Tuesday, January 22, 2013

MY SLEEPLESS NIGHTS (part 2) - SINGAPORE

Eight to ten square meters in size are the average prison cells in some countries,  which I googled! My rooms in the Santa Grand Lai Chun Yuen were for sure not bigger than that and gave me a kind of feeling how it would feel being cramped into a small space like that. Of course I had a window I could open (well ...almost) and I had free WiFi and could leave my room! 

Changing my room to the more quiet Temple Street side in Singapore's Chinatown did not give me a bigger room. I think the bathroom was actually even smaller than the first one. The room was L shaped and provided a very narrow way from the door to the bed. My suitcase fit in, but barely and the carry-on had to be stored again on top of the small closet. Impossible again to open my suitcase and unpack/pack. In order to take the photo showing the desk and the way back to the bed, I actually had to stand outside the room with the door open AND the luggage moved outside! The luggage uses the same space that is needed for the room door to be opened, the bathroom door to be opened and the person walking in and out, so it has to be moved all the time, which is the same as it was over at the Santa Grand Chinatown hotel.

The bathroom was in my mind very unpractical since the shower was placed directly above the toilet seat. So you either had to stand there with your legs apart, or...well, sit on the toilet and shower! Again, almost no amenities. Just shampoo! And most annoyingly, no storage space for my own toiletries. It all needs to be placed outside the bathroom on the small desk.

The advantage of the Temple street side was that it was indeed more quiet at certain times. A bar with an open balcony across the street did prove to be very quiet. No noise at all from the bar. The only noise came from late night Lamborghini or Ferrari drivers who roamed down the narrow Temple street. The other noise came from the rooms next to me. Somebody was having fun!!!...and I felt like being right in the middle of it!

The other advantage was that the window/door could be opened and provided a nice balcony outside with a beautiful view of Temple street and the city. However the windows were the same as on the other side and did hardly close. Any noise came right through those windows. 

The room is so small and so uncomfortable that I and many other guests used the lobby and the seating area behind the reception to sit comfortably and do some online stuff. 

One little story remains to be mentioned though! When I got up in the morning and got out of bed, I thought I stepped on a cord from the curtains or the bed sheet However, when I switched the lights on, I realized that I had just stepped on a big fat cockroach and flattened it on the wooden floor. Now, I know this is an old and historic building, but I was still not prepared for this situation. First time in all my travels all over Asia that this happened to me. 

My final resume: room and specially the bath"room" is way to small, too much noise from in and outside to have a good night sleep. Breakfast is included, free WiFi and great location. The staff is very friendly, from check-in to cleaning the room. Price way to high for what I get for it. So, I have had my sleeps in an historic and beautiful Opera Theater, but next time I will go some place else. 





Bath "cell"
 
Nice view of Temple street

Balcony door opens a bit

No noise from the bar downstairs!


But noise from traffic still high


Sunday, January 20, 2013

MY SLEEPLESS NIGHTS (part 1) - SINGAPORE

Well, I was warned!! When staying at my smallest room ever a few months ago, the friendly front desk clerk told me that the rooms are even smaller at the Santa Grand Lai Chun Yuen in Singapore's Chinatown. 

I did book it anyway simply because the thought of sleeping in an historic opera building in Chinatown was too tempting. I also had seen the lobby (which did not really exist in the other hotel) and the small breakfast restaurant (which also did not exist in the first one). 

The first notable difference was that they had a bell service and the "boy" brought my luggage up to the room via the escalators! No elevators in the Santa Grand Lai Chun Yuen! 

The room faced busy Smith Street with a window and was really tiny. As promised, it was even smaller than the last hotel. My suitcase did fit in but opening it was a challenge. Opening the window was also impossible because the bed was placed right in front of the window. I could basically walk in and go to bed. The small desk, chair and closet were good to use and the room even had a small safety box mounted inside the closet. I had to place one of my suitcases on top of that closed, since there was no other space for it. 

Small rooms like these have the advantage that I don't have to unpack or pack, since there is no space for my stuff. 

The bathroom is a shower cabin consisting of the shower, the toilet seat and a small sink. Almost no amenities though, except for shampoo. No soap, no shower gel! 

The hotel's main focus is really the beautiful lobby which was the stage and the main hall of the historic opera, built back in 1887. It would be a perfect hotel if it wasn't for the really tiny rooms....and of course the incredible noise coming in from the street below. 

Smith street is the hawker street for the tourists. There is talking, screaming, laughter, clapping dishes and music until really late night. Underneath my room was a tourist crap store which played house music (in Chinatown!!) all day and all evening, which gave my room the feeling of being located next to a dance club. But I didn't mind all that after 15 hours of flight and transfer time! I decided not to get a well deserved rest but rather go out and "wait" until the noise died down. 

Finally in bed when the restaurants were closing and the last drunk guests left, I was shaken right out of bed by the garbage truck which came around 3am. They seemed to load and empty out every possible container of all the restaurants and shops located down below! The problem was not so much the noise from outside but the ancient windows of the hotel. The windows did not really close and consisted of the old historic two wings with one glass each. On the top they even seemed completely open for several inches. 

So, these really were my first sleepless nights in Singapore and upon checking out I asked the kind staff at the reception to reserve a room on the opposite side of the building for my return trip.

Final resume: historic lobby, free WiFi, breakfast included, but very small room and no chance to sleep at night for a price which is too high in my mind. But location rocks and sets the price!








Busy Smith Street side



Friday, January 4, 2013

MY CONTINUING LOVE WITH BKK TAXIS - THAILAND

My love with Bangkok Taxi's continues! 

I have avoided them where I could on my past trip there for reasons I described before. I have used MRT and BTS instead and where I had to I used Hotel shuttles and Airport Limo Services. However that does get expensive at times. 

Take a trip to Ayutthaya, for instance. Just yesterday I saw a tourist couple getting in a taxi for a trip to Ayutthaya at a price of 2500 Baht. That will most likely not be a full day trip and they will for sure end up in shopping places and overpriced restaurants, who make deals with the driver. My hotel shuttle charged only 2000 Baht and I am sure I could have negotiated them further down. 

But for my trip to Ayutthaya this time, I just needed to go up to meet friends and was not sure how long it would take. So I flagged a taxi down and surely the first one stopped and took me. Meter was on and we went to Wang Noi district in Ayutthaya. Mind you, I had to tell the driver where to go, since he was not familiar with my destination, though it is a renowned landmark. Arriving, the meter said 360 Baht. Now that is a difference to 1500 or 2000 Baht!!  So, I got lucky this time. 

Going back was a totally different story. No taxi was available and when we called them no taxi wanted to go to Bangkok. It was still only early afternoon, but they feared not to get a customer paying for the way back. And of course 'traffic' was another reason why they did not want to go into Bangkok. Here is a surprise! A taxi which wants to avoid traffic!!

I finally ended up with a taxi from Wang Noi to the outskirts of Bangkok, a mini bus to the center of the old town, a ferry across the river from where I took a taxi to the sky train, which brought me to the subway.The combined price for it, however was barely a tenth of the Hotel's shuttle.

Laws, like in Germany where a taxi has to take you to your destination do not exist here. 

Finally I am back in Bangkok. It's New Year and the city is empty. No traffic but also fewer taxis. They all went home to visit their families. The few who didn't go were visibly and acoustically outside my hotel with the speakers turned up. They were sitting around their cars having a good time and asked for customers. But they were so drunk that it would have been like playing Russian Roulette to take them. So, thank god for sky train, subway and my own feet!