Admittedly, Kuala Lumpur is not the first city I think of for a quick getaway. It’s not quite as convenient as Johor Bahru, and not nearly as happening as Bangkok or Bali—or so I thought. Else Kuala Lumpur, a new hotel opened by co-founders Justin Chen and Javiar Perez with a mission to present Malaysia’s capital city in fresh light, changed this impression. As I discovered during my stay, the chic boutique hotel achieves its goal wonderfully.
In every aspect it can, Else tries to spotlight as much of Malaysian culture as possible. Every inch of the property is filled with a robust art collection—a large portion of which is local. Headboards in rooms are either woven by the indigenous Orang Asli people or created by luxury rug designer Omar Khan. In the library, a growing collection of Malaysian literature is available for guests to discover.
Occupying the historic Lee Rubber Building, once known for being the tallest building in Chinatown at seven storeys, the hotel’s blend of heritage and modernity is striking. Rustic brick interiors and grey concrete exist side-by-side with beautiful contemporary design, lending a unique touch of eclecticism to the space. Restored and transformed by Studio Bikin and Faizah Architect, an air-well cuts through the property to flood it with natural light.
Beyond its beautiful facade, it is the amount of thought put into the hotel experience that makes a stay here exceptional. Within the property, pockets of common space provide guests a place to lounge around and mingle, and a beautiful Gratitude Space offers a dedicated respite for prayer and meditation. The little touches in the room, too, add to the experience—from eco-conscious bath products by Omno and bathrobes by luxury sleepwear label Lulla, to a Dyson hairdryer and a Harman Kardon bluetooth-enabled sound system. A specially curated Spotify playlist and a lavender sleep mask welcomes every guest, as stylish hand-dyed totes from sustainable fashion brand Muni ensures convenient exploration of the city.
On the culinary front, acclaimed local chef Jun Wong helms Yellow Fin House, which presents the best of seasonal Malaysian produce cooked over open flame. Whole baby snapper is charcoal grilled to tender perfection and finished with kelp vinaigrette, while potatoes are used to create a deceptively simple but extraordinarily delicious dish of chips with smoked potato dip. Accompany your meal with an outstanding cocktail programme curated by the award-winning Proof & Company, or the restaurant’s wide selection of natural wines and homemade kombuchas.
But the magic of a stay here extends far beyond just the property itself. There are hidden gems at every turn in the surrounding neighbourhood, as a rising wave of creative spaces sits amidst historical landmarks in Chinatown.
A short walk through the street market takes you to Rexkl, an arts and culture hub that occupies the site of the historical Rex Cinema, one of the first theatres in the country. Here, you’ll find a bookstore with a maze of towering shelves that reach several floors up—an Instagram-worthy spot that rivals South Korea’s iconic Starfield Library. A cavernous space hosts performances and arts events, and a buzzy food hall in the basement offers everything from craft burgers and natural wines to gorgeous pastries and vegan fusion cuisine.
Nearby, contemporary Malaysian restaurant Chocha Foodstore showcases local flavours and ingredients with creative flair. The Umai and Salted Sinsilog Noodle here are must-tries, as is the unassuming Grilled Beans. A few doors down, a vintage toy storefront conceals the entrance to PS150, the first cocktail bar in what is now a thriving bar scene in Chinatown. And about an hour’s drive away, A Little Farm on a Hill offers one of the best farm-to-table meals you’ll experience—undeniably worth the trip.
When you return to Else, spent after a day of exploring, the hotel offers up the perfect solution to your fatigue: in the gym, two private floatation therapy pods that allow a reprieve from the bustle. Close your eyes, disconnect from the world and drift in zero gravity—a perfect end to a day of adventure.
Book a stay at Else Kuala Lumpur here.