If you need a holiday, a break from the dismal customer service one finds in the rest of KL – you should sneak away to this corner of calm. Now making 60% of its profits off FNB, this is a very, very special place. Why? Because those who service it know that it is an odd duck.
What you need to know about this Shang is that the building is not built-for-purpose. Originally meant to be a transit home for Putrajaya employees, a little bird tells me that Tun Mahathir, at the time personally reached out to Tan Sri Robert Kwok – and had him adopt this under the brand.
No other hotel chain was interested. None wanted the challenge of a service kitchen originally meant for government employees – not outfitted with 5-star amenities. Or a hotel tucked deep inside meandering lake-garden style grounds – far way from the city bustle.
Why did I choose it? Because it is gorgeous. Classically styled. You might chase the sunset, just watching it from behind the large glass windows in the lounge. It’s architecture is unique. You feel like you’re on a ship. It is low-rise. There is so much natural light. The plants are selected carefully, the carpark is a beauty in itself. I hesitate to talk about the swooping songbirds about the property at 8am, lest I stray from the point of my review – which is: it isn’t everything you might expect from a Shang, but by gods, is it uniquely comfortable. You step into a time-sphere the moment you turn into the premises.
As I hinted at, it has its faults which I’ll happily launch into – but first, take my word for it – the staff here care. More so than any hotel I’ve travelled to. It’s prompted me to jump into TripAdvisor reviews, for Pete’s sake. The eye-contact and genuine curiosity is surprisingly un-Malaysian, yet you feel they are this way because they trust each other. It’s home to them.
They anticipate your needs; they are trained and they are responsive with a touch of joy. They truly like it here. One usually encounters this on beach resorts, if ever (and for me, only in the 90s). Few, if any, were grumpy or troubled. It is a sign of a well-run household where they love what they do. The Marriott, The KL Hilton, The Majestic – none can hold a candle to the efficiency and warmth (never overbearing) I have felt here. I feel they hire very carefully. I am so damned relieved for it because there is a shortage of this sensitivity in hospitality (dare I grumble again).
The cons. You can tell there’s water damage in some places, even the exterior. It’s a damp place. And that some things are a little wobbly, like the long bath handles. Food is decent, especially local fare – but don’t set the bar too high here. Your breakfasts will be pleasant – service is the very best, but you can sort of tell that the kitchen may not be best suited to task. Having said that, there is a bounce in everyone’s step and one’s requests, however unusual, aren’t countered with anything but a desire to understand. There’s no nervous laughter or lack of confidence here. Answers. My goodness. Actual answers, whether in BM or English. (Can you tell I’ve had terrible service in Malaysia?) If you have any questions, I recommend you speak to Suresh, an old hand, who has plenty of experience and is so very thoughtful.
I tell you, there are nooks and crannies for everyone. The relaxation room near the pool. The beautiful tiles outside the Palm Hill Cafe. The walk to the carpark, even. It is quiet and alive at the same time. And the people? Baffling. Feels like I was stuck in the 90s before people relied on phones and actually knew how to deal with themselves/others.
Saiful has insight into room choice, and understands exactly why the space is unique, as well as the direction it needs to go in. Amira, at check-in, is a joy and quick to offer options. If you’re a Golden Circle member, NorSarena, quick on her feet, will sort you/ any questions. Marzuki on logistics outside the lobby is perceptive, and actually takes the extra effort to suggest locations for a walk, speaking directly to the buggy driver to ensure I could be dropped off for a walk and picked up promptly. (Driver – I had Izan, who was willing to go the extra mile to let me peek at the grounds. He was so tickled that he could help me enjoy myself more. Gosh.)
I’m sure it’s very obvious to you that I love the service industry and that I spend a lot of time observing and dreaming up suggestions and ideas. (1) There are things I will put up with if I feel the staff are trying and are resources (2) I am sitting in the lobby of this Shang long after check out just because I can. With a glass of ice water which they asked me if I wanted. By name. These things count.
I do not come across spaces like this often. I would come back here in a heartbeat, and I am fussy. Very. It may be imperfect but to me, it hits the spot.
It’s gorgeous for families. Special. Bring your team here – especially if you’re in marketing or communications or anything that requires human connection. Let them understand how – when it’s done right – a place, a service, a product can hum at just the right note, and people will come back for more.
So come here. Gardens, more tea than you can dream of, view, people, heart. Sunlight.