A Great Budget Hotel in Georgetown, Penang: Hotel 118
There are a good handfuls of budget hotels in Georgetown, Penang. We were looking for something decent and clean with free Wi-Fi in a good location and stumbled onto Hotel 118. I had found it on Agoda but it didn’t have too many reviews. From what people said, it was a brand new hotel in the middle of Georgetown which sounded like a nice option to me. Agoda was having a insider sale so we booked this hotel for a total of 4 nights after we decided to stay in Penang for two more days. A great budget hotel in Georgetown, Penang Location Hotel 118 is located on Jalan Dato Keramat, near the Times Square building and Komtar. It’s about a 15 minute walk to Little India and 25 minute walk to Jetty Penang (ferry and bus terminal). It’s surrounded by a ton of restaurants and stores. The Room Hotel 118 is indeed a brand new hotel, it just opened a few months ago. Everything is still all shiny! Since we took the overnight train to Penang and the ferry to Georgetown, we ended up arriving at our hotel around 730AM. The front desk was nice enough to let us check in early for a two twin bed room which we happily accepted. The rooms are of moderate size with a desk, nightstand, AC, fan and a flat screen TV. It was very clean and you could tell it’s new. The beds are incredibly comfortable. Fluffy pillows, thick blankets and clean sheets. We slept so well here especially after sleeping on hard Korean beds for the past 3 weeks! The bathroom was good size with a separate shower area. Lots of towels which we loved. Maybe some people will say the bathroom is small but our expectations for bathroom size has gone down drastically after traveling around Asia. We were happy to have a separate shower area as opposed to it all being in one! Wi-Fi is available for free in the room which was sometimes a hit or miss at nights when more guests are using it. One thing that bother some people is that there wasn’t a window in our room so we couldn’t tell what the weather was like outside or get any sunlight. They do have rooms with windows which you need to request if you want one. Service and staff I cannot express just how nice the staff were at Hotel 118. They completely went above and beyond to help us out on anything we needed including directions, recommendations, letting us check in hours early and helping us rent a scooter. If we didn’t know how to get somewhere, they’d draw it out on a map for us since it is a little bit confusing getting around Georgetown with all the one way streets. There were only two people working the days we were there and even if they had been sitting at the front desk at 4 in the morning for their 3rd 12 hour night shift in a row, they always greeted us with a huge smile asking us how our day went. They were always happy to give us their best recommendations for places to eat and tips on how to bargain. Overall We loved Hotel 118. Great service, comfortable and clean rooms and ideal location. Perfect for a budget hotel in Georgetown! You can book your room at Hotel 118 on Agoda.
Taking the Train from Kuala Lumpur to Penang
If you’re planning on traveling around Malaysia and don’t want to fly everywhere, taking the train is a cheap and easy way to go. For our week in Malaysia we stayed 2 days in Kuala Lumpur and 4 in Georgetown, 2 cities that are about 340 kilometers apart. To get from Kuala Lumpur to Georgetown, we took the train from Kuala Lumpur to Penang (KL Sentral station) and then a ferry to Georgetown. Taking the train from Kuala Lumpur to Penang Route Buying tickets KL Sentral is the transit hub in Kuala Lumpur and you will most likely pass through it coming from the airport or just when you go around the city. This is also where you will be taking the train from Kuala Lumpur to Georgetown. To buy tickets, you can do it online at the KTM website or buy them at KL Sentral. I highly recommend going to the station a few days before your intended date of departure since seats go fast, especially on weekends. The online ticketing system opens a couple weeks or so before and you just need to create an account to buy them. (On the website, click on e-ticket to sign up). These are the stations you need to know: Sentral Kuala Lumpur and Butterworth (Penang station). The train schedule There are two different schedules for the trains going to Penang, one at 15:50 PM arriving at 22:20 PM called Ekspress Rakyat and one at 20:00 PM arriving at 5:25 AM the next day called Senandung Langkawi. We decided to take the night train so we could get to Penang early in the morning which saved us one night of hotel. Coaches and Fares The day train has 1st and 2nd class