I always take photos of my hotel rooms upon checking in, but I often forget to actually share them. Today, I thought I’d do a photo dump and quick review of all the hotels I stayed at during this recent trip to Southeast Asia, as well as share some thoughts on the neighborhoods. I’ve also lumped in the two hotels that I stayed at when I went to Singapore in January 2022, since I never wrote about them on the blog.
All rates in this post are in CHF (Swiss francs). The exchange rate seems to change constantly, but as of this writing, 1 CHF = 1.08 USD, and 1 EUR = 1.01 CHF.
Eleven Hotel Bangkok Sukhumvit 11
Nightly rate: CHF 73
This was a nice, modern, elegant hotel in Sukhumvit, a bustling neighborhood popular with western tourists. I didn’t do much homework when booking my stay in Bangkok; since I had to work remotely for Geneva from 1pm to 10pm each day, I was just looking for a hotel that had a good workstation setup. This place seemed to check the boxes.
Unfortunately, the first room I stayed at had such a terrible odor that I lost my mind and booked an emergency second hotel with a balcony, just to get away from the smell for a few days. (I wrote about the experience in detail here.) When I came back, I changed to a different room on the same floor, and thankfully the new room smelled fine. None of the windows in this hotel can be opened, so if that’s something that bugs you, stay away.
Breakfast was the best thing about staying here. It was served on the 9th floor, with a rooftop pool and lovely view of the city. The buffet was small but diverse, with Indian, Malay, and western dishes, fruits, congee, etc. Eggs were cooked on site.
I intensely disliked Sukhumvit as a neighborhood — overpriced, overly westernized, terrible sidewalk situation — and would not return to it again.
Royal Princess Larn Luang
Nightly rate: CHF 67
Neighborhood: Google Maps isn’t super clear on what this part of town is called, but it’s close to the Government House and all the major government buildings
This was the emergency hotel I booked to get away from the first one. Another reason for staying here was that I had figured out that by Bangkok traffic standards, I was insanely far away from my organization’s Bangkok office and needed to move closer in order to not spend two hours commuting each way. By staying here, I was able to walk to the office, which took 18 minutes.
Compared to the first hotel, this place was noticeably more dated, especially in the bathroom. However, there was a large desk to work from, and the balcony offered a refreshing pool view. Aside from the power going out during my first few hours there, it was a comfortable place to stay. Breakfast was a decent western and Thai buffet, with lots of vegetarian options.
The neighborhood did not offer what tourists usually look for, which is restaurants, coffee shops, cute little stores, etc. It seemed very sparse and isolated, especially at night. I felt unsafe leaving the hotel after sundown. I would only recommend staying here for work trip situations.
Daraya Boutique Hotel
Nightly rate: CHF 74
Neighborhood: Pathum Wan
I stayed in this hotel for a final night before flying back to Geneva. The folks working here were super nice and friendly, which is always a pleasant surprise. No frills and no breakfast, unfortunately, but the location is so central that it’s easy to find something nearby.
This is my absolute favorite neighborhood in Bangkok. Busy, central, great sidewalks, with a ton of huge, opulent, tacky malls. (My favorite was centralwOrld, where I got some wonderful Thai souvenirs. I also really like the Loft and Ecotopia stores inside Siam Discovery.) Jim Thompson House and the river are also a block away, and the Bangkok Arts and Culture Center is two blocks away. Just a great place to be.
Chiang Mai, Thailand
Hotel Loy Chiang Mai
Nightly rate: CHF 188
Neighborhood: Just outside the city gates, southeast corner
I splurged on this hotel because I was reaching the end of the three-week trip and wanted to treat myself. It was just super lovely. The Asian-themed decor was beautiful. There was a private bathtub in the back yard, but when I tried to run a bath, I guess there was a hole somewhere and the water kept draining, so I gave up.
Breakfast was cooked to order. Each morning, they would give you a menu of both western and Asian options and tell you to choose two dishes. I would usually ask for an east-meets-west combination like fried noodles and French toast. It was filling and delicious.
Nightly rate: CHF 42
Neighborhood: Old Quarter
I chose this hotel because I liked the vintage feel of the decor. It’s also in a great location, surrounded by tons of restaurants and shops, and a 10-minute walk from Hoàn Kiếm Lake, which was a really nice pedestrian area (it was so hard to find a place in Hanoi that was free from scooters, so this was a welcome respite). There was a cute balcony.
The young woman who worked at reception was one of the friendliest people I met during this trip. Maybe the friendliest person I’ve ever met in hospitality, period. One thing I did find disappointing, though, was that they didn’t help much with making travel plans. The hotel had messaged me multiple times before my trip, saying that their in-house travel agency could help book tours and excursions around Vietnam. But when I arrived and asked if they could help me book a boat tour of Ha Long Bay, as soon as I clarified that I was looking for a day tour, not a multiple-night boat cruise, they were like, dunno, can’t help you there, just book it yourself when you get to Ha Long. I did, and ended up getting majorly ripped off. I guess they only help with booking travel when they’re able to make a sizeable commission.
