Marina Bay Sands Hotel, Singapore, Serious Luxury and an Awesome View


After living in Singapore (not at Marina Bay Sands!) for nearly one year, frequently gazing up at the majestically modern building shaped like a ship that is easily the most striking feature of the Singapore skyline, I finally got a chance to experience one of the most luxurious hotels in this metropolis, Marina Bay Sands hotel. Marina Bay Sands by night

A guest was visiting me and my husband in Singapore and I recommended her to spend one night of her trip at Marina Bay Sands. She was given a free upgrade to a suite, which was massive, with a large sitting room, meeting space, kitchen area (though no cooking facilities), two bathrooms (well, actually one bathroom and one powder room, ahem), a suitably plush bedroom, and a large balcony. The suite was not on the more expensive city-view side, but looked out over Gardens By The Bay, also a pleasant view. There was also a surprise in the suite; apparently each suite has something a bit special, its own room. My guest’s suite had its own karaoke room!

Chilling out watching one of the large flatscreen TVs, lounging on the massive soft sofa, drinking coffee made from the espresso machine, it would have been easy to spend a long time in the suite. We tried the room service, ordering dinner, and it was exquisite. But, Marina Bay Sands is certainly not all about the rooms. From outside, staring up at the top of the MBS building as I frequently did, you can see some palms trees, but not much else. In fact there is a long swimming pool running most of the way along the top, with plentiful sun-loungers, and quite simply the most spectacularly breathtaking view in Singapore. With my guest’s single booking we got swimming pool vouchers for me and my husband as well.

The view was stunning; I could have spent weeks just admiring it. And swimming while gazing at it was wonderful. But the water was freezing cold! I guess that’s the effect of being so high up in Singapore’s typically cloudy weather. Despite the low temperatures and strong winds, it was totally amazing. Known as the Skypark, as well as the long pool there are several hot jacuzzis, a chocolate bar which I didn’t try, a viewing area, and free drinking water. Towels were of course provided, and we, like many other guests, simply wore the hotel-provided dressing gowns over our swimming costumes to travel upwards in the lift. The atmosphere was of decadent relaxation, and I felt I was seeing how “the other half” live. Although it was back to reality after just one day, always a stickler for a good view, I’m pleased I had the opportunity to indulge in Singapore’s best. Pool and view

Advertisements

Samui Pier Resort, Koh Samui, Thailand


A resort on a miniature scale, Samui Pier Resort hotel is located right next to the pier where travellers leave for Koh Phangan. The views out to sea and across to Koh Phangan are wonderful at sunset, and I was lucky to get a free upgrade to an upstairs beachfront room with a balcony. I spent plenty of time gazing out to sea and watching people arriving in Samui from the ferry or leaving for other islands. Sunset from my room

My room was very clean and pleasantly decorated, with air-con, a TV with some English language channels, free wifi, and tea and coffee making facilities. The bathroom was fairly spacious with a good hot shower. Thanks to the large tinted glass balcony doors I could actually see the sea while I was in bed, and drifting off to sleep to the sound of the waves outside was magical. Bedroom

The staff were helpful and the owner was friendly. My room rate did not include breakfast, and the restaurant was rather expensive compared to other nearby options. The hotel is on a main road, though all the rooms face the sea, and so it was easy to find places to eat. The minimarket across the road was well stocked. Samui Pier Resort beach

The hotel grounds are nicely landscaped grassy gardens, with a variety of sun loungers, sala shelters and other seats. The swimming pool is at least as small as it looks in the photos, however, and with more than a couple of people swimming it does feel overcrowded. Hotel ground and pool

Overall I was pleased with Samui Pier Resort. The beach is nice for walking along and I did see other people swimming, but being so close to the ferries, it’s certainly not the best. If you want a convenient location, with great views and a relaxing space, Samui Pier Resort is great.

Buddy Oriental Samui Beach Resort, Lamai Beach, Koh Samui, Thailand


I booked into Buddy Oriental Samui Beach Resort for one night as a special treat. It’s out of my usual price range but for my last night on Koh Samui before a long journey, I wanted something nice. I had driven past Buddy’s and liked the look of it, in colonial style buildings with its own shops. This would be somewhere different to other hotels I have stayed at. Bedroom at Buddys

I checked in early and service was excellent. My garden-view room was upstairs and the colonial theme continued to the interior design of the bedroom. It had colonial-style shutters on the windows, a comfortable four-poster bed, old-fashioned pictures on the walls and even some old books on a shelf. A TV with some English-language channels, noisy but effective air-conditioning and tea/coffee facilities were provided, as was a minibar. The bathroom had a powerful shower, and free toiletries. Room service was fast and efficient and the menu had a range of local and international dishes, including Mexican food. Bathroom at Buddys

Buddy Oriental has two swimming pools, which is just as well because the beach was disappointing, neither good for swimming nor appealing for paddling or sunbathing. One swimming pool is located across the road from the beach in the hotel atrium, in the building that houses the guestrooms. I enjoyed swimming in this pool which was in shade for large parts of the day, meaning I didn’t need to use sun cream. There was also a jacuzzi hot tub beside the pool. The other pool was over the road by the beach and the hotel restaurant. That pool was crowded with sun seekers sprawling on sun loungers. Swimming pool at Buddys

Swimming pool 2 at BuddysThe colonial style makes Buddy’s feel different to other hotels I have stayed in, making it feel almost theme-park like. If I had wanted particularly to use the beach I would have been disappointed with Buddy Oriental, but for only one day I was content with the swimming pools and my luxurious room.

