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I’m writing this in Bintan, sitting on a gazebo perched atop the water on the Straits of Malakka. My bus to the ferry terminal leaves in about an hour, so I figure I’d take this time to do a short write up of my week. I don’t normally write reviews of the places I stay at, but I figure I’d make an exception, because I found this to be very affordable, in a nice location, in close proximity to Singapore. (FYI, I am assuming an exchange rate of 10,000 rupiah to the US Dollar in everything below).
The name of the resort is the Yasin Nostalgia Resort. It is the low end cousin of the Agr0 Beach Resort which is a five minute walk up the road from here. Agra is sort of the high end resort (nonetheless, the top end jacuzzi room only costs US$100 a night). The great part about staying at Yasin is that even though you are only paying US$13 a night, you can go to the other resort and use all their facilities including a pool, restaurant and spa. They will also shuttle you to the main resort for no cost. The walk is an easy one. I was able to walk from one to another during it time it took for one long song to play on my iPod. Also, there is a school along the way so you’ll have a ton of kids waving to you saying “Hullo Mist-tuh”.
In the five days I was here, I pretty much didn’t do a damn thing. I got completely caught up on my photos, edited a podcast episode, totally deleted another episode because it sucked so bad, and got another one ready to go. I also ate a lot of cheap food.
To give you an idea of the prices here, a can of coke was US$0.60. Compare that to Tahiti where the same can would cost US$5. You could order off the menu here and most things could cost around US$1.80. Save for three meals I had at the restaurant which I paid in cash, and the occasional use of internet time (which was US$3/hour…cheap), my total bill for 5 days, room, food and drinks, came to US$94.
It isn’t just that it’s cheap. The bungalows are nice and you can get some above the water. A similar (albeit nicer) room in Bora Bora would cost over US$300 a night….plus you have to fly to Bora Bora. Granted, my expectation of luxury are much lower than most people. They had no hot water and the toilets had no water tank. You had to dump a bucket of water in the bowl. But still, even the “high end” resort, the normal rooms were US$45/night.
I’ve been to a few places now that have all shared similar features: smallish resorts, friendly staff, locally made bungalows, and cheap price. Others include the VIllage Inn in Pohnpei, the Village Inn in Kosrae, and place I stayed in Bali the name of which I can’t remember off the top of my head, but it had a stone bathtub the size of a sarcouphous.
One of the dirty secrets I’ve learned traveling is that the best places to stay aren’t the most expensive ones. As a treat to myself, I stayed a weekend at le Meridian in New Caledonia. The room was nice, the bathroom was nice, but in the end, that was all I was paying for. A lot of money for nice sheets. I didn’t meet anyone and the food was over priced. If you want to stay in your room the whole time (which, when you travel like me, is exactly what you want to do sometimes) My standards for luxury now are hot water and a bath tub. (I’m not a big bath guy, but sometimes you just need to sit in water for a long time to get the grime off you and the dirt out from under your fingernails) Oh, and free internet, which you almost certainly will never, ever find in an expensive hotel. The cheaper the hotel, the better the odds of getting free internet.
Hopefully, I”ll be able to find more places like this in the coming weeks as I work my way through SE Asia. I might even stay a few nights in a swank hotel just because the cost of doing so will probably much cheaper than in a place like Singapore or Australia.