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Coriacea Boutique Resort (Phuket, Thailand)

4 Case Rating
Location The hotel is located about 10 minutes drive north of airport. You can actually walk down the beach about 10-15 minutes and be located at end of runway, great for watching planes come & go. The only issue is the taxis don't do share vans like they do to Phuket town or Patong in which those places cost like 150baht. To get to Mai Khao is a extortionate fee of 600 baht for a 5-10min journey. About 10 times the price of Bangkok taxis. However after discussing with staff for return journey, I was advised to use grab app in which is about half the price, it's like Uber. Mai Khao is about 5-10 min bicycle ride, it is a small little village but does have a few restaurants, pharmacy, 7-11 & some massage places but don't expect a lively night life spot. The hotel location is quiet with a very clean and nice beach with great sunset, perfect if you need to be close to airport. Some people have commented on aircraft noise but this is only noticeable by the pool on the beach, where you can see take off but at a distance and certainly no overhead planes. Room The room is very nice and meeting a good standard. I found no such mould smell that another reviewer commented on. It's a boutique room with a comfortable mattress topped king size bed. Decent quality and well thought out comfort bedding. The bed offers flexible reading lights, bedside tables & US plug sockets either side. Nice coloured walls and a photo creating a relaxing beach-feel ambience. Facing the bed is a large long desk with a stool facing a mirror. Good for making up but not so much for working due to no plugs nearby. A colourful arm chair and large TV also faces you. Full satellite cable channels that has something suitable for all international travellers to watch. There is a nice luggage rack & mini bar fridge with various items. A large wardrobe with laptop size safe and robes are also offered. The bathroom is of adequate size, very clean and new (hotel is only a year old) offering a rain shower and detachable head. They offer some mini bottle amenities of shower gel, shampoo and conditioner plus dental & vanity sets. The bathroom like majority of new Asian hotels has a window that faces the bedroom but blinds are offered for privacy. The room also offers a large balcony with a comfortable bench suitable for smokers. My room was in lower price bracket and faced the lagoon. It was ok and quiet. The sea view would be nice upgrade though since the sunsets are quite stunning. Overall the highlight of the room was the soft bed in which reminded me close to the Sofitel beds but not quite, though very comfortable and has a warm boutique ambience. Facilities There is fast speed secure wifi for multiple devices hotel wide. For catering the hotel offers a bar and restaurant in which offered a full Thai menu and I enjoyed the tasty yellow curry priced around 200 baht. Cocktails are well made and would recommend their signature Blue Coriacea. They offer a happy hour during sunset hours of 150bt per cocktail. Breakfast overall was a better standard than many Thai hotels I have stayed at outside of Bangkok with three hot food options, eggs as you like it, pancakes or Thai soup made to order but also a continental buffet is offered with breads & fruits. There is a pool, smaller than expected on photos but is nice for a cool dip with fantastic views of beach in front, it's an Infiniti design and there is a swim up bar that didn't seem to be in operation when I was there despite hotel being full. They also offer a gym but the main highlight to me was the free use of bicycles to cycle around the beach, which has a dedicated pathway or road to village. They have lights and the village is quiet so not dangerous to cycle about in which I enjoyed. There is no spa but the hotel can arrange a massage at hotel from local spas in village. If your hiring a car there is ample parking spaces. Staff Staff are generally very friendly but not very proactive. It's not a hotel where you can expect to be offered a drink when on sun loungers by pool but you have to go to bar which means going into restaurant. Not a great option if you are wet coming out of pool. They are quite strict with check-in times and arriving at 10am was told check-in is not open until 2 said in a blunt manner & had to ask if ok to wait by the pool which was not a problem. However asked for a towel and initially told not available but then was offered after asking someone else. Some staff do not speak English that well either. The manager though is very nice and she does the cocktails in the evening. Overall though for Phuket in which is saturated in tourism the staff at this hotel do have an enthusiastic upbeat smile to make passengers welcome and they acknowledge you, which is lacking in many beach hotels in Thailand these days. I certainly would stay at this hotel again when needing to be in Phuket as I enjoyed this very clean boutique hotel. It offers with a decent beach and enjoyed cycling around the village both daytime and in the evening thanks to the great perk to include free bikes since various places in town charge.
[geo_mashup_map enable_scroll_wheel_zoom="false"] Mai Khao, Thalang District, Phuket 83110, Thailand
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Taiwan – Antique Curtain Flower & Birds (Taipei Museum of History)

Taiwan – Antique Embroidered Flower & Fruits (Taipei Museum of History)

Andaman Pearl Resort (Krabi, Thailand)

3 Case Rating
Location The hotel is located down a side road amongst other accommodations about 5 minutes walk to main road down to Ao Nang Beach. The beach itself is a good 20-25 minute walk but tuk tuk charge 50 thb each person one way. The hotel also offers a shuttle service every 2-3 hours dependant on time of day. The area itself is close to a great limestone cliff back drop view from hotel. As you enter the Main Street there is a colourful Mosque and then some market stalls at night. A very good standard but expensive Spa of offered at end of road. From Krabi airport it takes about 30-45 minutes. The later if you take the public bus in which is 150 thb per person and the cheapest option plus the bus driver will directly drop you off at the hotel. Room The spacious but somewhat empty room located on the 3rd floor offered a comfortable king size bed. Bed side tables each side with a mellow lamps on each and left side offering a local plug socket and telephone. The room offered a mini bar in small fridge with a mixture of reasonably priced snacks & non alcoholic drinks. This is a Muslim hotel. Kettle is offered with simple powdered coffee and teas. Above all this at a left angle to the bed is the flat screen TV offering a guide of 40 channels, Local, US and Russian choices. Worked well. The room offers a table and stool with mirror and some further plug sockets. There is also a wardrobe offering a few coat hangers and a small safe, not large enough for a laptop but ok for smaller items. They offer no slippers or robes but a umbrella is in wardrobe. The bathroom is quite spacious but poorly thought out. For instance the open plan shower without curtains means water covers the floor so can be very slippy- there is no dedicated mat. A door mat is offered outside of entrance like for a house, very unusual. The shower has a seperate rain head and detachable with a heater unit you must set otherwise you will end up with cold water. Amenities are very poor, whilst towels are ok, they offer no soap to clean your hands and just basic mini bottles of shampoo and conditioner bottles of hotel brand. I think they would be better off offering a dispenser of shower gel (& soap) since most people prefer there own shampoo and conditioner. Bring your own tooth brush as well since nothing else is offered. One discerning factor is the fact they want you to place used toilet paper in waste paper basket. Not the most comfortable thing to do at a hotel and my previous stay in Ao Nang at another hotel did not require this. The room however does offer a nice balcony with pool views and a nice cliff back drop, it has some plastic chairs and great place to have a drink and watch the sunset. Overall it's a 2 star room standard but it was clean just lacking in functional amenities. Facilities The hotel operates free wifi but very frustrating since they seem to have about 20 different connections requiring login way to frequently since it consistently drops. Catering is very much limited to breakfast only and I was told room service only offered until about 9pm. Breakfast is pretty poor there are some hot dishes all halal but overall standard is terrible. OJ for instance is that powered kind and milk was not well refrigerated just like the melted butter - they should consider placing in ice. We stuck to toast but they do offer some nice cakes. Two of us in our group got food poisoning and we both ate the same breakfast, not previous nights dinner with same symptoms so was more than coincidental, we decided not to eat breakfast for remainder of our stay. Since it is a Muslim hotel there is no bar or any beer available unless you walk to local store. You can get water or cola at the reception. They also offer a pool of good size for laps but no other leisure facilities. No public computer either. Overall pool was nice with sun loungers and umbrellas. Wifi though requires frequent login especially with iPhones as experienced with all 3 of us. Laptops didn't seem to be a problem. Staff Staff overall are the strength of this hotel and the higher rating is based on them. Very kind reception staff, sincere that will go out there way for you. From front desk and cleaning staff all smile and seem sincere and enthusiastic. Overall we got a special rate on third party website which worked out just over 12kthb for 2 room for 4 nights. Still quite pricey but this was high season and the cheapest option for area the than hostels. However it is quite a trek from beach and main bar restaurant areas, saying that a chilled picturesque location with really nice staff. They just need to improve their wifi and functionality of amenities.
[geo_mashup_map enable_scroll_wheel_zoom="false"] 754-754/1, Soi Aonang 11/1, Moo 2 , Aonang, Muang, Krabi, Ao Nang, Krabi Town 81180, Thailand
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Swiss-Belhotel Harbour Bay (Batam, Indonesia)