Beach at Buddys

The Sundays Sanctuary Hotel and Spa, Koh Samui, Thailand


The Sundays Sanctuary looked like a relaxing place to stay, with some very good reviews, set in the hills on the island of Koh Samui, Thailand, and was very reasonably priced. I took a taxi from my previous hotel and was surprised when we turned down a little road and it felt like we were going off into the countryside. The hotel felt more isolated than it was, however, as there was a small market and food centre opposite a minimart with an ATM at the junction with the main road. Unfortunately it was necessary to brave the dogs that hung around in the tree-lined street with no one nearby in order to get there, and I’m not the only guest who didn’t fancy doing that on her own in the pitch-black dark.

Communal area at SundaysThe hotel itself was unusually decorated in concrete with second-hand style furniture in the lobby/breakfast area. There was no restaurant or room service at the hotel, and breakfast was the only meal served, a choice of toast, egg or muesli. The lobby area had some beanbags for relaxing, as well as chairs and tables. Wifi was only available at the lobby and the pool (contrary to what it said on Agoda when I booked).

 

The pool was by far the best part of the Sundays Sanctuary. With a lake-like feel, I swam under the trees, watching the birds. Apart from the inevitable leaves and insects, the water felt clean and the pool was of a decent size and depth. Deck chairs were places around the pool, in the forested surroundings, it was a great place to relax. Swimming pool at Sundays

The rooms, however, were very disappointing. I was initially given a standard room, in a building up the back away from the other hotel buildings. After discovering that my balcony door would not lock, I was moved to a pool view bungalow. When it says pool view, mine was near the back, and you could just about see parts of the pool through the trees. Bedroom at Sundays

The concrete design meant that the room was permanently dusty, and the bathroom was covered in dirt that had fallen down from the ceiling. The futon bed was nothing special, the TV was very small, and the air-con old and noisy. The room had large floor-to-ceiling windows on three sides, with white canvas curtains covered in brown damp stains. The wardrobe had sliding doors that would not budge an inch. But the most bizarre thing about the room was that in the bathroom as well as a shower there was a concrete bath.

Concrete bath at SundaysIt was in its own little area, with a corrugated plastic roof with holes that let in rain and leaf litter from the trees above. I can’t imagine anyone wanting to use a dirty, dimly lit concrete bath tub! The room was cleaned daily, but not thoroughly at all. The bath was never cleaned, dirt on the shower curtain stayed there throughout my stay, and a dead cockroach was left on the floor for several days. Dust, dirt and insects pervaded my stay at the Sundays Sanctuary, which should be priced as cheap budget accommodation rather than a medium-priced spa-style hotel.

The view from my pool view room!

The view from my pool view villa. Spot the tiny patch of blue – that’s the pool view!

Hatten Hotel Melaka: Review


We were fortunate to be able to stay at Hatten Hotel Melaka on our second visit to Malacca (we had stayed at a much cheaper backpacker hostel on our first trip, which was also charming in its own way). The Hatten Hotel Melaka, a luxury business hotel, consists of Junior and Deluxe Suites. Hatten Hotel Melaka

The hotel is located above Hatten Square shops, directly opposite Dataran Pahlawan, Malacca’s largest mall, which is connected by a walkway on the 3rd floor. It is easy to walk to all of the major tourist attractions in Melaka, such as Jonker Walk, Menara Taming Sari, Chinatown, Little India and all the museums. Although the hotel reception and lobby is on the ground floor, the restaurant is located up on the 11th floor, the pool and gym are on the 12th floor, and all the rooms are above that.

 

Our Suite

We had a Deluxe Suite on the 20th floor with a view down to the swimming pool and out across the city of Malacca. I was relieved we didn’t get one of the rooms down next to the pool because that would be really noisy. I was also relieved we didn’t get a room with a view of this atrium.

AtriumOur spacious suite was nicely decorated, very clean, and felt comfortable to stay in. Upon entering the suite there was a small sitting room area with a chaise longue, flatscreen TV,  tea/coffee facilities and a minibar (stocked only with soft drinks – this is Malaysia!). This smaller room was separated from the main bedroom by a large window.

