No more 4 star hotels please

7 May
Sunway 4 star pigeon house

Sunway 4 star pigeon house

I was arriving in gorgeous George Town relatively late at night (with FireFly, another cheap one ;-) so I didn’t want to be stuck for lodging, so I booked a hotel via one of those booking sites (Agoda.com) which of course only have the nicer hotels – but at great value (negotiated prices). So I stayed at the Sunway 4 **** hotel. The view from the 11th floor was great, the room was comfortable, the bed better than my one at home, but I didn’t like it.

So after 2 days I moved down to a Kampung (village style) guesthouse at Batu Feringhi beach. A small wooden room, no reception (just go and find someone of the family), no room service, no shower cap or ironing board – but it was sooo cozy and on top of it there was a wooden veranda overlooking the beach.

No more pigeon hole for me

4 star sterile room

4 star sterile room

Staying in a 4 star tower felt like being forced into a small pigeon hole in a big pigeon house. You’re reduced to a number – I was 1108 for the occasion. The view was spectacular from the 11th floor (quite a difference with the windowless room I had in KL), but I was just one of hundreds enjoying the same view.

Everything seemed plastic and standard:

  • the smile of the receptionists (not their fault) – they say the same polite sentences to all the guests waiting in line
  • the welcome drink – which was only available between certain hours – turned out to be a watery juice, the same as the one in the cool container at breakfast
  • A lovely view of the 11th floor though

    A lovely view of the 11th floor though

  • no diversion of the rules was possible: for extending a day I’d have to go online if I’d want the same rate, internet problems had to be transferred to the support centre,…
  • they are out to squeeze money out of you: laundry is super expensive, you need to pay for extra coffee and tea sachets if you finish your first set, in house TV channels come at expensive rates, etc.
  • the toilet paper was folded like in any other hotel, the signs inviting guests to re-use the towels to save the environment were the same too,…
  • your luggage was invariably taken up to the room, by guys vulturing around for a tip (which I never give, because I don’t even want them to take my luggage)
  • the fittings of the room were there because 4 stars regulations prescribe it: shower cap & shoe shine, iron & board, retractable washing line, useless phone in the bathroom,…

Back to Basics – Searching for Charm

A basic but nice room...

A basic but nice room...

After 2 days in 4 star plastic luxury, I decided to move into local authenticity, to look for some couleur locale and I found a row of Kampung houses (village houses) along Batu Feringhi beach. There’s no reception – you basically just step in the family’s kitchen or living room and ask if they have a place to stay. The room is basic, the walls and floors are made of wood (and shake when you walk by), but there’s an ensuite bathroom (with hot water), aircon and even WIFI (once they got it to work again). But the best part was the wooden veranda/balcony overlooking the sea, shared but there was heardly ever anyone there.

with a lovely balcony though

with a lovely balcony though

Actually when I arrived, the room I wanted was not ready (because they were cleaning the mattress), but when I told them I would like to stay in the front room (near the balcony, overlooking the sea 10 meters further), the whole family was activated to make up the room: carry the mattress upstairs, make the bed, etc. They forgot to put a towel, but when I ask I got one immediately with thousands of apologies. Or when internet was not working, they checked for me every day and gave me a special deal because of the temporary problem. Their guesthouse is their life.

at my as-good-as private beach (low season)

at my as-good-as private beach (low season)

Instead of the 35€ for a night in the (comfortable) Sunway pigeon hole, I have a 3 person room (you could only share this small room if you are reaaaally good friends though!) for 60 Ringit/night (15€, so that would be 5€/person). Pay 5 Ringit (1,5 €) once for unlimited internet use, feel free to get hot water from the kitchen, or cook some food. Wanna use the family’s TV set and DVD player, no problem, etc. And when you come ‘home’ at night they ask how was your day and have a little chat. It does feel like home.

Am I getting old?

Sunset at the beach bar 10m from my guesthouse

Sunset at the beach bar 10m from my guesthouse

Maybe I’m changing? Getting old? I am not looking anymore for the fast and famous (4 star hotels, fancy restaurants, expensive discos, etc) but I’m more and more into charm and authenticity. Some place where you feel special, and taken care of: like the Villa in Bali, having food at the street stall of the chatty fat lady, sitting on the terrace of the local beach bar, watching the sunset

Maybe the only advantage of the anonymous pigeon hole, is that you can bring anyone home you want, but you might have to make up a story why you have a visitor in your room in the Kampung house – hehe. But everything is possible ;-)

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