Categories
Living in the Philippines

New Horizon Hotel in Manila, Philippines

On my recent return to the US from the Philippines, I had to find a hotel in Manila to stay in for the night because it’s impractical to commute from Antipolo to make a 7:30 AM flight.  Even if there was public transit at that time of the morning, it definitely wouldn’t be safe, especially when carrying a bunch of bags, so I booked a room at New Horizons hotel in Manila.

New Horizons Deluxe Suite

New Horizons Deluxe Suite

New Horizons Deluxe Suite

New Horizons Deluxe Suite

New Horizons Deluxe Suite

This hallway goes to the bedroom, which I forgot to take a photo of.  It is about the same size as the living room area as seen in the 3rd photo.

My wife and I have stayed in New Horizons before in 2008 so it was a natural choice.  We enjoyed the service on our last visit, so we wanted to go back again.  The first time we were there we got the Deluxe Suite which was as big or bigger than some apartments we’ve lived in.  The rate was really good on that too, only 85 USD* per night.  This time, though, we were only going to be in the hotel for about 14 hours, so it just didn’t make sense to go all out on a spacious room.  Instead, we got their ‘Superior’ room, which is the smallest one and goes for 60 USD* per night.  Even though it’s their smallest, it was still really spacious.  It was way better than what I’d expected.

I reserved a room online and made the required 10% deposit.  When we checked in I was a bit surprised but the girl at the desk knew that I’d stayed there in 2008.  When you check in, you pay up front rather than after.  I don’t think I’ve ever stayed in a hotel where you pay after.  Instead of offering me my change, the girl asked if it would be alright to hold the balance at the desk until we left, to be used against any items we took from the mini bar.  I didn’t care too much and we did wind up raiding the mini bar.  The drinks in there are actually well priced and they were really cold.

New Horizon Hotel Superior room.

New Horizon Hotel Superior room.

Don’t mind my underwear.  I swear I wasn’t naked while taking these photos!

New Horizon Hotel Superior room.

Cigarette smoke ruins so many good photos…

New Horizon Hotel Superior room.

The bathroom in this room is set up the same way as the bathroom in the Deluxe Suite.  It’s spacious, comfortable and the water runs warm, but not really hot.

As you can see from the last photo above, we had our cat with us.  It’s not normally allowed, but I worked out an exception with the manager prior to booking by asking politely and agreeing to pay any damages she might cause.  We kept an eye on her and she was a good girl.  Thankfully she didn’t go nuts on that fake leather couch.

My cat exploring a New Horizon Hotel Superior room.

My cat exploring a New Horizon Hotel Superior room.

My cat exploring a New Horizon Hotel Superior room.

Like I said, the room was comfortable.  The air conditioning got good and cold.  The room service was decent and well priced and the cable TV was fun.  If you’re considering staying at this place, it’s well worth it, and it’s close to an MRT line.  You can walk out of the hotel and be in the train station in about 15 minutes, counting the time it takes to get your ticket.  It’s a few short stops from Megamall and there are restaurants all around it.  Despite being right along EDSA (a highway) the rooms are quiet at night.  Broadband Internet was optional for the room as well.

They did us a good favor by letting us have Marble there overnight and the place is nice anyway, so we’ll definitely be using them again in the future.  I’m planning on making more trips to the Philippines to visit my wife until she’s ready to follow me to the US.

Click here to visit New Horizons’ web site.

*Note: The rates are showing up at 5 dollars more than they were when I checked them last week.  I’m not sure if that’s a permanent increase or not, but it may have something to do with the fact that they’re in the process of renovating the rooms.  The room we stayed in this time wasn’t renovated yet.

Categories
Travel

Our February Trip To Kuala Lumpur

Last weekend (the weekend of the 5th – 7th), we went to Kuala Lumpur and over the last week I’ve been posting about stuff that we saw while we were up there.  We weren’t in KL for very long and we’d intended to try to make the most of our time to go see Putrajaya and the museums and art galleries if possible.

We got there on Friday afternoon and dropped our bags at the hostel.  We stayed at Hostel Cosmopolitan again.  It’s by no means fancy, but it’s cozy, it’s got cats (which my wife enjoys) and it’s close to the monorail and good food.  Thankfully, that weird smell was gone from the air conditioner this time!

