What’s the one architectural marvel most people coming to Kuala Lumpur hope to see when they wake up on their first morning in Malaysia?
If you’re like me, it might be the staggeringly famous Petronas Towers, Malaysia’s response to the challenge to build the world’s tallest set of twin buildings. (By the way, they’re still winning). And at the Royale Chulan in Bukit Bintang, this is exactly what you’ll see when you wake up, because you’ll likely have a stunning and perfectly clear view of them from your bedroom window.
At least, that’s how I met the Towers on my recent trip to Malaysia—through my bedroom window. Since we arrived in the early morning, I didn’t technically get to “wake up” to them, but as soon as I dropped my bag on the floor and pulled open the drapes, I realized I was looking right at the twins themselves in all their giant and 1,483 feet tall glory. What a breathtaking way, I thought, to meet a place I’d never been before. Standing there, I wondered how else Malaysia would come to define itself for me over the next nine days, and I could hardly wait.
This is, of course, only one of the best parts about staying at the Royale Chulan. Not only it is located amidst a host of amazing places to eat, visit, shop, drink, and mingle, it’s less than two kilometers from the magnificent Petronas Towers. And yet, placing the Royale Chulan in proximity to something awe-inspiring and architecturally-daring doesn’t do justice to the hotel, because the hotel is something of an architectural marvel itself. A tribute to traditional Malay architecture, the Royale Chulan stands out among the other hotels in this area simply because it veers away from the modern aesthetic so much of the city has embraced and instead celebrates the past of its people in a way that doesn’t feel too much like a replica. Unlike traditional Malay houses, though, which are built out of wood and can suffer from water damage and termites, the Royale Chulan’s exterior architecture evokes without worry.
The rooms, for instance, feel nothing like an old house and completely like any 5-star hotel should—with a modern marble-floor bathroom equipped with both walk-in rain shower and full-sized marble bathtub, flat-screen tv, full-room wifi access, sitting desk and chair, goosedown pillows, high thread-count sheets, and fuzzy towels. They have gorgeous mahogany-colored wood paneling and window panes and traditional Malaysian accents to evoke the rumah ibu—the main living room in a Malay home. What’s most unusual about these rooms, though, is the bed: not only will you receive a pillow menu to choose which firmness and thickness of pillow you might like, but the bed itself is a handmade work of art. Each bed is custom-made from all-natural materials in traditional Malay style with a matching carved wooden headboard. While I’ve realized that Malaysian beds tend to be firmer than American ones (if I don’t literally seep into my bed, it usually isn’t soft enough), if we want to talk comfort, this bed would be it. As soon as I climbed in under the sheets and laid my head on the medium-weight goosedown pillow that evening, I was out like the lamps on the bedside table—with one flip of the master switch, everything, including me, was out light a light.
But, since we arrived at 6:30 in the morning, we weren’t able to fall into bed–we went straight to breakfast. In this respect, I am definitely my mother’s daughter–just like her, I love hotel buffet breakfasts. Most rooms do come included with the olfactory delight that is the buffet breakfast at the Warisan Café, the restaurant adjacent to the open-air terrace, and I would highly recommend wrapping the buffet into the price of your room. The options are phenomenal: you’ll find a Malay station, a Japanese station, a Chinese station, an Italian one, a Western one (complete with egg omelets any way you can imagine them), and even a fully-stocked bread counter. (Tip: If you’re into espresso, they have a machine next to the fruit bowl that makes very strong but very foamy cappuccinos—this isn’t something you’ll see often in Malaysia, so drink up while you can). Most of the hot food is arranged in stainless steel bowls to keep warm, so you’ll have to be brave and open up all the bowls if you want to see what your options are. Because I’d just arrived and I was insanely curious about Malaysian food, I immediately headed to the Malay station, where I met a delightful woman who showed me how to spice noodles the Malaysian way and how to properly make nasi lamak, Malaysia’s famous steamed rice dish with coconut topped with curried meat, fried anchovy bodies, hard-boiled eggs, and a very spicy red chili paste. I piled it on plate, headed over to the Indian station to get some freshly cooked roti letur, and enjoyed a very long–and very tasty–meal. For the next two days that we were there, I ate a fantastic breakfast every morning, took a tour of the Petronas Towers, strolled through an entirely too expensive mall for me (Pavilion), and enjoyed getting to know new people, new smells, and new tastes.
And somewhere along the line, I realized that Malaysia had given me a pretty good introduction–and I couldn’t wait to see what would await me next. After Kuala Lumpur, I wasn’t sure how it could get better than this.
The Royale Chulan is 45 minutes away from KLIA in the Bukit Bintang district of Kuala Lumpur. Typical prices during the summer season begin at 556 MYR ($178 USD) for a Deluxe Room and go up to 1,310 MYR ($420 USD) for the Premier Suite. Rooms at this price include the full buffet, wifi, and a late checkout—if you’re interested, there are cheaper rates for room-only reservations.
The Royale Chulan Kuala Lumpur
5 Jalan Conlay,
50450 Kuala Lumpur,
Article and photographs by Kristin Winet.
A special thanks to Tourism Malaysia for graciously hosting me on this trip.