3 Days in Kuala Lumpur: Part 5: Hotel Chinatown 2 Review

Hotel Chinatown 2 is located on Jalan Petaling in the Chinatown area of Kuala Lumpur.  It’s a little tricky to find it, because there is also a Chinatown Hotel Inn or something like that a few doors down.  Also, the only visible sign is the one high up on the building, that you can see in the above picture.  There is a sign at the street level entrance, but that entrance is hidden from the main walkway by street vendors.

This hotel is a great find, if you go into it with the right mentality.  If you’re looking for luxury, you’ll have to look elsewhere.  This place is all about price and location.  For two nights in the hotel (check-in Monday afternoon and check-out on Wednesday morning) we paid a total of about 188 ringgit.  That’s a good deal!  As for the location, the door to the hotel opens onto Jalan Petaling, which is a touristy type area in Chinatown with lots of shops where you can browse for souvenirs.  Also, it’s two blocks from the Pasar Seni train station, which we put to good use.

As for the hotel itself, the lobby area is very comfortable.  It has a few cozy couches, a TV, a book rack with a guitar on top, and a few computers for public use at 1 ringgit per 10 minutes.  There’s free wi-fi, which worked for me on my Nokia E51 in the lobby, but I couldn’t connect properly up in the actual room.  I kept getting a “no reply from gateway” error.  I don’t know what that was all about, but it didn’t really bother us too much, so I didn’t ask about it.  We just used the paid computers for a little while in the evening to keep up with e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

The room we booked was the “standard” room, which came with a double bed.  It was a bit cramped, honestly, and that feeling was compounded by the fact that there was no window.  At first that bothered me a bit, but then I realized that it probably had no window because it was on the back or side of the building.  That’s a good thing, because it meant we wouldn’t hear as much of the racket from the street below.  The paint was worn and scuffed, the floor was a bit dirty, and there were no toiletries provided.  The TV in the room only picked up 5 or 6 channels.  Only one of those channels was in English and it seemed to rotate between different stations.  What I mean is, if you left it on that channel, which was 12 I think, it might be National Geographic at 8pm, Animal Planet at 9pm, and then a local station at 10pm.  I thought that was kinda odd, but again, it didn’t bother us that much.  We weren’t really there to just lay around in the room watching TV.  If you do happen to be up late though, around 1 or 2 am, flip through the channels until you find a program where there’s a girl sitting behind a laptop, presenting requested music videos.  Neither the program nor the videos are in English, but it’s hilarious!  They played these crazy Indian music videos, complete with “Slumdog Millionaire” dance routines and the accompaniment of the high pitched female vocals.  Besides that, the videos are just hilarious!  I don’t think they’re meant to be, but they were to us!  Also, the music really isn’t that bad at all in most cases.

I think the best features of the room were that the water was nice and hot for showers, and the air conditioning blew nonstop and got nice and cold at night.  Even under the thick blanket it was a bit cool.  Both of these things were a nice change for me, since I’ve been living in Singapore.  Here, the air conditioning isn’t used much and the water heaters are small and I can rarely finish showering before the hot water runs out.  I think I stayed in the shower for 30 minutes each time, enjoying how hot the water was and the fact that it stayed hot.  Plus that cold air conditioning is a relief after a day out in the sun there.

Another thing the hotel has going for it is the staff.  They’re very friendly, very helpful, and very knowledgeable about the city.  They helped us find the train station and also told us how to get back to the airport for the best price (a cheap bus from the downstairs area of KL Central).  Also, the guy at the counter had a conversation with me while I enjoyed a cup of coffee and my wife was busy on one of the public computers.  Oh, and the rooms are cleaned daily.  At least, I think it was cleaned.  The bed was made at least, and nothing was missing from our bags.  That’s always a bonus.  If you do have something expensive, the place has safe deposit boxes in the lobby too.

The hotel also has some dormitory style areas that can be rented out.  I didn’t look around there too much, except for one time when I passed through it to get to a bathroom.  It looked clean and the beds were set up two to a cubicle.  There was a youngish looking girl writing a paper on her laptop at a table in the dormitory area.  I guess it must be fairly safe.  I did see a TV behind the front desk that was showing views from security cameras, so that area must be kept under surveillance to make sure nothing happens to the guests.

Overall, we were satisfied with our stay there.  If we find ourselves in Kuala Lumpur again and need to stay the night, we’ll definitely be trying for a room there again.

Here are some of the photos we took inside the hotel:

3 Days in Kuala Lumpur: Part 4: Finding Our Hotel

If you remember from the first post, we booked a place at Hotel Chinatown 2, on Jalan Petaling. One of the things that appealed to us about the place is that it’s near the center of town, close to a train station, and there are lots of shops around it, or so we had read.

Our hotel:

And, unfortunately, the airport:

I’ve never seen a city where the airport is as far away as it is in Kuala Lumpur. We were actually worried about the fare from the airport into the city itself. It’s a long way! In fact, the ride from the airport to our hotel in Kuala Lumpur wound up taking longer than the flight from Singapore to the airport there in Malaysia. Weird right?

