Getting What You Pay For (or a little less)

I started this almost two moths ago after Lucy and I stayed at the Hong Ping Hotel in Penang. I just got around to finishing it up. It isn’t really relative to what we are doing now, but it still might be useful for anyone looking for accommodations in Penang.


After staying at the Oriental Hostel (or, from the look of some of the guests, the “Gary Glitter Hideaway”) for a few nights, Lucy and I thought that we would try our luck in another venue, hopefully one with an indoor restroom and a functioning toilet (also, I hate to harp on the place, but when we asked for our deposit back the fellow was somehow able to convince us that we hadn’t paid one, which we later realized was not true).

We settled on the Broadway Budget Hotel, which was a little bit more expensive than a hostel, but it was clean and there was a functioning bathroom in the room. Unfortunately we didn’t plan well and had to leave because all the cheapest rooms were booked after we were there for a couple days (we neglected to reserve a room for more than the first two days) and we didn’t want to spend the extra ten ringit for a room with a TV, especially considering most of the programming available is not even in English.

We ended up moving into the Hong Ping Hotel, which was only a couple of blocks from the Broadway Budget Hotel. The weekend cost was lower than at the Broadway, and although the Hong Ping looked a bit shabby and run down, it still seemed like a bargain considering it had a TV (not needed, but usually costs more), in-room shower with hot water (hot water not really needed in the weather we were having, but again it usually costs more), and the room had a small desk, table, and a couple of chairs.

We arranged to move in the next day. When we arrived the man at the desk brought us to a different room from what we’d been shown the day before, which made me suspicious. It seemed smaller (which it might not have been) and the bathroom looked dingier. It seemed like we were falling victim to the old “bait and switch” routine, which seems like a very popular rouse for people in the tourist industry in Malaysia. Nevertheless, I was pretty resigned to staying there, so I followed the man back down to the front desk to pay. On the way down he asked where we had stayed before. When I told him, he shook his head and said disdainfully, “They’re no good,” and made some disparaging remarks about their rooms. I started to defend the place by saying it was very clean, but then dropped it. After all, what do I care what the different hotels say about each other? I paid with a credit card, which was a plus, as the exchange rate when using our credit card is much better than when we have to exchange dollars or cash a traveler’s check (we have a travel card, so there are no added charges for foreign transactions).

When I went back to the room, I made a more thorough inspection. On the plus side, it had a great view. On the negative side, the bathroom was pretty gross. It might have been cleaned (except it wasn’t), but because of the worn out fixtures it would be impossible to make it look clean. The toilet (like most toilets I’ve seen in Malaysia) was cheaply constructed out of plastic, so the tank was misshapen and the lid didn’t fit anymore. To get it to flush you had to pump the handle up and down four or five times. Also, the light in the bathroom was very dim, not that you would really want to see things that clearly. There were very old cobwebs hanging from the ceiling.

Another problem was that the TV didn’t work. I didn’t actually want to watch TV, but if one is available I usually turn it on to see if I can catch any news. When I tried using the remote, nothing happened. I tried using the button on the TV itself, but nothing happened. Since it didn’t work, I thought I’d use the outlet to plug my computer in, but it turned out that the problem wasn’t the TV or remote, the problem was that the outlet didn’t work. This wasn’t a huge deal, as there were other outlets, but it still seems like a basic maintenance thing that the management should have kept up on.

The thing that bugged me the most (well, at least as much as the gross bathroom) was that they gave us water in used water bottles. When I first saw a 1.5 liter bottle of water on the little table, it was a definite plus. Then Lucy opened one and realized that it hadn’t been sealed. In fact, when I looked at the date on the bottle, it was from two years ago. Now, I appreciate them providing water, but using old, used bottles is just cheap and gross. There is no way to know where the water came from, and if the bottles are two years old, there’s no telling whether they were sanitized when the water was put in them. We ended up going out to buy water because for all we knew the water they put in the bottles was just out of the tap.

One other thing that bugged me about the place was that the guests were very noisy until late at night, and the staff was very noisy early in the morning. From my ten years living in Taiwan I’ve come to the conclusion that Asian people–at least those of Chinese heritage–not only don’t mind noise, but they embrace it. They actually seem uncomfortable in quiet situations (hence the loudspeakers installed to play music in nature areas and the candystripers employed to keep patients awake in hospitals).

We are on a pretty tight budget, so we’re willing to live in pretty dodgy conditions, but when we fork out for a hotel, we’re doing it in part to use a nice clean private bathroom. The Broadway Budget Hotel worked out for us in this capacity, as it was small and no frills, but very clean.  Hong Ping did not provide this luxury, which was a little disappointing. All in all at the Hotel Hong Ping you get what you pay for, which isn’t saying very much.

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