4 Case Rating
Location Located in a central area in Batam not far from all the downtown area if not within. From the airport it takes about 30 minutes drive. Within area is a convenience store & reflexology across the road and some shops down a walk way. The harbour is also just down the road. Room Room was of decent size, modern with good lighting- very Chinese hotel design. The huge king size bed was very comfortable with a mattress topper offered. Bed side tables each side offering lamps and international plug sockets. No alarm clock but a phone is offered. Facing the bed is a clear TV with a good selection of channels not only local but some international choices. There is also a mini bar below with drink and food items. Plus a kettle on top for making hot drinks. The rooms offers an armchair, coffee table and glass top workable desk with lamp- next to international plugs. The room also has a luggage rack and wardrobe that includes a laptop size safe and slippers but no robes. The bathroom is also of good size offering a spacious shower cubicle but the water pressure seems to fade out now and then which you keep have to turn off and on again, Mini hotel branded bottles of body lotion, shower gel, shampoo and conditioner are offered as well as a full set of amenities such as shaver and dental kits etc. Then only weakness of the room was the digital AC unit - the room was presented hot and it took a long while with AC on with no temperature change so had to call maintenance. They did repair it but then the room became too cold and the fan is quite noisy. This did disrupt my sleep overall which was annoying. Facilities The hotel offers free WIFI which worked fine without any issue, it is not secure and multiple devices can be used. Leisure facilities include a smallish swimming pool but possible to do lengths- with sun loungers and some outdoor seating. There is also a separate male and female sauna and a gym with mostly cardio equipment. There is also a SPA and I had massage in which was quite average. Catering incudes a lounge bar, restaurant and cafe- did not use any of these due to late arrival and early departure. This is all in lobby area and is not that well ventilated - so found it quite hot even for check-in and check-out which is next to these facilities. The hotel does offer meeting and conference rooms as well. Staff Staff were ok but lacked efficiency, check-out took a while with only one staff in the morning, frustrating when you have only one car waiting to pick you up. Overall the bed was comfortable but the AC system let the room comfort down, and this seemed to be the case in the lobby and catering area's as well. It sort of wants to be 5 star but is obviously a 4 star hotel. However if I came back to Batam I would choose alternative hotel as sleep in the most comfortable and this was affected.
[geo_mashup_map enable_scroll_wheel_zoom="false"] Jl. Duyung, Sei Jodoh | Harbour Bay Complex, Batu Ampar, Riau Islands Province 29432, Indonesia
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The Arista Hotel Palembang (Palembang, Indonesia)

3 Case Rating
Location The Arista Hotel is located right in the centre of Palembang, very close a large shopping mall. The airport is around 45min-1 hour drive away. As the mall is across the road there are many shops and restaurants in the mall. Room The room is very spacious brown wooden finish room of walls and floor, offering a very large low level but comfortable king size bed. Bed side table drawers each side that include mellow lamps plus alarm clock radio and telephone on one side. The light switches are all controlled from one side however there are no power plugs- directly next to bed. Facing the bed is a large long wooden desk that includes sufficient space to work from with lamp and a comfortable office chair- two pin socket is offered here. To the right is a TV and some mini bar items. The TV offers 38 Channels of which most are local but some American channels such as Nat Geo, Star, Fox Sport etc, plus Russian TV, Japanese NHK & Al Jazeera. Below this is a mini bar with a small number of items such as drinks and Tobelrone. They are also offer in-house snacks as well. The desk at furthest end does have a kettle and bottle of water etc. There is a built into unit luggage rack as well. Facing this is a wardrobe that has a praying mat, Ironing board and iron plus a small safe. The room also offers some armchairs and a coffee table. Overall offers ambience from lights and has a large glass to floor window with a view of swimming pool. The main weakness is plug accessibility - which are limited to the desks area but nothing close to the bed say to charge phone etc. A large mirrored corridor at entrance is also where the smallish bathroom is. Quite a simple bathroom in comparison to the premium look of the room but still clean. A bath/shower combo is offered and amenities do include generous mini bottle hotel branded shower gel. shampoo & body lotion plus dental kits etc. The shower is not great as the water easily gets all over the floor. Overall the room is very quiet and comfortable, AC is quite dated but worked ok with dial system. Facilities The hotel offers secure WIFI in which worked at varying speeds, sometime quite slow, other times acceptable. There is a business centre and various computers around the lobby area. Catering I did not use but appears to show one Restaurant possibly Chinese, a Coffee shop with Indian food as well as bakery items and a lobby bar. I believe there is one other restaurant. In terms of leisure facilities there is a swimming pool of ok size to carry out lengths and some sun bathing chairs. Plus a mini pool as well perhaps for kids. There is also a gym facility offered which appears to have mostly cardio machines. Staff Staff are ok, initially at check-in asked for a non-smoking room (since only two floors are non-smoking) which was confirmed non smoking yet was given one anyway. However changed it but meant a hassle of having to go back to reception for a 2nd time, which was annoying. However staff were polite and seemed friendly. Overall an adequate quite a comfortable hotel with good ambience close to centre of city.
[geo_mashup_map enable_scroll_wheel_zoom="false"] Jln. Kapten A. Rivai | Komplek Taman Mandiri, Palembang 30129, Indonesia
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Elegant Angkor Resort & Spa (Siem Reap, Cambodia)

5 Case Rating
Location In an area that is remote and about 8 minutes drive to say Pub Street/Night market, 7km from Angkok Wat temple complex and about 20 minutes drive from airport. This initially put me off booking but this hotel is so efficient. For one they provide free airport transfers both ways in a Mercedes. A Tuk Tuk is on site that charges $3 to the town one way and for return they actually give you a card and their own mobile phone for other Tuk Tuk drivers to call and confirm location. The location itself is down a dusty road in the countryside with rice field each side. Its very quiet and relaxing. Perfect for a couple. Room Room was huge, open plan on two layers. As you enter, you are presented with the main bedroom, the double bed in the centre of the room is comfortable and large - it was very comfy for sleeping. Behind it is a large wooden built bedpost/very long large desk with a chair, if you do need to work plus wooden blinds inform of glass blind to exit to your porch. There are mellow hanging lamps on either side of bed. Bedside tables as well with telephone, lighting controls that have dimmer functions for those lamps. On opposite side is a clock and an international power socket. All very convenient. Facing the bed is a large 3 person sofa, kind of like the size of the bed with a wooden table and was presented with a fruit bowl and some delicious drinks. To the side of bed is a large TV, great clarity and offers about 49 channels, a clear guide is offered & from the satellite box attached this includes everything from Chinese TV, Thai, Al Jazera, Euro News, Sky News from UK, French TV to US Fox and National geographic. Basically something for everyone. On the opposite wall across the beautiful wooden floor is a two large wooden wardrobes with a luggage rack in between. On left hand side there is a mini bar (snacks and drinks) , a decent laptop size safe as well. On other side is an iron and ironing board plus robes & plenty of coat hangers. This area also has a digital Ac control that worked well and overhead bed fan- making sleep very comfortable. Down some steps to the lower level is the open plan ceramic finish bathroom- a sink either side for each person offers a full set of amenities such as dental kits, Razor sets and combs etc. Be wary with the taps when on as the hot the water is near boiling & burnt myself. The biggest bath I have ever seen is offered in between and you could easily fit 4 adults in there- its that big. There is a open plan cubicle with toilet and shower- they offer small ceramic bottles of shower gel, not take away kind but still nice. There are glass doors at the end where you will find your own personal garden. Its very nice with two chairs but nice effort of plants etc. Overall without a shadow of doubt the room is meeting a 5 star standard. It is so spacious, very cosy and nicely set up. They also include 4 complimentary water bottles by the sinks and the bed - so you never have a shortage of free bottled water. Slippers are also there at the side of your bed. Facilities The hotels is still at the early stages of opening and even one side they are still building an additional 12 rooms to the already 12 they have. I believe they will build a spa and possibly a gym in time. Do not worry though if you choose to stay here soon because the building noise cannot be heard inside the room as the current rooms are on the opposite side. The hotel offers Free WIFI for multiple devices and speed was good. This is throughout the hotel. There is a large infinity style pool with chairs all around very relaxing and decent size for laps. A pool bar exists as well. Catering is one restaurant and breakfast is included, you are given a clear menu that includes a course by course breakfast rather than a buffet. They offer any style of egg, friend rice with various kinds of meat with egg (had this and it was delicious) and fried noodles (also with any kind of meat), plus a nice fruit plate and bread basket, toast, rolls, pan au raison and pain au chocolate. All delicious. They do offer dinner but did not try it as only stayed here one night. The hotel doesn't currently have a spa yet but they do offer a massage service in room with a free 15 minutes foot or back voucher given- though I think you only get this if you have a massage. They offer various kinds on a menu but right now it is just Thai, relaxation massages- none of which really interested me for the price they are charging ($40). There is a model of Angkor Wat which is actually very impressive. Overall they haven't finished yet but so far nice facilities for what they currently have- pool looks nice and food is great. Staff Staff are just like everywhere in Cambodia - the nicest people ever. So polite, so sincere and so approachable. They make a lot of effort at this hotel such as from the driver explain the city very clearly to the restaurant staff whom are very attentive to detail. Even the reception staff will personally accompany you to the room (& they don't even want your credit card for expenses) and explain everything very clearly when room is presented. The level of enthusiasm and effort is better than most 5 star hotels I have stayed at. I certainly hope to stay again- its off the busy area but worth it. The room and staff are just exceptional. The price tag of around £50 in October really made this place great value for money but am sure it will go up once they complete everything.
[geo_mashup_map enable_scroll_wheel_zoom="false"] Elegant Street, Tropang Treng Village | Sala Komrerk Commune, Siem Reap 17000, Cambodia
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The L Resort Krabi (Krabi, Thailand)

