Last week I had the fortunate experience of staying at two hotels in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Both were new stays for me. The first night I stayed at the Westin Kuala Lumpur. Classed as five-star, the Westin has all the physical (hardware attributes) of a standard five-star class hotel. From marble floorings, high ceiling foyer, elegant decoration, classy restaurants and bars, the Westin shouts ‘I am a five-star hotel!’.

I didn’t get a chance to visit the business center, gym and pool area but if the lobby and guests rooms are any indicators, I am sure I would not be disappointed. The elevators were sufficiently lit and used key cards to access guest floors. A distinct feature of old hotels are corridor carpets that either smell like old antique or an unkempt zoo.

Thankfully the Westin had none of that. I was given a room on the executive floor so my experience may be a bit better than the average guest but nonetheless the room was clean, sufficiently Spartan to with just a couple of black and white paintings to give it a bit of character.

Almost everything was as it should be. There was a small desk with a halogen lamp to work with. Wired Internet connection is stable. The phone system worked as it should. A single seater sofa comes with a floor-stand lamp if you fancy reading with your legs up. A small round marble table stands ready to hold your favorite book, magazine or paper. The bed was flanked by two independent wall-mounted lights. And a digital clock with alarm sat quietly on one of the side tables.

The 20” TV is of the tube variety (ancient but nonetheless efficiently) and sat on a two-drawer cabinet that should hold most of your clothes. Channels are limited but who stays in a hotel to watch TV these days? Ok, those with children do. There was small bar with the usual amenities expected of any hotel. The in-room safe was inside a cabinet where you can also hang your cloths.

The washroom may seem small for a five-star hotel but it included a shower enclosure, and a bath tub. I was very pleased that the Westin chose to enclose the toilet itself. This gives a bit more privacy in the event you have more than one person occupying the room.

My favorite at the Westin was the pillow. I don’t know what it was but definitely I’d like to get one. My wife would have loved the floor-to-ceiling mirror across from the bathroom. It is very simple but functional.

The only real complaint about the guest room was that the air conditioner vents were pointed to the table. I kept switching the air conditioner on and off while I was working on the desk. The cold breeze gave me a headache. Unfortunately there was no way control the direction of the air.

My last observation is reserved for the restaurant where I had breakfast. While there is nothing special about the tables and chairs, what was unusual was the way they set things up. Food is spread over a large space of real estate. The first time I sat I thought the restaurant had a tiny selection of food for guests. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that there were more choices for guests. In fact there was a room dedicated for bread and pastry lovers. The selection is a cut above those I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying at similarly classed hotels. There was also a large bar for the fruit juices.

To call GTower a hotel is a misuse of the term. GTower is, in fact, an office building with a business hotel built-in. Owned and operated by GOLDIS Berhad, the GTower is one of the most successful indigenous Malaysian companies that built its reputation around hotels, office spaces and malls, scattered across Malaysia.

The GTower is a 30-storey structure located on 199 Jalan Tun Razak. It is a two-tower office property offering 800,000 square feet of office space. According to Colin Ng, head of Corporate Investments at GOLDIS Berhad, the company wanted to differentiate the GTower from the many structures in Malaysia and decided that a green approach was the way forward. Conceived ahead of its time, the GTower is the first Malaysian property to receive the BCA Green Mark GOLD Award by the Building & Construction Authority of Singapore. At the time of writing, no such body exists in Malaysia.

How green is the GTower? Nearly all the glass windows are tinted with a special film that reduces the amount of heat that passes through the glass. Building tenants can open the windows to let natural air blow in. Carbon monoxide build-up in the basement car park is monitored using sensors that detect the gas, enabling building management to let additional fresh air in when needed. Carbon Dioxide sensors are used for the rest of the buildings.

To live up to its green label, GOLDIS planted trees at strategic locations throughout the building. To water these, the company installed an automated rainwater collection system that collects, filters and irrigates the plant-life throughout the facility.

Motion sensors are used to detect activity on fire exits. Lights are out when sensors detect no movement (yes, we tested this first hand).

Office sizes range from a simple desk and chair combo in an open area, to full-fledged 7,000 square-foot duplex office areas.

Most offices don’t operate 24×7 but a global business means you do need to have the ability to serve customer needs 24×7. And the best people to offer this kind of service are hoteliers. So it was a smart decision to build two additional elements into the GTower.

The first is three floors of hotel space with the front desk reception located on the 11th floor. GTower management wanted to offer 24×7 service and security for its tenant. This included a small call center that operates on the 14th floor.

As with the Peninsula Hotels, black and white photographs taken by Maria Espeus line some of the walls of all guest rooms at GTower. Instead of using wallpaper, GTower used a low volatile organic compound paint (VOC) to paint the walls a light khaki. In keeping with the overall earth tones of the hotel. Together with large windows, this means plenty of light during the day. Because it’s a new hotel, entertainment comes in the form of LCD monitors (a 32-inch in the bedroom and a smaller 20-inch in the bathroom across from the toilet – so you don’t miss your favorite program even as you relieve yourself. There is no bathtub so if you want to wallow in water, go down to the pool area for a dip. A glass-enclosed shower is as standard as it can get.

Fortunately the designers of GTower made sure the air conditioning vents are not directed at the glass-top office table. Buy the designers a drink!

Malaysia is a hot and humid place, so it begs the question why you’d want a heated pool. Located on the 21st floor, the cold morning air or strong breeze may make swimming a little too cold for comfort. The hotel’s hot water is provided by a heat recovery system, whereby waste-heat generated from the chillers is used to heat water. This reduces the need for additional hot water boilers making waste energy a largely untapped energy resource.  

Most hotels have gyms to help guests keep fit and relieve stress. The GTower offers a gym membership to hotel guests and all building tenants. Then there is The Club, a strictly by invitation only affair and meant for CEO / MD level upwards. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to view the gym so I can’t really comment about it.

The Club on the Penthouse serves breakfast and lunch for hotel guests and club members. Members of the public however can enjoy lunch and dinner at Tanzini (Penthouse), a restaurant serving contemporary Italian inspired cuisine. Opening in July, the split level design with floor-to-ceiling glass window should give this to-be-launched venue a character all its own.

The buffet breakfast selection is limited but then again this is a business hotel so you don’t expect diners to splurge during breakfast. Dining service is excellent if I can be generous with my compliments.

The Club is a private space where members enjoy perks i.e. breakfast & lunch service, accessibility to high speed internet corner, lounge setups for casual chats, business secretarial services, private bar (Bridge Bar) and boardrooms for small business meetings.

Technology permeates the office-hotel-gym that is GTower. There are two small data centers – one houses the communication systems. The other is a true data center with raised flooring and overhead ducts for cables. Kevin Chow, project manager with Macro Lynx says office tenants can choose to rent out rack space to house their servers and storage needs. GOLDIS is also considering offering hosting services for smaller companies who don’t want to maintain their own equipment.

Colin notes that as part of the green theme, the company purposely deployed a converged infrastructure. This means voice, data and multimedia content run through the same cabling. 3Com wireless routers permeate the place so you can literally get WiFi connection almost anywhere in the building.

I commend the owners and designers of GTower for putting up one of the most aesthetically pleasing and yet highly functional facility – whether it’s the office or the hotel.

Every guest that lodges at a hotel brings with him or her some expectations about the quality of hotel facilities and service rendered by staff. In my case, my expectations with the Westin were well met across all facets – with the exception of the air conditioner in my room. As a boutique business hotel, I can safely say I’ve never been to a business hotel quite like the GTower of Malaysia.