Archive for the ‘singapore’ Category

and the winners are…

February 7, 2010

Last night we checked in to our 100th hotel. In celebration of this milestone, we reviewed our list of accommodation and decided to let you in on some of the best and worst moments. Note to our mums – I’ll give you the nod when it’s time for you to leave.

The good:*

Friendliest welcome – Tony’s Guesthouse, Melaka & North West Guesthouse, Mae Sariang
Tony – what a legend. The man is a kindred Little Creatures lover – need we say more? After tiring of “always screwing the union” as a government employee, his life now revolves around cooking the perfect eggs for his guests and fishing.

We only meant to spend a day or two in Mae Sariang, but a week later we were still lounging on the verandah at North West. We had no need that Tukta and Kitti couldn’t cater to – they let us take our own beers from the fridge; lent us their bikes and knew the best lady-boy in town to go to for a haircut.

Country with highest accommodation standards – Vietnam
Despite the fact that we encountered two of our most horrific hotels in Vietnam (see below), the general standard was very high. There doesn’t seem to be much of a culture of ultra-cheap dorm beds and shared bathrooms, but when $10 buys you a spotless fan room with TV, attached bathroom and hot water, who cares?

Best on ground – Zhilam Hostel, Kangding
We’ve already sung the praises of this place, but it deserves another shout-out. Dare I say it, Kris could charge double for this place and it would still be good value. Endless hot water in pristine bathrooms; crisp linen, and Kris and Lillian seemed to know exactly the right moment to ask you if you wanted a cup of tea. Worthy candidate in the “friendliest welcome” category, but we had to share the glory around a little.

OK, so I’ll quickly move on to the nasty bits because we all know they are far more interesting. Mums: leave now.

The bad:

Worst value for money – Prince of Wales Hotel, Singapore
How on earth did we land ourselves in a hostel above an Australian-themed backpackers pub? Our first stop on the trip, I can only think we were blinded by the excitement of it all. Apart from being full of shocking bogans, the wailing of dreadful covers bands blared from the bar downstairs until 3am every night and all the advertised “perks” turned out to be not nearly as appealing as advertised. “Free breakfast” = a few loaves of stale sliced bread, Nescafe and eggs you cook for yourself in a greasy pan, the stocks of which stop being replenished about 30 minutes before the ridiculously early cut-off time of 9am – so, if you’re us, you end up with cold coffee dregs and a dry crust for breakfast. “Air con” = will be switched on at 10pm and turned off at 6am. Even at $60 for a spartan private room, you still have to share a bathroom with the room next door and from the $20 dorm beds, you have to schlepp downstairs to use the toilets in the pub. Boo.

Biggest disappointment – Ko Tarutao
One thing we noticed consistently throughout SE Asia is a lack of concern for upkeep. New places go up and then are left to decay, quickly, as one might expect in a tropical climate, without a sniff of fresh paint or basic maintenance until they reach the point of no-return, when they are torn down and rebuilt again. Being government-run, there was a small army of staff employed on the island, but it was as though highly specific jobs (I mean highly specific, like “sweep this one square metre of concrete”) were allocated on Day One and that file was then hastily closed with a sigh of relief, never to be reopened. Broken windows, burnt-out light globes and wonky doors abounded and despite being promoted as an eco-resort, there was rubbish everywhere – but it was nobody’s job to fix it, so it never happened.

Bed bugs – Greens Hotel, Jerantut & Welcome Hotel, Bombay
Conveniently for Linds, both incidents occurred when we were sleeping in separate beds. My bout in Bombay prompted a response of “Oh my God” from the guy on the reception desk.

Weirdest – Lete Hostel, Xining
Where else but China would it be perfectly acceptable to rent out the top two floors of a high-rise apartment building to a youth hostel? An eerily deserted rabbit warren of rooms, with staff who looked at you as though you had two heads. And I’m pretty sure they used a damp mop to clean the carpets.