Before we left, we’d gotten some directions from the hotel’s website and saw a list of what prices we could expect for the various means of transportation. We had a few different options, all of which were about 80 ringgit, meaning none of them were appealing. Luckily, Malaysia has a similar system to the Philippines when it comes to transportation. Private buses. As we wandered down the length of the airport we saw waiting areas with lots of buses pulled up to them. I got excited and we went on ahead to check it out.

Buses like these probably aren’t the safest mode of transportation, but we’ve used them in the Philippines and we didn’t see why we shouldn’t use them in Malaysia as well. The best part of the deal? The cost was 8 ringgits per person. So, 16 ringgits total for my wife and I to get to Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown. That’s a lot better than an average of 80 ringgit.

After getting on the bus we worried for a little while that we’d been taken in, and that the bus wasn’t actually going past Jalan Petaling, but the guy seemed pretty sure, and the ticket he gave us looked pretty official. There was even an office address and a phone number. Just to be on the safe side though I asked the guy that sat down across from us if the bus passed by Jalan Petaling. He said it did, so we went ahead and kicked back and got comfortable.

The bus had great air conditioning and the ride was smooth, if a bit long. I think I dozed off for a little while, because I don’t remember some parts of the trip that I saw later on the way back. Thankfully, it went without incident, and after about 50 minutes the bus was making it’s first stop in town, about one block from Jalan Petaling. We actually went right past the entrance to Jalan Petaling, so we were sure we were in the right spot.

After getting off the bus, we walked down the street, over a foot bridge, and onto Jalan Petaling itself. As we made our way through the crowd, looking for our hotel, my wife told me she was shocked. I asked her why. She told me it was because she’d never seen so many white people in one place before. I looked around and it was true. The place was packed with foreigners, most of whom seemed to be blonde-haired and blue-eyed.  Australians perhaps?

After about a block we decided to stop and ask a police officer we saw for directions. His English was a bit rough but he was able to point us in the right direction and we found our way to our hotel.

3 Days in Kuala Lumpur: Part 2: Our Flight

Like I said before, we wound up leaving the house late.  We had planned on being out the door by 9 am, but there were so many last minute things to check over, pack, and rearrange.  We had to put away most of the things in the room, into drawers or the closets, and the closets had to be blocked with heavy furniture.  In other words, we had to “cat-proof” the place.  It wouldn’t do to come home and find our place completely decimated due to feline boredom!

We got going at about 10:30 am or so and walked up to the shopping center to try to find something to eat.  The only restaurant that we remembered seeing at the Budget Terminal at Changi Airport is Han’s, and the prices there aren’t exactly… Budget.  Doesn’t make sense right?  To put a very expensive restaurant in the Budget Terminal of an airport?  The people flying through that terminal obviously are trying to maintain a smaller travel budget and can’t afford to spent 3 SGD for a can of soda, or 7 bucks on a packed sandwich!

So, instead, we stopped at the bakery at the shopping center we usually eat at and selected two breads (hotdog w/cheese and sausage/tomato).  We also bought two cans of juice from the discount store a few doors down from the bakery.  With food in hand, we stepped up to the curb and flagged down a taxi.  We had initially planned to use the bus and then the train to get to the airport, since we didn’t have any luggage to worry about, but we were running out of time.

The ride to the airport was fairly short.  My wife was telling me how much she wished she could have McDonald’s for breakfast when we pulled up in front of the Budget Terminal and saw… McDonald’s.  When did that get there?  The last time we flew out of the Budget Terminal was 3 months ago, when we went to the Philippines.  We remembered that part of the building being under construction, but who would have guessed they’d be doing something smart and putting a budget restaurant in a Budget Terminal?  There was also a small cafe called Hani’s.  I wonder if that’s different from Han’s?  We didn’t stop to look at it.  My wife was really disappointed, because she wanted a sausage biscuit.  I told her to go get one, and I would eat the breads we had bought.  She liked that idea.  (She hates the idea of wasting food, so was planning on eating the bun she had picked from the bakery.)

With that decided, we jumped into the line to check-in.  We didn’t want to miss our flight, and the last time we’d flown out of that terminal, we waited in line for about an hour.  This time it was better.  We only had to stand around for about 20 minutes.  My wife went ahead and got her sausage biscuit while I held our spot in line, and immediately after check-in we sat down to eat.  I had a medium coffee and the breads from the bakery, and she had her McDonald’s breakfast.

After finishing up our meal we leisurely walked outside to enjoy a cigarette before our flight.  Well, it was leisurely until I glanced down at my watch and realized it was 11:30 am.  Where had the time gone!?  We dropped our cigarettes and rushed back inside.  We were lucky.  There was a very short line at customs, and no line to speak of at the security check.  While going through the security check, we heard the last call for boarding for our flight.  So, we rushed through the small shopping area between security and the departure gates and down the hall.  As we got closer to our assigned gate, we saw a large crowd of people strolling in at a steady pace, so we slowed down too.  There were quite a few people still going through the door to get on the plane, and they certainly weren’t going to slam the door in anyone’s face.  Ten minutes later we were on the plane.

