Bintang Bungalows, Moni, Flores: Simple but Friendly

I stayed in at Bintang Bungalows for two nights, with a visit to Kelimutu and a tour of the local area as my activities. The homestay is centrally located in Moni village and offers a great view across the road to the church, with hills on both sides and as far out as the sea.

Bintang BungalowsBintang is split into two halves; the left side with the restaurant is run by Tobias, and the right side, where I stayed, is run by his sister-in-law Shinta. She is a powerful woman who has set up this homestay business on her own after living on many different Indonesian islands, though she is originally from the Moni area. I spent several hours chatting to her about her life and her family; she had a four-month-old baby when I was there, though she has three older children as well.

I haggled the price of my room down from Rp. 120,000 to Rp. 100,000. I had a private bathroom but it was somewhat rundown and in need of work. There was no door between the bathroom and the bedroom. The bathroom had a cold water shower and a large bucket for flushing the sit-down toilet. Outside the bathroom there was a sink. The weather can be cold in Moni, due to its altitude, and I showered less often than usual as a result of not having hot water.

The double bed was comfortable and came with a mosquito net. There was just one thin blanket and I was relieved I had packed my lightweight sleeping bag.

Breakfast was a banana pancake with tea or coffee, tasty but not very filling. I ate at Tobias’s restaurant downstairs and although it was expensive, the portions were large.

View from Bintang

The view from Bintang; this road is the trans-Flores "highway".

When I stayed at Bintang, they were doing renovations to build more rooms on the left side. This meant that all day every day the sounds of building work, drilling and banging, disturbed anyone trying to rest. The restaurant downstairs often played pop music and Shinta and her staff and family were quite loud people, calling to each other from right outside my room. These factors affected my sleep, in my room on the top floor, right next to Shinta’s living room. Other rooms may be quieter.

Bintang is very popular; it was full one of the nights I was there, and this was not tourist season. Staff were helpful and honest about travel information and prices. Shinta offers car rental and can help organise your onward travel. You can book a room by emailing or telephoning Shinta on +62 (0)852 3916 8310.


Gardena Hotel, Maumere, Flores: Spacious but Noisy

I had booked a room at Gardena Hotel in advance by telephone, and took a taxi from Maumere airport, in eastern Flores, straight to the hotel, around a 15 minute journey, costing a surprisingly large Rp. 50,000.

The hotel is located on a quiet street near the centre of town and upon first impressions I liked the design of the building with its large, airy, central atrium that felt deliciously cool compared to the hot street outside.

I was shown to my room; all rooms lead directly off the atrium, with windows looking into this central area. My room was spacious for only Rp. 100,000 or about US$10 per night, with twin beds, a fan, a table and my own cold water bathroom, with shower, sit-down toilet and Indonesian water trough (bak mandi). Maumere is so hot that I didn’t miss hot water at all.

My room at Gardena Hotel

Staff at Gardena Hotel were friendly and helpful, and it turned out that the reception area is a favourite hang-out for tourist guides. Guides who have just completed cross-island tours from Labuan Bajo finish up in Maumere and stay at Gardena before returning home. I chatted to some of these guides and got plenty of ideas and tips for travel and accommodation during my time in Flores.

Breakfast was a toasted sandwich with pineapple spread, and tea or coffee, not particularly filling.

Unfortunately the layout of an atrium with rooms leading off it that had seemed so attractive was in fact a nuisance. Any talking or other sounds made in the atrium went straight into the rooms, so I was kept awake by people talking at night. The beds were not the most comfortable and the bathroom was in need of renovation, but I had a pleasant enough night there, and it was good value for money in Flores.

@thome Surabaya Hotel Review: Good Value for Money in a Rundown Neighbourhood

I found this new hotel on the internet, and chose it due to its low price and convenient location in the north of Surabaya. My room came with a TV, air conditioning and very comfortable twin beds. The shared bathroom had hot water, and a separate toilet was also available.

Comfortable bedsThe small hotel has nine rooms, of which three have windows (including mine). In fact I was given a choice of rooms, a nice touch. The owner and his wife who staff the hotel were polite throughout our email exchange and in person.  There is one bathroom and one toilet per three rooms, which means that if all the rooms were full there would be six people per toilet. Luckily I was the only person on my floor so I actually had the bathroom all to myself

The hotel was spotlessly clean; it only opened in December 2011 so everything is fairly new. All the facilities worked perfectly. If you are looking for value for money in the north of the city, a few minutes walk from ITC mall and Pasar Atom, @thome is a great option.

Reception @thome

@thome reception

However, there are a couple of reasons why I would not recommend this hotel for everyone. The immediate vicinity of the hotel is very rundown; it is essentially in a former shop, and the block is mainly closed down, derelict, used by wholesale sellers, or (relating to my other complaint) being renovated. The wall at the end of the street was covered in graffiti, rubbish littered the street and I saw several gigantic rats. Returning to the hotel at night down this narrow, dark and empty street would certainly unsettle some people. Secondly, the hotel is rarely staffed; most of the time there is no one in reception, so anyone could walk in, and I did have to wait when I wanted to ask something.