Deluxe SuiteThe bedroom had a kingsize double bed, which was really comfortable, with bedside table and lamps on both sides, another larger flatscreen TV (yes, every suite has two televisions!), a desk and chair, another chair and coffee table, as well as a wardrobe with hanging space and drawers. I was impressed by the extra facilities in the room, which not all hotels provide, such as bathrobes, slippers, a hairdryer and weighing scales. Kingsize bed

The bathroom, which could be entered from both of the other rooms, had a spacious shower, with a handheld sprayer and a “rain” shower. As seems to be the trend for new hotels now, there was no bathtub. Bathroom

My favourite aspect of the suite, however, was the view across Malacca city. A massive window, almost floor-to-ceiling, meant I could spend hours just gazing across the city, even from in bed. As well as the swimming pool, directly in view were many of Malacca’s most famous tourist sites, such as the Porto de Santiago fort, the Independence Monument and Museum, the Sultan’s Palace Museum and St Paul’s Church. It was a perfect view of this historic city! Melaka city view

Hotel Facilities

The hotel swimming pool, on the 12th floor, is actually larger than it looks in the hotel photos, which meant that although it was very busy at times, it didn’t feel too crowded. Unfortunately it was very windy in the pool for most of the time I was there, and the water was so cold! There was nowhere nice to sit and relax by the pool without getting wet; the only sun loungers are in the shallow part of the pool, not somewhere you’d want to read a book, let alone use a phone or a tablet.

PoolDue to wind and the cold temperature of the water, the pool was better suited to swimming lengths, rather than hanging out, and it seemed to be mostly children who wanted to spend a long time there. So I didn’t spend as much time in the pool area as I had expected. At least I could enjoy the same view from my room; the pool also looks out across the city.

Swimming Pool from above

Also on the 12th floor is the Hatten Hotel gym, which is very well equipped, and has the sea view. It was easily the best view I’ve ever seen from a treadmill and could definitely motivate one to work out!

Gym with a view

Breakfast was served in the restaurant on the 11th floor. It was the first time I’ve had to queue to get in at a hotel breakfast, because the hotel was full for the beginning of our stay. Although it is a buffet breakfast, after queuing up, we were actually shown to a table by staff, not in the usual grab-a-table style. There was a wide range of food, with Chinese options such as yam cake to cater for the majority Chinese hotel guests.

The hotel lobby, down on the ground floor, was very spacious and I really liked the décor, with sitting room areas and an amazing chandelier that filled a large part of the ceiling. Service was excellent, with an efficient check-in and check-out. The concierge staff were also helpful in booking our taxi. Lobby sitting areaLobby with chandelierOverall, I loved staying at Hatten Hotel Melaka, largely because of the amazing view across the city and the luxurious room where I was happy to spend time. Clearly, some of the other rooms are inferior, being next to the pool or without a view. I suggest, therefore, that if you book a room at this hotel, you should specify that you want a room with a view.

The Travel Hub Kuala Lumpur Guesthouse


I wanted somewhere cheap, clean, and central in Kuala Lumpur. There are many hostels and guesthouses to choose from in Malaysia’s capital city, and I chose The Travel Hub because I could get a very cheap single room, rather than a dormitory bed. Travel Hub front door

I arrived in the evening and the location was somewhat confusing, being at the end of the street in the address, such that the front door was around the corner. The guesthouse is not on the ground floor, so I lugged my suitcase up lots of stairs. When I found out my room was on the third floor I was worried, but fortunately there is a lift serving floors one to three (two to four if you’re counting US style with the ground floor as level one).

 

My single room with a window and air-conditioning was certainly small, but it was clean. The blind on the window would not shut fully so it was never totally dark, and at times it was noisy outside. The single bed was super-creaky. I thought I was going to break it each time I rolled over in bed! There was wifi in my room but with a very poor connection that only worked sometimes, in some parts of the room. Single Bedroom with Window and a/c

The shared bathrooms were fine, not the cleanest but perfectly useable. I never had to wait for a shower. The communal living room area was nicely decorated, with comfy sofas to lounge around, and a shoes-off policy.

 

The guesthouse staff were friendly and helpful. When one of them had forgotten to book me a taxi, the staff member on duty went out and found me one in the street.

 

Breakfast was advertised as 7-10am, included in the price, but in practice it was self-service toast and jam with tea or coffee. I wondered why they only offered it during those hours instead of having bread available throughout the day like in some other hostels (like this one in Malacca for example). Communal space at Travel Hub

Overall, I have yet to find an ideal affordable place to stay in KL (suggestions welcome!). The Travel Hub is perfectly okay, but I would be equally keen to try a different hostel next time.

SE Hotel 2, Butterworth, Malaysia


SE Hotel 2 is a budget hotel located an easy bus ride from Butterworth train station, from where you can take long-distance trains north to Thailand and south to Kuala Lumpur. I wanted a cheap place to stay for one night as I stopped over in this small Malaysian town.

Hotel SE 2 Butterworth Malaysia

My single room was very small, but well-designed so it didn’t actually feel cramped. There was no window but there was air-conditioning, a TV and a private, reasonably sized bathroom. The room was clean and the bed was fine for one night. Noise travelled easily along the hotel corridors and it was easy to hear people talking outside my room, but I had a pleasant night’s sleep.

 

The staff were helpful when I needed information about buses and places to eat near the hotel. Across the road from the hotel was a bus stop from which it was easy to get the bus to the train station.

 

Overall, SE Hotel 2 is nothing special, but it is straightforward, simple, budget accommodation in Butterworth, in walking distance of public transport and places to eat.