The actual flight was really short.  The itinerary said we could expect to be in the air for 55 minutes, but by the time the plane leveled off and I got started on the immigration and customs forms, the descent had already started.  I think the total time the plane was in the air was about 30 minutes.  When we touched down at Kuala Lumpur Airport we had to wait on the runway for a while.  I think the plane arrived early, because there weren’t any available parking spots!  It wasn’t long though before it pulled in to a parking area and we were deboarding.  Less than an hour after stepping onto the plane in Singapore, we were in Malaysia.  I still love that about Asia.  Everything is so close together and convenient for traveling to!

Kuala Lumpur Airport itself is a lot nicer than what I was expecting.  It wasn’t fancy by any means.  I got the impression that the terminals used to be warehouses that had been later linked together as the airport grew.  It was clean though, and there were a few shops here and there.  Also, the place was packed.  There were a lot of locals around and there were even more tourists.  We kept a firm grip on our bags and gave everyone around us a careful looking-over before they got too close.  No sense in getting robbed at the airport after all, and Malaysia is supposed to be dangerous.  Johor Bahru certainly seemed dangerous when we went there last November!

[Update: I was informed that the terminal we landed at was KL’s version of a budget terminal.  The bigger international terminal is, according to a friend, very very nice.]

The first thing we did after getting off the plane was to rush to the bathrooms, which are along the left wall in the above image.  The flight was so short that there was never much of an opportunity to get up, and the coffee and juice we had at Changi’s Budget Terminal were starting to work on us.

After that, we stepped outside and had a smoke before figuring out how to get to our hotel from the airport.

3 Days in Kuala Lumpur: Part 1: Preparations

(Someone didn’t want to be left behind!)

Getting ready for this trip was a lot easier than most of the other trips we’ve taken, probably because it was short and relatively inexpensive.  We only spent two nights in Kuala Lumpur, so the packing was easy.  We didn’t even pack check-in bags.  We just had two medium-sized carry-ons.  That was the first time I’ve ever taken a flight and not had check-in bags.  It was actually really nice, not having to worry about waiting on the baggage to reach the carousels, and it saved us some money.  Tiger Airways charges extra for checked in bags.  I think that’s starting to be a fairly common practice with all airlines though.  I remember reading something recently about a few airlines in the US taking up the practice as well, which came as quite a shock as it had been free for as long as I could remember.

The first thing we did to get ready for this trip was to book the tickets.  We decided to take Tiger Airways because it offered the lowest price.  Some people prefer to fly in style; we prefer to save our money so we can spend it at our destination.  The flight from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur is only 30 to 40 minutes, so the quality of the seats or service on the plane wasn’t really a factor anyways.  How much comfort do you need on such a short flight?

The next thing we did was find a hotel room to book.  I’d never tried to book a room over the internet before, so I wasn’t sure where to begin, or what site to trust.  The first website I came across mentioned a cheaply priced hotel called Hotel Chinatown 2.  It had a lot of customer reviews on it.  All of them said the place is a good deal for the money you spend, that the rooms seem a bit small, and that the air conditioning is cold.  Some also complained about thin walls.  We thought about it and realized that we were only going to spend two nights there.  And it really would just be the nights.  During the day and the evening we would be out and about, checking out Kuala Lumpur, so who cares if it’s a bit noisy, or a bit small?  At least the air conditioning would be cold, right?  We did a little more research (i.e. Googling) to assure ourselves that the hotel was actually real and not just some rip-off, and when we were both satisfied, we found a booking site that uses secure transactions and paid a 10% down-payment and a booking fee of 2 USD.

The next thing, and last thing, that we had to worry about was our cats.  We love them, but every time we want to go on a trip, they’re a problem.  I had sent a text to the lady that normally watches them for us, but she hadn’t responded.  On Sunday, the day before our trip, my wife also sent a message, but again, no response.  Not wanting to wait until the last minute, hoping we’d get a reply to our texts, I went ahead and asked the maid if she could watch the cats for us.  I was surprised at how happy she was to help out.  So, I guess things turned out for the best.  The cats didn’t have to be transported to someone else’s house for cat-sitting and we got to save time and money.  If you’re not familiar with cats, not having to move them is a good thing because cats really freak out in new environments they get dumped into, especially if there are other cats.  It can cause a lot of stress and can even be hazardous to their health.

The night before our trip we were both excited and stayed up late.  I don’t think I managed to get to sleep until 4:30 am, and then I was up again at 8 am to make sure we were ready to leave on time.  Well, 8 am is when I actually got out of bed.  My cats got noisy and woke me up at 6:45 am.  I never managed to get back to sleep.  I guess they knew something was up and they wanted us to know they didn’t like it.  Not a good start right?  Even so, I was pumped about our trip and didn’t let it slow me down.  (That would come later.)  Despite getting up early, we didn’t manage to get out the door until almost 10:30 am, so we had to take a cab to get to the airport in time for our flight.