No need to break the bank for a luxury stay in Kuala Lumpur, Anita Roberts finds
FAMILY luxury on a budget? A 2006 prices and earnings survey of 71 cities across the world by Swiss bank UBS found Kuala Lumpur was the cheapest destination for a short break, convincingly beating Manila, Nairobi and Buenos Aires as the best value for Western tourists.
The survey compared a package of 10 goods and services that included an overnight stay for two in a first-class hotel, two dinners with a bottle of house red wine, one taxi ride, a 100km trip in a rental car, two outings via public transport to the theatre and various incidentals such as a paperback novel and a phone call. The package, which cost more than $US1000 ($1166) in London and Tokyo and $US660 in Sydney, was a comparatively tiny $US260 in Kuala Lumpur.
The price of a three-course evening meal, without drinks, was also equal lowest in the Malaysian capital alongside Jakarta and Prague — only $US12 — while the most expensive was Tokyo at $US77. At $US130 a night, Buenos Aires narrowly defeated KL and Bogota (both $US150 a night) for the cheapest overnight stay in a top-end hotel, including breakfast and service charges.
But for a short break for Australian travellers, Kuala Lumpur wins hands down, especially given the arrival in Australia of new discount carriers.
For first-time visitors to Asia, Kuala Lumpur is a good introduction to the cultural mixture of the region, with its space-age Petronas Towers, crumbling colonial buildings, manicured tropical gardens, bustling night markets and graciously imposing mosques. Malaysia’s ethnic diversity and religious tolerance ensure there are plenty of cultural celebrations throughout the year.
But despite the variety, the list of the city’s must-see attractions is surprisingly short, making it an ideal place for holing up in the alternative reality of a five-star hotel. You can certainly do that at the opulent Hilton Kuala Lumpur. Opened in September 2004, it is the flagship Asian hotel for Hilton International and boasts a choice of 10 sumptuously designed food and beverage outlets.
Chynna, the hotel’s Chinese eatery, is an ornate jumble of silk lanterns and oriental antiques that conjures up Shanghai in its 1920s heyday. With a dim sum chef, resident calligrapher, traditional Chinese musicians, consultant herbal doctor and Beijing longspout tea-pouring specialist, a visit to Chynna is more than a meal.
At the even more sophisticated Senses restaurant, where menus have been overseen by Adelaide chef Cheong Liew, a window on to the preparation area allows intending diners to preview the evening’s morsels.
For the brief moments between meals, there’s the 130m free-form pool and sundeck with views across the city and a day spa.
All guestrooms are equipped with plasma televisions and there’s an LCD screen even in the bathroom.
For a more active break, the Saujana Kuala Lumpur offers an extensive range of distractions, from archery and pedal boating to classes in yoga, Pilates and Tai Chi. The lowrise collection of rooms and suites is nestled in 160ha of tropical greenery and fringed by lush golf courses. Only 30 minutes from the city and 35 minutes from the international airport, the Saujana combines peaceful surrounds with city convenience.
And for the complete five-star experience, check into Carcosa Seri Negara, the colonial mansion set amid the lawns of the Lake Gardens. From 1904 until 1941, this was the official residence of the most senior British representative to the Malay States. After extensive restoration work in 1989, Carcosa reopened as a hotel, with the Queen and Prince Philip as the first official guests. Colonial hospitality is still de rigueur; guests are assigned a personal butler and collected from the airport by limousine. In true fivestar style, special arrangements have also been made for those arriving by helicopter.
This is Visit Malaysia Year, with a range of special events in progress. Full details from Tourism Malaysia in Sydney. Phone: (02) 9299 4441; www.virtualmalaysia.com. www.hilton.com www.thesaujanahotel.com www.carcosa.com.my
Home and Malay: Clockwise from left, Kuala Lumpur’s Petronas Towers; the Sultan Abdul Samad Building houses Malaysia’s Supreme and High courts; folk dancers perform; popular food markets; shopping centres are opulent structures