Tag Archives: hotel review

Review: Radisson Blu Hotel Champs Elysees, Paris, France

I had an expiring free night certificate due to keeping the Club Carlson credit card around for another year and paying the annual fee, in spite of their devaluations. So on a recent trip to Paris, I used the certificate at the Radisson Blu Hotel Champs Elysées. The Club Carlson footprint in Paris has gotten significantly smaller since some of the hotels have since left the Club Carlson umbrella (e.g. Le Dokhan Trocadero is now an SPG property instead of a Club Carlson one). If you’re redeeming points, this hotel costs 70k per night.

The location of the hotel is super convenient. It’s quite close to L’Arc de Triomphe and, of course, the Champs Elysées. This also means that it’s quite close to the Charles de Gaulle Étoile metro stop, so it’s pretty convenient to get around via public transportation.

I was assigned a small but perfectly functional room on the 4th floor of the hotel. There was a small hallway as I entered with the bathroom off to the side, and then there was another door that could be closed to enter the bedroom. The second door was helpful for blocking out what little noise there was coming from the hallway.

Bed

Bed

Furnishings

Furnishings

The room wasn’t particularly large, but the curtains blocked out the light, and it was quiet, so it was great to take a quick nap after the red eye from the US. The shower design could have been somewhat better, though. It was a bit awkward to reach the faucet given the pane of glass, but the pane of glass also didn’t do enough to block water from getting on the floor.

Bathroom

Bathroom

When I came back to the room at night after a day of exploring, there was a welcome amenity of a bottle of water and three macarons. The macarons weren’t anything special, but I’ve never been one to turn down a macaron.

Welcome amenity

Welcome amenity

Overall, I had a perfectly comfortable and competent stay at this hotel. Would I pay 70k points per night? Probably not, but Club Carlson points are relatively easy to come by.

Hotel Review: Radisson Blu Beke Hotel Budapest, Hungary

The Radisson Blu Beke Hotel has a great location not too far from Nyugati Palyaudvar (a train station that’s also on the blue M3 line, so easy to get to the airport on public transportation) and Oktogon (on the yellow line), so it’s easy to walk to a lot of interesting places as well as take public transit everywhere. It’s a Category 2 Club Carlson hotel, so it’s 15k points per night, and at the time of this stay, I had used two free award nights through the personal and business version of the Club Carlson credit card and thus paid 30k points for 4 nights.

When we checked in, we were originally given a normal room with no mention of status or an upgrade. The welcome amenity for being a gold member was a bottle of water. Honestly, a bit disappointing, both in the lack of recognition, lack of a better room (it wasn’t even a high-floor room), and the paltry welcome amenity, but it was such a steal at 30k points for 4 nights that I didn’t want to complain.

Beds in room number 1

Beds in room number 1

The only qualms I had with our room were the lack of electrical outlets and the fact that the air conditioning didn’t seem to work. Many people have complained about the furniture and decor of the hotel, but I thought it was a step up from the Park Inn Bratislava. The wifi was also pretty fast compared to the other Club Carlson hotels we stayed at on this trip.

On the second night of our stay, it was quite a bit warmer that day, so we ended up calling maintenance to look at the air conditioning since it wasn’t getting any cooler in our room. To make a long story short, apparently the air conditioning on some floors isn’t very good, so after visiting rooms on a couple of other floors, we ended up getting a suite on the 6th floor, and they put an extra twin bed in the living room. Cheers to the front desk agent working that night for really going the extra mile. The suite had a huge living room, and the air conditioning worked well.

Furniture in suite

Furniture in suite

Added bed and table in suite

Added bed and table in suite

Main bed in suite

Main bed in suite

Main bedroom in suite

Main bedroom in suite

Overall, I’d happily stay at this hotel again. Yes, it’s a bit dated, but it’s a comfortable hotel. The location is amazing, and it’s still a pretty good deal at 15k points per night.

