Budget travel at it’s finest!!
How do you plan your travels? Are they based on budget? Location? Weather? Starting my travels first in Mongolia then Nepal was a good choice. Logistically speaking, it was good to get those long legs of travel behind me. Mongolia, geographically, is kind of out in the middle of nowhere and because it’s not a popular destination, flights almost always route through China. It took nearly 24 hours to get to Kathmandu from Ulan Bator, even though it’s not actually that far as the crow flies! As far as the weather is concerned, I couldn’t have planned better. Mongolia in the summer is magical and the temps. in September/October are ideal for trekking in the Himalayas (although, I will say, it was way hotter in Nepal than I expected)!
Mongolia and Nepal also offer fewer amenities to the traveler, and that’s quite ok, so long as, for me anyway, I’m “mentally prepared.” After spending the better part of three months without flushing toilets, toilet paper, heck even western toilets, running water, warm water, air con, and so many other “luxuries” we’ve grown to accept as the norm in the west, I was looking forward to getting to Thailand last November.
I’ve stayed in so many different places since I’ve started my travels, from AirBnB apartments, hostels, Mongolian gers, apartment, hotels, even a few nights in luxury accommodations to some straight up cheap crap holes. But the cheap makes having the nice even nicer. And so was the situation in Melaka, Malaysia. I blindly booked the cheapest place in town. After all the plane tickets I recently bought, paying off a portion of my credit card from my surgery, and upcoming travel plans with others, I wanted to save some money. The place I booked was called the Backpacker’s Freak Hostel and even though the name was really off putting, I booked anyway. For about $4.50 a night, I figured I’d manage. It was in a decent location, central to the shopping malls and other conveniences, and also a short walking distance from Jonker Walk and some other noteworthy historical places.
Although I’d booked a room in a 6 bed dorm (sometimes I prefer that to meet people), I was given a room with a cold, metal framed bunk bed for two. There was one dusty particle board table that showed evidence of wear and tear. It had those elevated crusty bumps, likely from sweaty bottles of water, dripping in the heat and aircon-less small room. It didn’t have any windows and the bed, while not as soft as I prefer, smelled of old man. There was a worn old fleece blanket on the end that I opted not to use, and instead dug out my beach cloth to cover the pillow and mask the smell. I was alone in the room. In fact, I was alone at the hostel. Nobody else was there.
With daily temperatures in the 90s with 85% humidity, a shower is a must, especially after my workouts in the Boon Leong Gym “Museum,” yet one day, when I got home, the water barely trickled out. It felt like I was showering under a water bubbler. The next day was worse, there was no water. And that went on for at least three days… Luckily my new American friends were kind enough to let me shower in their hotel room a couple of times, but my mind was made up, it was time to go! I had found a modern looking Hostel on Booking.com, but I hesitated as it was about $12.50 a night. Now, however, I didn’t care. I wanted air con, a bed that didn’t smell of old man, and water. It didn’t even have to be hot. So, not only does the Flashpackers Hostel have all that, but they have a washer and dryer, clean facilities, comfortable beds, a kitchen area complete with snacks, breakfast, coffee, and tea, and some common areas as well.
For $12.50 a night, it felt like the Ritz considering where I’d just spent the last few nights. It was so nice, in fact, I stayed there for hours after I checked in and added an extra night. I was so comfortable there, I did laundry, and even got a fair amount of work done with the help of a hot cup of coffee in the well lit and cool kitchen.
I think I learned something that week! Even though I’m rarely bothered by what I come across on the road, it’s definitely nice to have some basic amenities like water! And a comfortable bed, certainly a plus. I may not try too many more low budget accommodations if they are like the “Freak” place, but you never know… We did have nice guest houses along the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal and some were practically free. In any case, Hom is my home in Bangkok and Flashpackers will definitely be my home in Melaka.