Else Hotel in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

, January 23, 2023

The vibrant Chinatown quarter of Kuala Lumpur is now home to a 49-bedroom industrial conversion and retreat – Else. The transformation of the 1911 Rubber Building has repointed the structure’s utility towards to calm retreat in a busy Malaysian city. Alongside the bedrooms, Else efficiently packs in two restaurants, a rooftop pool and several multi-use spaces marking the first venture for co-founders Justin Chen (CEO of Arcc Holdings) and Javier Perez of Kilo and Grain Traders.

Through an architects and interiors collaboration between from Farah Azizan (Faizah Architects) and Adela Askandar (Studio Bikin), Else pairs a dense super structure with soft textures and compelling furnishings and fixtures. Textures have been guided by Omar Khan, blending Dutch, Chinese, Egyptian, Pakistani, and German influences to create an arresting arrangement of tables, chairs, sofas, carpets and wall art. Craft doesn’t just create a stay but a reason to dwell.

The central column of the building was slammed through, creating a vaulted space which reaches from the lobby to the fourth storey Podium level where a pool is located. A double storey superstructure was places on top of the original industrial frame.

There are five room types with variations in configuration and floorspace. The 25m² standard “Mantra” room sets a high bar for an entry level room and makes up the greater portion of bedrooms at Else. Floorspace of the superior “Urban” room is larger 33m² in total, matched by “Sanctuary” rooms which upgrade with a super king bed. A “Sutera” suite is double in size – 69m² – divided into sleeping and living areas, trumped only by the unique “Else Suite” which is a spacious and comes with bathtub and private balcony.

Dining options include a robust Raw Kitchen Hall which serves simple, Latin-Asian dishes with healthy salads, fresh fish and veg options. A firewood-first kitchen is due to open later in 2023 – Yellow Fin Horse with Chef Jun Wong at the helm.

Rendering of Else facade

Other facilities cover a range of modes. A spacious gym has a refined set of equipment – cycling machine, tread mill and rower on the cardio front, dumbbells up to 12kg too. A rooftop pool is 18m – long enough for lengths if you schedule length before 9am, Meanwhile two lounge areas provide ample space to relax – especially useful for those staying in smaller Mantra or Urban bedrooms.

Beyond Else’s doorstep, note restaurant ChoCha Foodstore which is a wine lounge, coffee bar and restaurant. Also within a five-minute walk of Else is Merchant’s Lane which serves up pesto green curry pasta, Italian chow mien with rendang and other Western fares.

Training Notes

Kuala Lumpur’s orientation is roughly along a north-south axis, mapped by public transit lines (overhead and subway). Else’s central location is convenient for most activities, only also requiring creative thinking when thinking about how to maintain running, cycling and swimming training when in town.

Runners aren’t gifted with the best infrastructure from central Kuala Lumpur. Two of the best options for continuous runs:

  1. Trails reach reach out to the west from Else – Taman Tugu has a network of trails for piecing together a 10km continuous run. Just be sure to enter at the Nursery since other side entrances shown on maps aren’t always accessible.
  2. KLCC Park – also leafy but with more open space and an EPDM rubberised surface receptive to running spikes. The 1.3km loop has markings every 100m.

Finally, Pedang Merbok (Google Maps) also works well for hill intervals, located to the north-west of Central.

The most central athletics track is also located to the west of town – the UM Arena (Google Maps). Open hours are 5pm – 7pm, with a entrance fee around Rm3 – Rm5.

Cyclists might tremble at the sight of Kuala Lumpur’s traffic, but there are some avid groups that navigate routes to the north of the city. Indoor cycling classes can be found at Cycology who have mounted a dozen road bikes on Wahoo rollers. For group rides on weekends, join the road routes from Turbomad. Cinelli bikes are available for rent via Foresttrek who also arrange delivery / collection from venues in the north-east and north-west of Kuala Lumpur. Ecocana Sports are in the north-west, also offer a rental service but with a wider range of bike levels and prices starting from $40 for the day.

Mountain biking is also an option near to Kuala Lumpur – Bikin Ramlee has dedicated trails, and both Econana and Foresttrek have mountain bikes for rent.

The most central Kuala Lumpur lanes for swimmers can be found at the 25m x 50m Chin Woo Swimming Pool. A single swim costs a modest Rm4 – purchase at the front desk in the main building (not auxiliary swimming facility, where you hand in your chit to the pool officer). Lockers take 3x 0.50 Ringgit coins. A smarter pool can be found at the National Aquatic Center, unnavigable by public transit but 20 minutes in taxi from Else, also PJ Palms Sports Centre which is next to Cycology.

For more information on Else, visit elseretreats.com