O’Boutique Suites Hotel, Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia


We chose this hotel because we had an engagement nearby. However, unless you need to be in this locality, O’Boutique Suites is not located near shops or transport facilities. We ended up having to take taxis everywhere since there is no public transport nearby. There are also no shops apart from furniture stores within walking distance.

IMG_1091Our room was comfortable, felt new and was very clean. It had twin beds pushed together, a flatscreen TV with Malaysian channels only, hanging space for clothes, a table and chair, coffee and tea making facilities, a phone, air-conditioning, and a large corner window between the bathroom and the bedroom. I have never been sure if these hotel rooms are designed so you can watch each other taking a shower, or so you can watch TV while you are on the toilet, but whatever the real reason, it can certainly make your stay more interesting! There was a curtain on the bathroom side, so privacy was possible. The bathroom was very nice, with a double-headed shower, but unfortunately the water pressure was so weak that a really satisfying shower was impossible.

IMG_1093

Breakfast, served from 8am to 10am, was included but this turned out to be my only complaint about the hotel. Every day a buffet of nasi lemak and breakfast cereals was available, but these foods frequently ran out, as did the tea, coffee and juice, and spoons, forks, bowls, and so on, and were not replaced unless a guest found a member of staff and asked for more. The lack of attention to what was required was disappointing. We thought the food would vary from nasi lemak, but our second and third days were no different. We gradually realised, however, that it was possible to request other foods, such as soft-boiled eggs and toast, though there was no menu; we just saw what other guests were eating as asked for it. It was a poor system.

 

Apart from at breakfast, service was very polite and efficient and the reception staff were very helpful in booking us taxis throughout our stay. Our check-in process was easy, even though we checked in after 10pm.

Organic Recipe restaurant

O’Boutique Suites is located in a building called Casa Utama, on a residential street, and on the levels above the hotel there are residential apartments. On the floor below the hotel there is a great organic restaurant, called Organic Recipe, which serves Chinese food, Malay food and pizza, where we ate twice. They also sell health foods and other products. Our meals at the restaurant were delicious, and prices were very reasonable. Even if you are not staying at the hotel, the restaurant is well worth a visit.

The hotel is a 20-minute drive from Batu Caves, which cost us MYR21 by taxi. It cost MYR74 (fixed price) by budget taxi from Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

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Hotel Sapolohe, Bira, Sulawesi: A Large Stilt House with Sea Views


Having quickly moved hotels after a ghastly experience at Bira Beach Hotel, we found Hotel Sapolohe just up a side road, away from the Bira’s main drag, but right near the beach.

Hotel SapoloheStay in a Stilt House!

The hotel itself was a massive house on stilts, which instantly appealed to me because of architecture alone. We paid Rp. 350,000 for a deluxe room with sea view, a TV, air-conditioning and hot water, but not including breakfast. We bargained to get this price, which we considered on the expensive side, down from Rp. 420,000.

The room was tastefully decorated and we stepped out on to a communal veranda looking out to the beach. There were no other guests during our two-night stay, so we had the veranda to ourselves. Set up on a cliff and upstairs in the stilt house, our position was high above the beach and we enjoyed looking out to sea. The hotel has direct access to the beach through a gate at the bottom of the garden.

BedroomThe Other Details

The bathroom had a bathtub with a shower over it, but there was no plug for the bath or the sink, although we tried to request one. The bathroom fittings, unlike the bedroom, were quite old and worn but perfectly usable.

There was no housekeeping or room service of any kind. Since the hotel wasn’t serving breakfast for guests, there was nowhere to buy food or drinks at the hotel, but it was only a short walk to find a range of eateries. (Of particular note was the delicious freshly cooked food at Salassa Restaurant, along the main road going away from the beach.)

We were told that a new owner had recently bought Sapolohe and was planning to redevelop it, but it wasn’t clear what would happen or when.

Sea View from our RoomFor a Sea View on Stilts

Overall, Hotel Sapolohe is a good option for a quiet break, away from the central area of the village and overlooking the sea. I enjoyed the feeling of staying in a stilt house and the sea view from up above everything was fantastic.

Bira’s hotels are a mixed bunch with many friendly options up the main road away from the sea. If you’re intent on a sea view while still being close to the village, and you don’t mind paying a bit more, Hotel Sapolohe is a good choice.

Bira Beach Hotel Hell – Dirty, Smelly, Rat-Infested and Poor Service!


We had phoned ahead to confirm our late arrival at Bira Beach Hotel at Pantai Bira, South Sulawesi, and were assured that someone at the hotel would be up. However, on leaving our rental car in the midnight darkness, the hotel door turned out to be locked. We knocked and banged for a while and tried phoning the hotel number. Eventually someone woke up who sleepily showed us to our bungalow.

Pantai BiraOur Night in Hotel Hell

We were exhausted from our long journey all the way from Tana Toraja, and just wanted to have a shower and go to bed. But there was no running water. A sign informed us that during the night there was indeed no water, and that guests should save some water in the large plastic bucket provided. There were only a few centimetres of water in our plastic bucket.

