Malaysia: Kuala Lumpur, day 1

Our flight from Penang to KL was pretty uneventful… we had business class seats for the short flight which included larger seats and a chicken satay snack that wasn’t very good. Since it was a domestic flight no wine or beer was offered.

The train ride from the airport to Sentral was easy once we figured out how to get our QR code tickets to scan (hint: turn off the auto-rotate on your phone!) The subway ride to our hotel was very crowded and getting to the mall where the hotel was located was a bit tricky, with a pedestrian walkway over a large road and several sets of stairs. Oh, and it had just started to drizzle. Thankfully, Eric was able to scout ahead while I waited with the luggage in a covered area.

The Men’s Aussie Open final was on so after unpacking we headed down to the hotel bar for happy hour and to watch the tennis. I opted for a South African white that was just okay and Eric had a whisky sour cocktail that was cheaper than my wine. Our drinks arrived with a complimentary bowl of lightly roasted peanuts that were delicious.

Eric had read that Sky Bar in the Traders Hotel had a great view of the Petronus towers, so we grabbed an Uber and headed over. All the prime window seats were full when we arrived but a table opened up about ten minutes later and we snagged it. Our cocktails, Frosty Ginger for me and Whiskey Passion for Eric, were very good and went well with the chocolate fondue dessert. And wow, what a view!

view of the Petronus Towers from SkyBar  SkyBar @ Traders Hotel
the view of the towers; interior pool and colorful lighting @ SkyBar

The next morning we grabbed an Uber to take us to the Batu Caves about 20 minutes north of downtown. You can also take the subway but the Uber ride was MUCH easier, faster and only cost us about $3.75 USD (17MYR) each way.

This is an active temple, so there were quite a few pilgrims chanting and carrying offerings. There were also a lot of vendors selling traditional Indian snacks and other goods. And, of course, monkeys! Quick note: It was very damp on the stairs and inside the caves so I regretted my choice of sandals as I left with soaked feet.

Lord Murugan Statue @ Batu Caves  money on the steps

Batu Caves

Batu Caves

Batu Caves

At this point, we really wanted some air conditioning, so we caught an Uber to the KL Seria Mall to look around a bit. All the stores had roosters and Chinese New Year decorations and we even watched a brief candy making demo.

 

After taking a quick break in our room to charge our phones and rest our feet, we ventured to the Central Market / Kasturi Walk area for some shopping and gift purchases. I had two stores in mind: Arch (detailed wood veneer art) and Tenmoku Pottery, handmade near the Batu Caves with many items featuring a gorgeous matte black interior glaze. Some haggling was allowed so I also picked up a few other items when I could score a better price.

Kasturi Walk

By the time we finished here it was pouring rain, so we skipped the famous Street Market and instead quickly walked to a nearby Indian restaurant, Betel Leaf, for an early dinner. Eric had biryani rice with chicken leg which was good but my specialty Betel Leaf curry was disappointing, all bones with barely any meat! The naan bread and sauce were very good though, as was my banana lassi, so I would highly recommend ordering only the boneless version of dishes there.

Malaysia: trip overview and where we stayed

In early 2016 we started planning an Asian business class trip to take advantage of the points required before the forthcoming American Airlines miles devaluation. During planning we settled on Malaysia fairly early, but went back and forth over where to go in (Borneo? Penang? Langkawi?) and timing (should we go during Chinese New Years?)  We had been in other parts of Asia (Hong Kong and Singapore) near Chinese New Years, but never during the celebrations. In the end we decided to experience Chinese New Years, and choose Penang for the majority of our time.

Some interesting tidbits we picked up on this trip:

  • Every hotel room had an arrow pointing the way to Mecca.
  • Lime juice was almost always an option = happy Eric.
  • The New Year Lion Dances to clear out bad spirits were VERY loud and fun. We witnessed four of these.
  • Uber in Malaysia was very easy and very cheap. We wound up using it all over Georgetown, instead of the metro in KL, and to transfer hotels.

