My train from Machu Picchu to Ollantaytambo arrived at about 9:40pm so I made reservations with a hospedaje (Peruvian budget hotel) in Ollantaytambo.
I made the booking on the first day in Ollantaytambo. At first I booked a night on the 25th. Then I realized it was supposed to be the 26th so I walked over to change the date. Then after I changed my return date of my train, I had to make adjustments at the hospedaje again.
On the night of 27th, I arrived and was sent to a three-bed room along with my suitcase which I left there. The room was very nice for its 30 soles price (S$15).
In the morning, at checkout, the younger employee called out to the older (but still not that old) employee. The latter talked about “propina” which I did not understand. In the end, he said “money”, pointing to my luggage.
I gathered that they want a storage fee. When I asked how much, the younger employee’s eyes shone brightly and she whispered, “10 soles.” I thought that was a ridiculous price for 2 nights of storage and turned to the other employee who said, “5 soles.”
I took out a 10 soles bill and they looked around for change. I wasn’t very pleased when I found out that “propina” meant tip. Just because I am foreign doesn’t mean I print money at home and I can freely distribute my wealth around.
Still, I left my stuff at the hospedaje and went for breakfast at my favorite cafe in Ollantaytambo–Heart Cafe. I enjoyed their menu of the day and their lattes.
Then I collected my luggage and got on a mini bus to Cusco.
Fortunately, the bus stopped in San Francisco square instead of the bus stop for Ollantaytambo collectivos. San Francisco square has quite a few accommodation choices.
I dragged my suitcase up a slope, checked out one hostel I’ve seen featured on Hostelworld.com. The price of a dorm room was cheap US$10 (S/ 28) and a private room was US$40 (S/ 112).
I walked out with my stuff since I was not willing to pay US$40 for a room in Peru. I found another hostel but it did not have any private rooms available.
The I spotted a dodgy little place with a sign. I walked in and saw a courtyard. A middle aged lady walked out. I told her that I have no reservation and if she had a room.
Indeed, she did have a room right behind the counter. It was a private room “with Wifi” but no private bathroom.
The price was a reasonable S/ 40 (US$14). I decided to take the room because it was a very good deal.
The toilet and bathroom are built separately in the courtyard. Using them in the morning isn’t a problem but at night, when the temperature drops down to 7 degrees Celsius, taking a shower is an ordeal.
Still, I can’t complain about a US$14 room. I’ll even stay an extra night (or more if I do not go to Nazca).
Location: Cairo, Egypt Location: Legend of the Sea [Day 12]
Since we reached the hotel late last night, I only got the chance to take a good look a Mena House Hotel in the morning while I was rushing for breakfast.
The hotel was previously a palace for King Faruq. The wing we stayed in was newly built. The original wing, which was also where the check in counter and restaurants were, is really gorgeous.
Outside of the entrance hung a huge oriental-looking chandelier. Inside the building, some of the walls were covered with cool marbles and reception area had many parts gilded in gold.
Breakfast itself was alright with the normal western food. I did drink three short glasses of hibiscus juice. When made right (meaning lots of sugar), hibiscus juice tastes like cranberry juice and even looks like it with its bright red color.
It’s a really rare chance for me to stay in a 5-star hotel while travelling on my own. I think it’s a combination of a drop in the number of tourists and being in a tour group that allowed me to live luxuriously for a night.
We left at 7:00am and headed straight to the Citadel of Salah Al-Din. From afar, the mosque reminded me of the famous Blue Mosque in Istanbul. I didn’t dare voice that out loud in case it looked completely different and I look like a fool.
It turned out that the mosque was indeed a copy of the Blue Mosque and was made by the same architect.  We had to chance to take gorgeous photos of the mosque.
Persistently wrong souvenir seller
When I exited the mosque, I was approached by a souvenir seller. I waved my hand next to my face while saying, “No.”
Then the seller said, rather fiercely, “I know you are Japanese by the way you wave.”
I was kind of stunned. Is that how you determine nationality? By the waving of hands? I replied in Japanese and English that he was wrong.
He was persistent about his answer but guessed again, “China?”
I said, “No. Two dollars for answer.” I stretched out my hand for the money.
I suppose he was taken aback but he replied, “I don’t want your answer.”