Cleanliness was not great at this hotel. The chairs shown in the photo still had the previous guest’s long hairs stuck to them. The bedsheets had what appeared to be old blood stains. At the breakfast buffet downstairs, there were fruit flies crawling on anything that was not covered. The buffet itself was very small, but there was an auntie on site who could cook a number of hearty dishes.
Ha Long, Vietnam
D’Lecia Ha Long Hotel
Nightly rate: CHF 49
Neighborhood: Near Hồ Cái Dăm
I was very surprised by how nice this hotel was. I had just spent the majority of the day on a boat tour in Ha Long Bay and had gotten ripped off, approached multiple times by annoying old men, completely ignored by customer service people that I tried to talk to, stranded at the port with no ride, and was just physically and psychologically very stressed. Then the cab pulled up at the hotel, and I was stunned. It looked so fancy from the outside — like a luxury 1920s building in its heyday. The inside was similarly beautifully designed.
Unfortunately, the credit card reader at the hotel wasn’t working, so I had to pay in cash, which was about 1,250,000 dong. I also asked them to book a taxi driver to take me to Van Don airport the next morning, which cost 900,000 dong and also had to be paid in cash (I feel like I also got ripped off there, but I didn’t know how else I could get to the airport — not like there was a city bus or anything). I didn’t have millions of dong on me, so I went to the next street over and went to every single ATM, trying them one by one, until I finally found one at the end of the street that would accept western cards. FYI, it’s the one at VIB Bank.
Breakfast at the hotel was fantastic. I was the only guest there, and three people were there just to wait on me. No one at the hotel really spoke English, so there were some crossed signals, and they brought me sausage and bacon. I’m pecastarian, but I was super pressed for time and didn’t care to make a fuss, so I just ate it.
The neighborhood was really weird. Most people who visit Ha Long Bay stay overnight on one of the many, many cruises boats, so it seems Ha Long city itself is not that touristy. When I went outside at night to look for dinner, there were a lot of restaurants, but most of them were empty, and so were the streets. It was such a strange atmosphere, because there were all these beautiful, luxurious-looking hotels and all these nice restaurants — and just no one was around. It felt post-apocalyptic. But the next morning, when I was out trying all the ATMs, the streets were busy again and I had to scramble to avoid all the cars and scooters.
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Calista Saigon Hotel
Nightly rate: CHF 42
Neighborhood: Near the Reunification Palace
It was after leaving Ha Long and arriving in Ho Chi Minh City that I had a really bad anxiety attack. I think I was overwhelmed from all the noise and pollution and getting ripped off and people constantly staring at me on the street. After I got into the hotel room, I pulled the curtains shut and just lay in bed for the rest of the day.
This place was very basic and no-frills, but it was comfortable enough. I had a good view of the city from the window. They had a small, mostly western breakfast buffet, and it was in a nice, sunny room on the top floor. There was someone to cook eggs to order. Someone stole my toast.
The location was good. You can walk to the Reunification Palace quite easily. There are a couple of other museums, such as the Fine Arts Museum, that are “walkable” on paper, but when I tried it, it turned out to be an eight-lane-intersection-with-no-pedestrian-lights-and-tons-of-scooters-coming-at-you situation. I spent a lot of time at two malls nearby, Saigon Centre and Takashimaya. Both were really nice and had a zillion food options.
George Town, Penang, Malaysia
Nightly rate: CHF 116 (note: this was the rate for my original booking, which was with a cheaper hotel)
Neighborhood: Near Chew Jetty
I had originally booked a stay at the East Indies Mansion, which looked beautiful with its traditional Chinese and Peranakan decor. Unfortunately, the hotel messaged me prior to the stay to say that my room would not be available due to renovations, and they rebooked me to a different hotel that was more expensive. I agreed.
88 Armenian turned out to be a small boutique hotel with only six rooms. The guy who was working at the concierge desk was super nice, and it felt like the service was really personalized. They would be like, when do you want to have your breakfast tomorrow? And when I offhandedly mentioned that I don’t eat meat, they made a vegan dim sum for me without my asking for it.
While I was in Penang, I met up with a local photographer for a portrait session. We walked past the hotel at one point (the town is tiny), and the photographer pointed at it and said, “You can tell this building is owned by Singaporeans.”
I tried to keep a poker face. “Oh, uh, how can you tell?”
“Because they like to take our traditional buildings and paint the entire exterior white.” (I asked the concierge about this the next day, and he confirmed this.)