4 Case Rating
Location L resort is located directly on Ao Nang beach with a street in between. From Krabi airport you can choose to have faster hotel service at 600bt or take the bus outside of arrivals for 150bt pick up/drop off outside hotel. The bus is fine , not uncomfortable. It is just takes a bit longer (over 1 hour) since it stops at other hotels enroute. The beach is literary 10metres across road. Whilst the beach is no Mauritius in terms of sea, the beach itself is lovely to walk at end of day with its scenic back drop of limestone mountains. Not a dirty beach (no boats) and is very chilled but the water is a bit brown and cloudy. The tide doesn't go out until about 1-2pm so not possible to sunbathe in morning and not a beach I would recommend for children. Also noticed some water streams from local restaurant going into sea, not sure if this is sewage so be careful. Overall Better to take day trip to Hong Island (600bt) where beach is stunning. Railay beach is also nearby at 100bt a long boat ride but they only go if there is 8 people so you may have to wait. I missed it due to bad weather. The sidewalk outside hotel directly has a Tuk Tuk stand. Its a busy street but wide walkways full of mostly tour companies, restaurants, souvenir stores with the odd pharmacy and Burger King. The hotel is about 5-10 min walk to the next beach along ,much longer (Nopparat Thara). At the other end of street is a hill where most of hotels are & mostly massage places and bars. There is an area on same beach street as hotel where lady boys on street try and force you to this area full bars, just bars didn't see anything seedy, but in my opinion it had annoying Edm music & loud so didn't stay for a drink. Be wary for light sleepers, you can hear the music especially when outside of your balcony and a thumping bass is heard lightly in room at times, even at 2am. During the day you don't really hear the street noise unless your dining which is right in front lobby facing road. Room The large Lite room with double bed was located on the 4th floor, like I think most rooms, the balcony faces the pool area. Exceptionally clean, innovative and modern room but lacking in warmth and anything Thai. All very boutique, white and purple with a cool but cold type of ambience. The double bed was actually very comfortable and slept very well. Either side are bedside tables with drawers and plug sockets - international and USB socket. One side has a very modern phone with a AV in so believe it plays music, its also Bluetooth connectable with alarm clock plus 3 plug adaptor wires , old Apple, lightning and mini USB. The master light switch is here as well. Lighting is interesting , a orange light built into bed post directly behind bed, creates a warm ambience and good for reading books. There is also a sort of blue / grey deco style lighting in ceiling again creates a whole different vibe. But overhead spot lights are also offered. Facing the bed is a large flat screen TV- it seems all are channels are the local cable network true vision. The guide is a challenge to find at back of full hotel folder - better they put it inside the remote holder. The TV though is good size with decent clarity. There is also a kind of Nespresso machine in which they include 4 complimentary pods each day. Other teas also available plus each day 2 water bottles above the mini bar & in bathroom. The mini bar only has drinks no snacks but family mart is only a few minutes walk away. If like me to put the free waters in the fridge, don't make the mistake of drinking a different water by accident unless you want to pay for it. Next to TV is a luggage box with place to put shoes below. There is also a working desk with mirror and plug sockets , quite basic but ok to work from and do say make up. A large wardrobe is offered by entrance , this has plenty of coat hangers, decent laptop size safe, iron and board, robes, x2 hotel umbrellas and some slippers.(slippers are not worth opening). The bathroom is of medium size but offers a large shower cubicle offering both rain and seperate head. Not sure if it's time of day I took (6-7pm) but found the shower to never be that warm though sink was. This was same in the free waiting room shower, room after check out- shower was freezing. The hotel offer a full set of hotel branded amenities box including shower gel, shampoo and body lotion mini bottles - don't worry if you forgot your toothbrush or razor it's all offered. In addition two beach towels as well as bathroom showers are good enough quality. The highlight of the room however is the balcony, nice comfy wooden chairs to eat out and look at the view of the pool area. In addition those that didn't bring a laptop or phone - the hotel provides a complimentary iPad with general wifi plus local information, weather and guide to hotel, very innovative initially. It be great though if they manage to do a CitizenM hotel and have iPad control TV, lighting and AC - but this iPad is just a guide and option to surf net without using Internet cafe. Most of the information in it is not that clear but web search resolves that. By 10am on my check out day (they check out at 12) they already had another guests name on it and while I was going thru menu - all areas were empty. Overall room is fairly good, AC worked well, exceptionally clean, comfortable and modern. Not very Thai authentic style but innovative and enjoyable. My complaint is that if your a light sleeper choose lower floor, on top floor I could here thumping bass from nearby clubs, that once you notice is quite annoying (buts not that loud like directly next door). To be fair I did request a high floor though. Facilities The hotels offers free open WIFI that for the most part worked very well. It just slowed down during a mega rain storm. There is a public computer in reception area as well that worked fine. Plus obviously iPads. Lesuire facilities include two pools, plus two elevated area pools sort of jacuzzi but without the function or it wasn't working. The pool is nice, not that big but ok in low season. Deck chairs are a bit grubby they could with having some towels on offer, say by pool bar, to cover the plastic sheets - rather having to go all the way back to room to get towels. They also offer a gym in which offered decent amount of equipment weights with one of each type of cardio equipment. In terms of catering there is one restaurant where breakfast and dinner is served. Breakfast was ok, they have some Thai dishes but also an egg station & good standard of breads and fruits. As others noted the fruit juice is naff in terms of quality. I tried dinner since the hotel & room service since the hotel offers 20% discount (perhaps a low season thing). Food was well presented but compared to other Ao Nang restaurants lacking in flavour - a spicy dish is not very spicy at all (highly recommend the Fisherman bar /restaurant at end of beach better value for money, amazing ambience watching waves crash, and fish is delicious). There is also a pool bar but wasn't in operation on my visit - perhaps due to low season in early October. The hotel does offer a lounge room as an alternative complimentary option for guests checking out later where this is not available. Nice option to have this room, which has sofas, TV and a shower and they will stow your luggage. There is also a tour desk at hotel but it's hardly worth it- they charge for example - Hong island tour 1500bt and you can walk 15 metres and tour office will charge 600bt.(All trips are the same just different tour operators) i asked about difference , told none with staff basically breaking and saying I was better off buying tour outside. Some other guests also commented on this when I did the tour. If they are not planning to be competitive then they might as well not offer a tour desk. Staff didn't seem too enthusiastic about it. They also offer moped for 250bt, again it's cheaper only slightly outside but hopefully the L uses reputable companies. They also play music thru the corridors very much cafe del mar type chill out music, it is quite a nice touch to the ambience. Staff Staff at hotel were some of the most sincere I have experienced in Thailand and this is after visiting 70% of the country and staying in a lot of variation of hotels. They naturally make you feel welcome and are somewhat helpful with any questions. Staff are reactive rather than proactive , meaning if you say hi they will respond but not before. Overall they were nice enough but the room was the strength. They don't go out their way even as saying so much as happy birthday. I liked the L resort because it's super clean, comfortable and modern. Value for money though is not that great, it's not really a resort but a boutique hotel, they charge same fees meaning it's slightly overrated for price. Next time I would rather stay more traditional Thai place, say the Krabi resort nearby which has its own garden with deck chairs facing the sea. L is all about location.
[geo_mashup_map enable_scroll_wheel_zoom="false"] 31 Moo 2, Ao Nang Beach, Ao Nang, Krabi Town 81000, Thailand
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Thailand – Railay Beach (Ao Nang)

