kl’s newest boutique hotel just made the golden triangle that much cooler.
the white man sits on the foot-wide wooden table, his face illuminating the book in his hands. another source of light comes from a lamp, constructed from metal pipes, on the other end of the counter. propped up against a wall behind the man are two gigantic apples lit by a fat naked bulb while an oversized foldable lamp stands over a large white pouffe. nearby, a gold leather sofa takes centrepiece, its sleek lines boasting a futuristic aesthetic that recalls the signature flair of starchitect zaha hadid. take a seat and look up, and if you think you see the cloud-shaped lamps ceiling lamps moving about, you are not imagining it. at the time of our stay, which was during the chinese new year period, the reception wall was decked out in halved paper accordion lanterns while a giant origami horse stood by the reception.
the last two features change seasonally but that pretty much describes the scene that greets guests as soon as the lift door opens on the second floor lobby of the 4-star wolo bukit bintang, one of kl’s newest hospitality offerings and definitely the coolest, chicest kid on the golden triangle block. sitting at one corner of the always bustling bukit bintang-sultan ismail cross junction and just across from lot 10, wolo is as inconspicuous as its building grabs your attention.
at a glance palm trees encircle its periphery and front its glass facade, showing off the exposed red bricks columns and arch that are the original fixtures of the decades-old building that once housed a bank, among its many incarnations. french-inspired korean bakery and cafe tous les jours occupy the first two floors and at first glance, you’d think there’s all there is to the 14-storey corner lot.
that is, until you notice wolo’s fuss-free sign crowning the main entrance or if you’re looking at the side of the building, larger letters lit up in red. both simply spell out the four letters with no indication of what it stands for yet tempting the curious to venture in and find out for themselves.
wolo (we only lives once) marks empire mammoth group’s – they’re the same folks behind empire gallery subang and empire damansara in damansara perdana – foray into boutique hotels, and wolo bukit bintang is reportedly the first of what has been planned to be a chain. unlike their other properties, which have a more corporate aesthetic to cater to business travellers and families, wolo is targeted at the young and mobile traveller for whom connectivity, creativity, a fun spirit and being in the heart of a locale’s action are the things to consider when deciding on a place to stay.
what we like wolo fulfils all that with its artistic and playful inclinations, seen in everything from the big details such as the aforementioned lobby decor to the most minute. the room key card is exactly that: a plastic card with an illustrated key printed on it. the in-room toiletries, while encased in simple plastic and foil packets with the hotel’s name emblazoned in white against a big blue dot, have each been renamed with cheeky monikers.
‘smile with confidence’ beams from the molar motif printed on the dental pack, the shaving kit promises that you will be ‘scruffy no more’ and if you’re looking for the soap, that would be the ‘shower gel’s ancestor’. slide open the wardrobe door and you will find the ‘hair gun’ (hairdryer) and you can’t miss the laundry bag, sporting a monochromatic photo of a washing machine. contrastingly, the hotel’s four room types are simply named my room, our room, our big room and our family room. there are a total of 138 rooms and they range in size from 18-48 sqm.
it is such little details that will make you smile as you scrub down in the black marble-tiled bathroom, itself a feature worth mentioning for its generous space (about half the size of the room and we stayed in the our room, which measures 22-25 sqm) and high-pressure rain shower. and if you happen to get a room that looks out over jalan sultan ismail, you get to traffic-watch through the blinds while you wash the day’s heat away. when you’re ready for slumber, ryokan-style ‘beds’ await with foot-high mattresses sunken snugly into rectangular spaces carved into the wooden platform.
what needs work it’s a classic form-over-function conundrum and in the case of wolo, simply ironic that its design works against itself in some ways. the table lamp, for example, is really a floor lamp that’s embedded into the writing desk itself, its pole stretching all the way down to the floor. a unique feature, no doubt, but that renders the lamp unmoveable so you need to reach around it to plug your gadgets into the power bar – which, we need to add, helpfully includes a usb port – behind it.
but that’s really small potatoes compared to the air-conditioning situation: the wooden platform that serves as the bed is built all the way to the ceiling, with a beam that lines up next to the air vents. as a result, air flow is restricted and doesn’t cool down the sleeping area enough even when set at full blast.
facilities a modest workout room sits on level three, with one small section jutting out and overlooking the lobby and wine & cigar lounge below. the latter is dressed in a refreshing departure from the usual staid and serious gentleman’s club furnishings. instead, mismatched furniture and some statement pieces – fancy resting atop a leather leatherback? – jazz up the space. and how do old-fashioned table lamps figure into such mod settings? why, simply turn them upside down and attach to the ceiling as ceiling lamps!
wolo does not have any f&b outlets; for breakfast, the friendly staff will suggest their co-tenant tous les jours, which serves a selection of hot food (including all-day breakfast) besides pastries, sandwiches and cakes. the hotel is working on setting up special deals for staying guests. also in the pipeline are an art gallery and japanese salon.
overall experience the air conditioner issue aside, wolo is a delight in all aspects. the courteous staff are eager to please and quite prompt to response to queries and complaints. never mind that there are no in-house f&b outlets, you are ideally positioned to move around the bukit bintang and jalan alor area easily, where all manners of great food can be found.