seats called Premiere and Superior. Premiere costs 67 RM ($21) for adult and 38 RM ($12) for children. Superior costs 34 RM ($11) for adult and 21 RM ($7) for children. The night train has 1st and 2nd class sleeper seats called Premiere and Superior. Premiere costs 80 RM (25) for the upper bed and 89 RM ($28) for the lower bed. Children costs 51 RM ($16) for upper and 60 RM ($19) for lower. For non-sleeper seats on the night train, there are two classes, Economy and Superior. Superior adult tickets cost 34 RM ($11) and 21 RM ($7) for children. Economy class tickets are 19 RM ($6) for adults and 12 RM ($4) for children. We chose to get the superior sleeper seats since we wanted to sleep during the train ride. For two upper bunk sleeper seats, we paid 80 RM which equaled to about $24. Leaving from KL Sentral Arrive at least 30 minutes before departure time and the waiting room is on the second floor right outside the KFC. You will go downstairs to board. The ride Neither of us have ever taken a train ride this long and at night so we were looking forward to it. We settled into our top bunks, putting our small luggage cases on top with our backpacks which fit pretty well. The only thing was that the bunks are not that long so I had to curl up a bit, for taller people they would definitely need to scrunch up their legs. Each bunk has a privacy curtain which makes sleeping much more comfortable. However they don’t turn off the lights so it’d help to bring an eye mask. Bunks come with a sheet and pillow and we fell asleep pretty fast after we took off. Temperature wise I was comfortable the whole trip with the sheet and a jacket. The train workers come around and check your ticket once the train starts going so have it with you. Also it’s not a non-stop journey to Butterworth as the train picks up people on the way and makes several stops. Don’t worry about missing yours though, one of the workers came and woke us up to let us know our stop was next. The train left on time and we arrived at Butterworth at around 5:20 AM. Onto Georgetown Once you arrive at the station, walk down to the left towards the exit and at the end, go up the pedestrian walkway (lots of steps) and follow that to get to the ferry terminal. One ticket costs 1.20 RM ($.40) for adults and it is free on the way back. The ferry ride takes about 15 minutes and once you arrive at the terminal, you can walk or take a taxi or bus to get to your hotel. If you want to take the bus but not sure which one to take, ask the information desk. The waiting room for the ferry Like this post? Click here to get more like this straight to your inbox!
Hotel Giraffe in New York City
One of the highlights about my trip to New York City this year was to experience a couple of great hotels in the Big Apple. I had heard a lot of great things about the hotels in New York, about how nice and beautiful they were. I was able to stay at two luxurious hotels during my time in NY, the first one I stayed was the Library Hotel and the second one I stayed at was Hotel Giraffe, another classy hotel in the Library Hotel collection. Hotel Giraffe in New York City Location The location of the Hotel Giraffe is very convenient and it worked for me since I was attending an internet marketing event very close from Times Square. From Hotel Giraffe it only took me 15 minutes walking and in the summer, it’s a really nice walk since it gave me a chance to explore and see the city. The subway station is one block away so I had no excuse to be late to my event. Staff and Service When I arrived at the front door of the hotel, a hotel staff member opened the door and asked me right away if I needed any help with my luggage. Since I was carrying just one little bag I told him no and he kindly showed me the way to the lobby. I think greeting your clients makes such a difference as a hotel since it makes them feel welcome from the first minute they step onto the property. I automatically felt comfortable and appreciated having someone show me the way. The staff from the front desk were extremely nice with me when I told them that this was my first time in New York City. They told me where to go, how to get to different places and they even gave me a map which they marked all the places I wanted to visit. They even wrote the different ways to get back to the hotel just in case I got lost which I found was extremely helpful. I’ve never been in a city so big before and it’s a little confusing for the first time. Something else I appreciated was that I arrived at the hotel around 12:30 pm. Although check-in was at 3 pm, they kept my luggage while I went to check the city until my room was ready. If you’re