Thailand – Koh Hong (Ao Nang)

Thailand – Koh Phi Phi (Ao Nang)

Tune Hotel KLIA 2 (Sepang, Malaysia)

3 Case Rating
Location Tune is quite a hassle to find when in you are land after 22 hours of flying in KL main terminal. Since the Tune is located in KLIA 2 , the terminal where the low cost carriers leave from and this hotel is part of Air Asia. To get there if your coming in on a standard airline at KL terminal 1, you need to pay 5 Ringits for return ticket by train that runs every 15-20 minutes but takes only 3 minutes to get to KLIA2. Then it took me much time to figure out how to get to level 1, but once there you have a 5 minute covered walk to hotel. As your right by airport plus 7/11 is literally next door as is a cafe. To get food is no issue. If you do return the 5 minute walk to the airport , there are many places to eat. There are many places to eat, mostky fast food but all kinds & places to shop like H&M as well as including pharmacies etc. Room Room first impression can only be described as Air Asia without the beautiful cabin crew to look at. Very red, white badly painted tired looking walls. Scrapes here and there & a sense a million people have stayed in the same room before you. However value for money is good especially for Air Asia flights & other low cost airlines as your on the door stop of the terminal. To be fair it did have some degree of functionality. The large bed was adequately comfortable a bit firm but did offer a adequate simple workable bed side desk with international plug- easy to do work. Other side is a bedside table with a laptop size safe inside. A fan is available overhead as is AC digitally controlled by key card slot at door. TV Faces you but no guide There are 18 channels, local , Chinese, News like BBC, National Geographic etc- all worked well and a jazz music radio channel is also offered. There is a open hanging wardrobe with about 5 coat hangers, with a fold out luggage rack below. Decor is very plane as well as large mirror above bed and by door. The bathroom is very small- offering a open shower cubicle with Tune branded shampoo and soap only , plus some quite thin towels. Overall the room was well used and tired. I had to change rooms initially as first one stank of smoke despite non smoking and 2nd one the light bulb didn't work in bathroom, but staff did change it. In terms of value for money- for Europeans this is the IBIS version of Asia but just not as well thought out, the Tune feels like crush attempt at creating a factory of rooms with bad paint jobs and lacks of maintenance. Facilities They offer free WIFI for 2 devices only, it was at times fast and other times very slow. Next door is a cafe and there is also a 7/11 within the building for your conveniences. The lobby has much seating. I don't think they offer any other facilities since no signage or information to indicate otherwise. The lifts are also painfully slow to wait since so many people stay here. Staff Staff were kind enough to resolve issues I experienced but failed to wake me after numerous requests for a wake up call. They do this by knocking on door, but luckily i actually woke up naturally when I was suppose to- since no clock or phone is in room. Check-in/check out though was smooth. Overall if I was staying between flights and flying into the normal Terminal 1- where all scheduled airlines fly to then I wouldn't stay at Tune. Tune is for Air Asia passengers or those using Terminal 2. When it states 15 minutes from airport on hotels.com when in reality it means from Terminal 2, which the majority of overnight passengers would not be using- therefore it is quite a hassle and somewhere i wouldn't choose to stay again unless i had to use Air Asia between flights.
[geo_mashup_map enable_scroll_wheel_zoom="false"] Jln Klia 2/2, 64000 Klia, Selangor, Malaysia
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A Few Days in Koh Samet

