hotel diaries (part two)

I am rather lazy to migrate some pictures from part one to split the entries into a more logical sequence. Maybe I will do that in future but for now I will just keep the entries based on the periods that I stayed at.

Finland, Espoo

Hotel GLO Sello Espoo (September 2012)

Another business trip that took me to where I never really thought I’d go. Well, it isn’t that I never considered travelling to Helsinki but then again I wasn’t staying in Helsinki but in Espoo, which was much closer to where the office was. The hotel is actually rather nice, and conveniently located next to the Sello Mall that had a number of shops, eateries and two supermarkets! The bus/train station was also just next to the mall, which made travelling to Helsinki’s city centre a breeze, since the train ride takes at most 12 minutes.

Initially, I was told that if I wanted to be guaranteed a room for check in when I arrived in the morning, which was before 7am, I had to make a booking for the night before. I was reluctantly to request for that since my company is rather strict on budgets, and because I was going to face a similar conundrum when I check out since my flight was again at really odd hours (5 minutes before midnight) and it was going to be such a long flight, on a weekday no less. But I was pleasantly surprised when I arrived and was able to check in. It was great because it meant I could at least freshen up and take a rest before heading out to get some much-needed sunshine to beat the jetlag.

This is most of the room, there wasn’t a lot of real estate but it was comfortable and not tiny. I just didn’t really like the neon red light above the headboard so usually I have that switched off.

A lot of hotels that I have been to in Europe don’t have the habit of providing bathroom slippers, which I then surmised is an Asian luxury. But again I was surprised that they had bathroom slippers, large comfortable ones in fact. The bathroom was ok to me, and the floor tiles were pretty amazing, because on one occasion I realised that they were of a quick-drying nature, as droplets of water splashed onto it dried up in no time. I guess this was necessary because as you can see from the picture here, the shower area had no shower curtain or panel of sorts, other than that small silver of wall on the side, so I had to shower really carefully to ensure minimum splashing. I really do not like wet bathroom floors so this was one negative point of it. Besides that, everything else seemed generally clean.

There weren’t many interesting channels available on TV for me although there were a number of English language channels, so mostly I was tuned in to news channels, as I told my friend how situations like these usually keep me updated with world news for the short duration of stay. The hotel was generally quiet although the doors were so heavy that each time someone opened/closed the doors nearby I’d get a rude shock when the door slams. And when I have my TV off, I can hear sounds drifting into my room through the ventilation shafts. Breakfast buffet comprised of limited hot food (sausages, eggs scrambled and hard boiled, potatoes and tomatoes) and a selection of cereals, breads and cheese. Where breakfast is concerned, I really only need cereal and yogurt, and maybe bread, so I was contented having the same thing every morning and looked forward to it each day. Besides, they had decent coffee at breakfast, which is a rarity for hotels! But I think I have had some good experiences, the coffee I had in the hotel I stayed at in Milan and also in Zurich were pretty alright!

South Korea, Seoul

Seoul Garden Hotel (August 2012)


Switzerland, Zurich

Holiday Inn Express Zurich Airport (June 2012)

Pretty much like how most Holiday Inn Express hotels are like. I haven’t stayed in many but the few I have been to showed to be generally consistent. On hindsight I think this was heaven as compared to the hotel I stayed at immediately after this business trip (see the Cantley Lodge described below to see what I mean). Being relatively near the airport where I can see planes taking off into the sky (not the runway though), it is surprising that I don’t really hear the sounds of the plane, knowing full well how much noise such machines generate. There is a complimentary airport transfer that runs every 20/30 minutes but from the hotel, it has to be reserved. The ride takes about 15-20 minutes to the airport without too much traffic so yes it is quite efficient. Rooms are generally clean and well-maintained but my only grouse is the lack of a gym onsite, so either I had to make do with no exercise, or I could choose to run outside when the weather is good; I tried it once and was rewarded with great scenery along the way. A gym is available nearby but it costs 20 CHF per entry, which converts to about 26 SGD.

Everything in Switzerland, and especially Zurich I was told, is expensive. I experienced for myself first-hand the veracity of this, and indeed for the price that we paid for the room, it really showed itself to be an expensive city. Initially I was rather amused with their wardrobe, or lack thereof. It reminded of some hotels I stayed at in Tokyo, where wardrobe was essentially just a space for you to hang some of your clothes; no doors, nothing, with just a few miserable hangers. But again relatively-speaking this was still way better than somewhere else.

The moment I stepped into the washroom I immediately got reminded of the HiEx I visited in Hong Kong and Glasgow. Somehow, the blue mosaic tiles at the basin area seemed to have been replicated across the chain!

I enjoyed the breakfast buffet, which was mainly cereals, yogurts and breads. I think there are some other stuff too, but this is generally the kind of breakfast I have, without too much hot food. The hotel is within about 7 minutes’ walk to a train station (Rumlang) where a train runs every half hour to the city centre that is just less than 15 minutes away, so it is quite convenient even to not be staying in town, although again the train fare is rather exhorbitant for such a short ride.