Where We Stayed

Sama-Sama Hotel KL International Airport

Landed in KL and took the cute buggy ride to the hotel.

waiting for our hotel shuttle

Checked in quickly and then up to our spacious room. After so many hours on planes we needed to stretch our legs so we explored around the hotel for 20 minutes before getting some much needed rest in an actual bed.

On checkout the hotel erroneously charged us for valet service; I wrote to the hotel and the charge was reversed about two weeks later. Overall, this was a convenient stay given our late evening arrival and morning flight.

Lone Pine Hotel, Batu Ferringhi

The hotel bills itself as the ‘only luxury boutique hotel’ in the area, which is strange since there are definitely more luxurious places to stay nearby. I guess the boutique part is correct. We had a deluxe room which was spacious and overlooked the grounds with a water view mostly obscured by trees. The bed was comfortable, the bathroom amenities were nice, and I liked the available fridge, but overall our room felt pretty worn. My main complaint, however, was the noise. We could hear leaf blowers, jet skis, and children yelling throughout the afternoon as there was no glass, only shutters, for windows. Thankfully we brought earplugs with us and didn’t need to awake with an alarm so we managed to sleep fine.

   
hotel entrance; the pool area; view from our room

Eastern And Oriental Hotel, Georgetown

The Lone Pine and E&O are sister properties, and there is a transfer shuttle between the two. Unfortunately, the shuttle to the E&O was only at 10:30am and 2:30pm, so with a noon checkout, it didn’t work for us.  Instead, we sat around the pool for a bit, then took an easy Uber ride at 1pm.

From the moment we arrived at the E&O you could feel something special. We were checked in promptly, then made our way to the 11th floor. Our studio suite room was amazing(!) with large closets, a comfortable bed, and a nice covered patio. On the bathroom side we had double sinks, a large tub, and a separate shower.

our room @ the Eastern & Oriental

our bathroom @ the Eastern & Oriental

the view from our balcony
view from our 11th floor balcony, looking south

Breakfasts were quite an elaborate affair, with a large collection of hot and cold buffet items, fresh juice made to order, and several custom cooking stations (street food, omelets, and others). Most everything was tasty and it was a great way to start the day.

Each evening at 5pm the E&O hosts a complimentary cocktail hour in the 6th floor lounge near the pool, which was quite a nice perk. The pool itself was also very nice, with lounges in the sun and shade. Combined with the nice breeze due to the 6th floor location, it was a very relaxing spot to read a few books during our stay.

crows hanging out by the pool  hotel happy hour = free wine and snacks!

6th floor fountain  the view from the seawall @ the Eastern & Oriental

We loved our experience at the E&O and would definitely return on a future trip.

DoubleTree Kuala Lumpur

Known as one of the better point redemptions in the Hilton brand, we stayed at the Doubletree for our first two nights in KL. Located inside the Intermark Mall, it was a little tricky to find from the (relatively) nearby metro station.

Our room on the 21st floor was a good size with a couch and comfortable bed. The bathroom was well appointed and featured a large window wall with a switch-controlled shade. Overall, reasonably comfortable.

Breakfast was a large buffet that did tend to get crowded. There were a lot of options, including the obligatory juice bar, but the quality seemed a step down from what we had just experienced at the E&O. Not bad, just not as good.

On our first night we tried the ‘Cellar Door’ wine bar, which had some decent happy hour specials on cocktails. Our drinks were served with a ginormous bowl of peanuts that we greatly enjoyed!

Aloft Kuala Lumpur Sentral

With an early-ish flight we wanted to be close to the KL Sentral train station for easy access to the airport in the morning. Located across the street from the station, the Aloft was an a good pick for our last evening in KL.

Our room was standard aloft style room, good size, with a large bathroom. The hotel’s pool is located on the roof and had some wonderful views of the city at night.

One knock was checkout in the morning – there was only one person manning the counter, and quite a few travelers trying to get the airport, so the queue was building.