The first thing we had to take care of was stuffing our faces.  We’ve been keeping an eye on what we eat lately but since we were sort of on vacation we decided to pig out.  We went to an eatery in Kampung Baru that we enjoyed the last time we were in Kuala Lumpur.  It didn’t disappoint!

 

 

Another thing I really love about this place is that all that food in the photos, plus two large soft drinks, only cost 19.40 RM, which is 8.00 SGD or 5.65 USD.  That’s a real deal!  The same meal in Singapore would’ve cost about 14 SGD I think.

Friday night was spent being lazy, watching TV and reading.  We went to bed at a decent hour though because we’d planned on getting some sightseeing done on Saturday.

Well, as Saturday morning rolled around, dragging ourselves out of bed was very, very difficult.  And after eating breakfast we sat down in the common room area to watch TV, read and surf the net.  Well, my wife got distracted with a John Grisham book she found on the shelf and I was absorbed in Google Reader until I dozed off for about an hour.  Ya, the couch was pretty comfortable!

Anyway, by the time we managed to get washed up and get out of the hostel the only thing we could think about was getting something to eat, and that’s when we went to KLCC and California Pizza Kitchen.  We sat around in Kinokuniya bookstore until around 8 PM, took some night photos of the Petronas Towers, and then headed back to the hostel.

We continued being lazy, enjoying the TV until the wee hours of the morning.  Heck, we even watched one of the audition episodes of the latest American Idol season.  It was really fun watching people get up there and embarrass themselves!

Our last day was short.  It wasn’t really a day since we spent most of it sleeping in and then traveling to the airport.  Everything went smoothly though with no problems so I’m glad about that.

All in all, we didn’t really do much of anything at all except eat.  That’s fine by me.  Sometimes you have to just relax and let your body and mind rest.  Besides, we’ve seen quite a bit of Kuala Lumpur in previous trips.

Anyhow, it was nice to get back home in Singapore.  There’s really no place like home, regardless of how much you enjoy the place you go to visit.

Categories
Travel

Kuala Lumpur Trip: Hostel Cosmopolitan Review

Hostel Cosmopolitan is located near the Chow Kit monorail station.  It’s a bit hard to find when you first get to Chow Kit, so make sure you take a map with you!  Also, don’t be put off by the outside of the building.  It’s a bit rough looking, but the interior is very clean and comfortable.  Hostel Cosmopolitan is one of the best places I’ve stayed, guest house or not.

I was a bit worried at first that the hostel was too far away from anything, but it’s actually within walking distance of quite a few eating establishments.  Not to mention the street out front gets filled with stalls selling everything from satay to stuffed animals.  That’s kinda fun, especially since the sellers aren’t over-aggressive like the ones on Jalan Petaling in Chinatown.  Also, the monorail is a pretty quick and fun means of transportation.  It takes about 20 minutes to get from KL Sentral (where you can switch to the RapidKL line) to Chow Kit and I think you can get off at Bukit Nanas and walk to the Petronas Towers.  There’s also a bus stop a few streets over where you can get a ride to the Batu Caves for roughly 2 ringgit.  So, don’t worry about the location.  It’s not bad at all.

One of the best parts about staying at Hostel Cosmopolitan was how many great people we met, starting with the staff.  The guy that greeted us and checked us in, named Mohammad Abdullah, was very friendly and very helpful.  He even let us have a real free meal when we showed up early and couldn’t check-in yet, but were starving because we’d missed breakfast.  The other guests were also very cool and some had some interesting stories to tell and tips to share.  Hostels tend to draw a fairly well traveled crowd.  We met people from the US, the UK, Australia, Pakistan, Greece and Italy (just to name a few) who had traveled all over Asia and South America.  During the mornings when everyone was getting ready to head out the door, they almost all stopped in at the kitchen area to grab a bite of the free breakfast.  We had some great conversations with the other guests there.

The amenities are also very good at Hostel Cosmopolitan.

