CITY SLICKER

No need to break the bank for a lux­ury stay in Kuala Lumpur, Anita Roberts finds

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel -

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.

Check­list

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

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