I think the next time I come back to Penang, I’d still try to stay at the East Indies Mansion, just because it seems to have so much style and personality. But the 88 Armenian is great, and I’d strongly recommend it.
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
8 Kia Peng Residences
Nightly rate: CHF 89
I’m not sure why, but when I tried to book a stay in KL, 99% of the offerings on Booking.com were for serviced apartments. I really don’t like staying in apartments for leisure travel unless I’m with several family members. The way I see it, there’s no upside to them: no breakfast; no reception to call immediately if there’s an issue; no place to store your luggage after you check out.
Just due to the sheer lack of options, I ended up booking an apartment in KL. When I arrived at reception and tried to check in, I was told coldly that my reservation was not with them. “The apartment you booked was an Airbnb,” they said. Wut? I immediately called the property manager, who had been in communication with me via Whatsapp. She quickly came to meet me with the keys.
The apartment was on the 25th floor, and when I walked in, I was gobsmacked by the view. There was a stunning view of the KLCC/Petronas Towers, arguably the most well-known landmark in KL. It looked even more magnificent at night, a veritable city of lights.
Unfortunately, the apartment was lacking in other areas. No hand soap was provided, and there was a fruit fly infestation. The floor of the living room was littered with dead fruit flies. There were even dead fruit flies in the fridge. As I was eating a sandwich, two fruit flies landed on it. I was so hungry that I just batted them away and kept eating it.
Regarding location: on paper, this property seems to be very close to KLCC. In reality, it’s about an 18-minute walk away, out of a cul-de-sac and then through a large park. There are no shops, restaurants, or convenience stores within an 18-minute walk of this place. If I come back to KL again, I would pay a premium to stay at a real hotel instead of an apartment.
Parkroyal Collection Pickering
Nightly rate: CHF 254
I stayed at this hotel in January, when I did my VTL trip to Singapore. I think it might have been the first five-star hotel I’d ever stayed at, and it was marvelous. The hotel’s whole gimmick is that it’s kind of an urban garden, an oasis adorned in lush greenery in the middle of busy Singapore. And it totally lived up to that. It was just a beautifully designed, very modern, and very refreshing presence. The music in the elevator was a rap song that had been written about this specific hotel, which was so tacky that it went all the way around to being a banger.
They had the nicest breakfast spread I had ever seen. It was a gigantic room with not only tons of buffets, but also different stations dedicated to different types of cuisine: Chinese, Malay, western. There were chefs to cook and prepare dishes for you. I ate like a king.
Chinatown is hands-down my favorite neighborhood in Singapore. I ate so many delicious meals at Chinatown Point, the mall that’s just across the street from this hotel. And so many of the tourist attractions are in or near Chinatown, so it’s a great place especially for a first-time visitor.
I loved this hotel and wanted to stay there again when I came back to Singapore in December, but alas, it was just too expensive and I couldn’t justify spending so much. Huge bummer.
Marina Bay Sands
Nightly rate: CHF 404
Neighborhood: Marina Bay
For the last night of my trip to Singapore in January, I was so curious about this hotel that I splurged for a one-night stay in one of their cheapest rooms. This is the famous hotel that looks like a giant ship in the air, which I think was featured in the movie “Crazy Rich Asians”. It’s also known for having an infinity pool, which offers a 365-degree view of Singapore.
Honestly, this was a huge waste of money. The hotel was more about hype than actual substance. When you check in, the atmosphere inside feels like an airport. And the decor in the room felt very tacky, like it hadn’t been updated since the 1980s. You also had to pay for breakfast (?!), which felt like a personal affront, given the exorbitant price of the room.
Only guests were allowed to access the rooftop infinity pool, which was free, at least. It provided a nice view of the city, and even at 6 or 7am, the weather was nice and warm.
Marina Bay is a nice, upscale neighborhood. It’s where a lot of people run and cycle. There’s a large, glittery mall here, and the Gardens by the Bay are a beautiful little ecosystem. It’s not my favorite part of Singapore just because it feels a little too expensive and sterile, but a nice place to visit.
Nightly rate: CHF 164
Neighborhood: City Hall
When I came back to Singapore in December, I was strapped for cash and just stayed at the cheapest place I could find that had OK reviews. This turned out to be lyf, located inside Funan Mall. It’s one of those hotels that tries really hard to be “an experience”, with lots of cutesy drawings and inspirational quotes and spaces dedicated to coworking. I think digital nomads would appreciate these things a bit more.
Despite being really minimal and no-fuss, this was actually a really great place to stay. Being literally inside the mall meant that you could go downstairs anytime to eat at one of the many restaurants or food court vendors. Funan Mall itself is kind of meh, but I’m convinced you can’t find bad food in Singapore. The mall is also connected to City Hall, the nearest subway station. And there was on-site coin laundry, which is a lifesaver when travelling in Southeast Asia, because you are always sweaty.