Friday, October 10, 2014

Hello Again, KL! - KLIA2, Wolo Hotel and "The Gathering"

It's probably the longest time I've been away from KL in the last 7 years. Nine months. My May 2014 trip didn't require transit in the Malaysian city. Unexpectedly, they've dismantled the absolutely functional LCCT, the low cost Malaysian airport that kept winning awards, and replaced it with Kuala Lumpur International Airport's (KLIA) modern twin, KLIA2. Gone are the long, sweaty parades on tarmac just to get to the immigration counter.

KLIA 2 is spread like a dragonfly, with the gorgeous Sky Bridge as the insect's body. Make no mistake, the walk to get stamped in is still lengthy (probably even longer than before) but I didn't mind this. The hallways were gorgeously minimalistic with indoor foliage and cool air wafting around. Everywhere you looked, you could get a view of planes properly docked in their own ports.

The immigration hallway seemed small compared to LCCT's wide expanse, but there were a couple more in the next room, separating Malaysian passport holders from foreign visitors.With hardly any questions asked, I got finger printed again (for my biometrics) then left to claim my baggage. This trip was of course special because I took my family with me. The arrival hall was one big shopping mall more than an airport shop - and, Boy!, there were plenty - 200 shops, I heard. Though not particularly fond of mercantile activities, I was pleased to check out this new, welcoming terminal.

I bought some Malaysian Ringgit at the CIMB counter then headed towards the trolley-friendly lifts to take me to the bus terminal, an improved version of the old KLIA's hentian. There's obviously more space here, and booths (metered taxis, prepaid taxis, buses) stood beside each other. No barkers, which was a relief. I bought a ticket (still worth 10 RM) for an Aerobus seat and was told that the bus would leave in 20 minutes. Hmmm. Twenty seems like 20 days. But, lo and behold, my bus left 10 minutes earlier when it got filled to capacity.

The bus ride to KL was, like most rides, relaxing and fast (1 hour). We reached KL Sentral just after rush hour dwindled. This time, I didn't have to walk out of KL Sentral and across Tun Sambanthan Street to get to the monorail station. "Nu Sentral", a new mall now connects KL Sentral to the monorail, improving connectivity and providing more convenience to the commuters. The advantage of progress.

Amidst a flurry of KL'ites and tourists, we escaped from the chaos of our train and out into Bukit Bintang, still a buzz of activity. I was pretty excited to get to my latest hotel find - Wolo Bukit Bintang Hotel, an ultra chic hotel located in the epicenter of Bintang's kilometer zero, and probably the most central hotel in the Golden Triangle.

My room at the 7th floor provides generous view (first photo above) of the intersecting Bukit Bintang road and Jalan Sultan Ismail. The road excavation for the city's new subway train station (which allegedly boasts of 15 new stations) was underway. The huge LED TV just above McDonalds flickered with advertisements. This is KL's Leicester Square. To my right, I could see the KL Tower hovering over other high rises.

Wolo Hotel boasts of a contemporary atmosphere; the mezzanine and second-floor lobby are peppered with modern art pieces. The wall at the front desk, for example, has a delectable montage of disposable objects, like plastic cups, spoon, knives and covers, brilliantly turned into high art. They're arranged into worm-like pieces, like an abstract depiction of a singular idea. I can't quite figure out what it's supposed to be, to be honest. But isn't that how art intrigues the mind?

There's a life-sized origami of a horse beside the elevators framed by a blinding parade of figures. Floors are decked with round lights that change colors. Meanwhile, flickering strobe lights move around while electronic music plays overtime.

There's the statue of a one-eyed child reading a book; his LED eye is transfixed on an empty page of a book. From all these, I realized that this was an exquisitely hip place to be.

Tous Les Jours, an "authentic French bakery", occupies the ground floor of Wolo. This is also where breakfast is served.

Wolo's hotel lobby.

Lot 10 shopping mall is just across the street.

Check in was fast, but my reservation for a bigger 22 square-meter room didn't come through. "We are full, sir," Now you wonder why there is such a thing as reservation. Since I booked with Agoda, it was essentially a paid room - which I did not get because some incompetent twat didn't reserve what's supposed to be "reserved" several weeks in advance. Why reserve when they won't allot the darn room to a paying guest?

So I ended up with a smaller 18 square-meter room. What's the big deal, right? Well, there's this room fee difference, minimal, but nonetheless, one is more expensive than the other. I pointed this to the front desk girl this. "No sir, it's the same price," argued the girl. I didn't want to argue there but I checked! And even if you check Agoda's booking right now, any idiot will read the difference. There is a difference - so Miss Counter Girl was either fibbing or she was this bumbling idiot who doesn't know what she's talking about.

A mural of plastic cups, spoon, covers and knives on display at the front desk.

Art gallery or hotel lobby?

Japanese-inspired sleeping quarters with mirror walls. This is actually a raised platform surrounding these "taller" beds.

Despite the aforementioned debacle, I settled down and found my room pleasant. The beds are surrounded by a raised platform, giving the impression that they're mattresses lying down the floor, as though I'm in a Japanese abode. What looked like cabinet doors slid sideways and opened into a bathroom. How cool was that? The bathroom has two partitions; one for the toilet and the other for the shower which is situated beside a glass wall covered with blinds. If you've a nudist streak, you can raise the blinds to reveal a view of the busy streets below.

Later that night, I caught a screening of a Malaysian Chinese film: Bingo Chang's "The Gathering", a romantic reunion flick buoyed by immensely charming actors (particularly Jack Tan aka Chen Zeyao), employing the backdrop of Taiping's rustic charm. I've heard of Taiping before, but it's probably never been gorgeously captured on film until now. Taiping is described as "a quiet pensioner's paradise with century old trees lining its roads." Finally, there's a new Malaysian destination worth planning for.

This is the Eye in the Sky!

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