Category Archives: Hotels

Grand Aston City Hall Medan Review

I had decided to stay in Grand Aston City Hall hotel so that I could feel the experience of staying in the newest 5 stars hotel in Medan. This hotel is well located just opposite the famous Merdeka Walk – which is a good place to try out the different food and dine outdoor. Nearby this hotel is the Bank Indonesia office, a beautiful mosque and rows of shops along a busy street. I had booked their deluxe room and asked for a king size bed and I was pleasantly surprised that they allowed me to check in at 11 am in the morning.

Security at the Grand Aston City Hotel hotel was quite tight. The cab driver whom fetched me there had to stop his vehicle for inspection before driving to the entrance of the main lobby. Outside the glass main entrance, my luggage and myself had to undergo a metal detector scan. Next to the rows of elevator, there was a security guard standing there; and I had to tap my room card in order to access to the specific floor which my room was located. I am quite pleased with this tight security features implemented by the hotel.

The bright and clean bathroom

The deluxe room was spacious and the floor was laminated wood. Apparently everything in the room looked new and fresh as the hotel was relatively new as well. I liked the clean and bright bathroom. The only minor disappointment was that there was no bath tub. The king size bed was very firm and there were plenty of pillows placed on the bed. The firm mattress was one of the best I had every slept among so many hotels I had checked into. The small working desk was sufficient for me to do some reading but I noticed that it was not made of strong solid wood where you can sit on it. The LCD TV was large and there were sufficient variety of international channels to watch. Other things include a mini fridge, a small kettle, complimentary mineral water, tea and coffee bags and slipper. The window of my room was directly facing the famous Merdeka Walk – this place comes alive during the evenings.

Clean and comfortable King size bed.

I didn’t have time to enjoy the facilities such as the swimming pool and the Gym because I was out from the morning and coming back late in the evening. I will try it out the next time I come back to Medan on a more relax schedule. Breakfast was served in the restaurant called the Spoon Dining Coffee shop which was spacious and neat. The spread of the breakfast was sufficient and there were plenty of choices of food to choose. But I felt that the restaurant staff was not pro active enough to top up coffee and tea and clearing plates.  In fact during this breakfast meal, I had to clear the used plates and filled up the tea myself – hopefully they can improve on this service.

Spacious Deluxe bedroom.

Yes I intend to come back to Grand Aston City Hall Medan on my next trip and spend more time enjoying the pool and the food in the restaurant. If you are keen to view more photos of this hotel, please go to the image gallery of my website. All the photos that I took in Medan are placed in under the Medan category.

 

Complimentary mineral water and coffee/teabags.

 

My Breakfast for the day.

 

The restaurant where breakfast was served.

 

Fruits served in the restaurant were fresh and sweet.

 

Go to the Image Gallery of my website if you want to view more photos of hotels, and places of interest in Medan.

Swiss-Belinn Hotel Medan Review

I stayed in the Swiss-Belinn hotel in Medan a few days ago while I was in Medan Indonesia. This hotel is on Jalan Surabaya and it is not far away from the Polonia Airport in Medan. It took about 20 minutes by taxi to reach this hotel from the airport. I was charged Rp55,000 for this taxi trip after booking it at the taxi counter at the airport -which I felt it was quite expensive. The Swiss-Belinn stated in its website that it is a 3 star international hotel; but in my opinion I would only give it 2.5 star at most and I would shared the reasons for this rating.

The standard room at Swiss-Belinn Medan.

Swiss Belinn hotel is located in  a minor road and surrounded by rows of shops in front and at the back of the hotel. Many of the shops were run down in appearance and were used by traders dealing in hardware, machinery, food and sundry businesses. The back of this hotel was more interesting – there are many rows of food outlets in a small narrow road shared by pedestrians and vehicles. Many of these food stalls were selling Chinese food such as duck rice, chicken rice, pork, noodles, pastries, etc.

Some standard rooms does not have windows.

The hotel seems to be popular among budget travelers and the reception area seems to be always crowded with people sitting around the rows of sofa bench provided at the lobby. I saw bus load of tourists coming down from the bus and walking into the hotel with their tour guide. I booked the standard room and was given the highest floor ( 9th floor if I could recalled correctly). To take the lift up to your room, you need to scan the magnetic card on the scanner and pressed the desired floor level – which was good for added security. Just beside the lift was the hotel restaurant where breakfast would be served. One good feature was that there was a 24 hours convenient store located near the lobby; where I bought some beers and snack during the night.

