A city known for luxury at a discount seems unlikely, but Kuala Lumpur is one such rare place. The capital city of Malaysia, "KL" as locals call it, offers an impressive density of five-star hotels, international fashion brand stores, and celebrated culinary destinations at notably bargain level prices. Amid a motley brigade of Asian Muslims, Indian immigrants, and hard-charging Chinese businessmen, Kuala Lumpur increasingly shines with its extensive roadways, LEED certified high-rises, and glittering "Twin Towers," thanks to its lucrative gas and oil industries.
As for how long this Southeast Asian secret stays under wraps from the west is anyone's guess. As one local told me, "If you don't gain weight in Kuala Lumpur, you're doing something wrong." Indeed, KL is bursting with cuisine from around the globe. I recently stayed at The Ritz-Carlton, Kuala Lumpur, a 365-room property that is home to four restaurants, two of which are certainly not to be missed. The hotel has won "Best Business Hotel in Kuala Lumpur" by Travel + Leisure for a number of years, and as such, many of its dining venues attract a stylish set of deal makers and expat hustlers. Li Yen, an authentic Cantonese restaurant, is the power dim-sum lunch spot during the week. Half moon red booths and dark wood furnishings add a warm grace to the 109-seat restaurant, which also serves dinner daily.
For a splashier ambience and international palate, SHOOK! restaurant, part of the hotels' adjoining StarHall Gallery, is a definite choice. The StarHall atrium which serves as SHOOK!'s entire open kitchen and seating area, buzzes daily with live stage entertainment from runway shows to DJ showcases. If the atrium shows aren't stimulating enough, the restaurant's unending open kitchen is a constant spectacle in itself. The concept centers around shaking up international cuisines, and at least a dozen chefs can be spotted at any moment fishing out live clams, torching a crème brûlée, or sautéing fresh eel. Although I sampled only a few dishes (beef Carpaccio, Japanese eel, gnocchi and calamari), I quickly noticed SHOOK!'s attention to exquisite presentation and taste profiles.
I love a proper tea; and the Ritz doesn't skimp on this time-honored tradition. Forty teas compile the menu itself, complemented by live harp music and stacked dainty trays of scones, finger sandwiches, and assorted pastries. I loved the mini ham quiche and mouth-watering raisin scones garnished with fresh cream. High tea takes place in the discreet, rich Lobby Lounge from 3-5 p.m. daily except Sundays. The property also introduced a new twist to their high tea announced earlier this year: the Champagne Afternoon Tea. Laurent-Perrier Champagne is paired with certain teas and treats, perfect for toasting a mid-day celebration.
Besides the hotel’s line-up of dining delights, it also boasts the Spa Village Kuala Lumpur, tucked along the 4th floor's swimming and health club area. The village itself, a lush urban garden with gushing fountains and island-style day beds, is worth a visit. The treatments available range from Western therapies to Malay traditional massages, facials and scrubs which focus on different applications for women and men. The ultimate four-hour indulgence and one that I had the honor of enjoying, is the Couples Spa Experience. Experience, however, doesn't convey the array of pampering one receives in this opulent session. It features a body massage, facial, steam session, a milk and lime bath, and a luxurious scalp treatment. The entire session centers on the essence of the Malay warrior Hang Tuah, for men, and the adored Malay princess Tun Teja, for women. I'm not certain if my vitality or fertility were immediately impacted at the end of the Couples Spa Experience, which is suggested, but I did get the richest and most polished skin, and lush hair of my dreams.
Although business travelers are fond of The Ritz-Carlton, Kuala Lumpur, a sizable and growing portion of the hotel’s guests are families. This holiday season, the property indulges young and old alike with a few Christmas delights. The Teddy Bear Afternoon Tea will take place December 13 and will include a teddy bear workshop, Gingerbread man decorating, and a coveted Santa Claus appearance. On the day after Christmas, the Eggnog Boxing Day Roast will take place in the Lobby Lounge and will feature hundreds of macaroons, turkey trimmings, and cinnamon spiced eggnog ready for toasting.