Author’s Blurb: As much as I’d like to think otherwise, I’m really not an outdoor person. I’ve never properly camped, but I’m sure I’d hate it. Then I learnt of this concept called glamping. Immediately, I thought it was ridiculous. Luxury camping in nature just seemed to defeat the whole purpose of camping in the first place. Then I learnt of this new glamping spot, which upon my first introduction to it had me exclaiming incredulously, “What?!”
Wanting to know the reason behind why Castra was built, we reached out to She Mun, who’s in charge of Marketing & Partnerships at Colony.
According to her, Colony was simply thinking about what to do with the vacant rooftop garden space they occupied at Star Boulevard KLCC.
“The first proposal for the space was to set up a bar, but the bar industry is so highly competitive already around the area, and we didn’t have any experience managing one, so we thought it wouldn’t work,” she shared.
So, the Colony team looked back at their core and their goals, which were to change and elevate experiences at work.
“Work doesn’t necessarily happen only in the office, it could be outdoors too, and it comes down to team building or team bonding. It was then that we came up with the glamping idea,” She Mun revealed.
Do We Really Want Glamping?
If you’re someone like me who just doesn’t get the concept, you might wonder if this is something that we even want. It’s hard to say for sure as there’s yet to be a survey (that I know of) done on this topic.
However, Colony is looking to the number of glamping destinations that have popped up around the outskirts of cities as an indication that there is significant demand.
“Because of the concept of being close to nature, glamping spots in Malaysia have always been quite far and in out of town areas,” She Mun said.
“So, we thought, why not do it in the city itself, like a quick getaway, where you get convenience and the same experience without going too far out?”
It took about 2 months for Castra to be built from scratch after the team began renovations in October 2019.
The cost of booking the place for a night starts at RM2,500, which isn’t a price that one can easily call affordable, if it’s just a small group renting out the space.
Compare the above price point to Glamz’s Dome Room (25 square feet) pricing of RM300-RM600 for 2 pax.
However, She Mun justified that making a booking would mean reserving the entire glamping site of 4,500 square feet.
Hence why it was designed specifically to cater to groups and events.
If someone hosted an event at Castra, the price would go up depending on the number of people coming and whether it’s a corporate or private, personal event.
“We foresee our clientele to be corporates for team building or product launches, or consumers looking to organise intimate events like bachelorettes, hen’s night outs, baby showers, birthday parties, or any other private celebrations,” She Mun said.
Castra comes hand-in-hand with Colony’s rooftop garden wedding venue too, so they do have some potential clients of couples looking to marry.
Luxurious First Impressions
With Colony’s dedication to next-level hospitality, I can see how it made sense for them to offer a glamping spot instead of another bar.
I wanted to see for myself what luxury glamping felt like, and whether it was an experience that could justify the minimum price of RM2,500/night to me.
So, I was graciously given an opportunity to stay over at Castra for a night with one of my colleagues, one person per tent.
If we’re talking aesthetics, Castra is undeniably beautiful.
For those of you who love documenting everything on Instagram, you’ll have a blast here.
You can see Colony’s touch of luxury throughout the place, while the design concept by Audrey, Colony’s co-founder, clearly carries Bohemian Chic/Mediterranean influences.
According to She Mun, Audrey was inspired by Morocco, so they played with a lot of rich colours and earthy tones of red, brown and orange.
“You’d think of Coachella,” She Mun mused, “So it’s great for events that are looking for a space with similar themes.”
On the rooftop garden, there are two large air conditioned tents, several communal seating areas, multiple umbrella tables, a hammock, a pantry/kitchen/BBQ area with snacks and drinks in the refrigerator, and a bathroom.
Castra by Colony has supplied the necessities you would need for a party and an overnight stay (including raincoats and umbrellas, since it is outdoors), barring actual clothes.
For an example of Colony’s signature next-level hospitality, the team even gave us a heaping plate each of freshly-made pancakes as a welcome when we checked in.
The Uncontrollable Outdoors
But while the team did their best to ensure that our stay was as pleasant as possible, external factors ultimately impacted our sleep.
The tents are decently spacious (they can fit up to 5 people), the beds are comfortable and there is an abundance of pillows.
Nothing to complain about when it came to physical comfort, but the actual issues arose sometime after midnight, when we had settled down to sleep.
As I had suspected, the city never truly goes to sleep. Throughout the night, I could hear the noises of the streets loud and clear through the tent’s canvas material, and my colleague echoed my thoughts the next morning.
Regular cars passing didn’t make too much noise—it was the gangs of mat rempits with their irritatingly loud motorcycles that made it difficult to get to dreamland.
In the end I managed to nod off, but I certainly didn’t get my required amount of sleep.
This is something that’s out of Castra’s control, and while it sounds bad at first, I got to thinking about it.
If you’ve booked the space to party, sleep might be one of the last things on your mind, and company events that don’t extend past midnight won’t face these issues.
Therefore, this issue might not be as bad as it would be to someone like me, who needed my sleep for work the next day.
There’s A First Time For Everything
The team certainly faced trials while building Castra. Audrey relayed through She Mun, “The biggest challenge was learning how to build an event space from scratch outdoors.”
It was their designer’s first time designing the things Castra needed, like building the bathroom from scratch, making sure that everything was waterproof, bringing in standing air conditioning units into the tents and having to build wooden decorative boxes to cover them.
“Everything was exposed to outdoor elements so it was tough,” Audrey added, amusedly recalling some examples. “A parasol flew off because of the wind and there were rats.”
I don’t have the right knowledge to provide proper, reasonable suggestions for Castra to overcome the noise pollution, because all I could think about was installing a huge glass dome over the rooftop garden that could keep sounds out.
But if they did that, it wouldn’t exactly be outdoors anymore.
The lack of city noises is where I think glamping sites on the outskirts might have the advantage over Castra.
Nonetheless, I thoroughly enjoyed my one night there, but it’s definitely not a site I would sleep at for more than 2 nights in a row.
For the moment, the team has no plans to expand Castra as She Mun said that they were waiting to see the responses to it first.
“This is an experimental space and concept for us. We’ll have to see what the take-up rate is like, but so far it’s been very encouraging with many enquiries,” She Mun said.
“For now, we’re going to focus on making Castra the next hip events destination first.”
Bottom Line: Despite the high-end pricing, I could see future me renting it out for a family party. Castra definitely offers the space for it while still keeping it intimate. Would I say that I’m convinced by glamping now? Not really, but perhaps glamping isn’t really about the sleep, but more about the activities you can have with the people around you on the trip.
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