I can’t comment much on the mixed dorms, since we stayed in a private room, but I didn’t hear anyone complaining about them and they looked fairly comfortable when I glanced in on my way down the hall.  Our bedroom was average sized.  It wasn’t very big, but it didn’t feel small either.  It had a place to hang our clothes, a set of shelves and a bed.  Sheets and towels are also provided.  The air conditioning was so cold at night that I woke up shivering and had to turn it off.  The only complaint I had with the room was that the air from the air conditioner didn’t smell very fresh.  It smelled a bit sour.  I don’t think it was just our room unit either because we could smell it in the hallway as well.  It wasn’t unbearable but hopefully it won’t be there the next time we go for a visit.

The community area has a lot of shelves with books to read, in case you get bored.  It also has a TV with cable.  I think it has a few movie channels on it too, but we didn’t spend much time watching it.  What little time we spent in the community room was usually spent in front of one of the desktop computers available for internet access.  The hostel also has wi-fi which I was able to use with my iPhone.  The internet service is all completely free to guests.  There is no hourly charge.  The TV hours in the community room are 8 AM to 11 PM.  The TV was usually on later than that, but Mohammad Abdullah let us know that if it was bothering us we could ask that it be turned off.  We never had a problem with noise there.  Everyone was considerate of each other.  Also, there’s no drinking allowed on the premises.  That probably helped.  There’s also no smoking allowed, but there is a ‘smoker’s corner’ in the stairwell just outside the hostel.

Interesting side note: Notice the guy with the long hair in the second photo in the above set.  He played Baldur’s Gate on his laptop non-stop for the three days we were there.  That must be a damn good game.

The kitchen area has a small range, a sink, and a storage area for dry goods.  There is a microwave, two toasters and a radio.  There’s no refrigerator available to guests.  I’m guessing that there might have been one before, but people probably didn’t keep up with what they put in it and it became too much of a hassle for the staff.  There is no refrigerator for guest use at all in Hostel Cosmopolitan but there is a 7-11 directly downstairs.  I think it’s open all night long.  Like I mentioned before, there’s a free breakfast set out in the kitchen area in the mornings between 9 am and 11 am.  It consists of toast and a choice of jam or margarine.  Each guest is allotted up to six pieces, but we never had more than 3 each.  I have to wonder at what happened to cause the management to have to put up a sign limiting the amount of bread a person could have.  Was someone snagging whole loaves and hoarding them?!

The toilet area was clean and ventilated.  The plumbing all worked well and the showers had warm to hot water.  The toilet area and shower area is all mixed, but the shower stalls have locking doors and are large enough to change in.  It’s also very well lit.  The hostel had a LOT of female guests while I was there and none of them seemed to have any issues with the arrangements.  The whole place felt pretty safe.

Speaking of security, there are wall lockers that can be used.  I’m not sure if locks are provided.

Also in the hallway are bulletin boards full of information.  If you’re ever at a loss for something to do, all you have to do is read the boards!  There are also warnings posted there, like information about taxi and gambling scams, like in the first photo.  In that particular case women, believed to be Filipinas, would lure lone tourists to their home, get them to gamble and then cheat the person out of their money.

And last but not least, Hostel Cosmopolitan has three cat residents.  My wife and I have two cats at home so this didn’t bother us.  It was, in fact, one of the reasons we selected the hostel from the list of potentials.  They really added to the atmosphere of the place.  It’s fun to sit and have breakfast while watching two cats chasing each other up and down the hallway, or to have a cat taking a nap on the table next to you while you use the desktop computer.

Naughty Nutty

Winnie

Mr. Jinja

Overall, the place is a great choice for a hostel to stay at in Kuala Lumpur.  It’s very affordable and more than that we both felt very comfortable and welcome there.  We had a lot more fun on this trip and I think that Hostel Cosmopolitan played a big part in it.  Mohammad Abdullah and Muhammad have really gone out of their way to make sure the place is as comfortable as possible for the guests and because of that, I’m looking forward to the next time we’ll have the chance to stay there.

Categories
Living in Singapore

The Not So Fragrant Fragrance Hotel

Last year when I first came to Singapore to visit, we had to find a place to stay short-term.  My first thought was hotels.  So, I got online and started searching around for where we could stay.  I didn’t mind spending a little money, but I figured we would be outside most of the time, so I didn’t want to spend so much on the hotel room.  I’d rather spend the money at the destination.  Looking through the internet for deals I came across a package for a flight and a few nights at a place called The Fragrance Hotel.  I asked my then fiance about it and she cracked up!