around the hotel from 5-8PM, they offer a free wine and cheese service which I took advantage of All the Hotel Giraffe Staff were very nice always willing to hepl My Room My room was the balcony suite with 1 king bed so I had a separate sleeping area and living room area. So much space! You could perfectly fit 3 or 4 people in here with more than enough space. With modern decorations, incredibly comfortable furniture (I didn’t want to get out of bed), a desk and so many extra amenities, I had everything I needed and more for an extremely comfortable stay in luxury. The bathroom had a big tub, lots of towels and was very clean. They also give you fluffy robes which is not a common thing in Costa Rica so I enjoyed relaxing in my comfy robe and the bottle of wine that night One thing I loved the most was that they actually wrote me a card with our tan feet pictures inside! That was an extremely kind personal gesture which you don’t usually receive from other hotels. The balcony had a view of the city and you could go outside to take a look. Watch the video as I take you around the room! The Hotel Giraffe also includes breakfast with delicious bagels, different kind of bread, yogurts and fruits. Everything was fresh and their coffee was really good! Overall Thoughts I loved my time at Hotel Giraffe and hope to go back again when we visit New York City. Samantha couldn’t come with me this time and was a little (actually a lot) jealous when she saw all my pictures of my room. So next time I’d like to enjoy it with her! The room is beautifully decorated, comfortable and has everything you need for a great time in New York City. The staff is wonderful, you can ask them for anything and they’re willing to help. I couldn’t think of a better place or had a better experience for my first time to NYC! The name of the hotel is very unique and memorable, there’s not many giraffe hotels around. They mirror their philosophy after one of the most beloved animals on earth to make their hotel elegant and exquisite just like a giraffe. If you go to New York City for vacation or business definitely look up Hotel Giraffe. With a great location and decent price for NYC, you can’t ask for anything more. It’s good for business travelers, couples for a romantic getaway or families. Or really just anyone who is visiting NYC and wants to stay at one of the nicest hotels in the area. You can find more information about the hotel on their website. I’d like to thank Hotel Giraffe for hosting me and as always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.
Traveler Interview with Nick and Dariece from Goats on the Road
I’m pleased to have Nick and Dariece from Goats on the Road for our featured traveler interview this week! This Canadian duo has been conquering not only the world but also the travel blogging world for the past few years. Read more about their adventures and travels in some truly off the beaten path destinations! Meet Nick and Dariece from Goats on the road Please introduce yourself. Who are you and tell us a bit about your blog We’re Nick and Dariece, a 30-year-old Canadian couple. We’ve been travelling the world for 5 years now and have only been back to Canada for a total of 3 months since being away! We have been running the travel website Goats On The Road for about 2 and a half years now. Our blog is all about turning travel into a way of life. We inspire people to live a financially sustainable, location independent lifestyle, and have found many great ways to make money abroad and we share those ideas on our website. We also have in-depth guides to various countries, travel stories & videos, as well as information and advice to help people prepare for a trip. Us on a “hash” here in Grenada You two have been to some countries most people won’t even consider like Uzbekistan and Iran. How did you guys go about choosing them and what made you decide to go there? We had been teaching English in China and were thinking about where we wanted to go to next. We looked at a map and thought that a cool route would be to go up north through Mongolia and Russia via the Trans-Mongolian/Trans-Siberian Train, then down south into Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan) and finally, Iran. We’ve always enjoyed visiting places that are considered “off the beaten path” so the route just seemed logical! Rarely do we listen to the Government travel advisories, or listen to the negative (and often untrue) western media. We wanted to go to Central Asia for an adventure, and we wanted to backpack through Iran because we had heard amazing things about it from fellow travellers. We knew the newscasts had to be false and wanted