Hotel Review: Park Inn Bratislava

The Park Inn Bratislava has a wonderful location on the Danube in the Old Town area of the city. You can walk to many of the tourist sites, it’s super close to a transport hub, and public transit is super cheap (less than one euro for a ride).

This is a category 1 Club Carlson hotel, so award nights go for 9,000 points each. At the time of this trip, I had used the old benefit from the Club Carlson credit card to get one free night on any award stay, so I only paid 9,000 points for 2 free nights. Crazy cheap.

Entrance to the hotel

Entrance to the hotel

I was upgraded to a junior suite. This wasn’t a typical suite, but rather, it was two rooms with a bed in each one and a hallway connecting the two. The rooms were not fancy at all–the mattresses could use improving, a curtain was missing from a window, the furniture was super basic–but I don’t want to complain given how cheap it was to book.

Bed

Bed

Desk and TV

Desk and TV

Second bed

Second bed

Bathroom

Bathroom

"View" of the UFO

“View” of the UFO

One thing that I found slightly strange about the hotel was the numerous unused common areas. There were locked rooms with furniture and amenities, but no one was using any of those areas during our stay, and I couldn’t access any of them.

Common areas

Common areas

Locked computer room

Locked computer room

Courtyard

Courtyard

Common area furniture

Common area furniture

One big plus of the hotel was the gym and pool. The gym in the hotel is an actual gym where people who aren’t staying at the hotel pay money to use the facilities, so it’s actually pretty nice with a large variety of equipment (including things for functional training!). There was also a smoothie bar in the gym.

Gym equipment

Gym equipment

Equipment for functional training

Equipment for functional training

Smoothie bar

Smoothie bar

Legit gym

Legit gym

Sauna

Sauna

Pool

Pool

We were offered free breakfast, and it was pretty decent for a hotel this affordable. They’ll make eggs to order if you ask.

Breakfast

Breakfast

Breakfast

Breakfast

Breakfast

Breakfast

Breakfast

Breakfast

Breakfast

Breakfast

Dining room

Dining room

Throughout our stay, the front desk was very helpful. Maybe not the most friendly, but very service oriented. Overall, I’d happily stay here again, even without the free award night for every stay. It’s definitely an older hotel that could use some refurbishment, but if you don’t care that much about old furniture, it’s got a lot of pluses (e.g. location, service, gym) for only 9k points per night.

Hotel Review: Grand Hyatt Jakarta

For my relatively brief stay in Jakarta, I decided to redeem points for the Grand Hyatt Jakarta. Since it was a category 3 Hyatt property, it cost 12,000 points per night. Chain hotels in Jakarta are ridiculously pricey given how inexpensive other things in Jakarta are, as rates were over $300 USD per night, so I felt like I got a good redemption value by using points.

To get to the Hyatt, I took a Bluebird taxi from the airport. Everyone I talked to told me to only take Bluebird (or Silverbird) taxis, and you can tell that it’s the queue for the Bluebird taxis because there will actually be people waiting for those taxis. Don’t trust the people hanging around the Bluebird line unless they have a Bluebird shirt, as there are lots of touts trying to get you to take other taxis.

The taxi to the Grand Hyatt was 155k IDR, which included the toll and airport surcharge. Upon driving up to the hotel, there was a security check for the car (I believe they were using a mirror to look underneath the car), and there’s a baggage and metal detector for all people to enter the hotel.

The lobby of the hotel is quite nice and impressive. The service at the check-in counter was extremely friendly, and I was offered free breakfast, even though I wasn’t strictly entitled to that via status.

Lobby

Lobby

The room that I received was enormous. Not a suite, but a huge room that seemed well though out. There were plenty of outlets by the bed, the outlets were universal, the TV was on a swivel stand, and the furnishings were nice. I felt that it was a pretty nice Category 3 hotel (and it was a huge steal before when it was still a Cat 2!).