She told me right away that it would be a bad idea to stay at one of those hotels.  According to her, the Fragrance hotels aren’t very fragrant (cheesy right?).  She said someone she knew stayed in one for a few nights and it wasn’t very comfortable, clean, or hospitable.  On top of that, they have the reputation of being a hotel for one night stands and for hook-ups with prostitutes.  I was surprised, because the image I had of Singapore in my mind was a pristine one.  Singapore’s only reputation in the US is that it’s a place with hard laws and upright citizens, so the idea of a sleazy hotel where you take prostitutes didn’t occur to me.  Regardless, I quickly crossed it off my list.

Monday night I got to see one of the Fragrance hotels firsthand.  My wife and I went to the Geylang area to look at a place for rent.  I had never been there and we arrived just as it was getting dark.  Geylang is everything it’s rumored to be!  Geylang is the gritty underbelly of an otherwise polished Singapore.  The buildings are a montage of new and old, decrepit structures, some worse than shanties I’d seen in the Philippines.  Even so, there were people living in them.  There were newer structures here and there, but the further we got from the Aljunied area and the deeper we went into the Geylang area, the worse it got.

To clarify, when you travel to Geylang on public transit, the quickest way is to get off the train at the Aljunied station and then take a bus or a cab.  We were running late so we took a cab and as we entered Geylang proper I could see quite a few of what the area is most famous for: the Chinese hookers!  They were easy enough to pick out of the crowd and most were wearing cheap, slutty looking outfits and had hair dyed in unnaturally bright colors (for an Asian anyways). 

We weren’t too sure of where we were going and we wound up getting out of the cab a block short.  We didn’t mind though.  It gave us a chance to stretch our legs and get a feel for the neighborhood.  We called up the agent, got our bearings, and started walking towards the apartment building.  As we walked down Lorang 14 we soaked up the sleazy atmosphere, and, unfortunately, quite a few lungfuls of what smelled like stale sweat, rotting garbage and raw sewage.  It definitely wasn’t a very attractive place.  This is also where I got my first view of a Fragrance hotel, and where I took the photo above.

Once we reached the gate to the apartment complex we had to stand and wait a while, as the agent hadn’t arrived yet.  As we stood there waiting, more Chinese hookers passed in and out of the complex.  I don’t know what it is about hookers exactly, but they’re just so damn easy to pick out.  Maybe it’s because I’m so used to seeing decent folk around Singapore that they give off a negative vibe.  They have that cheap way about them.  They look cheap, smell cheap, and, even though I couldn’t understand what they were saying, even sounded cheap.

Regardless, it gave my wife and I one more thing to talk about while we waited to view the apartment.  We chatted about how much like the Philippines Geylang is, and about how it feels a bit dangerous there, like you’d have to watch your wallet and watch your back while you were out.  We talked about how the place seems more lively than Tampines, though not necessarily in a good way.  Geylang definitely has an exciting atmosphere to it, and it might be quite an adventure to live in a place like that after having lived in Tampines for a year.  Tampines is much quieter, and very upscale, especially for a “provincial” area.  I say provincial, but nearly all of Singapore is becoming built up into more of a city-type area.

The oddest and most out of place thing I saw while standing there waiting was a young girl, maybe 12, in a school uniform come through the gate at about 7:30pm.  She was alone and it seemed wrong given the surroundings.  If I had a kid I don’t think I would live in Geylang in the first place, and I definitely wouldn’t let him or her walk around alone after dark.  Not in that area.  It just doesn’t feel safe.

I suppose you could call it a bonus experience, but one other thing of note is that as we were walking to and from the apartment we were viewing we got to see a man sleeping on the floor of the hallway.  He was around 40 to 45, shirtless, shoeless, and probably passed-out drunk, sleeping first face down and then on his side on the hallway floor.  That, more than anything else, was our quality of life indicator for that part of Geylang.

I suppose it’s not what’s outside your door that counts though, so even with all of that ‘excitement’ just a few steps beyond the elevator, it wouldn’t be such a bad thing to live in Geylang.  If you maintain your home, it can still be comfortable, and given the area, the rent is a bit lower than usual as well.  Besides, there is one other thing Geylang is well known for, and that’s the food.  My wife and I both love to eat, and we’re tired of the choices available to us in Tampines, so the lure of fresh feeding grounds is a big one!