So with a friend visited me recently and wanting to visit an island with 'least hassle of travel' from Bangkok. We decided on the weekend short stay island retreat favored by Bangkokians : Koh Samet. I am aware there are other cheaper ways to get there but to observe in my friends request we took a taxi from basically close to Sofitel on Sukhumvit road. This after some negotiation with the diver came to 2000 baht. The taxi agreed so long we paid the road toll fees (less than 150 baht). Others wanted 2500 but he had a SUV so was more comfortable.  We left about 2pm thinking it would only take 1-2 hours not 2.5-3 which it did, but this is the main road to Pattaya, so did have quite heavy traffic. As we drove we figured we needed to get to Bai Phe port by 5pm for the last ferry. So the long drive was uneventful until we did a rest stop somewhere enroute the road to Pattaya that had the biggest amount of shops & restaurants, I've ever seen at any rest stop. Thailand - Drive Rest Stop (Pattaya) It basically had housing and a market with all kinds of foods including fast food options. It was after this that the ever so quiet taxi driver perked up. We joked maybe he took something or just drank x2 super strong Thai redbulls, but the very mention of Ladyboys he launched into this crazed state of laughter doing ladyboy impressions and noise examples - it was incredibly entertaining and the very word 'ladyboy' would spark him off again, he was quite funny. We finally arrived at Ban Phe port & he picked up this large lady, 'look my fat friend' hs says laughing. As predicted this lady was a planned interaction to take us to her speedboat desk in which she offers direct speed boat to the hotel on Hat Sai Kaew beach. It cost 600 each both ways, you share with others and the journey is half the time of the ferry. However the ferry only costs 50 baht but at the same time it doesn't drop you off outside your hotel. At the same token, the island we later found out is so small that one end from port to other probably takes 15 minutes. Ferry Vs The Speedboat Thailand - Ferrry Crossing (Koh Samet) Thailand - Speedboat Crossing (Koh Samet) It was quite funny speeding past in the ferry where the speed boats really does go up/down quite hard against the waves yet no life jackets are given. The ferry plods along slow and smooth & you see everyone wearing life vests. However there was an impressive sunset as we travelled across the 25 minute journey to the island. Thailand - Sunset Crossing to Koh Samet (Koh Samet) We finally arrive at the Hat Sai Kaew Beach and the speed boat drops you about 5 metres from the beach edge - so expect to walk in sea a little bit. Though staff at the hotel will meet & greet you taking your bags to reception. There were some issues with hotel but basically if your wanting twin beds don't book the Thai traditional cottages. The bellboys made us laugh as we got to our room he took us to the balcony and pointed to some building and said 'girls in this bar' we kinda of laughed but same time I felt embarrassed that obviously we looked the characters that would be interested in the seediness to make him say this. Anyway the hotel had banging house music playing in this late afternoon and we watched some really impressive fire shows even from a 10 year old doing the hoop hoop with a ring of fire. It was impressive. Thailand - Friendly Bar Fire Show (Koh Samet) After having a beer at the hotel we continued to explore the night life. Hat Sai Kaew is the main beach for night life, though in comparison to other islands its more of watered down (just like the cook tails) chill beach as less than a handful of bars existed. It has some good and bad points- the sand is lovely & powdery, it's fairly clean. The sea on the other hand is full of boats though there is a dedicated swimming area. The sea was hot cloudy & the odd piece of plastic floats up to you. There is no real swimming just jumping the waves. Jet Ski’s, Para Gliding and boats are all in this beach - which is probably why the sea itself didn’t feel that clean. The general Island vibe felt much more for Thai's & Chinese groups, we white farangs were at such a minority with the occasional Russian couple that it was quite interesting. Not judging but it was obvious it's not a farang island. Some of the general interaction and lack of effort with service reflected this. It had an air of Thai snobbery and in my opinion out of 6 islands I have visited in Thailand- it was the coldest or at least Thai’s working there were not that warm and hospitable. Our hotel bar was probably appeared to be the best night spot as it had lots of seating, plenty of bean bags, seating on layered levels that face the sea. It’s a whole neon experience at night. The only issue the live DJ music, likely directed to the young Thai crowd. Terrible EDM David Guetta dribble or hip hop so badly mixed that the DJ just flips the fader without any skill. It was ok for a few drinks but the music gets annoying very quickly. We ventured down the beach to explore further, we found basically Chinese/Thai restaurants that didn't look too appetizing or inviting to the none part of these groups. Though seats were taken there wasn’t the usual vibe of staff outside pushing you to try their food.  We did though found a cool bar called 'friendly bar' it had those floor Thai pillow triangles & was very chilled out with a tiki hut bar. They also had a fire show. Thailand - Friendly Bar Fire Show Instruction (Koh Samet) Photo by Ieva Jokuzyte This was the only bar where we actually chatted to people, we met a group of Lithuanians, an Irish man & really cool Thai bar tenders. Though when we saw lights further down the coast asking what kind of bars are there, the bar tender response 'you don't go there it's only gay bars'. By no means are we homophobic but we took it that he didn't want to leave his bars. Thailand - Friendly Bar Tender (Koh Samet) Photo by Ieva Jokuzyte Thailand - Friendly Bar (Koh Samet) Photo by Ieva Jokuzyte The next day I woke up early and observed the very chilled out Sunrise where monks were walking down the beach. Thailand - Hat Sai Kaew Sunrise (Koh Samet) This was the nicest point the beach got, very relaxing and no boats in sight. Thailand - Hat Sai Kaew Sunrise by Sea (Koh Samet) That day we sunbathed, the sun and sea are so hot that back to the room for AC refreshment is much needed every hour or so. There were lots of traditional beach chairs. Thailand - Hat Sai Kaew Beach Day (Koh Samet) Thailand - Hat Sai Kaew Beach Chairs (Koh Samet) This evening we actually noticed a street as my friend had to go to pharmacy it's quite a small street with two 7/11 directly facing each other, massage places and restaurants. Occasional shops but not much else. This is where we noticed that people can hire mopeds (350 baht full day) or golf carts (1000 baht full day- with some strong negotiation). We decided there and then to explore and get a golf cart. We also realized after a bit of a bar crawl that we had arrived at the so called girl bar, the bellboy had pointed out- since this was 50 metres from hotel not on beach side. Thailand - Girl Bar (Koh Samet) What a weird place, the pool table is what attracted us to it. The place has a moody bar tender that looked exactly like Mr. Miyagi (from the movie Karate Kid)) but the beers are cheap. There was a closed room that we were both initially afraid to go in. So we remained outside, Thai girls just linger about but speak no English. Its cheap but its got a weird vibe. Eventually I ventured into the room and it was just tables of guys and girls with only thing seedy were the whole room was lit up in UV lights but no seedy undressed or anything like that. My friend returned to this bar the next night while I had an early evening kip and he said, he eventually was brave enough to venture into this room, he said karaoke was being played but in the most weirdest description. He said the people weren't actually singing but miming to the only song karaoke songs that were being song. Very strange. Our next day was golf cart today we had no real idea about this island, it didn't look big but we were determined to do one end to the other. Though we were worried these battery charged carts would last. Thailand - Golf Cart Driving (Koh Samet) Well the drive was interesting up and down hill with signage % declines showing up or down so at least we knew what to expect.  The golf cart almost near stops with our weight on the uphill yet uncontrollable on the downhills, with the steering being  hardest thing I've ever experienced. Coming down hills with foot on brake was pretty scary as the cart just swerves about- clearly the bearings if they have them couldn't handle the speeds down with two full size blokes in it. So we ended up at the end of the island at a place called Ao Karang it had some pathway through foliage saying 'view sight' .We came across some people leaving, we asked what's down there and the British guy's response was basically 'it's just a few rocks mate'. Thailand - Ao Karang (Koh Samet) Photo by Ieva Jokuzyte Thailand - Ao Karang Above (Koh Samet) So then we decided we needed a beach so we looked on Google Maps to the nearest beach  and came across a resort called Paradee Resort. It looked rather fancy and we could feel it had a vibe not open to non guests, so as a blagger goes we said we were meeting a guest here for lunch. Security escorted us to reception whom then got escorted to restaurant, told if I want to walk anyway else to let the staff know. I decided to go and check out the beach Ao Pakarang & Ao Kiew Nanok walking past a nice pool with a huge sign saying guests only (we were told we couldn't eat at beach despite tables set up & pool bar). I checked out the beach and the waiter had clearly come to tell the lifeguards that I wasn't a guest so I quickly returned to the bar. It looked like a nice place but very Thai snobbery. We decided against lunch, had a beer and continued our drive to the next beach place. It was probably the nicest beach on the island and if you’re a Paradee resort guest it’s all yours. Thailand - Paradee Resort Beach (Koh Samet) Thailand - Ao Pakarang Beach (Koh Samet) We continued down to find Samed Villa Resort and decided to check out that beach: Ao Wai. It had one or two resort with a chargeable pool option (300 baht) but it was nicest beach we saw on the island that you could access. It had like nice trees (not palm) leading over at the edge of the beach so you could get some shelter. Lunch was pretty good and staff were really polite - this seemed like the chilled secluded beach for couples and people wanting to mediate etc. as only one boats and cleaner sea - though still cloudy. Thailand - Ao Wai Beach (Koh Samet) Photo by Ieva Jokuzyte Thailand - Ao Wai Beach 2 (Koh Samet) Photo by Ieva Jokuzyte We decided to continue on after some time lazing about and swimming in the sea. The next place was called Ao Wong Duean , it attracted us to it due to a big foam party sign on the main road so we followed it down a lane to see if anything exciting was happening. I have to say the golf cart despite its simple looks can handle off road deep sandy condition driving quite well. Thailand - Ao Wong Duean (Koh Samet) This beach was bigger with multiple resorts, curved but again many boats. There are a few bars and resorts and we stayed for a drink. This seems like the beach was more chilled than ours, but probably more boring as well. The resorts certainly looked better. Again we left and we drove past the so called 'gay bars' which weren't so and one bar in particular between the two beach’s (ours next along)  had a neon paint wannabe full moon party vibe to it. We later went here and it was the only place with energy watching all the young backpackers drench themselves in neon paint so they could dance to crap EDM music under a blue neon light. As my friend said it was lively but the music was painful, Steve Aoki type stuff (sorry for those that like it but I prefer more underground stuff like Sasha). Thailand - Neon EDM Bar (Koh Samet) Back to the golf cart, we had to return but there was two more places to visit- my friend was adamant there was enough battery power but I wanted to risk so we drove to the only beach on the sunset side, a beach called Ao Phrao. Here there is security as it seems this is the place the top rate premium resorts. You can't enter with any vehicle unless it's the resorts one. There was some parking for motorbike but the security guard had discrimination against the golf cart, we didn't really understand why but he wanted us to park it right up the hill close to the dangerous road edge. There is a cliff with a view point above that showed a nice sunset shot. Anyway this beach was nice , it was an opening between two large hills one of which we took a photo from & was very nice. The resorts looked nice and we sat and brought the beers we had from our minibar. Unfortunately due to the evasive golf cart hirer we had to bring it back by 6, so our time there was short. [gallery type="slideshow" link="none" size="full" ids="5843,5844,5845,5846"] Our last stop was the wharf, which is only 500 meters from our beach Hat Sai Kaew. I was told magnets would be there as I needed a Koh Smaet one, alas no luck. But I did find an awesome shop on the walkway from the town to Hat Sai Kaew Beach. Thailand - Wharf Pier (Koh Samet) Upon returning that was it we had seen the whole of Koh Samet. I decided to chill at the beach & had a watered down Mojito and watched the sun set on my beach which was ok. It had a nice vibe. [gallery link="none" size="full" type="slideshow" ids="5848,5849,5850"] In my opinion, it's ok but resorts are more expensive than Koh chang. The island is definitely aimed at the Thai market and overall we found a slight attitude from Thais to us, perhaps they thought we were perverts from Pattaya having a break (well I thought anyway). The place though is pretty dull there is not much to do and though the beaches are nice I don't think I would take say future guests staying in Bangkok with me there. To put it simple it's boring the sea is not that clean the night life is annoying EDM music, why can't they have reggae or chill out. There are simple no excursions to do either unless you return to the mainland (or hire a gold cart). We also thought it was expensive place to visit, drinks are a rip off and I would advise if your visiting to not order cocktails as they are most definitely watered down. However, for a few days of sun out of the big bad city of Bangkok it was relaxing. Our taxi driver back wasn't as exciting but he did have a dvd pull down TV, just shame we didn't have any DVD's to watch.