The leftover sachet from someone else’s shampoo littered the bathroom and this rubbish, along with the ants and hairs in the bed, suggested that the room had not been cleaned. We used our limited water to wash our faces and brush our teeth before quickly retiring to bed. There wasn’t even water to flush the toilet.

Rats!

It was nearly 1am and we were so tired. Just as I was nodding off I was woken with a start by a scuttling sound beneath me—a rat’s footsteps! We got up again but couldn’t find the culprit and so returned to bed. I was almost ready to believe that my mind was playing tricks on me. Then suddenly there was a much louder noise. We immediately leapt out of bed and saw a large rat in one of the two holes above and below the air conditioning unit.

Rat holesAlthough not scared of rodents, we didn’t want to wake up to find holes chewed in our bags, let alone have rats running across our bed in the night. We expected better from a hotel that isn’t the cheapest in the area.

We returned to reception and after much banging and several tries at phoning we finally succeeded in rousing somebody who agreed we could move to a different bungalow, without a word of apology.

Moving Bungalows

We were offered no assistance in moving our luggage to the new room; indeed we were just given the new key and the staff went away. While we were moving our belongings there was a power cut and we were plunged into pitch black. Slowly and carefully moving by moonlight we moved to the new bungalow.

It was similar; a double bed, wooden veranda area with chairs, a cold water only bathroom with no running water at night, and an air conditioner. The new room was possibly slightly cleaner, with only one obvious piece of rubbish, a half-empty water bottle on the veranda. We were relieved that there were no rat holes.

Unfortunately the bathroom door was on its last legs and wouldn’t close. The smell from the bathroom permeated through the bungalow. When the electricity at last came back on we turned on the air conditioning to try to get rid of the bathroom smell. When we woke up in the morning it had mysteriously switched itself off.

Excuses and Apologies

The next morning we were given towels, toilet tissue and soap. When I asked why we didn’t receive them upon check-in, I was told that the hotel had run out of towels at that time. I explained our complaints, from poor service to rats, but the member of staff seemed disinterested and did not offer an apology.

A while later, another staff member came and heard our complaints. She did apologise and said she would make a note that the bungalow with rats should not be used until the problem was fixed. She offered us a discount, which she honoured when we checked out later that day. We had had enough of Bira Beach Hotel and nothing would make us stay there again.

Hotel Pantan Toraja: Comfortable but Run-down


We found this hotel on the internet, though it turned out to be cheaper to book by phone than through Agoda. As advertised, Hotel Pantan Toraja is located just outside the town of Makale, the administrative centre of the Tana Toraja region.

Room and Facilities

Our room was spacious and comfortable but a bit run-down. The double bed was comfortable and there was a flat screen TV. A small kettle was provided but the electric cable was too short to reach the socket, so we had to perch it on the hot water flask every time we used it. There was no air conditioning but Tana Toraja is a cool, mountainous area, so we didn’t feel hot.

Double Bed RoomThe bathroom in particular, although functional, was in need of renovation. With hot water, a bath and a shower of the bath, it was a shame there was no shower curtain, but we were able to enjoy some long, soaky baths.

Swimming, Breakfast and Service

The hotel has a large swimming pool, which I used once; on the day we arrived the water was cloudy but by day two it had been cleaned. Breakfast was a buffet of rice, vegetable and chicken dishes, with tea of coffee, but unfortunately only served 6.30 – 8am, so no late mornings for us.

Hotel staff were polite and efficient but unable to help with our queries about vehicle rental or tours of the area. Most of the other guests were Indonesian domestic tourists with their own vehicles.

Swimming PoolIf you want to stay out of town and use your own transport to get around, Pantan Toraja is a good option, and fairly decent value for this area. However, if you need tourist information and services, you’re better off staying in Rantepao.

New Legend Hotel Makassar: Clean Room in a Central Location


New Legend Hotel Makassar appears to have been renovated fairly recently. Rooms feature comfortable queen sized spring beds, flat screen TVs and powerful air-conditioning units. There is also a small wardrobe, a bedside table and a chair or two.

New Legend Hotel roomSuperior Room: Superior to what?

We stayed at New Legend Hotel twice, at the beginning and end of our Sulawesi trip. We had booked a superior room with Agoda, which was much cheaper than booking directly with the hotel. Superior is the lowest class of room at New Legend and that means there is no window. However, we found the air conditioner provided enough air circulation, and we didn’t want to spend our days in the hotel, preferring to go out and explore the city.

Hot to Cold Shower

The room was very clean, as was the bedding and the towels. Mineral water and soap was also provided. The ensuite bathroom had a shower, sit-down toilet and small sink. On our first stay the shower was very hot, but on our second stay we couldn’t get it past lukewarm. Despite phoning reception to ask this issue to be resolved, nothing changed and we had to have pretty cold showers.

Some Facilities

On our first stay we were placed on the fourth floor; that’s a lot of stairs to climb! There is no lift.

The TV had cable channels such as HBO and CNN. Breakfast was a buffet of rice and noodles dishes with fruit and tea or coffee. Our room was cleaned daily. Staff were courteous and helpful and were able to assist us with our onward transport arrangements.