to go and shatter any misconceptions we may have had about the Islamic Republic, which we definitely ended up doing. Iran is a very safe country with incredibly hospitable people. At 4,600m trekking in Tajikistan. The Great Pamir Range and Zor-Kul Lake in Afghanistan behind us Anything in particular you two love to do in every country as adventure seekers? We’re not adventurous in the sense that we go bungee jumping or skydiving, but we really like to go hiking & trekking, we enjoy camping, finding lesser-known places and Nick loves to scuba dive! You guys like to slow travel. Tell us 3 reasons why. You’re right about that! During our first backpacking trip around SE Asia and India, we felt like we had to move around quite a bit in order to see everything. We wanted to tick countries and sites off of our list and found ourselves travelling every 3-5 days (although we did spend a whole month on the island of Koh Tao in Thailand!) We loved this style of travel at the time, and although we have no regrets, we now feel like we missed out on so much. Travelling slower lets us really feel the country, rather than just seeing the sights. We’re able to learn how the local people live, learn more about their customs and culture, and find places that others who are whizzing by may not find. When you travel slower, life is less stressful! Isn’t that what travel is all about? We love being able to unpack our backpacks (even if it’s just for a week) and somewhat settle into our guesthouse and saunter around the city at our own pace. No rush, no stress. Another reason we travel slower is to save some cash! The cost of trains, flights and buses can really add up. If you’re only moving every week or more, your wallet will be happier. What are your best tips for someone who is thinking about visiting some of the lesser-visited countries and what should they expect? I would say to go with an open mind. Travel days can be unpredictable, difficult and stressful at times. Many of the off the beaten path places don’t have the tourism infrastructure that countries like Thailand, Italy or Argentina have. Buses & trains might not run like clockwork, if at all. In some places, you travel around by shared car, or hitchhiking. Hotels may be few and far between and many locals won’t speak the same language as you. But isn’t that all part of the adventure?! Buy a phrasebook for the country you’re going to so that you can communicate with locals, do some research online before going so you’ll know what to expect, and get a guidebook. Be open to sleeping in home stays, embrace the local people and their culture, and enjoy being one of the few tourists around. A curious boy at a home stay in Kyrgyzstan…a blogger in the making? Have you ever encountered any dangers on your travels? There was one time in particular when we were in Kenya. I was sitting on a curb waiting for our bus to show up when I noticed a shadow over me. I sort of saw that it was a man (who looked quite disheveled) and he reached into his pants – I figured he was pulling out his family jewels so I immediately looked away. The next thing I know, Nick is running down the street yelling and chasing this guy. When he came back I said: “What happened? I looked away”, to which Nick replied “He pulled out a knife and held it at you!” eek! What’s one of your best travel memories together? This is a hard one. Probably our three-week stay at an ashram in India. During that time, we practiced yoga twice a day, meditated and learned about Vedic chanting. We went to fire ceremonies on the banks of the Ganges River with the ashram’s Guru, were invited to an Indian wedding and saw a live performance by one of our favourite yogic chanters, Krishna Das. We both grew and changed so much together during that time, it was a very memorable travel experience. Fire ceremony on the banks of the Ganges River in India What’s on the agenda for the goats for the rest of 2014? Well, we’ll be in Grenada until November 7th and then we are flying to Mexico! We plan to stay in a little surfing village for about 2 months, until January…then we’ll move on. We’re not sure where we’re going after January, but most likely into Central and South America. Author’s Bio: Nick and Dariece are the couple behind Goats On The Road, a website designed to show others how to turn their travels into a lifestyle. Masters at making money abroad, they’ve been on the road since 2008 and have explored some of the least visited places on earth. They’re also full-time contributors at Credit Walk where they share their expertise of long-term travel. Follow them on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and YouTube.