Bed

Bed

Furniture

Furniture

Minibar

Minibar

The bathroom was also a nice size. It didn’t have a Japanese toilet, but there was a bidet function.

Bathroom

Bathroom

Shower

Shower

The room also featured a nice view of the adjacent monument, which was also where there was a car-free walking street on the Sunday that I was there.

View from my room

View from my room

Other amenities available

Other amenities available

I didn’t use the gym during my stay, but it was a sizable space with a fair amount of equipment. One thing that I always appreciate about a gym is when there are free barbells and not just a Smith machine.

Gym

Gym

Gym

Gym

Gym

Gym

Gym

Gym

I had breakfast at the club lounge one day that I was there. The breakfast at the club was not as mobbed as I would have thought, and it featured pastries, juices, dairy beverages (including soy milk), whole fruit (including salak or snakeskin fruit), Asian breakfast foods like fried rice and noodles, congee, made-to-order eggs, breads, cheeses, and salads. It was a decent spread, but nothing special by Asian luxury hotel standards.

Club

Club

Lounge breakfast

Lounge breakfast

Refrigerated items

Refrigerated items

Cold cuts and yogurts

Cold cuts and yogurts

Breakfast

Breakfast

Breakfast

Hot items for breakfast

I had breakfast in the normal restaurant on another day, and the restaurant featured a more extensive buffet. I tried to take pictures, but I was told to stop because taking pictures of the food was apparently a security hazard for the hotel :/

One notable incident about my stay was that there was actually a fire at the hotel. The lobby was filled with smoke, the hotel was evacuated, and we weren’t allowed back into the hotel for several hours. Apparently there was a fire in one of the restaurant kitchens.

This hotel is connected to the Plaza Indonesia mall, which is a nice luxury mall. There’s an entrance to the mall within the lobby, which is convenient when it’s hot out. There’s also the Keraton at the Plaza hotel connected on the other side of the mall, which is a Category 5 SPG property.

Overall, I thought that this was a pretty decent Category 3 Hyatt hotel. Service at the hotel was good, my room was spacious and nicely furnished, and the hotel offers pretty decent amenities. Given how expensive cash rates can sometimes be, a points redemption can be a worthwhile option to consider.

Hotel Review: Holiday Inn Express Sathorn in Bangkok, Thailand

For this quick trip to Bangkok, I stayed at the Holiday Inn Express Sathorn. At the time, this hotel was on PointsBreak, so I was able to book it for 5000 IHG points per night. That being said, I felt like I still overpaid paying 5000 points per night, which is indicative of my overall sentiment around the hotel.

The biggest benefit of the hotel is the location. It’s very close to the Chong Nonsi BTS station, which is great. You can even see the hotel from the BTS station.

View of the hotel from the nearby BTS station

View of the hotel from the nearby BTS station

When I checked into the hotel, the first room I was given was not cleaned properly. There was lots of evidence that the hotel room had been used and not cleaned afterward except for the bed being made, so I told the front desk and switched rooms. More generally, even though the hotel is ostensibly non-smoking, the hallway often reeked of smoke.

Reception seating area

Reception seating area

The bed itself was decently comfortable, although the air conditioning didn’t work quite as well as I’d have liked.

Basic room

Basic room

TV and work area

TV and work area

Not a real closet

Not a real closet

One thing that I didn’t expect about the hotel is that the shower just had a single soap/shampoo pump. It was pretty terrible, and I should have brought my own soap, shampoo, and conditioner.

Bathroom

Bathroom

Breakfast was edible. They had the expected variety of western and Asian foods (e.g. eggs, hashbrowns, fried rice).

Hot food at breafkast

Hot food at breafkast

Pastries at breakfast

Pastries at breakfast

Fruit and yogurt

Fruit, yogurt, and salad

More pastries and fruit

Muffins and bananas

Dining area at breakfast

Dining area at breakfast

The gym was pretty small and only had dumbbells and some cardio machines. But at least they had dumbbells? The gym also was a source of bottled water.