36 Hours on Palawan Island

I was very lucky that I was given a schedule that enabled me to visit the beautiful island of Palawan, voted number one island in the last few years from Travel surveys conducted by travel magazines: Conde Naste & Travel + Leisure. However as usual my time was very short, 2 nights but with awkward flights meaning I had 36 hours on the island in total. Unfortunately, the 8 hour drive to the most spectacularly beautiful spot of El Nido, mainly responsible for the awards, was not possible. After some research & finding out that Palawan island has what they call the 7th nature wonder of the world : Puerto Princesa underground river, which is about 2 hours away. I decided to stay at the closet place to it, a small village called Sabang. The best place in my price range was a large resort called Sheridan Beach Resort & Spa in which they provide the 2 hour one-way van trip from the nearest airport Puerto Princessa International Airport) for 500 peso shared but they do offer the opton of a private van, in which I used on the way back. That costs 2800 pesos but negotiable with taxi drivers in area to 2000 pesos. The sunset drive thru the city of Puerto Princessa was interesting, a very clean city compared to the likes of anywhere else I’ve seen in Phillipines especially Cebu. However the drive though becomes progressively arduous after about an hour when the road has at least 100+ tight turns thru the mountains. I found it fine in the front seat, but recommend motion sickness tablets, if you dred such a journey. That's the basic problem with Palawan, it's big and nothing beautiful is near the airport so long transfer times are required to the beautiful spots. There is though a small airport at El Nido (ENI) where small propeller (ATR’s) fly to, currently only Air Swift fly’s there from Cebu and Manilla. So I arrived at the Sheridian resort in Sabang to a warm welcome & confirmation they had booked my underground river tour. (Please note you need a permit in which can be got in the city of Puerto Princessa but the hotel will process this if you email them in advance with your passport. Highly recommend you do this if your stay is short like mine- since a limited amount of permits are offered per day so it make take a few days to process if you just arrive and do it there & then. Next morning I wake early and firstly enjoythe beautiful grounds and sunrise of the location I am at. Philippines - Sabang Sun Rise (Palawan) The underground river tour starts early at 730am in the hotel lobby. A group of about 12of us were briefed in the lobby about the process, the two boat rides, waiting time & warning of monkeys attacking you if you have plastic bag or smile - in reality I only saw one monkey so don't be too concerned just don't smile, as showing teeth is a sign to them that you want to fight. We walked over to Sabang wharf & waited there for about 45 minutes dealing with the bureaucracy as they have re-register every visitor- though staff do this, you just sit & wait & watch the van loads of tourists doing the same thing coming from all over Palawan island. It didn’t seem staying at the closest major resort next to the wharf had much priority or difference in price from staying in the city of Puerto Princessa & doing it as a day trip. You just can wake up a bit later and don’t have that terrible drive both ways in the day. Philippines - Sabang Wharf (Palawan) The first boat is really cool, you go at an enjoyable speed & able to see the landscape of Palawan from the boat- which includes the sleeping giant - a mountain shaped like a man sleeping. Philippines - Sleeping Giant Mountain (Palawan) You then arrive at the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park on a beach before walking into the jungle a bit and again some waiting while they install audio kits. This is a result of the river experiencing a huge bat decline, which they relate to noise so there is no talking inside the river therefore this one ear piece audio does the tour for you. After this you walk thru some jungle before you see the lagoon area where the cave entrance is and paddling boats are. Philippines - Underground River Beach (Palawan) Philippines - Underground River Sign (Palawan) Philippines - Underground River Entrance (Palawan) So the UNESCO world Heritage cave river consist of 5.1 miles / 8.2km though you only travel thru 1.5 miles meaning the tour, in which cost me as part of a group; 1,800 peso actual inside cave time lasts about 20-25 minutes. Birds are flying small bats are everywhere but they never flew into you or boat. Many mentions of not looking up with mouth open for reasons of dropping bat urine. There are some very alien wall structures, on which you are not allowed to touch as it damages them. It's a relaxing boat ride, but they cram you in & as a big fella I found the boat uncomfortable though luckily I got front seat. The tour explain rock formation shapes that look like food & even they have found what they describe as the face of Jesus Christ. The guide in your audio goes into much detail about different parts of the cave such as St. Pauls area which is the largest open cave area, apparently based on the London cathedral that early explorers described it as. Overall it's very interesting but it is a relief exiting the cave as it can feel a little claustrophobic at times. One of the annoying things is the boat paddler handles the light and he moves around frequently which makes it hard to film as you will notice on my you tube video. I would recommend bring a nice powerful torch like a LED tactical tactical flash light. I wish I had brought mine but didn’t think of it at the time. After disembarkation I was lucky enough to see this huge lizard called Asian Water Monitor in which looks like a baby Komodo dragon but it is not harmful to humans. Unfortunately, the minute he spotted me he legged it so ended up with a poor shot. Philippines - Asian Water Monitor (Palawan) So back to the wharf where the tour ends. Here your find some amazing fresh fruit juice stalls which was great before I headed back to Sheridian Resort to relax and sunbathe, though 30 minutes in April (the hottest time) on the boiling hot beach sand sent me to my room for an hour after nearly suffering sun stroke- yeah it's that hot. The beach is clean though as is the sea but you it is cloudy. There is many boats chugging along to the river tour, which isn’t too noisy but it affect the otherwise idyllic ambience. Philippines - Sabang Beach (Palawan) So my second tour occurred a few hours later, the mangroves & zipline. I was so tired I decided on chill out & do mangrove tour first. The highlight though was my transportation to the sight - an original 1942 American world war 2 jeep picks you up on the beach & drives you to the sights- it is awesome. Philippines - 1942 WW2 US Military Jeep (Palawan) Philippines - 1942 WW2 US Military Dashboard (Palawan) The mangrove tour includes a paddler & tour guide, the tour guide emphases at the start that they are volunteer in which I got the assumption that get ready to tip at the end - no problem. The tour is very relaxing you just go deep into swamp land with huge roots shooting out of the small river occasionally seeing small Gold Ringed Cat Snake circled up on tree I which the guide will spot for you. They sleep during the day circled up on branches but it’s not something you want falling in your boat. Philippines - Sabang Mangrooves Tour(Palawan) I got to climb up on this huge mangrove tree as a photo opportunity and that was fun.. The guide also explains the trees and on the way back of the 30 minute boat ride, the paddler and guide sing a song for you, about preserving the natural habitat- it was a bit cringe to me but nice for a family with kids. They were really nice people though and I found the paddler in particular more interesting talking about the Japanese occupation during WW2 and how the locals hid in the Jungle. Philippines - Sabang Mangrooves Tour Guides(Palawan) After this an adjacent bridge follows signs to the zipline which then leads to a 10 minute walk down the beach before you climb a steep hill which is quite tough for the unhealthy and the path seems to go on forever thru the jungle, about 25 minute walk from entering the beach. I guess no one really does the zipline twice because of this. At the Zip Line you have 2 options sitting zipline (500 peso) or superman zipline (750 peso) which is lying flat - highly recommend the latter as the sitting down one I noticed people were spinning around a bit. The superman is so amazing it like you are coming to land as you launch of a mountain side over the sea to the island. It was awesome - again see my video to view it. Philippines - Sabang Zip line (Palawan) After all this my body aches from jet lag plus climbing the zipline mountain so straight to the hotel spa, which I was incredibly impressed with. The masseuse fully unknotted my back, I used the Sheridian Spa which is more pricey than the open beach ones but it was meeting an excellent standard. After I did what would become my favourite thing to do on Sabang, lying in the hammock between trees listening to sea & watching the sunset was about the most relaxing thing I've done in a long time. I could of slept there that night. A stray dog joined me underneath. Philippines - Sabang Beach Hammock (Palawan) Next morning before my lunchtime departure, the hotel was kind to offer me a snorkeling tour following some advice I offered their corporate marketing management. The snorkeling tour as a private boat is costly at around 3000 peso. You get taken with one of the hotel guide and snorkels by private boat to a random small island with small amount of coral surrounding it. Philippines - Sabang Snorkeling Island There you board a floating bamboo hut and you launch into the sea from it. Initially as you see in my video there is the odd fish all small & not as special as I've seen in Fiji & Indonesia but the nonetheless the guide caught a sea turtle, which I felt seemed a bit harsh to pull him out from under the sea rock as it was struggling, he looked scared so I told him to eventually let it go. I also saw prongs of a lobster poking out if the coral sea terrain & finally I actually found Nemo which was awesome highlight to end my video on. It was fun and overall worth a snorkel the people at the place also swim about on the look out for you in which was helpful. Back to hotel & off to the airport completed one of best 36 hour visits anywhere I've been to. Tiring but well worth the fun. Sabang offers a good amount of activities & Sheridan resort was so chilled out - they even have outdoor movie night by the beach. I would say for short visits to Palawan without enough time to El Nido, Sabang is an excellent alternative. Hotel website link: http://www.sheridanbeachresort.com Please check out the first Travelman video which films my experience.

