Just 2 weeks ago, I went on my first trip to Kuching, aka the Cat City, in the state of Sarawak in East Malaysia. There is no lack of accommodation options in the capital city, particularly budget ones to suit backpacker travel. On the other end of the spectrum, global hotel brands like Hilton & Pullman seem to be popular choices in Kuching city, which cost around S$100 or more per twin-sharing room per night, for so-called perfect locations near major attractions & good food. While our strong SGD means we have a higher purchasing power in Malaysia, I wasn’t ready to part with my money for famous brands like this. Thus, we decided on a mid-range hotel so that we can enjoy some simple luxuries without spending too much for the trip. In the end, we booked our 3-night stay at The Waterfront Hotel Kuching in the heart of the city, & we are so glad we did that.
Frankly, The Waterfront Hotel wasn’t our first choice, but we had some unpleasant booking experience with a highly raved-about boutique hotel (price range similar to Hilton) such that we decided to book other hotel. I shan’t elaborate on this encounter, but it almost ruined our impression of Kuchingites. Fortunately, a pre-trip online conversation with The Waterfront Hotel managed to turn this around. I had merely messaged them to check on the possibility of sharing my Trip101 review for the property on their Facebook page, but was pleasantly surprised when I was told we would be given a complimentary upgrade to a suite + early check-in + late check-out! 🙂
Upon arrival at Kuching International Airport in the morning, a hotel representative was already waiting for us at the arrival hall to send us to the hotel in the spacious white MPV as seen above. Return airport transfers are provided free by the hotel as it is 1 of the privileges of booking a stay in the suite. Within 25 min or so, we arrived at the hotel & were ushered immediately to the top 11th floor, where we were to check in at the Executive Lounge. The entire check-in process was swift & completed in less than 5 min.
We got upgraded to the 2-bedroom suite – DUN Suite II, right at the end of the 11th floor. This is the only 2-bedroom suite in the hotel, with a super single size bed in the smaller room near the entrance to the room, & a king-sized bed in the bigger room overlooking the Sarawak River. In between the 2 rooms is the living room with a cosy sofa upon entering the room, with bathrooms attached to each bedroom.
The suite occupies a total area of 52 sq metres (560 square feet), 1 of the largest hotel accommodation I’ve ever stayed in I think. 😛 It was so roomy I felt like my friend & I were staying in 2 separate rooms, except we didn’t have to knock on each other’s door. Just needed to walk over or shout across haha.
From the bigger room (which I stayed in), we could enjoy the best views of the city through the large panel of floor-to-ceiling window, including the iconic New Sarawak State Legislative Assembly Building (known as the DUN complex) by the waterfront. Just a little pity that throughout the 4 days we were there, it was cloudy weather so I couldn’t capture the perfect sunrise or sunset. Nonetheless, the view right from the comfort of the room was still lovely.
As The Waterfront Hotel was officially opened only in January 2016, it is 1 of the newest hotels in Kuching city. In fact, it is still awaiting the 5-star hotel accreditation by Sarawak Tourism Board. Naturally, being quite new, the amenities in the room are all new, clean & well-maintained. Besides the standard amenities in other luxury boutique hotels, such as complimentary high-speed internet access, flat screen TV (there is a TV in each room), in-room safe etc, I particularly like the provision of multiple universal electrical sockets. This saves us the hassle of bringing the right travel adapter out to charge our electronic devices such as mobile phones & tablets. Besides, I can also charge multiple devices all at the same time conveniently, big like for this feature! 👍 There is also a large work desk in my room with LAN cable provided & an ergonomic chair so that we can do some last-minute research/ work in the room comfortably. Of course, the beds are also very comfortable to rest in. With long days out in the sun exploring the city & surrounds, it definitely feels wonderful to retreat to this lovely suite at the end of each day!
If there is something we had to pick on in the room, it would be the inconsistent standard of housekeeping. Yes, rubbish were cleared, bathroom cleaned, beds also made, but if you are particular, you would realise that the job wasn’t done thoroughly. We found the bed linens not tucked in properly, towels weren’t always replaced one for one or neatly placed in the bathroom etc. Though this doesn’t mean the hotel is terrible, I can imagine the dismay of guests who are paying for the real suite price as they would naturally expect more & better service! 😖
Another issue I had was with the shower in my bathroom. The water pressure was so weak that I gave up & decided to take turns to shower in the smaller bathroom from the second day. It also didn’t help that there is only 1 hook to hang your clothes/ towel in the bigger bathroom. Fortunately, the water pressure was great in the smaller bathroom. Thus compared to the housekeeping inconsistency, this issue isn’t that glaring. 😉
Thanks to a short tour by the hotel’s PR Manager, I also had the opportunity to take a peek into 1 of the lower tier guest rooms. Personally, I feel the Executive Twin Queen Room (as pictured below, 32 square metres/ 344 square feet) looks good too. It is of similar size to my original booking of the Deluxe Twin Single at around S$64/night, definitely gives a bang for the buck!
On level 4 of the property, besides the Café Via Mare where guests can enjoy daily breakfast buffet, alongside 6 function rooms & 1 ballroom suitable for corporate events or weddings, there is the gym & indoor infinity pool. We visited the pool the next morning just to see how it looks like.
To get to the infinity pool, guests need to tap their room key at the entrance first. There is a guard by the pool, which opens daily from 7.30 am to 7.00 pm. It looks pretty small though, but the view here is quite nice, overlooking Sarawak River & beyond, with Mount Santubong (Kuching’s highest peak) in the beautiful backdrop. Looks quite idyllic to be chilling in the pool with such a view despite its size! There is also a miserably small sauna (or is it steam room) at the back. We like the creative art piece you see in the bottom left pic of above collage beside the pool, which is made of colourful plastic cups. 😉
Our booking came with 3 mornings of breakfast buffet at Café Via Mare on the same floor as the pool, but we only took it once. Reason being: 1) read many hotel reviews suggesting that its breakfast wasn’t too good so we weren’t too keen to eat it everyday; 2) the hotel is surrounded by many recommended food places in the city so it’s more tempting to eat out when we can!; 3) ate once just to try & see if the reviews we read were true, on the morning when we needed to depart hotel at 8 am for an early day tour. Our verdict: the online reviews we read were authentic. Breakfast buffet was nothing too exciting or tantalising, just average fare to fill your stomach with. Guess there isn’t a need for photos in this case! 😛 I was somewhat disappointed that they only served 2 types of fruits at the buffet: watermelon & banana, not even the famous Sarawak pineapple! 😦
Location-wise, it’s hard to find fault with The Waterfront Hotel. There is the Plaza Merdeka Shopping Mall directly conected to the hotel’s ground floor. The mall is home to tenants such as Everrise supermarket, Parkson departmental store, H&M, MacDonald’s, Burger King, Starbucks & so on. There are also numerous shops & lots of good food in front of the hotel (Carpenter Street), behind the hotel (India Street), as well as in small alleys around the hotel & tranquil waterfront. On the other side of the hotel entrance is the historic Old Courthouse complex built in 1874, which makes an interestingly charming landscape of old-meets-new architecture.
To conclude, it was truly a wonderful 3-night stay at The Waterfront Hotel. The hotel boasts a superb location in the heart of the charming city, with rooms that are contemporarily furnished for utmost comfort. Throughout our stay, we also received warm & friendly service from all staff. So happy we made the switch, & will gladly return should I visit Kuching again in future. 🙂