Hotel gym

Hotel gym

The hotel also had a couple of computers available for use in the lobby.

Hotel workstations

Hotel workstations

Overall, I wouldn’t stay at this hotel again. Even on PointsBreak, I felt that it was too expensive, especially since Bangkok has so many good and inexpensive hotels. The service wasn’t good, and the amenities were not great.

Review: Hilton Doubletree Kuala Lumpur

For my short trip to Kuala Lumpur, I stayed at the Hilton Doubletree. As a Category 2 hotel, it’s only 10k Hilton points per night, which is a great deal, especially as a Gold member when you can get free breakfast and lounge access.

The Hilton Doubletree is attached to the Intermark Mall, so you actually go through the mall to get to the hotel. It’s close to the Ampang Park metro station, so it’s relatively easy to get around using public transit if you wish. (There’s also a temple not too far from here that serves an awesome vegetarian lunch buffet that’s super cheap)

Hotel entrance in the mall

Hotel entrance in the mall

Check-in desks

Check-in desks

As a Gold member, I was escorted up to the Executive Lounge to check in. The check-in process took quite a while, which may have been because someone else booked the room for me and wasn’t actually staying there…

Anyway, no upgrade on room besides getting lounge access, but that’s about all I would need/want when I’m traveling by myself. My room was a standard, well-appointed hotel room in Asia by a Western brand.

Bedroom

Bedroom

Room furnishings

Room furnishings

Shower

Shower

Bathroom

Bathroom

Views of KL

Views of KL

View of the Petronas towers from the hotel

View of the Petronas towers from the hotel

The hotel had a pretty nice fitness area. I’m not 100% sure on this, but I believe it acted as a health club/gym that outside people could pay to have access to.

Hotel pool

Hotel pool

Gym

Gym

More gym

More gym

The executive lounge offered both breakfast and evening canapes and cocktails. I don’t really drink, but apparently, free alcohol is kinda a big deal in Malaysia because of alcohol taxes. I enjoyed eating the snacks, though.

Executive lounge

Executive lounge

More lounge food

More lounge food

More lounge food

More lounge food

Lounge alcohol

Lounge alcohol

Breakfast in the restaurant was pretty crazy. The restaurant is massive and has a number of different sections representing different cuisines. For example, there’s a Western section with things like pancakes, eggs, bacon, and waffles, but there’s also a Chinese section with dim sum, a Malaysian section, and an Indian section. This was by far the biggest breakfast buffet that I’ve been to.

Restaurant breakfast spread

Restaurant breakfast spread

More breakfast

More breakfast

More breakfast

More breakfast

More breakfast

More breakfast

More breakfast

More breakfast

Overall, I really enjoyed my stay at this hotel. It’s a great redemption value in the Hilton program, and if you’re a Gold member, you can get access to an awesome free breakfast and lounge access. I would happily stay here again if I find myself in KL.

China 2014: Bund Riverside Hotel Review, Shanghai

I’m taking a week-long pause in my Southeast Asia 2014 trip report to bring you a week of posts about a trip to China that I took in July 2014. During this trip, I went to Shanghai and Beijing with a friend: Shanghai to eat; Beijing mostly to see the Great Wall of China.

In Shanghai, we stayed at the Bund Riverside Hotel, mostly because it was pretty cheap and had a decent location. The room rate was about $65 per night all in, which is only marginally more than booking dorm beds at a hostel would be. That being said, there’s a reason why the hotel is so cheap, because it honestly wasn’t a very good hotel and had some very strange service.

