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

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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!

Swiss-Garden Beach Resort and Spa, Kuantan, Malaysia


I enjoyed five days at this resort hotel on Malaysia’s mainland East coast. Taking the bus from Singapore up to Kuantan and getting a taxi to the hotel was straightforward, and much cheaper than flying. I had found Swiss Garden Beach Resort and Spa hotel while searching for holiday accommodation in Malaysia, accessible by land from Singapore. Although the hotel had mixed reviews on TripAdvisor we thought we’d give it a try.

Swiss-Garden Beach Resort and SpaThe resort hotel is laid out in typical Southeast Asian resort style, with the reception area, lobby and bar near the hotel entrance, and the restaurant downstairs. The swimming pool was pleasantly large and only got busy during the late afternoon when the Malaysian guests used it. We were there during the Malaysian school holidays, and the majority of the guests were Malaysian. There was also a children’s swimming pool and a large outdoor jacuzzi hot tub.

 

Our room was fine, though the décor felt old-fashioned. We had a bath with a shower over it, air-con, TV, and a balcony with sea view. Unfortunately the room we were given was an adjoining room, with just two flimsy doors between us and the next-door neighbours. When new guests arrived next door on our second day, and their baby cried for the whole night, we had to complain or it would have ruined our holiday. After trying to make us move to an inferior room, the hotel staff eventually agreed to move the newer guests with the screaming baby. The trouble that we had to go to in order to not have to repack and move everything in the middle of the night showed a poor level of service.

Swiss-Garden Hotel Room

The hotel restaurant, where we had breakfast every morning, and ate other meals on occasion, was very good. The breakfast buffet had a great range of foods, and the a la carte menu for lunch and dinner was also good. Outside the hotel, across a very busy main road, were two other eateries where we enjoyed eating Malaysian food.

 

The beach, where sun loungers and shelters were supplied, was often completely empty, and I enjoyed gazing out to sea. The strip along the beach was not full of resort hotels, as is common in Southeast Asia, but was tree-lined, with only a couple of other hotels visible quite far along the shore. This made it feel more like a real place, rather than some tourists-only area.

Kuantan Beach Malaysia

We swam in the sea. Although there was a red flag flying throughout our entire stay, we saw another woman in the sea, which appeared calm, and decided to go for it. It turned out to be perfect for swimming. Although it wasn’t too shallow, we found we could go quite far out while still being able to touch the sand with our feet, and swim easily. I have rarely been in sea that is so well-suited to swimming.

Hotel Puri Asri, Magelang: A Beautiful Landscaped Resort Hotel with a Mountain Backdrop


Puri Asri Hotel RoomThis four star hotel is laid out on a large terraced hillside leading down to a river. The area has been well landscaped with pools, ponds and a swimming pool alongside other activities such as games and play areas. A steep road leads down through the hotel site, from the reception at the top, passing the restaurant, various sets of bungalow-like rooms and the swimming pool. If travelling by car you can park a few metres from your room.

I stayed for one night in a room behind the fishing pond, looking out over the river and across to the fields on the other bank, with the volcano Merapi behind, visible only at dawn. The scenery was stunningly beautiful, and the hotel was not busy on a weekday night.

The room was excellent, with a comfortable bed, air-conditioning, bathtub with shower and a large widescreen TV. The TV channels were however very limited, with only several of the Indonesian channels available and HBO dubbed into Indonesian. Bed linen and towels (two large, two small) were all clean. Bubble bath and shampoo were provided as was free mineral water. Tea and coffee making facilities were available; there was a minibar and a laundry service. The non-smoking room had a wardrobe with hanging space as well as various drawers. In addition to the bed and bedside tables, there was a desk and chair, a suitcase stand, two chairs and a coffee table. Outside on the veranda was a table with two chairs where I sat and took in the gorgeous surroundings.