Thailand, Phuket

Patong Bay Garden (July 2012)

The best thing about this place is probably the proximity to Patong Beach. It has a small swimming pool that is surrounded by three levels of resort-styled rooms, and from the pool you could easily walk out onto the beach. The breakfast area is in a double-storey shack that kind of opens out to the beach too so in the mornings while you are having your sunny-side up you can enjoy the wonderful sea breeze and mesmerising view of the ocean.

The rooms are not spotlessly clean and neither was housekeeping consistent or fantastic but we are not that particular, especially not when we were paying in total of 9,000 THB for 4 nights, which works out to be less than 50 SGD per person per night. It may not be the cheapest but for this quality and how near it is to the beach, and also to Bangla Road, I think we already had a rather good deal. My friend did complain, however, that the bed was too hard, but other than that we didn’t have too many grouses. Oh, wifi in the hotel isn’t complimentary. With one room booked we got a total of one miserable free hour for the entire stay.

United Kingdom, Wokingham

Cantley Lodge Hotel (July 2012)

This is easily one of the worst places I have ever stayed at where business trips are concerned. I can’t really complain if I were to stinge on hotel stays while on holiday but I would expect at least a decent place for a business stay. I may be cruel to say it counts as one of the worst, because the people working there were generally nice and helpful but even that can’t make up for the rooms that leave much to be desired in which I had to stay for ten nights while also having to put up with the frustrations that come with my job.

There is a train station about three minutes’ walk away that can take you to London Waterloo station in about an hour and fifteen minutes give and take, but its proximity to the station meant that being in the room trying to, for example, get an early night’s rest or sleep in during the morning, was almost impossible. Disturbances from the trains chugging along the tracks and sounding their horns, and not to mention the quivers/tremors that the passing trains cause, are frequent occurrences. Perhaps the establishment is a little tired and dated, so the carpeting and furniture were already worn and the rooms were not as clean as they might have been. I don’t think they vacuum daily and on days they don’t even empty the wastebins. I was alarmed (pun totally intended) a couple of times by the fire alarm that got triggered, once at half past ten on a Friday night and another time at 6:20am. No explanations were given.

Also, this was a townhouse of sorts, and it being converted into use for hospitality purposes would most likely also explain the permeability of sounds through walls. I could hear the coughing of the other residents, and the indecisive entering/exiting of the room of my neighbour had me almost going bonkers with the opening and shutting of room doors, complete with creaking hinges. Breakfast also was not fantastic because it really is a bed and breakfast, but I am not picky with breakfast as long as I get bread (glorious carbohydrates) and some cereals, plus decent coffee. There was yogurt but I didn’t like it because it was the flavoured type that is too sweet. Laundry service was available at a token sum but I’d strongly advise against it unless it were for perhaps dark-coloured pyjamas or the likes. I sent some light-coloured T-shirts and a pair of jeans to the wash, and the white stuff came back bluish. All in all, this was not a fabulous stay but I suspect that it was made worse by the fact that my job did not proceed that well too.

United States, Texas Austin

Marriot Springhill Suites (April 2012)

I don’t think I will ever go to Austin on my own free will, it being a place without many attractions for tourists to make the trip from halfway around the world (or more) justifiable. From Singapore, it was a back-breaking journey, because of the various flights and transit stops necessary to get from SIN to AUS, and especially when flight delays and cancellations are part and parcel of the domestic air travel network within the US.

Maybe it being a US hotel explains its size, because compared to many other hotel rooms I have stayed at this was really generous in terms of real estate space. It was fairly comfortable and resembled a service apartment because upon entry to the room I had a small walkway of sorts to a mini kitchenette and study area, before I get to the main sleeping area with a couch, a flat screen TV and the bed.

I didn’t use the facilities much other than the bar fridge, so I can’t vouch for their functionality. The thing about this hotel is that it’s beside a freeway, in the middle of nowhere, so it takes about 20 minutes just to drive to the office. There are some restaurants around though, within walking distance, and across the freeway, in total a leisurely walk of about maybe half an hour, there is a shopping area. I went there on the last day that I was there, and decided that that shall be the only time I will do something like that. It is pretty nerve-wrecking to be walking on a path that was created naturally by people walking on the grass, right next to the roads, and then having to cross a very wide freeway. Even with traffic lights it still seems rather daunting because I wasn’t sure if the motorists were going to observe the lights. Aside from that, it takes also about 30-40 minutes to drive to the city, so if you don’t drive or don’t own a car, this is going to be highly inconvenient.

The room I had was not bad but I found the airconditioning and its thermostat too noisy so I couldn’t sleep for more than 20-30 minutes on end, which is when the thermostat kicks in. Even if I had mine off, the room next door will wake me up. Gym onsite was small but decent, breakfast was basic and coffee horrible. San Marcos Premium Outlets and Tango Outlets (right next to each other) are about an hour’s drive away, which was where we spent our Saturday enjoying ourselves with cheap shopping!

I found this useful though, for charging and playing music, however I think the music I had on my phone weren’t of good quality so if I crank up the volume it actually sounds really jarring.

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