Note that the location on Google Maps for the hotel is incorrect if you search for “Bund Riverside Hotel”. It has the right address, but the location is just wrong (like it’s not even on the right street). If you search by the Chinese name, you’ll find it. Here’s the correct location: https://www.google.com/maps/place/上海新协通国际大酒店/@31.2406138,121.4839093,17z/data=!4m6!1m3!3m2!1s0x0000000000000000:0x30234c08c8a06c9c!2z5LiK5rW35paw5Y2P6YCa5Zu96ZmF5aSn6YWS5bqX!3m1!1s0x0000000000000000:0x30234c08c8a06c9c?hl=en

Hotel lobby

Hotel lobby

Our room wasn’t anything fancy, but it was functional. Nothing was great (like the beds were a bit hard, the pillows a bit meager), but I’m not going to complain too much given the price that we paid.

 

Twin beds

Twin beds

Room furnishings

Room furnishings

Bathroom

Bathroom

The location is also pretty decent. It’s a little over 5 minutes to the East Nanjing Road metro station, and East Nanjing Road is one of the main touristy shopping streets in Shanghai. There’s also a fair number of street food vendors on the way to the metro station, if you’re feeling adventurous (as you should, since Shanghai has some of my favorite street food in the world).

The odd part came when we left. We were taking an overnight train to Beijing, so we needed to get a taxi to the train station (the central Shanghai rail station, not Hongqiao). We asked the front desk to get us a taxi, and they said that they would. So we waited. And waited. After about 15 minutes of waiting, we were worried that we wouldn’t have enough time to get our tickets and make our train, so we went out on the street to try to catch a taxi ourselves since the front desk was being unhelpful and just told us to keep waiting.

We found someone getting out of a taxi at the hotel, so we thought to ourselves, great, we can just catch this taxi. But the doorman was physically preventing us from entering the cab (like he stood in the open car door). He kept saying that we couldn’t take this taxi because the front desk had already called us a cab. After trying to argue with him in Mandarin and failing, I got the concierge to come out and knock some sense into this doorman. The concierge said that of course we could use this cab, and so we were on our way.

Anyway, just an odd story. This hotel is pretty bare-bones, but it’s a decent budget option. Just be warned about potentially odd service.

SEA 2014: Hotel Review Holiday Inn Express Clarke Quay

For our time in Singapore, we stayed at the Holiday Inn Express Clarke Quay. As a category 3 IHG property, it’s 20k points a night.

I don’t have much experience with IHG hotels (I guess I don’t have much experience with hotels generally), but this was the nicest and hippest Holiday Inn Express I’ve stayed at. I generally don’t think of “cool” when I think of Holiday Inn, but the interior was designed to be pretty funky.

Outside of hotel

Outside of hotel

Tons of rooms (the hallways are technically open air)

Tons of rooms (the hallways are technically open air)

The rooms were small, but functional. The outside-facing rooms have interesting slanted windows, and there were warning signs to close the shades if you were doing anything private.

Rooms are small, but it's Asia

Rooms are small, but it’s Asia

The bathroom has sliding components to open up to the rest of the room, so they’re not noise-insulating at all. I don’t really understand the not-quite-separate bathroom concept in hotels. I’ve never thought to myself, “gee, I really wish I could look at my bed when I’m taking a dump”.

Bathroom is also tiny and opens up into rest of room

Bathroom is also tiny and opens up into rest of room

The fitness center was on the roof, which was decently sized. But the best part of the roof was definitely the pool. No, it’s not the Marina Bay Sands, but you can see the Marina Bay Sands from the roof, and the pool was surprisingly uncrowded whenever we used it.

Fitness center

Fitness center

Pool

Pool

Good views

Good views

Breakfast every morning was fine. But really, we only ate enough to appease our stomachs long enough to get to the real eating of the day.

Breakfast

Breakfast

Food was fine, but you should be eating out instead of a hotel buffet

Food was fine, but you should be eating out instead of a hotel buffet

The service at the hotel is limited, since it’s a Holiday Inn Express and not a full-service hotel. The location is convenient to Clarke Quay (obvi), but it’s actually a decently long walk to the nearest MRT station, which was inconvenient. I would stay here again given the right price (i.e. if it ever goes on PointsBreak), but I would choose lodging closer to the MRT in the future since this hotel isn’t anything special.

