W & O Cafe, Oriental Hostel: the grandfather of backpacker hostels

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Look at all that natural light. After our crepuscular rooms at the AB Motel and even Muntri House, it should do a lot of good towards resetting our circadian clocks. If only I hadn’t stayed up until nearly 4 am last night, until the dawn light was filtering in.

We moved from Muntri House down the block to the Oriental Hostel yesterday. It is not on booking.com, though it seems to be associated with Star Lodge, which is on Tripadvisor. It was also obscured by its cafe, the Western and Oriental, a clever play on the famous Eastern and Oriental Hotel (it was such that, when I googled the Western and Oriental to see if they had an attached hostel, google autocorrected for the Eastern and Oriental instead). But there is, indeed, a hostel attached to the cafe, and it seems just as historical as Muntri House, if less decorated.

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Of course, to see what period the house was built, I’ll have to check the facade, like so:

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It’s also cheaper (50 MYR/night), but that is because there is no air conditioning. Hostels do seem a bit more expensive here. It’s difficult to find one with an attached bathroom, much less a refrigerator, but all hostels an arrange for bus tickets and phone cards for you, though possibly at an inflated price. The W & O cafe is pretty pricy, relatively speaking. The only thing that is a good deal is the beer. It’s the cheapest Mike’s found so far (6 MYR), though still much more expensive than in duty-free Langkawi.

The manager told Mike the reason the beer is cheaper than at other places is that they smuggled it from duty-free Langkawi. He’s friendly and speaks good English. A lot of the boarders at the Oriental, he claims, are regulars who design websites (hence reliable wifi and desktop computers available for 2 MYR an hour) and/or are doing visa runs. In any case, there are more Western expatriates than mainland Chinese tourists. I guess that explains why they don’t feel they need to have an online presence. Also, why he has available rooms when booking.com says it’s busy in Georgetown. Also, why he let us have a triple room for the price of a double. Also, why he offers a lower rate if you stay a whole month.

It’s tempting.

Edit, Sept. 9th:

We left the Oriental hostel today. Our fellow guests were a bit too loud and the bathrooms were a bit inconvenient. Also, we’d been there nearly a week, so I didn’t mind moving so much. I liked Muntri Street, but I think it’s time to explore more of the other side of Pitt Street, even if it’s only half a mile away.

Pros: (you) can be loud, it has history (before there were hostels, in the 60s, hippies would cMp out on the floor for 50 cents), The manager is friendly and informative, the maid works hard, there is cheap beer, there is a nice common room/cafe (though besides the beer, I wouldn’t recommend anything), and things are flexible. That was the kicker. I don’t know if we would have stayed so long if hadn’t been upgraded to a triple and had to stay in an actual double.

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Cons: (other guests) can be loud, including sitar and didgeridoo players, only one shower, open roof bathroom, and otherwise in need of maintenance

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But I’d like to end on an optimistic note. I guess the hostel, which has been a hostel since before there were hostels, is like a creaky grandfather, set in his ways. But he has personality.

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Looking back on Langkawi

I told Mike tonight that I prefer websites over blogs. In websites everything has a place for a reason. It has some sort of logical, categorical order, laid out like a table of contents.

Blogs may be searchable by tags and categories, but mostly they are at the mercy of chronology. That’s the point though. I think blogs were intended to be like journals (I was inspired to start blogging when I read of how a writer developed his craft by blogging every day in a personal blog no one else had access to), but have somehow turned into the new newspaper. Newspapers are also subject to the passage of time, sometimes mercifully so. I remember attending a talk given by a journalist that my dad took me to when I was in high school (I was guilty of being on the school newspaper). She seemed wary of an audience member’s suggestion that newspaper works be bound up and saved in the form of a book. Her reply insisted that journalists liked the transience of their own work, how it was all here today and gone tomorrow.

That’s right. A book or a website may be polished. Blogs, no matter how polished each post may be,are rawer. It is only with journalistic integrity that they may be edited (I generally don’t have this fastidiousness).

The truth is, I wasn’t happy with the quality of my posts while in Langkawi, even as I was writing them. I didn’t feel like writing then,but felt somehow obliged to. I could go back and edit,and probably will, but for the most part I will let them stand as they are as testament to how I was back then. I was cranky, due to hormones and jet lag and being new to the wear and tear of travel–frustrated by Langkawi, and very frustrated by the poor Internet connection.

Overall, I like Georgetown much better. It’s still unrelentingly touristy, but not vacations, as Mike said. It’s walkable. The hostels are cleaner and the Internet works (obviously). I am also reading better literature. (For some reason I decided to slough through The Dragonriders of Pern while on Langkawi. While preparing to leave the island, I started Howard’s End instead. Come to think of it, the first few good days on Langkawi, I was reading The Fault in Our Stars.) Good literature makes me thoughtfully inspired. Rather, my criteria for what good literature is, is that it makes me thoughtfully inspired.

Anyway, I still intend to document life on Langkawi, but it will be chronologically dis-synchronous.