“I don’t want your souvenirs neither,” I retorted and continued taking my photo.
A while later, he came back and said, “You ARE Japanese.” With a dramatic turn, he walked off which kind of reminds me of the crazy drunk in Paris.
The Old Papyrus Museum
Among our stops today was the Old Papyrus Museum which I loved.
Inside, we were shown how papyrus paper is made.
Peel off green skin of papyrus for the flesh inside.
Take strips of papyrus flesh and soak in water. After 7 days, you will get white strips. For darker strips, soak for 10 days. (Remember to change water everyday to remove the suagr).
Line up de-sugared strips horizontally and vertically. Put the strips between two piece of cloth to soak up the water.
Put the papyrus/cotton burger in a press to get rid of water.
Change cotton burger everyday for 10 (?) days.
The sugar and natural chemicals in papyrus will stick the strips together.
Voila! You have papyrus paper.
The papyrus paper I touched was a lot thicker than regular paper. I heard that you can even wash the paper.
The shop also has “royal paper” which allows you to crumble up the paper but it will bounce back to normal. There are also caps and vests made from papyrus.
In the end, I bought a few souvenir papyrus drawings to use up my Egyptian pounds.
The highlight of today was the Egyptian Museum. We could not bring our cameras inside so I am not able to share with you the goodies.
The museum is only 2-storey high but it was packed with antiques. Rows and rows of mummy coffins; tiny pendants all in 15 rows (!), dried up mummies, wall carvings and so on.
The highlight of the museum is King Tutankhamun’s gold mask. It is so SHINEY! (Yes, I’m speechless and adjective-less.)
Many of the galleries featured wall carvings chiselled off ancient walls. Hieroglyphic is really cute.
On our way back, we were caught in a traffic jam. For a while, it seemed that we might miss our curfew to get back on the ship. Thank Amun-re that we made it on time in the end.
I haven’t talked much about my trip to Kudat with mom (except about food) so I’ll start with the hotel we stayed at during our 1 night in Kudat.
While we were planning the trip, mom said we could stay at Kudat Golf & Marina Resort since we’ve not stayed there the last time we were in Kudat. (Summary of the trip 10+ years ago: The whole family was in the north of Sabah to catch the eclipse. We stayed at a hall of a Taoist Temple because all hotels were full.)
I made the booking online and picked the Standard Garden Terrace (Twin-Sharing) room which was RM180.00 nett
While driving, the hotel is not the easiest to find as the sign only pops up once in a while. Our car drove past the golf area on the windy road before we reached the main building.
I didn’t have much expectations for the hotel, even though it has “Resort” in its name.
Sure enough, it was a small resort with only 3 stories (4 floors of room if you count the ground floor).
Standard Garden Terrace (Twin-Sharing)
Our room was located on the ground floor. The glass doors opened to a small pavement and a shrub which covered some of the view of the golf fields.
It wasn’t the most fantastic view but we were either sleeping or watching TV anyway.
Of course, there was no bathtub. (I adore bathtubs even if it uses too much water.)
Unfortunately, there wasn’t Wi-Fi in the room. I had to bring my laptop out to the lobby so I could surf the Net. (Why are you online when you are on vacation?!)
View from the lobby
Luckily, the view from the lobby was quite gorgeous.
I even woke up at 5.30 am, hoping I could catch the sunrise.
Unfortunately, a bunch of trees faraway blocked my view of the sun. It was too cloudy for sunrise anyway.
You probably cannot tell from my stomach that I like to eat because many kind Samaritans have offered me their seats on the train, thinking my food baby is a real foetus.
Our room came with free breakfast at the D’Conutt Coffee House at the other end of our corridor.
I have not figured why many Malaysian establishments LOVE to add a “de” or “d'” to their restaurants. Is it to give it a French flair? Why would they need a French sounding–but obviously not French because “d'” comes before a vowel–name?
Anyway, the breakfast was so-so local food although I quite enjoyed the drinks–orange syrup with water and coffee.
In a nut shell
Kudat Golf & Marina Resort is a nice pretty place with what you need for more than minimum comfort. You will need a vehicle to get in and out as the public transport to town is not developed.
There are other hotels right inside Kudat town if you wish something more central. (Shops all close really early so it’s not really that convenient anyway.)
