Many of my peers have been posting aesthetically flamboyant pictures of their themed birthday parties, picnic dates, and even proposals. Staycations are also on the rise, and we at Vulcan Post have personally been to several workcations as the pandemic began to improve.
These mainly took place in hotels around KL city, which was closer and more convenient to access. Most recently though, we experienced a staycation that’s not easily found in the city: glamping.
The idea of glamping can be appealing to those who want to experience camping without the full commitment of sleeping outdoors and cleaning up without modern plumbing.
But our glamping staycation was different thanks to the touch of luxury provided at Castra by Colony (Castra).
An experimental space
Located in the heart of KL’s Golden Triangle, Castra sits on the garden rooftop of Star Boulevard KLCC. It was created by the same team at Colony, the coworking space brand known for its lavish offices and event spaces.
Built in 2019, Castra was created as an experimental space and concept after its team witnessed a significant demand for glamping spots in Malaysia. At the time, glamping destinations were mostly around the outskirts of cities.
Castra’s team realised they could bring the idea of a quick getaway with the necessary conveniences of glamping without going too far out.
We had first visited and reviewed Castra in early 2020, right before the pandemic, and my colleagues who went quite enjoyed their time there, save for the mat rempit ruining their sleep past midnight.
They stated that the place itself was spacious, beautiful, and well-stocked with almost every necessity you could think of, be it for cooking or cleaning (the space and yourself). This made Castra an ideal spot for families and friends to staycation at, or just host intimate events.
When we returned with more people at the end of May 2022, my colleague noted that not much has changed since her first time there.
Castra’s team acknowledged the same too, after all, the team shared that because of the two-year lockdown, it’s still too early to tell what improvements or changes need to be made. Not enough people had staycationed for them to collect sufficient feedback and data, we hypothesised.
While the place itself hasn’t changed much physically, Castra did make improvements to other aspects of the glamping experience.
Castra’s Performance Marketing Specialist, Trina, shared that they’ve partnered up with various vendors to offer additional services to guests (with additional charges, of course). These include an afternoon tea package with a mani-pedi, barbeque catering, sound baths, and event styling services, since Castra is specifically designed to cater to groups and events.
We opted for a simple staycation overnight, wanting to host our own BBQ and play simple games. While we were there, it was clear how well-kept and clean the space was, considering its continuous exposure to outdoor elements.
One of my colleagues even extensively walked barefoot on the faux grass, tiles, and cement, and the soles of his feet remained spotless.
The outdoor seating areas in the space, including a hammock, were nicely cushioned with Bohemian-style pillows and blankets. Several large umbrellas provided shade and came equipped with tables and chairs.
According to Castra, the 4,510 sq ft space can host up to 80 pax for events and parties, and each of the two tents can comfortably host up to five pax (in total, 10 pax can stay overnight).
The tents were also decorated with plush pillows, various rugs, footstools, and other furniture, inspired by Moroccan influences that Castra and Colony’s co-founder, Audrey, loved.
The main mattress in each tent aside, there were more stacked on one side, and depending on how many people were staying over, you could rearrange the tent’s insides to accommodate them.
Our one and only gripe with the place was probably how there was only a single toilet-bathroom stall. Whether it’s just 10 pax for an overnight stay or up to 80 pax for a party, we felt that it definitely wasn’t enough.
Even our intimate group of nine had to line up or plan to use it, for example, anyone who needed it for an extended amount of time would tell everyone else to get their quick “business” done first, lest they end up suffering while waiting.
Bringing this comment up to Castra’s team, Trina said that they will take it into consideration when planning to improve the space.
Although, the bathroom has its strengths, as it’s very well-stocked with toothbrushes, toothpastes, soaps, towels, sanitary pads, a first aid kit, and so much more.
When mother nature joined the party
Prior to our stay, the team had been actively updating us on the weather forecast to prepare us for what to expect. On the day of our check-in, we were expecting rain, but it didn’t come until much later.
And when it came, it came fast and suddenly. We scrambled to huddle in our tent, not before grabbing the outdoor Bose speaker provided by Castra and rescuing the many pillows from the outdoor seating, with the help of a Castra team member who swiftly appeared to our aid.
Before it got too heavy, we also quickly grabbed a few umbrellas by Castra’s entrance just in case anyone needed to leave the tent. Inside the tents, a number of raincoats are provided too, a testament to Castra’s hospitality and thoughtfulness in case you forgot to grab umbrellas.
Once inside, we decided to play a card game that we had brought along, and who knew that bonding in a tent while a storm raged outside could make for such a fun time?
After the weather cleared up, we could finally begin our BBQ party as planned. Required BBQ equipment such as fire starters, charcoal, tongs, and tools for eating like cutleries and utensils as well as cleaning equipment like dishwashing soap and sponges were provided on-site by Castra.
It’s still best to speak to a team member ahead of time about the availability of various equipment and tools though just to be sure that your party won’t be disrupted.
Food, ingredients, and drinks (beyond what’s already stocked in the fridge) are on a bring-your-own basis, but even if you forget to purchase some items, stores and malls are just a quick walk (or drive) away, thanks to Castra’s prime location.
The outdoors, with indoor luxuries
After our BBQ party that lasted from about 7PM to 10PM (cooking took up the bulk of the time, and shoutout to our colleagues Rikco and Keegan for manning the pit tirelessly), it was time for those of us who were staying to wash up and head to bed.
My colleagues reported little issue with bunking in the tents, though some of them found the mattresses provided a little too soft for their personal preferences, to no fault of Castra.
In terms of sleep quality, it’s still the outdoors, so you’ll hear anything from traffic to birds and people shouting, even through the thick tent canvas. However, everyone still slept rather well, the only thing waking some of us up throughout the night being a colleague leaving and entering the tent for the toilet.
Those who wish to stay up later and enjoy some digital entertainment together can plug their devices into the multiple sockets around the tent’s floor. You could also opt to use the provided Netflix access on the widescreen TV in the tent.
Throughout our time there, the WiFi was consistently fast, strong, and reliable.
A luxurious party option
All in all, staying the night at Castra would set you back RM2,000/night for weekdays, and RM2,500 on weekends, pre-SST, without promo prices.
If guests are looking to host an event for weddings or other special occasions, the starting price is RM4,500 for a half-day (six hours) on a weekday, or RM6,000 on the weekend, with full-day options (12 hours) available for both weekends and weekdays too.
You may argue that there are other cheaper options for glamping sites, hotels, and Airbnbs to host parties overnight.
While I’m inclined to agree, I’d also rebut by saying that Castra is essentially an intimate, flexible event space that provides the bulk of necessities without the need for you to hire a third-party planner. Not to mention, the Castra team is extremely hospitable and communicative, and there’s nothing too big or too small that they won’t try to help you with.
For now, Castra’s sole location remains the Star Boulevard KLCC one, with Trina adding, “As events bookings were heavily affected from the past two years, we don’t have any future expansion plans for Castra for the time being, but we haven’t swayed from our objective of making Castra one of the hip destinations in KL.”
But things are looking up for the team. “Interestingly, we received encouraging enquiries when Castra reopened back in October last year, and lucky for us, everyone was gearing to have a physical wedding and proposal by December 2021. So, our revenue covered up the losses we were unable to make during Q2 and Q3 2021.”