In the second part of our city stop-overs en route to Europe, we look at one hotel, the Mandarin Oriental, in two locations.
Looking through floor-to-ceiling windows, the sun dances off the city’s iconic titanium-clad Petronas Twin Towers which at night gleam like icy temples in a licorice sky. To many celebrity travelers, Mandarin Oriental’s global network of hotels have become their preferred pied-a-terre and they, in return, have become founder members of a fan club which over the years has featured many of them in glossy advertising campaigns. For a humble travel writer, occupying one of the 148 guest rooms located on seven private Mandarin Oriental Club floors, this is an opportunity to press pause on the everyday and fast forward to the high life.
Check-in is discreet on the 24th level Club Lounge and one fragrant cool towel and aromatic iced tea later, we’re escorted to our room which has all the luxe touches expected of a marquee brand hotel group. Expensive restraint emanates from every corner, this is no place for shabby chic designer fad décor. Smooth, cool white bed linens, plump pillows and a fragrant box of pink and red roses placed next to the bed signal a soothing night’s sleep ahead. Sleek woodwork, a capacious sand and black marble bathroom, comfortable couches and the practical elements of iPod docking station and WiFi meet all the expectations of 21st century global roamers.
Position, position, position….
Located adjacent to the Kuala Lumpur City Centre, world-class shopping is literally on the doorstep and the lobby doormen resplendent in their baju melayu, a loose white tunic over trousers with a richly woven sarong wrapped around the hips, are quick with directions. Kuala Lumpur is renown for its hawker food but the bonus for Club class members is the opportunity for all-day grazing in the Club Lounge from breakfast through to afternoon tea, cocktails and hors d’oeuvres. After pounding the hot, humid streets of Malaysia’s bustling metropolis, it’s restorative to come back to this calm sanctuary and refuel.
Amongst the hotel’s stellar line-up of restaurants and cafes, the just-opened Tea Bar offers a selection of sixty teas including custom blends and luxury infusions which are attracting new fans to the art of brewing. It’s difficult not to succumb to the Mandarin Cake Shop’s dazzling array of macarons and chocolate truffle treats while the newly renovated Lounge on the Park is a serene space overlooking KLCC Park, one of the city’s few green spaces. Adjacent to the Lounge, Mosaic’s brightly renovated all-day dining room features local specialties and international favourites prepared by chefs at interactive cooking stations.
Shopping and eating have long been my raison d’etre for stopping off in Hong Kong. Overlooking the Chanel store from my prime position at Café Causette on the mezzanine level of the Mandarin Oriental, I’m able to do both.
The MO’s sleek makeover provides a luxury apartment vibe particularly in the quiet opulence of our suite where picture windows frame vistas of Victoria Harbour while below, the city’s streets seethe with silent traffic. Steel and glass structures thrust into a clear sky between green glimpses of The Peak while Kowloon and distant mainland China disappear into the morning haze. A spray of white orchids curve sensuously against a walnut timber wall and the décor gleams with rich raw silks and polished leather. A tray of petites pastries is tastefully arranged along with a gold foil-wrapped chocolate egg ready for the chocolate wrecker’s hammer. Marble the colour of ancient timber lines the and an enormous oval bath is set by wooden shuttered windows.
But other pleasure palaces await, particularly along Lan Quai Fong where luxury brand shopping reaches Olympian competition level. When the Mandarin Oriental first opened here in 1963, there were no Chloe, YSL, Prada, Ralph Lauren, Louis Vuitton or Giorgio Armani super-stores framed in sheaths of glass and steel. The Landmark where Harvey Nichols meanders over four levels and every known designer has a signature store is also a thoroughfare to busy Central Station and Gloucester Tower. Like Los Angeles freeways, this shoppers’ paradise that rises under a steel and glass atrium, is linked by a myriad of elevated walkways. Once inside, you could be trapped for days!
A spa treatment is a great pick-me-up before flying on to Europe and back on the 24th floor, the Mandarin Spa is fine-tuning its serene aromatherapy-laden environment for incoming guests. Evoking memories of Shanghai in the 1930s, the spa embraces authentic traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurvedic treatments alongside an array of signature MO treatments. Welcomed with a cool tower and hot rose tea, I’m surrounded by the gleam of embossed Chinese silks, honeyed warmth of polished wooden floors, tranquil music and trickling water.
Six treatment and spa suites peel off from the gleaming corridor but first I relieve tension by wading seven laps of the pebble-based hydrotherapy Kneipp pool. The walls are sweating in the Chinese herbal steam room where the hot and spicy aroma of cloves and cinnamon marinates the pores and clears the sinuses. Wilting faster than a week-old lettuce I head for the ice fountain to refresh. Just a couple of rain mist showers to go and I’m softened up for the main event.
Wake me Up before we go go
Over a foot bath, my therapist and I discuss the best treatment options as she kneads my legs and feet to release stress. Countering jet plane dehydration, a reviving body scrub, deep Chinese traditional massage and mini rose facial tick all the right boxes. Apparently subscribing to the ‘no pain, no gain’ school of thought, the Chinese traditional massage carves channels releasing tension by working the Meridian lines down my back, not missing a single pressure point along the way. Breathing deeply, the Revive Morning body oil, a blend of pink grapefruit, juniper and rosemary, works its magic and I drift into a bamboo flute-induced reverie.
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