Son Of A Hotel Owner.
I had a childhood friend whose family operated a hotel with the grand sounding name of Hotel De Luxe.
When he went to London to study, his reputation as a hotel owner commanded a lot of respect. His uni mates thought it must be a legendary hotel like the ones in Hollywood or Rome, housed in an art deco building. He told them the hotel had a casino.
In reality, it was a ‘rumah tumpangan’ or a budget lodging house above the family’s coffee shop or kopitiam. The casino was the mahjong table in a corner. Lol.
The friend has since migrated to the states. I am sure he will make it big.
I know about rumah tumpangan as I worked for the late Malay movie legend Mustapha Maarof. He owned a production house and was very frugal. We, the film crew, must look for the cheapest hotels when were were outstation. It may sound tough but I now appreciate the experience and challenges of traveling on a shoestring budget.
Those ‘rumah tumpangan’ were the predecessors of today’s slick budget hotels. The walls or partitions don’t touch the ceilings. That means you can hear everything from the next room. There is usually a ceiling fan in the middle, a spittoon and a mosquito coil provided. A thermos flask for hot water and a bar of 999 Chlorophyll Soap were also provided. The anti skin infection soap was a good idea as the blankets were furry from wear.
If you are lucky, you can order food from the coffee shop downstairs. Famous Yong Suan and its nasi ganja in Ipoh is a good example. When the highway opened up, it eliminated travel time and the need to stop overnight. Unfortunately, the owners were not online savvy and made no affiliations with online agents and were unable to compete relying on walk in guests alone.
There was one in every town, big or small, to cater to the traveling salesmen and van drivers or delivery men. It is a legacy institution fast fading,
Picture of Lok Ann Hotel from 1938 boarded up and awaiting demolition to make way for the MRT. The Chinatown hotel is a venerable landmark with a coffee shop on the ground floor. Pic was taken in April 2015. The giant flag bearers were part of the flag vaulting team in a chingay parade. .
To have quick access to the Singapore Ramadan Bazaar, I stayed at a hotel on the doorsteps of the street bazaar known as Geylang Serai. I tried to recall the name of the hotel but there are like a dozen 81 chain hotels in the Geylang area!
The one I stayed was Hotel 81 Tristar and only thing I didn’t like was that the room had no windows except for a big wall mirror. Kind of like a love hotel except it can spook you at night when you are staying alone and you noticed something moving that was your own reflection. Credit to the receptionist for telling me in advance. Some hotels don’t tell you and it may be a good idea to ask when checking in.
For a budget hotel (in the Singapore context – over RM 200), it has an outdoor pool on one of the floors and a minibar in each room. There is a convenient 7 Eleven downstairs to fill up the minibar (mini fridge). To recall the hotel’s name, I was lucky to have taken some pictures at a mamak or Malay restaurant downstairs. The restaurant’s name Al Wadi was captured and it allowed me to do a Google Street View walk to find the name of the hotel next door. Kind of nostalgic because I used to take long exploration walks as a 7 or 8 year old kid from Everitt Road nearby, where we once stayed.
Book Hotel 81 Tristar here (Booking dot com) or here (Agoda)
Address: 1 Onan Road. Singapore 424780
Find over 470 hotels in Singapore here
Now to introduce a local small town hotel. I had a photography assignment in tiny Simpang Renggam town in Johor at one time and I stayed at a small budget hotel. The town is as small as one can get.
The other alternative was to stay in Kluang and take a daily half hour drive each way. It is not the only act in town but I am happy with SR Inn for several reasons. It is centrally located in the middle of town though don’t expect any action or entertainment after 8pm.
The biggest attraction, for me, was the hotel is next to a coffee shop that sells Chinese lontong and porridge in the morning. While the hotel included some rudimentary breakfast in the lobby, I liked the convenient eatery next door.
Other nice thing was they gave me and crew rooms on the ground floor so we needn’t lug our camera and lighting gear up and down a staircase. More for safety of the equipment at night as it was street parking with no guards.
Rooms were clean, with reliable air conditioning and hot water supply. Am surprised to see the tariffs are now cheaper than the walk in rates I paid. The take away is one should book rooms online and it may be cheaper.
Thousands of small town hotels can be found online if you search at MyCen Hotels. Better start booking now if you are going back to your hometown this coming Hari Raya festival. Many families are planning to stay in hotels because their pampered urban kids can’t sleep without air conditioning and in granny’s mosquito nets or to bath without hot water showers.
Link to SR Inn Booking Page: http://www.mycen.my/sr-inn-simpang-renggam/
Not all hotels in KL cost the earth. Sometimes, you just want a clean, safe, budget hotel in KL.
If you don’t need a swimming pool to pee into or to get red eyes from, try the new Hanson Hotel KL. It is promoted by my friend Lilian Ying on behalf of her owner friend. You can book via my link too.