17 Day South Korea Expenses Wrap Up
South Korea was the second country on our Asia list when we booked tickets but it was for a reason much more than to travel, we were going to go find Yeison’s father’s grave. Granted, we still wanted to take advantage of our time there and experience Korea for Yeison to get in touch with his father’s side as he never had the chance to before. Even though he is half Korean, he’s culturally 0% Korean (OK maybe 1% he does know how to use chopsticks and loves kimchee) South Korea surprised us in many ways. First, except for Yeison’s recent trip to New York City neither of us had been in a big city in a long time. And Seoul is a huuuuge city with a huge amount of people. We were definitely not prepared for that! Second, embarrassingly neither of us looked up any important Korean words before we went (I know, bad travelers). I don’t know if we just got unlucky but not many people we talked to spoke English and we had to resort to a lot of body language. We ended doing a lot of sightseeing in South Korea, trying to soak in as much culture and history as we could. This was also different to the type of traveling we did in Central America where we did mostly outdoor adventure activities but it was a pleasant change. I highly enjoyed doing more sightseeing and learning more about the Korean culture, beyond all the soap operas I used to watch! South Korea turned out to be a bit more expensive than we thought and we went a bit over budget. Let’s crunch the numbers to show you why and see how much we spent for our 17 day trip in South Korea. *1000 won equals roughly 1 USD (easy to remember). 17 day South Korea Expenses Wrap up Our Itinerary: Incheon: 1 day Seoul: 11 days Busan: 5 days Incheon We flew into Incheon International Airport and stayed for one night. Airfare: Flying to South Korea from Taiwan is not a long flight at all, it is just 2 and a half hours. Though we would have preferred to fly Air Asia, they don’t offer this particular route so we found a ticket on tripsta.com for $195 one person one way with Asiana Air. We flew from Taoyuan International Airport into Incheon International Airport. Accommodation: We stayed at Incheon Airport Yegrina Hotel for $48 a night. If you need a place to stay near the airport, this is a great option. They have a free shuttle to and from the airport, free Wi-Fi and includes breakfast. Seoul Accommodation: We used AirBnB and found a place to stay during our time in Seoul for $30 a day. I was incredibly happy with how our first experience with AirBnB turned out and highly recommend it as an alternative choice to hotels, especially if you’re traveling on a budget and want a more local experience. $330 + AirBnB Fees = $334 for 11 nights Transportation: From Incheon Airport we took the subway to Seoul which cost around 8000 won. The place we stayed at was outside Seoul so we had to take a public bus to get to the city. I have to say, Seoul honestly has the best public transportation system we have ever experienced. It’s fast, efficient and cheap! We spent a total of $15 together taking the bus from Daehak-dong to Seoul nearly everyday. Tip: To take the public bus, you need to buy a bus card called T-Money and put credit on it which you can do at a convenience store. You have to scan it when you get on and off. For the rest of our time we took the subway which was around $3.00 for two people each trip. Once you get inside the city, you can walk everywhere. Taking the subway is incredibly easy even if you don’t know Korean as there are signs and maps everywhere and the information people all speak English. Tip: Download the Subway app and you’re golden. It tells you which lines to take to your destination, how much it costs and how long it’ll take. And you don’t need Wi-Fi to use it. So helpful! Food: This was the big ouchie. Food was not as cheap as we thought it’d be especially after spending a few days in Taiwan before Korea. We spent roughly $35 a day even though we ate a lot of ramen and cheap pastries. Despite staying in a college town area, meals were about the same prices in the States at $7-10 a person. I was sad to see that coffee was quite expensive at $3.50 for a small Americano (just regular black coffee) so we drank instant coffee instead. This was hard for us to keep under budget because we wanted to try as much Korean food as possible since it is so damn tasty! Yeison was so excited to find an all you can eat Korean bbq buffet for $9! Activities: Since most of the things we did were sightseeing, we weren’t paying for many tours or entrance fees. We went on the Seoul city bus tour which was $12 per person and visited Changdeokgung Palace which was $8 a person. The rest of the time we visited markets like Insadong and Dongdaemun, went to Yeouido Park to meet up with some other Ticos and watch a concert and hiked Gwanaksan Mountain which was right next to our apartment. All free (except for souvenir shopping at the markets). Souvenirs: I was the one who spent a bigger chunk of money on souvenirs. I spent most of my souvenir money on Korean beauty products which ran me about $75 total. But I would have spent a whole lot more if I had more