New Legend HotelNew Legend: Feels New But Not a Legend

Overall we were pleased with the standard of the hotel, including service and facilities. However, had we paid full price, instead of booking through Agoda, we would have felt we were not getting our money’s worth.

New Legend Hotel is located at Jalan Jampea no. 1 and should not be confused with New Legend Hostel just up the road.

Gardena Hotel, Labuan Bajo, Flores: Pretty Gardens, Good View of Harbour


I had read about Gardena Hotel being one of the nicest budget places in Labuan Bajo, and recommendations from travellers I met along my journey across Flores reinforced this view. Gardena is well-located in the centre of the town, but with its wooden bungalows perched on a hillside surrounded by trees and gardens, it didn’t feel busy and I was able to relax.

My Bungalow at GardenaMy bungalow was a detached structure, though some of the others were in pairs. It had a small veranda with a table and two chairs, from which I could glimpse the sea between the trees. There was a double bed with foam mattress and mosquito net, a cupboard that was missing its door, a fan, and my own bathroom. There was a sit-down toilet and a shower as well as an Indonesian-style water trough. Although there was only cold water, Labuan Bajo is quite hot so it was refreshing to cool down.

Throughout my bungalow there were many signs warning guests not to leave items outside on the veranda, not to leave mobile phones near the window and more. This made me think they may have had theft problems in the past, but I didn’t hear about any current issues like that.

Bed with mosquito netI paid Rp. 130,000 per night which included a breakfast of eggs, bread rolls and spreads with tea or coffee, on a self-service basis in the terrace below. There is also a restaurant at Gardena which served tasty, though somewhat pricey, dishes, and a selection of Indonesian and Western foods.

Staff were helpful throughout my stay, and laundry was very cheap. I was also able to leave my suitcase at the hotel when I went to stay on Seraya Island (which has the same owner as Gardena) for one night.

The one negative element of Gardena was the noise, from the harbour, the nearby school and the mosque, which permeated the flimsy bamboo bungalow walls. In fact this is the only hotel where I’ve ever been kept awake by the next-door guests having noisy sex.

Overall Gardena felt a little dilapidated, like not much had been renovated or repaired for a long time. But it was adequate and the greenery of the terraced gardens created a pleasing atmosphere. Compared to the tales I heard about other Labuan Bajo hotels, Gardena seems a good option.

View of the harbour from GardenaYou can find out more and make a reservation via the hotel’s website.

Hotel Villa Silverin, Bajawa, Flores: Good Value and Restful Sleep


Located several kilometres outside the town of Bajawa, I had crossed Silverin off my list because its advertised prices were too high. Fortunately on my journey from Moni I shared a minibus with an Australian couple who had stayed at Silverin for only Rp. 150,000 per night, much less than the advertised prices. So I decided to try my luck.

Hotel Villa Silverin is on the Ende side of Bajawa, so if you’re coming from Ende you will pass the hotel before you reach the town. The large, colourful villa is right on the main road.

Hotel Villa SilverinI entered the hotel and saw the unstaffed reception desk. After calling out a few times I walked further in, and it took some effort to find a member of staff. Throughout my stay the reception area was rarely staffed.

I was offered a rate of Rp. 250,000 per night which I bargained down to Rp. 150,000. This got me a room at the back of the hotel. From the shared balcony which ran along the whole level I had a beautiful view across to the mountains and a less beautiful but nonetheless interesting view of goats, pigs and chickens in the field and enclosures below.

The rooms were an unusual design, with the private bathroom upstairs from the bedroom. I quite liked this separation of the bathroom from the main space, especially compared to my previous bathroom in Moni which had no door!

Bajawa is the coldest place I visited in Flores, being a mountain area, and I was very pleased to get hot water at Silverin. But when I tried to have a shower the hot water didn’t work at all. I complained at reception and then had to move to the next-door room, where the hot water worked. It was insufficient for a long shower but was a lot better than cold water!

My room at SilverinBeing outside the town, the hotel was wonderfully peaceful and I had one of my longest and most restful sleeps in Flores at Silverin. I had brought a lightweight sleeping bag, which I used in addition to the blanket provided by the hotel.

Breakfast was more substantial than at many other hotels in Flores. I got four pieces of toast, with pineapple and strawberry jams, a fried egg and a passion fruit, with tea or coffee, which I ate on the top floor terrace of the hotel looking out at the whole town of Bajawa spread before me in the morning sun.

The hotel location means that it is necessary to take some form of transport into town. Fortunately buses and minibuses (bemo) go past the hotel all day. Across the road from the hotel is Silverin restaurant, which seemed to be open for lunch and dinner though I didn’t eat there, and a new hotel wing, a long-term construction project which will apparently feature deluxe rooms.

I had read awful reviews of many of the hotels in Bajawa and was relieved to stay somewhere nice. You can contact Hotel Villa Silverin by telephone on +62 (0)384 222 3865 or +62 (0)81 339 052456, or just show up like I did and bargain the rate down to something reasonable.