SEA 2014: Bunwin Boutique Hotel, Siem Reap, Cambodia

We stayed at the Bunwin Boutique Hotel for our time in Siem Reap, and I’d be happy to return again in the future. This was a solid, affordable choice with comfortable rooms, good amenities, and eager service.

The hotel offers free airport pickup and dropoff, which is done via either limo or tuk tuk. We got a tuk tuk. They also offer free tuk tuk service within Siem Reap, which is convenient for going out to dinner and such, and they give you a cell phone so that you can call them to request pick up when you’re done

Upon entering the hotel, it definitely feels intimate and boutiquey. There aren’t that many rooms, so you’re unlikely to run into that many other people, and the staff is friendly and eager to please.

Hotel lobby

Hotel lobby

Bar area

Bar area

Hotel pool

Hotel pool

What was slightly awkward was that we arrived to our hotel room to find a drawn bath full of flower petals. I understand that many of the tourists who come to this hotel are probably couples, but I’m not sure how many couples request twin beds. I’m sure most couples would appreciate the gesture, but my sister and I found it awkward. We also couldn’t actually drain the bath, and it ended up taking over an hour for the hotel to fix it (to be fair, the hotel manager was very gracious and wanted to make up any mistakes to us).

Twin beds

Twin beds

Unrequested romantic bath

Unrequested romantic bath

Functional room

Functional room

Rain head shower

Rain head shower

The hotel also offers tour services at very competitive prices. We hired our drivers and tour guides through the hotel and were generally happy, although we felt that the tour guide was most useful for taking pictures.

Hotel price list for tours

Hotel price list for tours

I also enjoyed breakfast each morning. They had a menu of western and Asian options, and I–being the fattie that I am–was able to request multiple servings with no problems (well, aside from the fact that many servers are often incredulous about the volume of food that I want to and can eat and then assume that they’re misunderstanding me due to a language barrier). The food wasn’t fancy, but it was tasty, and there were enough options on the menu that I didn’t feel bored after 4 days.

Upstairs dining area

Upstairs dining area

Breakfast bread basket

Breakfast bread basket

Fried noodles with eggs

Fried noodles with eggs

At the time that we stayed at the hotel, they also offered a promotion where people staying at least 3 nights would receive free hour-long massages at one of their sister hotels. The massages were good and appreciated.

Overall, I really enjoyed this hotel. The price was great, the rooms were comfortable, the amenities were good, and the service was eager. At the end of our stay, we left a very large tip just because we felt like the hotel was so underpriced for the value that we got.

SEA 2014: Golden Time Hostel 2 Hanoi, Vietnam

I normally wouldn’t write up a review of a hostel stay, but I feel like the Golden Time Hostel 2 in Hanoi deserves a special mention.

It’s not fancy by any means (but it’s a step up from a normal hostel since all of the rooms are private rooms), but the service was incredible. The front desk was staffed by some of the most service-oriented and friendly people that I’ve ever encountered at a place of lodging. Ann in particular always remembers who you are, who you’re with, what you’re doing, details about what you like, and she’s always willing to help out with anything that you need. She could work at any 5-star hotel and teach them about hospitality.

DSC05507 DSC05508 DSC05509Again, the facilities aren’t fancy, but it’s clean and comfortable. The beds and pillows might be a little hard, and the first day that we stayed there the electricity occasionally cut out (which was annoying mostly because it meant that the air conditioning would need to be turned back on), but the location is fantastic (super close to Hoan Kiem Lake and tons of good food around), and it’s very affordable (right now, starting at $20 per room per night). They also serve breakfast, but you should be exploring the streets of Hanoi instead for all of your meals.

When I go back to Hanoi, I’d be happy to stay here again, and I heartily recommend it to anyone who doesn’t need fancy accommodations but wants to experience great hospitality.