It’s Tuesday and almost mid-week. This week, I will be sharing a post each on Tuesday and Wednesday because they are hotel reviews. I feel it’s kind of cheating when I post hotel reviews so I line two at a go. Enjoy!
Today’s post is about a charming hotel in Pontian, Johor.
If you don’t follow me on Twitter, you might not know that my sister and I had to cancel our plans to Gunung Ledang two weekends before. We missed the train to Sematan Segamat and took a bus to the long distance bus terminal but managed to missed the bus by 2 minutes! (TWO MINUTES!)
It felt like something in the universe was telling us not to go to Gunung Ledang so I cancelled our room reservation with the resort. (Yes, I’m superstitious) We sat in the busy bus terminal with our backpacks and googled the places nearby.
In the end, we decided to go to Pontian because it’s relatively near Johor Bahru. Also because I’ve actually heard of the place. (It’s food famous!)
Since we did not do any research about Pontian, we had to frantically read up links from Google.
While searching for a place to stay, I discovered Pontian Garden Hotel on Google Maps. I fell in love immediately because it looked like it overlooks the sea.
Pontian Garden Hotel’s strategic location
When we reached the bus terminal, I was delighted to find out from my Google Map app that the hotel is walking distance.
There’s even a Marrybrown under the hotel. I love fried chicken. Too bad we didn’t have any fried chicken during the trip. (Such a tragedy.)
When we checked in, the concierge told us that they only had standard rooms which were RM 118 per night. Good enough!
There was also FREE WI-FI! Password: jiayuanpg1001
Our room was on the second floor and there was no elevator. Thank goodness we have very light backpack.
The room was very comfortable as the air-conditioning worked very well.
I also like the coffee and tea set. Free coffee and tea!
The only problem with the room is the shower: The water sprayed almost everywhere. Eeek.
Best about Pontian Garden Hotel
Good points about the hotel include the helpful concierge. They helped us call up a taxi to bring us to Tanjung Piai to see the southern tip of the continent of Asia.
But, the best thing about the hotel is not the room, the people or the breakfast (I love food!).
It was the view of the breakfast place. Look!
Imagine having breakfast while looking at the deep blue sea. (OK, it was gray the day I was there.) The sea breeze is great in helping with invigorating the appetite!
In a nut shell
Pontian Garden Hotel is a fantastic place to stay if you are in Pontian. The price, view, room, people are all fantastic.
For me, the most stressful part of planning a trip is booking the right hotel. The price has to be right. The distance to town should not be too far. The beds should be comfy with no bed bugs.
I guess that’s the reason why I keep choosing Tune Hotel when there’s a branch at my destination. When I found out that there was an opening sale for the new Bangkok branch. Tune Hotel – Asoke, I immediately made my booking.
During the sale, the basic room fee was 299 baht before taxes, Based on my past three experience staying at different Tune Hotels (Kota Bahru, Ipoh and Kuching), I decided that I needed to add on 24 hour airconditioning and Wi-Fi. The bill came around to 661.92 baht.
I’m not sure if it’s any cheaper than other hotels but I was sure that Tune Hotels have comfy beds and powerful showers. (5 star for 1 star price)
Airport to Tune Hotel
It’s a bit tricky to find how to take public transport from Don Muang airport to Tune Hotel as even the Web site is vague.
I printed out the hotel name and address (in English and Thai), showed it to the lady at the taxi counter who gave me a slip of paper and told me to wait for a cab.
To reach the hotel, the cabbie had to drive into the narrow lane of Sukhumvit Soi 14. The trip came up to be about 210 baht, even though the lady at the airport said it might be 350 baht.
If you are taking the public transport to Tune Hotel Asoke, stop at the BTS Asoke station. You will see a sign pointing to the hotel. Actually, you can see the hotel from the station.
After turning into Soi 14, you can see Suda Restaurant and a sign pointing to the hotel. (According to online reviews, this restaurant isn’t too bad. I’ve not tried it though.)
The hotel sticks out like a sore thumb (in a good way) among the posh housing.
The guard was very enthusiatic about helping me with my luggage. Unfortunately, I only had a backpack so he couldn’t help me. If you are heading out, he can help you call a cab too.