space in my luggage! Busan On our travel day to Busan, we decided to first go to Yeison’s father’s grave in Youngcheon. We took the KTX from Seoul to Dongdaegu, the slow train to Youngcheon and then the slow train and subway to Busan. We really wanted to take the KTX to experience it but it is expensive! For two people we paid $76. It is really fast though, we got to Dongdaegu in about 2 hours or so. Accommodation: We stayed at Pusainn Motel next to Busan Station. In the area are a lot of places to eat for a decent price open 24 hours and for a budget hotel it was a great choice for us. Free wi-fi, friendly staff, clean and had a desk in the room. Plus it’s right across the street from the subway station which made it incredibly convenient. For 5 nights we paid $214. Food: Food in Busan ran us a tad bit cheaper at about $25 a day. There were some places around our hotel that had really cheap Korean food which we went often. You could get a bowl of soondubu for $4 so you can probably guess what I ate during our time there! Activities: The first two days we were in Busan it was pouring down rain and storming like crazy so we just stayed in and worked. One day we met up with another blogger, Meagan from LifeOutsideofTexas who took us around Busan and showed us some of her favorite spots. We did a bit of shopping, eating and sightseeing. On our last day we visited Haedong Yonggung temple and Haeundae beach. Besides paying for the subway and bus fare which was just a few dollars, it was free. Total expenses Our grand total came out to be about $1200 which is $70 a day. Unfortunately, it was the food prices that made us go over budget. I do have to note we weren’t eating at expensive or fancy places either so it would have been a lot more if we were. This does not include airfare. What we loved about South korea: Food, ease of transportation and the Wi-Fi. Korean food is so dang delicious. I absolutely love soon dubu, Korean bbq and oh so much more. When you go to Korea, make sure to eat and try as many new things as you can plus the price of beer is cheap (we finally discovered what was happy water). The city is very modern with lots of tall buildings, offices and did I mention again that I love their Wi-Fi? After coming from Costa Rica where we struggled to get steady 2mb internet, we were in Wi-Fi heaven. 70 mb at our AirBnB place! Getting around Seoul and Busan almost became second nature to us after taking the subway almost everyday. Especially with the app, we figured out how to get everywhere we wanted to go using the subway and public bus. Just an extra that I loved but Yeison didn’t quite care for. I loved how cute everything was! Girls you will have a blast shopping in Korea because everything from the the tape dispenser to the clothes hangers is downright adorable. My favorite activity? Visiting a cat cafe. Soo many adorable kitties to play with! Bummer I missed the puppy cafe though! Yeison’s favorite activity? Biking the Han River and testing out the Wi-Fi connection at all the Apple stores we ran into. What we didn’t love As someone who grew up somewhere that said “sorry” and “excuse me” when you bump into someone, it was a shocker to be in a society where everyone ran each other over. Although the subway is easy to use, actually riding it was like running a 50 meter sprint with too many people stuffed on the track. Everyone just pushes and shoves their way on and off and doesn’t give a sh*t if they hit you or step on you. This was something I just couldn’t get used to. Also there is a lot of garbage in the neighborhood streets and the place we were staying at near Seoul National University smelled pretty bad with food spilled over everywhere. This was not very pleasant. However, the main streets in the city itself are nice and clean. Cost of food. $17 for fried chicken? No thanks. We were still able to scope out some cheap local eats but it still was much more than we expected. Wrap up I think if I knew what I know now about South Korea, we wouldn’t have stayed so long. We went to Malaysia afterwards and after being frustrated with the crowds and high price of food, we were incredibly happy in Malaysia. Don’t get me wrong, we had a great time in South Korea and accomplished what we went there to do but after 17 days, we were ready to go and explore a new country. Koreans are a very interesting group of people. You could tell that they are in a transition period with their mindsets and way of thinking when it comes to traditional versus modern. Young people were much more open to talk and help us whereas the older generations you could tell shied away. Although Seoul is very modern, you can still see old temples and historical places right in the middle of a touristic area. For first time travelers to Asia, I think South Korea is a great option. It’s so easy to get around, you’ll find something you like to eat and the city actually reminds me a lot of cities in the US (besides the obvious language difference). There are quite a few areas where you can find many foreigners and meet other travelers who are also on a long term Asia trip. Like this post? Click here to get more like this straight to your inbox!