24-Hour Room Service: Hotel Maya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Saturday 13 September 2008
Kuala Lumpur is a city that thinks big. Any vestiges of its history are almost imperceptible among the forest of glass, steel and marble that now constitutes the city centre. Until 2005, the Petronas Twin Towers were the world's tallest buildings. Sprinkled around them are cavernous, glittering shopping malls, more skyscrapers (notably the long and lean Menara KL Tower) and big, brash hotels – among them the 22-storey Hotel Maya.
Although you won't get a flavour of the past at the Maya, you will get welcome respite from the corporate sheen and stuffiness of the hotels surrounding it. From the outside, there is little to distinguish this monolith from its competitors, but what sets it apart is its approach to luxury.
Inside, the soaring building feels airy, largely thanks to the vast atrium at its core, around which the rooms are arranged. In a refreshing change to the sauna-to-freezer sensation of stepping off the street into a hotel or shopping mall in KL, fresh air circulates inside, with several storeys of one face open to the elements.
The spa and lounges are arranged a few floors up, with windows at treetop height, giving the impression of being in a forest or park rather than in a city.
On the lower ground floor, the restaurants and bars meander into one another, separated by black-tiled pools of water that twinkle with lights at night. The Maya Brasserie served some of the best food that I enjoyed in the capital, with unusual delicacies such as tripe with sambal (a popular fiery condiment) as well as the more commonplace beef rendang curry.
In the lobby, bamboo and tropical foliage are interspersed with polished marble and chandeliers encased in giant shades made from natural fibres. It's a contemporary atmosphere that also chimes with the tropical climate. After a day milling around the city, the Anggun Spa, with its bamboo-encased hydrotherapy pool, soothing treatments and yoga and pilates lessons, is the perfect place to be reinvigorated before hitting the town again at night.
Hotel Maya, 138 Jalan Ampang, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (00 60 3 2711 8866; www.hotelmaya.com.my), is huddled among the high-rise hotels in the city centre's so-called "Golden Triangle".
KL's confusing layout can be overcome by using the Petronas Towers as a landmark – from the Hotel Maya, these high-rises are a five-minute walk up Jalan Ampang.
Time from international airport: the excellent KLIA is a bit of a trek from the city centre, and driving in on a good day will take around 45 minutes; taxis charge around 100 ringgit (£16) for the journey. Allow at least another 30 minutes during rush hour or downpours, when traffic grinds to a halt. The fast and efficient airport express train takes 25 minutes to reach Kuala Lumpur Sentral station.
My deluxe suite was like a pimped-up loft apartment, more reminiscent of Manhattan than Malaysia. Spanning the entire double-length room were floor-to-ceiling windows that, up on the 16th floor, framed a head-on view of the Petronas Towers. This was undeniably the focus, with the furnishings seeming almost incidental to the spectacular backdrop, particularly at night. However, they were suitably stylish – a black lacquer TV unit, chrome and wicker chairs, geometrically patterned rugs, retro string art and industrial parquet flooring.
With sliding frosted-glass doors opening on to a huge elongated bathroom with grey lacquered flooring, and a wet room with a large sunken bath and a mirror extending along an entire wall, it was all very Zen.
The overall effect is reminiscent of the style of Philippe Starck, but somewhat less intimidating. The Maya's studio rooms are half the size, but they have the same cool decor, and all the rooms have striking either Petronas Towers or Menara Tower views.
Freebies: bottled mineral water; Maya-branded natural bathroom products; evening tea, coffee and snacks in the Sky Lounge.
Keeping in touch: direct-dial telephones, flat-screen televisions with DVD player, complimentary broadband and Wi-Fi access.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Suites start at 443 ringgit (£69), including breakfast.
I'm not paying that: the Number Eight Guesthouse (00 60 3 2144 2050; www. numbereight.com.my) is a restored traditional shophouse near the retailing frenzy that is Bukit Bintang. It offers style on a budget, with prices ranging from 30 ringgit (£5) per person for a dorm bed to 115 ringgit (£18) for a double loft room, including breakfast.
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