When I reached, there was about 15 minutes before checkin time 1400. The receptionists were very strict about the time so I sat at the bench with the other early guests.
There was a play area where you can take photos of yourself and send it to your e-mail box.
Finally! 1400 hours arrived. I queued behind some of the guests who were even more anxious about checking in.
There was quite a long form to fill out. The receptionist also scanned my passport and the immigration entry form.
I was roomed on the fourth floor which is not the most auspicious.
As the hotel only opened recently, everything was brand spanking new. I was quite happy that the toilet did not smell mouldy like it did in Kuching.
Strangely, there was a large mirror above the bed. It made the room seem larger but I cannot figure out what it is for.
Since I booked 24 hours of airconditioning, the key slot did not show the count down to my airconditioning-less hour.
As usual, there is a TV (which you can pay for) but I used it as towel rack. There’s also a menu for room service above the TV. The food is a bit overpriced though.
Wrapping up this post, I love everything about Tune Hotel Asoke, the location and price.
I stayed at Tune Hotel Waterfront Kuching during my weekend in Kuching on Sep. 15.
When I booked my plane tickets for Kuching, the plan was to go to Sematan where my two friends were vacationing at a resort. Unfortunately, it takes a while to get there and the pools close in the evening so D suggested I stay in the city.
I checked out room prices. 360xpress Hotel where I’ve spent a night before was absurdly expensive. Luckily, Tune Hotel was having a sale and I got my room for RM66 (including airconditioning and towel rental).
Even though Tune Hotel Waterfront Kuching say they have a shuttle, you have to have 2 passengers as a minimum and call in advance or something. I ended up taking a RM30 cab there.
I’ve stayed at Tune Hotel in Kota Bahru and Ipoh so I was familiar with the facilities.
The location of Tune Hotel Kuching was fabulous (even better than 360xpress Hotel). It’s just opposite Hilton Hotel (dimsum buffet lunch!) and a stone’s throw away from the Waterfront.
If you’re interested in how the single room looks like, check out a video tour of the room:
In a nutshell
Stayed at Tune Hotel Waterfront Kuching
Pros: Cheap, near waterfront
Cons: No real shuttle to hotel
For me, staying overnight at Ooedo Onsen meant saving one night’s stay at a hotel. Since I already want to soak in hot springs, adding on the extra 1,700 yen wasn’t too bad. But if you are travelling in pairs, this might be a more expensive option for accommodation.
Since I was going to spend the rest of my night at Ooedo Onsen, I decided to pay for the evening entrance (past 6 p.m. 1,680 yen) instead of day entrance fees (from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. 2,180 yen). I also bought my tickets from 7-11 so there was a 180 yen discount.
Before heading to the ticket counter, visitors need to put their shoes in shoe lockers.
After putting away my shoes, I went to queue with the rest of the people. Since there was still about 10 minutes before 6 p.m., everyone had to wait patiently.
About 5 minutes before 6 p.m., a lady dressed in traditional outfit came out with a pair of clappers and said lots of things in a sing-song tone.
I remember from their Web site that she’s the kanban-musume Oshino. This literally translates to “Signboard girl” which means she’s the attraction of a business.
Too bad I wasn’t too sure what Oshino was saying. I guess it was to welcome all of us to Ooedo Onsen.
Soon, the counters opened for the evening session. I handed over my my coupon and was given a wristlet with a barcode taped over and a key.
Before heading into the changing room, everyone gets to choose a yukata. There are different designs and sizes of yukata. I picked on with purple flowers.
After yukata choosing, it’s time to hit the lockers. Find the locker corresponding to your wristlet. It’s in Japanese so if you don’t read hiragana, you might need help.
The size of the locker was enough for my backpack.
At the lockers, strip down to your underthings and wear the yukata.
Remember that the left side needs to be on top, or else you are wearing the bathrobe as a corpse would.
Strolling on Edo street’s
In my yukata, I went out to the fake Edo streets. There are plenty of food stalls around so don’t worry about being hungry. There’s also free hot tea and both hot and cold water so you won’t go thirsty.
When I was there, there was a performance at 7 p.m. I think the shows change every season.
Soaking in hot springs
I couldn’t take photos at the onsen or its changing room so I can only tell through words.