I had a wonderfully peaceful night’s sleep with no disturbances or noise from neighbouring rooms whatsoever. With an early start I was up at sunrise, just before the swans that live around the fish pond began their rather loud morning call. Breakfast, served 6am to 9am up the steep road in the hotel restaurant, was an impressive buffet with something for everyone. As well as Indonesian food such as rice dishes and bubur, there was a salad bar, bread and cakes, waffles, and hot dishes such as chicken sausages, chips and baked beans.

The hotel is well-equipped with the Putri Ayu Spa, which offers a range of pampering treatments, and a fitness centre and sauna, in addition to the large outdoor swimming pool. Progo Xventoure operates from the hotel and offers a variety of outbound activities including climbing and high ropes, as well as rafting on the river.

Due to the city of Magelang being less well known with international visitors, I was pleasantly surprised to find a hotel which caters so well to non-Indonesians. Although it mainly serves Indonesian clientele, including those attending conferences and seminars as well as family groups, information throughout the hotel was provided in English as well as Indonesian. Families are welcomed at the hotel, which has play areas for children built along the river.

In addition to enjoying the resort itself, visitors can take the twenty minute drive to Borobudur, Indonesia’s most famous Buddhist temple. The hotel is a one hour drive from Adi Sucipto International Airport in Yogyakarta. Day trips to the Prambanan temple complex and the city of Yogyakarta are also possible from Puri Asri.

Overall, I very much enjoyed my stay at Puri Asri and would love to return and spend longer there. There are many facilities, such as the spa and river rafting, that I did not have a chance to try, and one could spend some time exploring the beautiful surroundings along the riverside.

Hotel Review: Dewa Daru Resort, Karimunjawa: Sea Views with Woodworm and Noise


Dewa Daru Beach ViewWe moved to this hotel as a last minute option, after the package tour we had booked turned out badly with terrible, unusable accommodation (beware of dodgy packages for Karimunjawa). We negotiated to stay in a room where the air-conditioning had broken (all the other rooms were full) for Rp. 225,000 per night including breakfast for two, and we spent two nights there.

The resort (as it calls itself) is right near the harbour, set about twenty metres back from the beach. It is made up of an open reception area and restaurant, wooden bungalows, and one two-storey wooden building. Our room was upstairs in this building, and had a fantastic view out to sea. In the room there were twin beds, a bedside table, another table and a TV with limited channels. The bed sheets were clean, but we were not given towels and there was no telephone or room service. There was a built-in fan, but it turned out not to work, and we spent a very hot night batting away the flies and mosquitoes, and getting very little sleep.

The wooden building had some inherent issues, such as woodworm, which meant that the tiny balls of wood created were everywhere, making the floor feel dirty. Also, noise was a problem; with thin wooden “walls” we could clearly hear the sounds of TVs and talking in the rooms around and beneath ours. The hotel runs a generator to provide electricity (the local population only has electricity part time) and the constant buzz rather spoilt what would have been a peaceful atmosphere, the generator noise blocking out the sound of the sea.

The shared bathroom block which services the rooms in the two-storey building is right behind, so if your room is upstairs, like ours, you have to go downstairs outside to get to the bathroom. There were around six bathrooms, which was more than enough and we never had to wait, though they could have been cleaner. They had cold water only and were in traditional bak mandi style where you take water from the trough with the dipper.

Staff were extremely helpful, and breakfast (Indonesian food, no choice) was delicious. There was free hot and cold drinking water available in the reception, and staff were prepared to make other food and drinks upon request.

We were very happy with the location, and spent some time relaxing on the beach in front of the hotel. The sea was good for paddling, but too shallow for actual swimming.

Overall I would not choose to stay at Dewa Daru again. Even in a nicer room, the noise and the woodworm issues would make it unpleasant. While the beach is nice, most people staying at Dewa Daru were on package tours, leaving the hotel early each morning; we were the only people enjoying the beach. If you want a relaxing holiday, it might be better to look at some of the more resort-like options. Book well in advance during holiday season as everything gets full, and avoid package tours.