Vietnam – Lady in Traditional Blue (Hanoi)

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Sheridan Beach Resort and Spa (Palawan Island, Philippines)

4 Case Rating
Location The resort is located around 1.5-2hrs drive away from Puerto Princesa. There is a shared van at set times that costs 1000 peso round trip or private one way is 2-2500 pesos (one way) the hotel offers it at 2,800. If you don't book with them, you need to contact them but it's not an easy process. To get to El Nido is 5.5hrs drive away. The wharf (to get boat to the underground river) is a 5 minute walk away. Room The very wooden finish of my 2nd floor room was fairly spacious offering two beds, medium softness in which I found was comfortable for sleeping. Back lit lights are behind with plug sockets next to each bed. Between the beds is a bedside table that has a lamp, telephone & one spare plug socket. A symmetrical look faces each bed with opposite wall offering a wooden desk & chair with a large mirror in front & two plug sockets on each desk. There is a TV in the middle above a cabinet that contains a refrigerator with beers & juices. TV has 18 channels both Asian, Russian & American choices such as HBO & discovery channels are offered. Along walk way to bathroom is a open shelf, where the kettle is with slim selection of sachet coffee and tea. They do offer a 1 litre complimentary large bottle of water though in glass bottle (replenished each day). Some snacks from the mini bar items are here. Below is a luggage rack for smaller cases & below that another shelf that offer complimentary hotel branded flip flops. Opposite is a wooden wardrobe, 2 robes & some coats hangers plus a small safe really for jewellery & money only etc but not large enough for a big camera or laptop. However the hotel is quite secure and I didn't worry leaving my stuff out. The bathroom was spacious & is the most modern part of the room. A large shower cubicle is offered, granite finish top sink area with good lighting. Hotel branded amenities include dental kit, cotton buds & mini bottles of shampoo, shower gel, soap & body lotion. There is also a torch on side of sink. No bottle water in bathroom that you usually find in Asia etc so assume tap water is clean to brush teeth with. In addition as my room is on second floor a balcony was offered with tall stools & a small matching table. If you are on the ground floor you get one sun lounger. Overall the room is dated but nonetheless comfortable, some maintenance issues with 3 lights not working but still clean. It had a separate AC unit in the corner controllable via remote. Facilities Catering includes a restaurant near the sea that has quite an extensive breakfast buffet catering to both westerners and Asians alike with an egg & noodle station. There is also a lunch & dinner buffet offered depending on occupancy. However there is wood oven pizza which I had & was generous & enjoyable, plus a very extensive menu of Chinese, Filipino & western choices like Burgers & Pasta. Also like the local restaurants on the beach outside - there are barbecue fish options. The restaurant, though expensive compared to others on the beach, does have a really nice ambience at night with a live singer and candle lit tables outside. Quality of buffet is also good, tasted fresh & some interesting items. There is also 3 bars other than the one in the restaurant. One is tiki hut style closest to the beach, another inside the pool that you can swim up to & another located on one side of the pools which is also a games room. You can order food from these locations & 24 hours room service is available. Business facilities include free secure WIFI for multiple devices, it worked in my room off/on just slow for my MacBooks but my iPhone wouldn't pick it up. It does drop frequently but at this location what can you expect, At some areas like the restaurant & lobby area it is stronger & phone works there. There is a library by reception with book & dvd rentals available. It is an area you can sit & check your emails as well as just get out of the sun for a bit. The room also contains two computers but this was the first hotel in all of my reviews to charge to use them (150 peso per hour)- they are simple computers and I did not see any printers. There is also a small shop selling souvenir of crafts & coffee shop selling drinks deserts & some odd Korean items such as s happy shower head. Conference / function facilities are also available in adjoining building near reception. Leisure facilities are of course extensive, suitable for families and adults. The pool is huge, really long for laps & is the best feature of the resort, there is also 4 different size jacuzzi pools. There is an outdoor but covered small workout gym - weights & cardio. Looked modern. Facilities for young children are good as they include a tree house & covered play area outside with teddy bears & toys etc. For adults there is a chess set, multiple pool tables, table tennis & beer pong offered at the side bar. There is also a SPA which offers 30% off during sunbathing hours of 10-4pm. Lyn gave me a really impressively good standard of massage fixing my bad back which condoned the high price when compared to outside local beach side places. There is a tour desk & the hotel kindly arranged my underground cave tour before I arrived since it was a short stay. You need a permit to go (so contact hotel & email passport copy if your stay is short). Also the hotel has an organic farm that you can visit & paint trees- this is 5km away & apprently many items in the restaurant are home grown there such as rice & fruit. Other tours include the zipline, mangroves, snorkelling etc. You can also hire mountain bikes. In the evening I arrived they have a huge projector screen close to the beach where they organise a movie night placing the sun loungers there. Quite relaxing sitting with a beer with fresh sea air but loungers could do with cushions. There are also some really nice hammocks between the palm trees at the beginning of the beach (part of hotel) .These are great for relaxing & rocking while listening to the sea. The hotel also have there own swimming area in the sea & plenty of sun loungers. The beach itself is clean but don't expect to see any fish, their swimming area is also quite shallow. Staff Staff are the highlight and I found them to be very consistently friendly, always acknowledging guests & easy to talk to. I would say the discipline & friendliness is better than some 5 star's I've stayed at & I give this the most credit from the staff. Overall a nice resort & great alternative place to stay in Palawan with benefit of being with walking distance of getting a boat to the underground caves, which is worth seeing. Resort does have a very relaxing ambience & the staff are the highlight, the rooms could just do with being better maintained & more modern.
[geo_mashup_map enable_scroll_wheel_zoom="false"] Sabang Beach, Cabayugan, Puerto Princesa, 5300 Palawan, Philippines
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Night And Day In Vientiane, Laos