Before heading to the ladies’ hot spring area, we need to put our things in another changing room. There’s other lockers here to put yukata and underthings in before heading to the hot spring area.
In the changing room, there’s a corner with samples of makeup remover, toner, face lotion. There’s also hair bands and toothbrush provided.
Before heading to the hot spring, take everything off. Everyone strips naked so no need to be shy.
The hot springs are divided into indoor and outdoor pools. There’s a large section where everyone washes their hair and body. Free shampoo, conditioner and body soap is provided too.
After vigorously washing and conditioning my hair, I headed to the pools.
There were a variety of pools and areas:
Ooedo Onsen hot spring which was real undersea hot spring, instead of just hot water. The color was a bit rusty. There was also a side with recycled Ooedo Onsen hot spring which didn’t have a rusty color.
40 degrees Celsius pools
Massage jacuzzi pool
Pool with frothing machine which makes the water much more “fine” and is good for the skin
Cold water (brr)
The pools outdoors were limited. There was only a large pond and an area with a few fake vintage bathtubs.
Off to bed
After soaking in the pools for the longest while, I head to the changing rooms and bought myself a small glass bottle of milk.
At about 11 p.m., I decided that it is time to find a place to sleep.
Ooedo Onsen has a capsule hotel but it’s catered only to men. The private rooms are too expensive for me.
I think there are also large halls where they layout tatami for people staying over. This I’m not too sure though.
My choice was the ladies’ lounge on the second floor. Here, they have reclining chairs with mini TVs. They even provide blankets.
Most of the chairs were taken by the time I got there. I found a chair with a broken TV and settled there. A mother and her young son slept one chair away.
I put on my eyemask and ear plugs and tried to sleep on the 150 degrees chair.
Suddenly as I was drifting off to sleep, I heard a loud rumbling noise. I took off my eyemask and discovered an older lady snoring in the seat next to mine.
It wasn’t easy blocking her snores out even with my earplugs but I managed to sleep.
In the morning, I woke up and realized that she was gone. I was also surprised to find that it was almost 7 a.m. which meant that I had less than 1 hour before the pools close for cleaning.
I went back for a last soak of onsen. Soaking in the morning and at night was different. I could see the blue sky in the outdoor pool while at night everything was a blur because I wasn’t wearing glasses.
After the soak, I changed back into my real clothes and checked out.
Stayed: Ooedo Onsen Monogatari
Pros: Save on entertainment and accommodation; fun
Cons: Snoring seatmates; not having a real bed
The part I dislike most about travelling is looking for accommodation. I take too much time reading reviews and worrying about bed bugs.
I ended up choosing Favehotel Wahid Hasyim (pronounced FAV, not fave as I thought it was) because it has airport transport (at an extra cost). Also, it didn’t look like it had bed bugs.
I’m not sure how much extra we had to pay for the transport but it was much more convenient not having to make calls to book a taxi back to the airport. But from the airport to town, you can book a cab immediately at the counter for Golden Bird.
When we reached the hotel after our one-hour cab ride, the receptionist who was the most polite told us that their system was down.
We ended up eating at the hotel restaurant to wait for their system to go back up. We had different rice dishes and they came in cute layout.
We finally checked in after our lunch. We had a room on the third floor, looking out the streets and a tree.
The room is an OK size, with all the stuff you need. I like that they have space above the bed for us to put our things–very convenient.
Of course, there’s a TV with cable and a desk to do writing. I didn’t writes as much as I thought I would.
Toothbrush is provided and body-shampoo (unidentified liquid) provided.
What I like most about the hotel is its proximity to the Trans Jakarta station which is only a short walk away.
The famous backpacker street Jalan Jaksa is a 1km walk away. On the road leading to Jalan Jaksa, there’s the great peranakan restaurant Kedai Tiga Nyonya and the famous fried chicken place which I’ve forgotten what the name is.
If you are a Google Maps addict like me, please note that the hotel is on the lower part of Jl. K. H. Wahid Hasyim, not on top as stated in the Apple Maps app. I can be quite anal about maps, I realized.
We paid a total of S$107 for the room and the two-way transfer (which was almost as expensive as the room itself).