Most dangerous – Can’t remember the name, Xiahe
Apart from nearly dying from exposure during the night, going to the toilet involved taking your life in your own hands. Guests are required to take the most circuitous route around the outer perimeter of the courtyard to avoid a savage dog, whose chain is just a mite shorter than what he needs to reach you and sink his teeth into your leg. I knew he was there, but I was still half scared to death every time he barked – not really what you need as you’re scurrying towards the fetid loo, bladder bursting from already having delayed the trip for as long as humanly possible.

The ugly:

No categories here – there is one undisputed winner of this dubious honour:

Trade Union Hotel, Ben Tre
This place had the vibe of a private enterprise which had been taken over by the Communists at the end of the war… and never cleaned since. Cigarette butts in the shower drain, highly suspicious wall stains and a roach graveyard under the bed. It was after staying here that “presence of a toilet seat” became a mandatory item on our room inspection checklist.

Notable mention must be made of the place we stayed in Vinh Long, also in the Mekong Delta of Vietnam. I was suffering a nasty head cold at the time and couldn’t face venturing outside our otherwise passable room, so Linds waited until after we left to tell me that there were soiled prophylactics down the side of the bed.

* excluding statistical outliers – namely, posh hotels funded by other people’s generosity


tropical beer notes #1

February 15, 2009

tiger beer

Originally uploaded by Catie & Linds

Tiger Beer – Singapore – 5%

Fizzy, cooling, identifiable as beer. Pretty much what you want when it’s 37 degrees and 98% humidity. A bit on the pricey side in Lee Kuan Yew‘s Singapore and Allah’s Malaysia, but that just makes it taste all the sweeter.

sunrise in a singaporean gutter

January 31, 2009

0600 singapore … only 8 hours till check in

It is a truth universally known that there isn’t much to do in Singapore except shopping and eating. And only the latter can be done cheaply.

So eat we did. And we have continued to do so. Not entirely surprising, really. We’ve already discussed renaming this blog “Linds and Catie eat their way overland”.

Not being ones to pussyfoot around, our first meal was a breakfast of fishball soup. And it just got better from there: a never-before-sampled Indian dish of murtabak; roti prata; char shu soup and dumplings of every variety.

The hands-down highlight of our time in Singapore was a surprise treat from Linds’ old school buddy, Ryan, who, apart from being an incredibly knowledgeable and enthusiastic tour guide and soon-to-be board game tycoon, works part-time in his family’s awesome restaurant. According to Ryan, Peranakan culture and cuisine is enjoying somewhat of a renaissance and we were treated to a delicious spread of specialty dishes, including ayam buah keluak: a chicken curry featuring a large, wild nut that is first baked in volcanic ash. Thanks again Ryan! We visited the neighbouring Peranakan museum a few days later, which is beautifully put together.

A close second place in the highlights stakes was fortuitously catching up with Margo and Craig, who were stopping over on the way home from their African adventure. We enjoyed several overpriced beers together at a string of waterside bars frequented by the city’s b(w)ankers and battled through the insanely packed streets of Chinatown to sup on handmade noodles.

Wandering around a city is not only a great way to see stuff and shed extra beer kilos – it’s also free! So we stumbled across some pretty spectacular architecture and decided Perth could definitely learn a thing or two from some of the bold designs, including Parkview Square (or “Gotham City”, as we dubbed it).

Although being in Singapore for Chinese New Year was another highlight, it also proved to be a bit of a hindrance in finding a ticket out of town. We finally managed to board a train at the magnificent socialist-realist train station and chug our way to Melaka.

What can we say about Melaka? Sadly, it’s a cheesy tourist trap. Home to numerous museums both spurious in subject and dubious in quality (think an endless procession of bad 70s dioramas). But we found a kindred spirit in our guest house owner, Tony, who is a fellow devotee of Little Creatures pale ale following a trip to Perth to visit his brother last year. And the food didn’t disappoint either, with spicy laksa, herbal eggs and lei cha on the menu.

So we’re now beachward-bound, overnighting in the innocuous city of Kuantan before heading to Cherating tomorrow. It’s overcast, so here’s hoping for some sunny days to come.

Gong Xi Fa Cai (Happy Chinese New Year)!