Saturday, June 21, 2008

Hotel room discourse in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur - learning the realities

Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Hotel-room discourse in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur - learning the realities
Singapore is expensive. One can feel good about this - as one does in Bermuda - assuming that high prices at least contributes to the absence of visible poverty. But I also learned that one must be cautious about attempting to economize when booking hotel rooms on the internet. For my first attempt at this, I chose a hotel booking service that popped up on my screen when I Googled “Singapore Hotels.” The “Fragrance Hotel,” identified as ‘two star,’ seemed to offer what I needed - a location convenient to an MRT station, available wireless connectivity and moderate prices. The room selection offered was ‘standard,’ ‘superior’ and ‘executive deluxe,’ Seeking a degree of comfort after a long trip and not wanting to be too frugal, I chose the middle option.

I have already reported that my request for ‘early arrival was not accepted and that I spent a productive day tramping about Singapore, breakfasting at Clark Quay and lunching at Chinatown. It was 3:30 before I was back at the Fragrance, ready to settle into my ‘Superior’ room, do rudimentary unpacking, take a hot shower and slip between crisp sheets for a before-dinner nap. It was not to be - at least not quite. What greeted me when opened the door of #705, was the smallest cubicle with the most modest level of amenities I had ever seen. The room was almost entirely filled by a double bed, designed for an individual of maximum height, 5’ 10”. There was no closet, only three hooks with one lone hanger. The bathroom was of a design I had not experienced since checking in at Teheran’s Hotel Palma, more than three decades ago. The shower was over the toilet and emptied into a drain in the middle of the floor. There was no possible way of showering without soaking everything. This was room eminently suited for a Buddhist cleric on retreat, but posed serious obstacles for me, freighted down as usual with a bag full of electronic accouterments, a collection of books and clothing for a three week stay in Malaysia and Sri Lanka.

What to do? After brainstormng a variety of options, all of which included included using the miniscule patch of floor space for storage and sharing my bed with my bags, I returned to the front desk. Yes, an “Executive Deluxe” room was fortunately available, the desk receptionist told me. I gladly put down the additional $90 for my three day stay and was escorted to #706. The room was about the size of two ‘Superior’ rooms. The shower arrangement were the same but there were two bathrooms. One could be used as a shower, the other for remaining functions. By the time I was resettled, with only rudimentary unpacking it was nearly 5:30.

When walking out to dinner, about two hours later, I decided to further broaden my education. “What was the difference between a ‘Superior’ and a “Standard’ room?” I inquired. “The ‘Standard’ room has no window.’ was the response.

I couldn’t remember the class of room I had reserved in Kuala Lumpur, but I was prepared for the worst. When I gave the taxi driver my destination, he looked puzzled. “That’s in Chinatown,” he said, “Its a no star hotel - very small.” I think I must have quailed visibly because he added reassuringly, if unconvincingly, “I’m sure the rooms will be very nice.” My apprehension rose further when the entrance to The Swiss Inn appeared to be a construction site.

However all was well. The Front Desk was small but elegant and the bellman ushered me to a beautiful room with tasteful furnishings and ample storage space. The bathroom had a real shower encased in a real shower curtain. The view from my window included a sign advertising “The Aroma Hotel.” Happily, I had no need to check it out. I unpacked and settled gratefully between crisp white sheets, to catch a short nap before a dinner engagement. My sojourn in Kuala Lumpur had begun on a positive note.

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