The following article appeard in the malaysian daily newspaper The Star:
A peek at a couple of KL's popular budget hotels
I take one step out of bed and accidentally tread on a naked man on the floor. Strange, he wasn’t there when I went to bed – but then neither was that constant drone of snoring. Lying comatose on the floor next to my bunk after a heavy night out, he is oblivious to the footprint on his head.
The time is 8am and the location is the Red Palm Guesthouse in Bukit Bintang. Red Palm is a newcomer to the Kuala Lumpur backpacker circuit, but with its efficient, friendly staff and prominent web presence, it is sure to become a favourite. First impressions are good: freshly painted rooms, clean communal areas and colourful furniture – all housed within a charming colonial building.
Started in Oct 2004, Red Palm has been full of international travellers nearly every night.
“Our guests are mostly from England, Europe and the US,” said Sophie Abdullatiss, co-owner of Red Palm. “I think people enjoy staying here because what we offer is a bit more personal than the bigger hotels,” she said.
Bunking down for the night in a dorm room will set you back RM30, which is not the cheapest bed in town but includes a small breakfast and use of a kitchen. There are internet and phone facilities, and a lounge with a selection of DVDs. However with only five rooms, the atmosphere is cosy enough that swapping travel stories is better entertainment. A communal guitar in the corner is a nice touch – popular with strummers of all abilities.
Listed in Lonely Planet guidebooks, the massive Pudu Hostel is a Mecca for budget travellers from across the globe. With 40 rooms, an open lounge/bar, a pool den and an Internet café, this place is designed more for quantity than quality. The familiar backpacker odours of stale cigarette smoke and clothing greet you upon arrival. These are soon forgotten as you kick back with a beer, and become absorbed with the cheery communal ambience of the place.
Pudu offers dorm room beds from RM12. All rooms are windowless, and either pitch black at night or battery-hen white with the fluorescent lights on. Their four-person dorms are extremely small but do come with a personal locker which is a big plus when travelling alone.
The concept of Pudu Hostel was put together by a group of Korean businessmen in 2001. Catering for mainly British and European backpackers, Pudu maintains an average occupancy of about 95%. Its manager Balu K. keeps no secrets about the business’ simple success formula .
“We have all the facilities, and we offer good value for money, mate,” he said. “I suppose if the opportunity allows, we might even branch out and start a chain.”
Overall, both these places are ready to create some great memories for visitors to KL. Their staff were very approachable, and had plenty of useful advice on the city and further afield. If you can handle the lack of privacy (and occasionally, oddities), the experience of staying in backpacker accommodation can be one of the most rewarding adventures of travel.
KL hostels may not be as clean and slick as their European counterparts, but they certainly make up for it in character and cost. If you are keen to soak up some of the vibrant energy that comes from mixing with other transient guests, then consider a backpacker venue for your next trip.
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note by Red Palm: