>This trip, we moved around quite a bit and stayed at various places. These are too long for one post, so I am splitting them up according to cities and destinations.
Royale Bintang at The Curve, Damansara
This is a smallish hotel that caters to people on business and to shoppers. We took a Family Suite at RM483 a night. Space-wise, its a little small for a suite and more like two connecting rooms that came with a seating area. Our balcony looked out onto Ikano Power-station which was right across the road. The Suite came with a King-sized bed and two twin beds, one bathroom which was connected to both rooms. Keeping the children happy was their own flat-screen in one room and another in the master bedroom. Astro had the works – Disney channel, Discovery, HBO, NHK etc. I liked the NHK channel since anything about Japan fascinates me at the moment. Bathroom was a good size with a bathtub and a separate shower stall.
Being a new hotel, it was quite luxe in its fittings, all dark wood and cream. We generally felt really comfortable there. Breakfast the next morning was also decent in terms of the spread.
The location, being right in the heart of shopping heaven in Damansara, was also a joy. We spent time in Ikano Power station (Ikea is ever the draw, even if you’re not looking to buy furniture and even though everything pretty much looks the same as in Singapore) and in The Curve. Being just a stone’s throw away from the hotel, we caught a movie at the new Cineleisure complex too. Basically if you’re looking for nothing more than retail therapy, the Royale Bintang makes a good pit-stop.
Getting to the heart of KL City would be a problem if you did not have a car, or if you had a car but didn’t know the confusing curves of the KL highway system. For us, this was not the case since we were happy to stay here just for retail therapy and didn’t fancy moving to KL City. Getting in from the NS Highway was easy-peasy – just take the Federal Highway, look out for signs to Damansara and the new toll Sprint Highway. Follow signage to TTDI and you’re set. Can be hair-raising if you’re trying this for the first time since the turn-offs could be confusing, but with a good map (pick up from most NS Highway rest-stops), an open mind and a willingness or patience to do detours, u-turns and generally getting lost, you’ll be fine.
While we had no problem getting there, getting out to get to Ipoh on the northern end of the NS Highway was difficult. Yes, even we, who have been to KL many, many times, still end up getting lost in traffic. We ended up driving for about an hour in the wrong direction, having taken the Damansara Puchong Highway – big mistake. Would be easier to take the Penchala Link to Mont Kiara and then off to Sungei Buloh which would have taken all of 15min tops. So near and yet so far. In the end, we got back on the Federal Highway, took the Sprint Highway and followed signs north to Ipoh.
Overall rating: I’d say 7.5 out of 10 points
The Zon Hotel
Okay, I’ve got lots to say about this place. And none of it good! We stayed here on the return leg of our trip, coming back from the northern end of Malaysia.
I’d bought a 3D2N package for a two-bedroom suite at a travel fair in Singapore at RM680. I guess warning bells should have rung loudly when a week after my purchase, no one from the hotel had contacted me to confirm my booking. This was in October. It was only in late November, near our departure that I thought I’d better confirm the booking. They promptly replied and confirmed that I had paid 50% and my booking was confirmed.
The night we arrived, we arrived a bit late – around 8pm. The hotel was located quite centrally, on Jalan Ampang, couple of blocks away from KLCC. We had no difficulty finding it, except we took the ‘scenic’ route in from Jalan Ipoh which left us wondering for a while if we were lost. Spotting the twin towers lighting like a beacon in the night told us we were not, just taking the long way in.
The hotel lobby looked small, but decent enough, chandeliers, marble everywhere etc. But warning bells started to tinkle when we walked towards our room. Wooden panelling looked worn and in the lift, which was small, the wooden panels were chipped, dented and scratched. The lift opened to a teeny lobby. The marble vanished and the ceramic floors began.
The minute we opened the door, the smell hit us. Musty like an old cupboard. My mood became more grim as I walked through the ‘suite’. The place looked like it had not been upgraded in at least 15 years. Dated, tired furniture, wooden wardrobe fixtures with broken slats that looked like something from the 80s. Hey, I like retro, but this is not what I expected from a hotel like this in KL. KH, sitting on the tatty fabric armchair, developed a rash very quickly. The beds had no comforters, just thin sheets pulled over a blanket. The TV in the main sitting area had poor reception, fuzzy images, but the one in the bedroom was worse – it was a teensy 14-inch which had clearly seen better days. I don’t know when was the last time I had seen one of these tiny TVs in a hotel room.
I was NOT a happy camper. Called the reception and the girl was all flustered, passing the phone to a Mr Shah. I told them what I thought of the room and that this was not value for money. Had I not paid a 50% deposit, we would have just walked out.
To his credit, Mr Shah seemed very helpful. He apologised and offered to show us a better room – a ‘show room’ as he put it. KH and I walked over to have a look. It was similar to the one we had – largely the same fixtures and furnishing, but it was a tad better. It was late, the kids were hungry and we’d paid the 50%, so we grudgingly took it. The hotel gave us an extra bed gratis. After we had dinner, settled in, I took a shower and before I had even lathered any soap on, the swirl of water at my feet already had soapy residue! Ugh, where did this come from? Had the tub not been washed since the last occupant? Or was the washing incompletely rinsed? Either way, I made short work of the shower and told everyone – showers only and no tub use please.
At breakfast, the spread was good. But the standards of cleanliness left a great deal to be desired. We took two tables which were previously occupied. The waiter proceeded to wipe down the placemats (which incidentally were made of PAPER and not plastic), wipe the table top and then wanted to reuse the paper placemats. Ugh! Even McDonalds’ paper tray mats are discarded and here we’re talking about a 4 star hotel! I stopped him and said no, thank you, we’d go without the placemats. He didn’t look pleased. Then he proceeded to lay the table. One of the table had an unused setting. The waiter took away the unclean, used cutlery, but wanted to re-use the other unused table cutlery for us. Again, I said no, fresh cutlery please and the guy did not look happy. Breakfast the next morning (yes we stayed another night!) was not much better – they wanted to place us right at the back near the bar counter because it was the only large table left. But the area was so dark and dimly lit you could hardly see your food. I had to ask them to join two smaller tables near the front. They did not look pleased. But argh, good grief, where was the proactive service?! This is not rocket science after all.
Am I being very uber-critical? I think this experience has left me thinking hard about service standards. I believe its the little things that count. The maintenance that showed if your panels are well-maintained, not chipped, dented etc, the standards of cleanliness in how you maintain the rooms, right down to setting the tables for your customers, being helpful and proactive in giving your customers what is important to them, not what is easiest to you, the service provider. When the little things are lacking, the client or customer just perceives one thing – that they don’t matter.
When it came to checking out, another glitch. This time, they wanted to charge us for the full amount despite us producing receipts and credit card transaction slips that say we paid half. The attitudes at reception were hostile, wary and not very friendly. They finally told us that when we paid half at the fair in Singapore, the card transaction was declined. We did not know it then because they had used the old-fashioned slide and swipe methods to get the card imprint. KH had to call his bank in Singapore to double-check if this was true etc and that no charges were claimed by the hotel earlier. It was inexplicable since the card we used had no other problems getting through at other hotels and other places.
The whole experience left me uneasy and uncomfortable. Why didn’t they email us to let us know the card was declined and hence the 50% deposit was not paid? Why did the marketing people who transacted that sale not inform us when I emailed them to confirm my booking? And had we known of this, we would never have stayed even that first night.
What I took away from the Zon Hotel was that this was a fading hotel trying to make a fast buck. Their brochures showed bright, sparkling new rooms. The reality is a far cry. Its sheer misrepresentation. I felt deceived and I said so to Mr Shah the night before. This is a pity because this hotel has a great location. We just had to cross the road to access the KLCC park, Aquaria, and KLCC itself, which was about a 10min walk away. The KL subway was almost right at the doorstep too. So the location is fantastic. Pity the rooms look like a time warped, musty, faded 80s hotel room and the standards – in cleanliness, maintenance etc are really lacking. All they needed was a facelift, a re-training of their staff and they could do really well.
So overall rating for this hotel is: 3.5 out of 10. Any points given is really due more to location of the hotel and to service recovery on the first night when they offered the extra bed. Everything else really went to the dogs.