My ears pop somewhere around the 40th floor. That´s not a sensation you usually get as you make your way to check-in, but the Banyan Tree Kuala Lumpur is more of a high-altitude experience than your average city hotel. It’s located in the Malaysian capital’s so-called Golden Triangle, the central business, shopping, entertainment and foodie hub, and occupies 7 floors of the Banyan Tree Kuala Lumpur tower, with levels 1-52 used for residences and the hotel itself filling levels 53 through to 59.
On the ground floor, welcomed into the tower by door staff, we´d passed a large mural of white leaves and an equally wall-filling painting of red flowers before riding up to the hotel lobby. Seconds later, ears adjusted, we arrive at the 53rd floor. Stepping out of the hotel, there’s an instant feeling of calm and peace inside, far above the noise and traffic of the city, with staff gesturing us towards the check-in desk. There’s a clean, sharp, modern feel to the lobby. Immediately, we´re drawn to the windows by the lounge areas, the kind of place you could sit for hours watching the sprawling, towering metropolis from far above.
After a busy day of meetings and rushing around Kuala Lumpur, we´re checked in quickly. My first stop is the Banyan Tree Spa, where I’m booked in for a Malaysian Bliss signature treatment, 150 minutes of relaxation time. Judy, a Thai therapist, serves me a refreshing drink of red cabbage and tamarind, then leads me into the spacious, three-room treatment area, which, like much of the hotel, makes the most of the high-up views across the city. First, in a little corner room, I´m given a foot bath and scrub, looking out through the glass onto the Menara Kuala Lumpur communications tower. Afterwards, in the main room, as soft ambient music plays, I´m given a full body scrub with honey and turmeric. After showering, Judy gives me a thorough massage, mixing Thai-style stretching and kneading of pressure points with an oil massage. It’s the best massage I´ve ever had in numerous visits to Kuala Lumpur and one of the best I’ve had in Asia. Next up, there´s a facial with various cool creams, a calming face massage and a relaxing head massage. To finish the treatment, I´m led through to a white bathtub by a window in a third and final room, with jasmine and pink flowers in the hot water, where I’m left to soak for a while with a view of the Menara tower and the city, while enjoying a pot of yoghurt, a glass of apple pieces and a powerful cup of ginger tea.
In the evening, my girlfriend and I head up to Horizon Grill restaurant up on the 58th floor, where chefs work in the open-plan kitchen, calling out orders to each other. We´re shown to a table by the window where it´s hard to take our eyes off the city, which is even more impressive lit-up at night. Staff here are efficient, friendly and helpful, talking us through the menu, which contains the kind of food for celebrations and good times; it’s not overly fancy or ‘fine dining’, more about pleasure, from steaks to pasta with truffle. We start with a prawn cocktail, giant tiger prawns served around the rim of a glass with a spicy Marie Rose mayo and crisp lettuce, and fresh asparagus with poached egg. For mains, I go for the salmon, along with a side of perfectly crispy chips with truffle oil, while my girlfriend goes for a ribeye steak, which she marks up as one of the best steaks she´s ever had.
We take the evening just a little higher afterwards, using the escalator to go up to Vertigo bar up on Floor 59. The rooftop bar is busy, with dance music playing and an energetic, clubby feel, as well as plenty of people taking photos of the view with their phones. There’s an open deck, with a thick safety layer of glass at the edge. We spend time outside, drinking in the view with a couple of Manhattans and Long Island Ice Teas, looking around at the Menara tower, the famous Petronas Towers and the many other tall hotels, banks and office buildings in the heart of the city.
Late at night, we make our way back to the room through corridors with plush carpets and fragranced by lemongrass oil burners. Of all the hotels I´ve stayed in in Kuala Lumpur, the Banyan Tree has the rooms I like most. There´s a modern, youthful, energetic feel to the décor, nothing stuffy or traditional. With just 55 rooms across 3 levels, they’ve gone for quality and size, over quantity, which means plenty of space to walk around in. There are wooden floorboards in the room, with white and brown walls, a wall-mounted TV and two large, bold, bright colourful abstract paintings on the wall. There´s a smart writing desk in one corner, and an area with a fridge, tea and coffee in another. The bed is at the centre of the room. Next to the window, there´s an area with comfy corner sofas.
The window is the big draw. Being able to look out from the 56th floor directly onto the Menara tower and to look right towards the Petronas Towers is unforgettable. Each morning, we hit the switch by the bedside and the curtains pull apart to reveal the view.
The creamy white bathroom is large too. On one side, there´s an white oval bathtub by the window, positioned to take in the city view and the towers, as is the rainshower, which has ‘fountain’ and ‘waterfall’ settings, as well as ‘rain’. There´s a large sink area with two circular, cool, white sculpted sinks in front of a large mirror.
After a comfortable night, we make our way to breakfast, back up on the 58th floor. There´s an exceptional buffet, with chefs on hand to talk through dishes that have been laid out, including a selection of French cheeses, cold cuts, cured and smoked salmon, as well as cereals, juices, breads (excellent sourdough) and pastries. Kuala Lumpur is a culturally diverse city, with the food to reflect that, including influences from India, Malaysia, China and more. While chefs inside the kitchen are ready to prepare fresh omelettes or eggs, there’s also a good choice of Asian dishes, including noodles, stir-fried rice, Chinese dumplings and Malaysian curries with fresh roti, a spicily invigorating start to the day. Along with a few glasses of crisp, chilled Prosecco and the view of the city, mornings don’t get much better. Staff couldn´t do more to help either, regularly passing by the table to top up water, to serve dishes, or to bring more tea and coffee.
The staff throughout the hotel are exceptional, the hotel small enough to feel personal; we see the same faces and get to know people a little. When I need to put a laptop in for repair, a member of staff at the check-in desk calls the shop on my behalf, checking for updates, informing me when it´s ready for pick-up. That kind of thoughtfulness makes a big impression.
We spend the day exploring vibrant Kuala Lumpur, walking around KLCC park in the shadow of the iconic Petronas Towers, wandering streets and through shopping malls (a popular thing to do in KL), before heading back to the heady comfort of the hotel. In the afternoon, we cool down in the swimming pool up on the 53rd pool. The water is on the bracing side, but it makes for a great swim, the cool blue of the pool almost a match for the sky, with views of the towers and city as I complete each length.
I make time for a final swim next morning, reluctant to leave this elevated city location, before heading up to breakfast. We chat to a few familiar staff and the hotel manager who’s passing through, then finish breakfast with a little fish curry, with roti canai and sambal. Whether the food, the people who work here, the pool, the rooms or the unforgettable views, there are so many elements here that combine to leave you on a real high.
Banyan Tree Kuala Lumpur. 2, Jalan Conlay, 50450 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Visit https://www.banyantree.com/en/malaysia/kuala-lumpur or call the US booking number (Toll Free): 180 0591 0439.
Rooms at Banyan Tree Kuala Lumpur start from $216.27. Transfers from the airport to the hotel in a Mercedes-Benz E-Class cost $86 per car per way.