Pro: Great location, free Wi-Fi, comfy bed, quiet at night
Cons: Traffic can be horrible if travelling by car–but that applies to most of Jakarta
Other accommodation reviews (for the budget travelers)
As you might know from my blog, I’m a budget traveler. Or maybe I should say, a miserly traveler.
So why am I reviewing the San Jose Marriott? Don’t worry, this isn’t one of those phantom posts about places the writer has never been to.
I had the chance to stay at this hotel chain during my business trip in May to San Jose. I clocked five luxurious nights among the soft bed and fluffy pillows, then I went back to earth in SanFrancisco.
Anyway, let’s head to the review:
I’m not sure why they always give two beds on business trips for a single traveler. Even if I do invite someone to stay over, the other bed wouldn’t be too useful, would it? ;)
The bed was very comfortable and I spent a ridiculous amount of non-work hours propped up my pillows watching TV (The kids show in the morning were really fun but the shows at night were scandalous!).
I do not have a bathtub at home so whenever I see a bathtub, my heart swells with joy. But when taking a bath, I would feel guilty about wasting so much water. Dilemma!
The thing I liked best about the room was the bath set. The orange-ginger combination smells really heavenly. I kind of regret not buying a whole bottle from Bath and Beyong.
Every morning, I would hide the tiny bottles in my suitcase and hope the room service tips I left were enough to pacify the chambermaids.
I had a relatively low floor so my view wasn’t great. I’m not the type to open my curtains anyway so it suited me well.
My room also had a coffee machine that only accepts its own coffee bags. The coffee was really good stuff though, not like the limp coffee found in Southeast Asia. (Heck, even the conference coffee was awesome!)
Now that I’ve finished all my praises, the bad news comes.
I had to pay a lot of money for Internet (well, the host paid for the Internet but the fact that the guest needs to pay for Web access makes me really angry).
Not only was the Wi-Fi expensive, it drops off very often. I would need to relogin Marriott’s page again and again because it cuts me off too often.
A good thing that came out of this was that I had a story idea to work on when I was back at work.
Stayed: San Jose Marriott
Pro: All the stuff a four-star hotel has, lovely bath toiletries collection
Cons: Not for the budget traveler, the Internet fee is too damn high!
Other accommodation reviews (for the budget travelers)
I was looking for a place that fits three persons in a room because I wanted to overnight with them during the weekend to make it easier for sightseeing.
The room was S$129 on regular nights, and S$139 on Saturday nights. After the 10 percent service charge and 7 percent Goods & Service Tax (GST), the price comes to about S$150. Quite reasonable for three people.
The room that we got, Superior Plus, has a queen-sized bed and a sofa bed. I didn’t pick the room with windows because who actually need a window? (Please tell me why you need one if you do.)
The room is small, as expected in Singapore, but I think there will be enough space for two large luggage.
The sofa bed was surprisingly comfortable. It was firm, unlike some foam beds which crush under any weight.
At the dressing table, there is a plastic kettle, three glasses and three bottles of water which are replenished everyday. Hairdryer hidden in the drawer.
There was a DVD player, TV with cable TV programs (which weren’t half as scandalous as the stuff I watched on HBO in San Jose) but no mini-fridge (a pity!).
The bathroom is equipped with toothbrush sets, shampoo, soap and toilet paper which are all replenished daily.
I had to ask for a Wi-Fi password slip from the receptionist. It said it’s chargeable by S$10 but it wasn’t billed. Not sure if that’s the usual case.
If you are familiar with the Singapore public transport, Balestier Road isn’t a bad location. There are buses to the shopping strip Orchard Road.
But the location’s not fantastic because it’s not near an MRT station, it takes a bus ride to reach Novena station.
Taxi fare in Singapore is relatively cheap (compared to Tokyo) so if you have more than 2 people in a group, taking a cab is often cheaper and faster than the bus.
Finding the place
On Balestier Road, there are THREE Value Hotels, a Fragrance Hotel and some Hotel 81’s. To get to the right Value Hotel *Balestier*, here’s what was included in my receipt:
“By taxi, inform the taxi driver to bring you to Value Hotel Balestier located at 218 Balestier Road (opposite the temple where durians are being sold)”
Stayed: Value Hotel Balestier, Singapore, review
Good for family of three
Pro: Not too expensive, comfy beds
Cons: Not central