@thome is up this unwelcoming street

@thome is up this unwelcoming street

I stayed two nights at @thome and was woken at around 7.30am by really loud banging. I assumed the owner was fixing something in the hotel, but when I went outside I saw that the neighbour two doors down was having a wall knocked down. Since the buildings are adjoining the sound echoed throughout the entire hotel; I could feel the floor shaking if I stood in the wrong place.

If you want to stay in the north of Surabaya, and get air conditioning, a TV and hot water for only Rp. 90,000 (around US$9) per night, and you want to be up and out every morning and stay out until 5pm to avoid the noise, @thome is excellent value for money. The smart, modern rooms, overall cleanliness and friendly staff make the place what it is. If the area immediately outside the hotel was improved, I would be able to recommend @thome.

View from my windowIf @thome sounds like the kind of hotel you’re looking for, their website is here, and they’re also on Agoda.

5 Reasons to Visit South East Asia

There are millions of reasons to visit South East Asia, but to celebrate the launch of the fab new AnySomewhere Facebook page as well as the new page on Google+, here are five main reasons to be going on with. It’s Cheap

Despite this being the twenty-first century, it is still possible to travel very cheaply in South East Asia. The US$10 per day that sufficed ten years ago may no longer be possible, but US$15-20 a day is certainly doable if you’re not expecting fancy accommodation or luxury transport. Working in a wealthier region of the world, you can save up and travel for a long time here. I have met people who have travelled for years at a time by sticking to cheap areas and people who do seasonal work for several months each year (Wimbledon tennis and the UK Christmas markets are two examples I’ve come across), saving enough money to travel for the rest of the time.

2) People are Friendly

Perhaps it’s a cliché, and there are certainly unfriendly people around, but for the most part, South East Asians welcome guests. You may be treated with curiosity or yelled at in the street, but you’re unlikely to be looked upon with suspicion or mistrust in this region.

Batak couple, North Sumatra, Indonesia3) A Warm Tropical Climate

The warm humid climate of tropical South East Asia may be just what your body needs to ease your joints and loosen your muscles. There are only two seasons in South East Asia—rainy and dry—and unless you’re up a mountain, it stays warm throughout the year.

4) Something for Everyone

Perhaps you want to rough it, travel off the beaten track to remote areas, meeting the natives and avoiding the tourist trail. Or would you prefer to stay at the cheapest scruffiest backpacker haunts, meeting travellers from around the world before you party the night away on the beach? Or maybe you’re on a quest for total relaxation at a five-star beach resort with a 24-hour bar in the swimming pool and a restaurant serving up raw food dinners. You can find all those options and anything in between here in South East Asia.

Beach5) Good Infrastructure

Ok, so it’s cheap and friendly, but poor right? Developing countries must surely mean bad infrastructure, which means no internet access, no public transport and just dirt tracks, right? Wrong. Although many people of South East Asia are undeniably poor, the infrastructure is on the whole perfectly adequate for the average visitor. There is internet access, public transport and the roads aren’t so bad. In fact, you can expect most if not all of your home conveniences to be available in South East Asia, though possibly not throughout the entire region.

So, there you are. Five great reasons to buy that plane ticket and come to this wonderful part of the world! I’ll be waiting…

And in the meantime, “like” me on Facebook at and add me to your circles here on Google+.

Hotel Trio, Solo: A Grand Hotel at a Tiny Price

Hotel TrioSet in a beautiful old building, I had been eyeing up the exterior of this hotel with its grand mansion look for a while, and I was pleased that the interior did not disappoint. Set in what appears to have been a large house, with massive double doors and a spacious hallway, it is hard to believe that this is merely a budget hotel.

There are two types of rooms, standard rooms which are in a separate modern two-storey building at the back of the hotel, cleverly designed with rooms looking out to a pond area and space to relax outside, and more expensive rooms which are in the original part of the building.

We took a cheaper standard room, with twin beds (none of the standard rooms have a double bed), and were pleasantly surprised by the facilities: hot water, air conditioning, TV and breakfast, for only Rp. 150,000 or about $15. I took a sneaky peek at the more expensive rooms which were very large, with king size and single beds, and a seating area.

There were clean towels and blankets in our room and soap was provided. I was pleased with the overall cleanliness which was of a very high standard. The air conditioning kept the temperature perfectly cool, but not too cold, and there was very little noise from other guests. The rooms were far enough back from the main road to be free from traffic noise. We watched TV, which was set on a bracket above the door, in the perfect position to be watched in bed. The bathroom featured a sit-down toilet, a traditional Javanese style water trough but with hot water as well as cold. There was also a sink and mirror outside the bathroom.

Garden Area and Cheap RoomsService at the hotel was polite, efficient and friendly. Breakfast was a choice of fried rice, noodles or bread, with tea or coffee.

Overall Hotel Trio is amazing value for money compared to other hotels and even hostels in Solo. Mainly catering to Indonesian guests, it’s time that foreigners considered Hotel Trio for great facilities and a good night’s sleep at the same price as a hostel.

Hotel Trio is located right in the centre of town, just north of Pasar Gedhe, at Jalan Jen. Urip Sumoharjo No. 25, Surakarta. Telephone 0271 632847 or 0271 656240.