the world, Mandarin Oriental Hotel certainly needs no introduction. As thousands of avid shopper and awe-inspired globe-trotters pay their due homage to one of the world's most successful real estate developments, the hotel has been able to capitalise on its strategic location as evidenced from its respectable occupancy statistics as well as its ability to increase its average room rate (ARR) every year regardless of the economic condition. Today, Mandarin Oriental Hotel prides to claim the status as the most expensive hotel in Kuala Lumpur.

The hotel was opened in 1998, right smack at the height of the Asian financial crisis that reverberated to the country. It was business as usual for the hotel as it was able to capture a highly discerning market of business and luxury travelers. The 30-storey hotel building is owned by KLCC Property Holdings Bhd (KLCCP), a well-regarded property concern due to its solid financial footing and respectable track record in real estate development. KLCCP is under a long-term agreement with the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group based in Hong Kong for the management of Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Kuala Lumpur.

To set the tone for this write-up, this marks as my second visit to the hotel and boy, it was way overdue as the last review was done way back in 2003. True to a tee, the room rate quoted in 2008 was a significant increase as compared to 5 years ago. The main lobby looks exactly like it was previously. Perhaps the hotel owner decides to retain the same look that had graced every visitors since 1998. In a way, I do not feel that the main lobby needs renovation of any sort as everything is carefully done to exude a welcoming aura into a grandiose 5-star establishment. The main lobby is not chic or stylish to say the least as it is more catered for mature exuberance of grand chandeliers, Roman pillars, expensive marble tiles and so on. The reception desk is placed off the main thoroughfare of well-dressed passers-by which in a sense is quite a non-intrusive design. As the hotel is a perennial choice of various MICE activities, the main lobby can be rather hectic, what more with its collection of grand ballroom and meeting rooms are located in the conferencing area nearby.

In totality, there are 643 rooms and suites in the hotel, a whopping number by any comparison. Furthermore, the room / suite categories are staggering to implicitly distinguish between a basic level of bare necessities up to a fancied offering befitted of a king. Capitalising on its location, its room offerings are segregated to the view of either the Petronas twin towers, the KLCC Park or the KL city skyline. This is quite a handful but here are the room / suite categories in the hotel: Superior City View (40 sq-metre), Deluxe City View (40 sq-metre), Premium City View (40 sq-metre), Deluxe Park View (40 sq-metre), Executive Park View (48 sq-metre), Park Suite (82 sq-metre), Club Suite (165 sq-metre) and Presidential Suite (335 sq-metre). Interestingly, the hotel also offers apartment-style accommodation as follows: 2-bedroom Superior City (130 sq-metre), 2-bedroom Premium City (130 sq-metre), 2-bedroom Executive Park (130 sq-metre) and 3-bedroom Deluxe City (152 sq-metre). Wait, there is more! All the Superior, Deluxe, Premium and Executive variants are also available the club category which comes with complimentary access to the Club Lounge, reputably the biggest in the city. Despite the dizzying choices of room and suite in Mandarin Oriental Hotel, this review shall dwell on the experience of staying in the Deluxe City View room.

Five years have passed since my last stay and the Deluxe City View room looks almost exactly the same. In fact, the same CRT television set remains at the original place. In a way, it is downright shocking to see one in a highly-fancied 5-star hotel but there it is. The overall room arrangement is old and conservative. While it is understood that the hotel wants to retain this particular "mature" look, a little sprucing up should not be disregarded as the Deluxe City View room does look severely outdated. Featured in the bedding area are two twin beds clad in bed cover of brown flowery motif which is pretty much a crime in bedroom design of late. At one corner lies a one-seater cushion sofa complemented by a marble-top table where two ya pears are provided as the welcome fruits. As I do not wish to describe all the furniture and fittings inside the Deluxe City View room, it is suffice to say that they are quite unsightly (there I said it). The bathroom is a tad nicer although there seems to be no changes as compared to 5 years ago. It is acceptably spacious in a typical four-feature segmentation of a glass-enclosed standing shower, a long bath, a partly-veiled water closet and an opulent wash basin. As for the general room amenities, the Deluxe City View room offers all the usual suspects such as working desk, IDD phones, mini fridge, coffee / tea making facilities, mini bar, electronic safe and others. It is also worth to mention that the hotel arranges for an evening turn-down service although I opted not to have it for my room. Overall, an extremely disappointing room but really, I should not be too critical about it. After all, if it ain't broke, don't fix it (as far as their average room rate is concerned).

In term of guest facilities, Mandarin Oriental Hotel literally has everything under the sun. For business travelers, a host of amenities are available to ensure a successful trip such as a well-equipped business centre and state-of-the-art MICE venues. As for health facilities, the hotel provides a staggering option that ranges from infinity-edged swimming pool, modern fitness centre, spa outlet to even tennis courts. Hands down, the swimming pool is the best feature in the hotel without a shadow of doubt. As mentioned previously, the swimming pool is done in an infinity style which sprawls to the view of the expansive KLCC Park. The views from the swimming pool during the day and at night are equally mesmerising. During the day, soothing greenery is the order of the day and the pool area seems to be right above the tree canopies in the park. At night, the city comes alive in glitzy neon lights emanating from the world-famous twin towers as well as a host of office buildings and high-end condominiums. Ample greenery is also being featured along the pool periphery, as well as soft-murmuring fountain features throughout.

There are five F&B outlets in Mandarin Oriental Hotel. The main all-day dining outlet is Biba's Cafe which is located on the main lobby level. In general, Biba's Cafe serves breakfast, lunch and dinner of local and international selections in a contemporary setting. Adjacent to Biba's Cafe lies Lounge on the Park, an expansive lobby lounge featuring floor-to-ceiling glass windows with views of the outdoor greenery. Various seating arrangements are available at Lounge on the Park while a selection of beverages, cocktails and light snacks are served upon request. On most days, the lobby lounge enjoys a fairly healthy incoming crowd of business travelers and conference participants. Also nearby is Pacifica Grill & Bar which is more of a trendy dining outlet specialising in Eurasian fusion cuisines in a unique show kitchen concept. Fans of oriental dishes will not be disappointed as the hotel hosts a Cantonese and a Japanese outlet. The former is called Lai Po Heen which is located one floor up from the main lobby while the latter is called Wasabi Bistro which is located on the basement floor. Lastly, Cascade Restaurant & Bar is placed within the pool area amidst lush landscaping. It serves mostly light beverages throughout the day as well as selective light meals that can be enjoyed in an alfresco setting.

All in all, despite being disappointed with the Deluxe City View room, the overall guest services could not be faulted. The staff at the reception desk, the main entrance and even the swimming pool were friendly and affable. For example, upon seeing myself busy taking evening snapshots, a pool staff politely offered to take a photograph of me with the view. On another occasion, another pool staff swiftly offered a towel to cover up rain-soaked day beds. In a sense, the guest services are top-notch, as expected from this type of city hotel.

April 2008

Old and unappealing rooms. Services and location are the main forte of Mandarin Oriental Hotel. And yes, fantastic swimming pool. From the overall experience, a 4-star rating is more apt, until perhaps the hotel finally decides for a full-blown renovation.


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