Kuala Lumpur mandates WiFi in all restaurants and bars

Thanks to a new law, visitors to Malaysia‘s capital city of Kuala Lumpur will be able to enjoy WiFi in all local restaurants and bars starting in April.

The New Straits Times reports that the law, passed yesterday, will make it mandatory for restaurants, cafes, pubs, bars, and clubs larger than 120 square meters in area to offer wireless Internet services free of charge, or for a reasonable fee. Kuala Lumpur’s city council intends to extend the requirement to public food courts, or hawker centers, later in the year.

While the law will certainly cement Kuala Lumpur’s reputation as one of the most connected cities in Southeast Asia, one has to wonder how the proliferation of WiFi will affect the dining experience, especially for travelers. It’d be a shame to be distracted from Malaysia’s mind-blowing cuisine by email and Facebook.

[Via The Next Web Asia; Flickr image via the trial]

Vegas club offers holographic hotties

Offering these girls a few drinks won’t help you get back to your room any less alone. So, when you’re scouring the Las Vegas Strip in the hopes of a blissful night, use Lolita’s Cantina and Tequila as a place to plan your next move – not make it. There’s a good reason for this – the girls aren’t real. And, that can make laying down some game a little harder.

Lolita’s just opened holographic dancing girls act this week. They have all the right moves … because that’s what they’re programmed to do. The technology behind nightclub developer Eric DeBiasi’s ladies must be good. In the past it was used by Damon Albarn’s virtual band (the Gorillaz) and Live Earth Tokyo to render former Vice President Al Gore on stage.

Now, it’s full potential is being realized.

While most dancers are given no room for error – and failing in that area can be evident and embarrassing – these vixens put on a flawless show, due in large part to the fact that the DJ is in complete control of every muscle movement.

Lolita’s may be home to the perfect show, but it isn’t the only game in town. 3opolis, which launched last year at Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino, has the same hot holographs teasing the crowd.

It’s a great concept, with only one flaw: though they won’t say “no,” these dancers will never head back to your suite with you.

[Photo: Flickr | scaredy_kat]

The W Hollywood won’t let guests use its pool

In what must be a first for a big hotel, the W Hollywood is telling guests they are not permitted to use the rooftop pool.

It seems ludicrous, but it’s true. That’s because Starwood, which owns the combination hotel/residence property at Hollywood and Vine, contracted a slew of hotel services out to third parties. Drai’s, a Las Vegas nightspot promotion outfit, opened on March 17, and was charged with nightlife at the W, too, presumably because the hotel wanted to purchase some off-the-shelf cachet with hipsters rather than earning it through the merits of the product.

I found this out, of course, the worst way a guest can: By staying there, and being denied access to a swim. On a recent 85-degree Sunday, I tried taking the elevator to the rooftop pool (called WET) for some of those famous California rays. After all, my room on the 11th floor was literally thumping with the beats coming through the ceiling, and I wanted to enjoy a little of this party that I had to put up with despite paying $230 a night.

But the 12th-floor button wouldn’t light up. Down in the lobby, I was directed to a line of early 20s hipsters who were waiting to be admitted to the pool deck themselves. I was informed by a doorman that although “the general public” (that would be me: a paying hotel guest) was not permitted upstairs today, I was welcome to join everyone in the line if I wished, or he would “introduce” me to someone inside who “might be able” to get me on the guest list. As I walked away, he called after me, eyeing my clothes. “Don’t forget, sir. Appropriate pool attire.”The hotel’s statement about the arrangement, which amounts to a recap and doesn’t defend its wisdom, follows at the end of this post.

I’m a reporter at heart, though, and undeterred, I skulked up a service elevator with a friend. I paid $10 to bribe a staff member to let us into what Drai’s publicizes as a “sexy poolside affair with House music and Hollywood’s elite.”

Drai’s is dreadful. There wasn’t a spare inch. A DJ blasted beats, pneumatic girls danced laconically as they stood on the cushioned lounge chairs, and shirtless boys in fedoras smoked cigarettes in the pool while they scoped the girls’ bikini bottoms from shin level. My friend glanced around and proclaimed it “a douche-tacular.” Nearby was a big empty table marked “reserved.” We were told we couldn’t be seated there because “it’s the owner’s table.” It was like this all day, from 10am to 10pm, exclusive of guests unless they greased the right palm.