I arrived mid afternoon in Vientiane for my first visit to Laos. The city seemed very small compared to all the other major cities in South East Asia. After checking in to the Vientiane Golden Sun Hotel I decided to head to the famous Patuxi Gate, being that it is one of the major sights of Vientiane. Interesting architecture on the walk, very communist and interesting to look at, my welcome to one of the worlds few remaining communist states and also South East Asia’s poorest. Laos - Communist Office Building (Vientiane) Laos - Decaying Office Building (Vientiane) The Patuxai Monument is an interesting looking feature, its trasnalation is Victory Gate. It was built in 1968 and is dedicated to those that fought in the struggle for independence from France. Also known as the Arc de Triomphe due to its resemblance to the famous monument of the same name in Paris. It feels less grand but the palms trees surrounding it make it a striking sight in this small city. Laos - Patuxai Monument (Vientiane) Laos - Patuxiai Monument Ceiling (Vientiane) When your underneath, be sure to look up the ceiling as it has an especially interesting depiction of the Gods: Vishnu Brahma and Indra. At one of the corner of the posts is a staircase that you can enter and walk upstairs after paying a fee of $1. It is worth doing as it really is the best way to see the city as a whole, plus there are these amazing Buddhist bars on the windows; great for photos. There are about 4 floors - the first two have central covered buildings (where the staircase continues), here you will find tourist paraphernalia, some quite random articles like flick knives and other weapons, however there are also some interesting antiques as well as some local crafts and nationalistic articles. I found a shop that was especially great for magnet collectors. See my collection here. Laos - Patuxiai Monument Shop (Vientiane) After I headed straight to the top, where there are some impressive Buddhist metal frames on the window arches. Laos - Patuxiai Monument Roof View (Vientiane) Laos - Patuxiai Monument Buddha View (Vientiane) My next stop on my walking tour (yes the city is that small) was to head over to That Dam. That Dam is a large stupa which is a mound-like or hemispherical structure containing relics used as a place of meditation, as quoted from Wikipedia. Laotians believe it is inhabited by a seven-headed nāga who tried to protect them from an invasion by the Siamese army in 1827. Laos - That Dam (Vientiane) Without meaning to offend the Laotians, an abandoned French colonial building faces this temple directing on one side which I found far more interesting to look at. The beautiful looking architecture had a sad atmosphere of neglect. I was quite absorbed by it, as you could feel a haunted atmosphere. I spent about 30 minutes just looking at it and wondering the history it had. Laos - Old French Colonial House (Vientiane) Anyway, I walked up a random street with no plans and had my first negative experience of the Laotian people; a tuk-tuk driver. They have big tuk-tuks in Vientiane, the biggest I've seen in Asia, as they sort of have a bus behind them that could carry up to six people. What they try and do is sell it as a bus, so a small distance of 1-2km, they will quote you $10 USD, more than in New York city. So when you refuse what they do is find someone else to join the ‘tuk-tuk’ and then the fare suddenly becomes $5. I was dropped off with the intention of checking out a market on the otherside of town, sadly it already closed. It so happened that the same tuk-tuk driver was driving back and offered me a ride to the riverside for $5, after driving around in circles looking for more customers he went back to the original parking spot and decided it was now $10 to the riverside. I disputed that and he said "ok you pay me $5". I gave him $2 and ended up walking away after we drove past the riverside and he wouldn’t drop me off. He was just trying to look for other customers, it made no sense and sadly it left a lasting impression that tuk-tuk drivers here have no compassion like you might find in Phnom Penh. I just walked to the Mekong river but unfortunately due to the tuk-tuk mess, I only caught the end of what must have been a beautiful sunset over the river. Laos - Mekong Riverside Sunset (Vientiane) The riverside of Vientiane around sunet and after is the cities main hang out, lots of Laos couples walk with their partners along the sidewalk or sit watching the sunset. Everyone is just hanging out there, there is also a market and even two large exercise routines playing some beats type music where the teacher narrates like a drum 'n’ bass MC in time with the beat. Laos - Mekong Riverside Group Work Out (Vientiane) I noticed a lot of people walking down to the banks of Mekong River so I thought do the same. It takes around ten minutes to walk down a steep slope on to a sort of farming land (that I noticed the next day), along a thick sandy pathway until you hit the river where you can see Thailand on the other side. Laos - Mekong Riverbank Walk (Vientiane) Quite a romantic, relaxing and chilled out spot, I sat on a rock and watched everyone. Guys playing football, couples walking up to the shore, children with their families looking for that stone/shell. There was even a guy playing guitar with his friends. It had an interesting vibe, like it was a special place - not just the banks of the Mekong River. Laos - Mekong Riverbank People (Vientiane) Laos - Mekong River Bank Dusk (Vientiane) By the riverside where the main walkway and road is, a market that runs through a park parallel to the main riverside road. The odd stall had nice crafts and pictures but for the most part it was not a typical tourist market, with most shopping aimed at locals such as toys, clothes and electronics. Laos - Riverside Market (Vientiane) There are some nice fruit stalls and places to get that delicious coconut. Overall I found the prices to be not as cheap as expected, it was certainly more expensive for food and drink than Cambodia and even a basic foot massage was more expensive than Thailand. Laos - Mekong Riverside Fruit Seller (Vientiane) After a delicious coconut, I decided to walk around the streets and try to find my hotel without having to use a tuk-tuk. I saw some unusual sights for an evening. Whereby most places are closed even in Bangkok following sunset. In Laos it seemed everything opened. For example, two orthodontists were sitting in their window waiting for customers, somewhat appearing like the massage girls you see on Sukhumvit waiting for customers in Bangkok - yet they were Orthodontists? Laos - Orthodontics Store (Vientiane) I saw an old lady, quite old & frail waiting for customers to cut their hair. Laos - Old Lady Hair Dressers (Vientiane) Walked past some food stalls before eventually getting on the right path to my hotel. It showed how small the city was as I had practically covered the whole centre in an evening. It also seemed to be the quietist city I've ever walked through. Laos - Meat & Fish bbq store (Vientiane) The next morning there was one more major sight to check out before my afternoon departure – Pha That Luang, the gold covered Buddhist stupa. While thinking how to get there as it's about 5km and a bit too far to walk, the hotel advise me to hiring a bike for $1. I really wished I'd known this before losing $7 on a pointless tuk-tuk. This is the real way to see the city, so long you're healthy enough, I'm probably not but at least there were no hills. It is quiet so traffic is not an issue. It's not dangerous to cycle like it is in Bangkok and it's a slow moving town-like environment, so cycling is the best way to see this city. Laos - Cycling towards the Patuxai Upon arrival at Pha That Luang, you enter a Buddhist temple before you see the main Stupa. A very colourful Buddhist display welcomes you to this small area with some market stalls and the odd Buddhist Monk walking about. I found a reclining Buddha down this pathway which was a nice size - not too huge but interesting. The Taiwanese around me took plenty of selfies. Laos - Pha That Luang Buddhist Temple (Vientiane) Laos - Pha That Luang Lying Buddha (Vientiane) As this point I saw the large Stupa, which I thought would be larger - nonetheless a very impressive sight. En route I came across a lady that put a bad vibe across this nice area, she was persuading me to pay her to release birds. I understand how poor the people are with the need to make money and I almost wanted to hand over some money for the box to be opened to release them but this only encourages more of the same business. I just hope they got released. Laos - Pay Money to Free Birds Pha That Luang Temple (Vientiane) I also came across some weird market stalls, selling really odd items, such as below a J/K pop looking doll wallet that I imagined could only really attract the possible Paedo to buy it, as it certainly looked disturbing.  This next to a nasty looking hammer/saw combo. Very odd mix of items and disturbing at the same time. From initially thinking I found the most beautiful sight in Vientiane, a short walk thru this market made me think Karma is not really at work here. Laos - Pha That Luang Temple Market (Vientiane) However after entering the actual Pha That Luang, I decided it was an impressive structure that did have a positive relaxed atmosphere. I lit a candle and jok stick and did my hands clasp to the Buddha, that I always do to respect the sight. There were 4 corners of these sights, which as grass ardens surrounding the Stupa. You can’t enter it, if it is ever open, but the ground show ruins of Buddhas and the place is very relaxing. It was definitely worth the bicycle ride. [gallery type="slideshow" link="none" size="full" ids="5628,5629,5630"] After leaving I had another hour to kill so I cycled to a Buddhist monastery in the hope I would find a Buddhist monk to do a mediation, it is offered but much later in the day. I was unlucky as the only Buddha I found was not trained enough to do a foreign mediation, however the place had a nice Buddhist tower. Laos - Buddhist Temple Tower (Vientiane) I then cycled on to the riverside to see it during the day, this is where I came across the King Caho Anouvong Statue. He led a Laos Rebellion in the 18th century. The area is nice, his statue faces out to the Mekong River and Thailand beyond, there is a nice garden behind the statue that leads to the back of the main palace. As you can see the tuk-tuk driver in this photo seems unimpressed as I sit on my Bicycle and take the photo. Laos - King Chao Anouvong Statue Tuk Tuk (Vientiane) Overall Vientiane was an interesting city, it is small and can be done with a stay of 1-2 nights, depending how you much you need to explore. It’s quiet and the Mekong River was a relaxing spot. Laos seems more dated to the modern world than its neighbours which in a way was nice and authentic to see, the people overall are nice but many don’t speak English. It’s not as cheap as Cambodia but not as expensive as Thailand on some things. I enjoyed walking about watching the locals and sitting by the Mekong river. I hope to see the rest of the country in the rural parts. For an overnight stop, if you’re not tired you can see a lot very easily. Just hire a bicycle.

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