A luxe L.A. hotel without a pool is like a wedding without a cake. A banquet without forks. A pretentious product without a shred of class.

Am I willing to praise a hotel when it does something right? Only too willing. The W has a lively lobby bar, supremely comfortable beds, and the Sanctuary, an octopus-like device that can charge almost anything you have, is a lifesaver. The views of the Capitol Records building and downtown L.A. are unobstructed, and the staff, although saddled with defending a misguided policy, is accommodating and professional.

That same hotel staff, by the way, is generally mortified by the arrangement with Drai’s. One member told me, confidentially, she was sick of having to be “on the front lines” for Starwood’s greedy scheme. She said half her weekend was spent soothing the fury of rebuffed guests. She also complained about one drunk girl who, just the day before, had vomited in the designstudio-created lobby. “This isn’t Vegas,” the staffer astutely pointed out. “A lot of dedicated business travelers stay with us. They don’t want this.”

I have a sinking feeling this trend won’t be unusual in the future. People are making a lot of money off the W’s cynical elitism. It’s a short-sighted victory for Starwood, though, because such Vegas shenanigans will only turn off regular customers, and when the hotel’s It Factor goes off the boil, its alienated customer base won’t be likely to return.

Thanks to the travel industry’s ever-escalating addiction to extra fees and thirst for found money, greed is elbowing aside even the inclination to provide the simplest amenities.

Jim McPartlin, W Hollywood’s general manager, gave this non-apology for excluding guests from its pool:

“We have been absolutely overwhelmed by the response we have received from guests since we opened our doors 2 months ago. With the opening of Drai’s Hollywood on 17th March, the interest in the hotel has increased beyond our wildest dreams, and as such we are having to limit guest access to the WET Deck and Drai’s…..we simply cannot keep up with the demand! We are aware that operationally this is causing problems for some of our guests and we are working very closely with our partners to come up with a solution that works for everyone.”

Update: The furor caused by our exposé caused the hotel to revise its policy. Click here for the story behind that, including an apology by McPartlin.


Phone call: Back in Japan and looking for Americans

My Japanese friend, who recently moved back to Japan, called me this weekend. Her kids are doing fine. Her husband is in the throes of work, and she is wondering how she can keep up with her English. As a person who fit well in the United States, her life back in Japan is taking some adjusting. She’s happy to reconnect with family and friends, but she’s missing here.

I promised to find her some Americans in Okayama where she is living. Okayama, a city past Kyoto, even further from Tokyo, is not exactly an expat hot spot. She’s been on a hunt for English speakers without much luck. I did a Web search after we hung up and, although I have yet to find any Americans for her, I think I found English speakers. There is a Toastmaster’s Club.

Most of the Okayama Toastmaster Club’s Web site is written in Japanese, but there is another site with information on Toastmaster Clubs in Japan with links to each of them. From what I can tell, the purpose of Toastmasters in Japan is to give people a venue for giving speeches in English and to help people improve their public speaking abilities in general.

Toastmasters International has clubs all over the world. If you’re in the need for some public speaking help and a place to meet people, here’s a suggestion.

Top 10 nightspots in the world

We each travel for different reasons, but for some travellers, a spectacular nightlife is a major draw to certain destinations. Which is why concierge.com sent a team of reporters out to find the 10 best nightspots in the world (man! I want that job … ) Here’s the list they came up with:

  1. Rooftop Cinema, Melbourne, Australia
  2. Cafe Cairo – Hamilton, Bermuda
  3. Melody Bar – Toronto, Canada
  4. Bar Yellow, Santiago, Chile
  5. Q Bar, Beijing, China
  6. Glamour Bar, Shanghai, China
  7. Monsoon, Shanghai, China
  8. 15cent15, Paris, France
  9. Cibeles, Mexico City, Mexico
  10. Terrasse, Renault, Mexico City, Mexico

Been to any of these places? Yeah, me neither, and I’ll probably never make it since I’m more of a fan of small, out-of-the-way, holes in the wall. But some of them sound kind of cool. To read about the picks more in-depth, click here.