The black bathroom in Swiss-Belinn Medan

The standard room was compact, spartan but clean. I am rather amused to see that the floor tiles of the room was black and the entire bathroom is black. The black floor and wall tiles in the  bathroom created a very dark atmosphere when I was inside it. And to make the matter worse, the lighting on the ceiling of the bathroom was very dim. The hotel should seriously consider using a higher watt light bulbs to enhance the lighting condition – perhaps a 15 watt energy saving bulb for the shower area and another 15 watt energy saving bulb near the basin. Every time when I entered into the bathroom, I felt that I was entering into a cave.

Taking a shower in the dark bathroom at Swiss-Belinn Medan.

Though the room was compact in size, it was sufficient for 2 persons. There was a kettle and 2 bottles of mineral water provided but there was no mini fridge. The brand of the LCD TV was TCL – a China brand. This LCD TV was acceptable except that you have to put up with distortion in the sound system. The air conditioned system was not strong enough; making the room rather warm. The setting of the temperature would always reset itself to its default temperature no matter how many times I tried to reset the temperature. The walls and door of the room was not thick enough to isolate the noise coming from the next room or the corridor. In fact I could listened to the conversation of people talking right outside the common corridor. This hotel provides very minimal toiletries – so do bring your own personal toiletries set. For the queen size bed – it was clean and comfortable. There were 2 clean pillows provided.

The common corridor leading to the rooms at Swiss-Belinn Medan.

I had booked their Ramadhan package which includes 2 complimentary free dinner. I went to tried out their dinner with the initial impression that the dinner buffet spread would be a limited spread of food available. Actually the spread of food given was good but the problem was that all the food was cold. The rice, fried noodles, vegetables, meat, etc were all cold. I brought this to the attention of a lady staff in the restaurant. I told her that food should be served at in warm temperature and they should used a warmer to heat up all the food. She just listened, smiled and then walked away. Had I know that the food were cold, I would have taken my dinner at Sun Plaza where I was there before returning back to the hotel.

At the lobby of Swiss-Belinn Medan.

Then in the morning, I walked into the restaurant again for breakfast. I told myself that if the food was cold again, then I would skipped breakfast. Fortunately, the breakfast turned out to be all right. The rice, vegetables, meat, noodles were all served hot. I liked the fish crackers which I think was delicious. The tea was slightly weird in taste and diluted – perhaps they were using some local tea. Overall the breakfast was good considering that it is a budget hotel.

The dinner buffet spread was good but the problem was that the food were served cold.

One of the problem that I encounter while staying in Swiss-Belinn Medan was transport. It was hard to get a taxi just off the street. You could get pirated taxi just outside the hotel who would quote you a much higher rate – so you have to bargain but the taxi driver may not be interested in your reduced rate. There were pedicabs just outside the hotel and you need to fixed the rate with them before proceeding to your destination.

You can find rows of food stalls behind the Swiss-Belinn Medan. Mainly Chinese food are sold here.

Overall, the condition of the room was all right. Improvement should be made on the lighting in the bathroom, air-conditioned settings in the room and transport availability for customers. If you are keen in viewing more photos of this hotel, go to my website at Indonesiapics.com and proceed to the photo gallery section. I would put up more photos over there.

Breakfast was good and more importantly all the food were hot.

 

A view of the restaurant at Swiss-Belinn Medan.

 

 

 

How Safe is the Hotel Safe?

My friends and I were having a light discussion last week on the topic of safety while staying in hotel and also on the topic of hotel safe in the room. Of course we were aware of stories from travelers who had lost their valuables in the hotel rooms or items placed in the hotel safe. So the question is how safe is the safe in the hotel room? I think this is not an easy question to answer; or there is no correct answer at all. Personally I have used and placed my travel documents and money in the hotel safe on many occasions and it was totally fine and safe.

Let me just start off by saying that generally the safe in the hotel room is safe. That is based on my personal experience traveling for so many years and staying in many hotels. There are certain precautions that I normally take when I choose a hotel. First, I always do my homework on the location of the particular hotel before I do the booking. I would find out whether is the hotel located in the sleazy or crime areas/spots of that particular city or town. If it was so, I would not stay there. Secondly, I would normally booked a hotel and not a motel. I know that motel and small hotels are cheaper than established hotels; but I am prepared to pay more for added security and peace of mind. Thirdly, are the lifts in the hotels using card access and similarly on the rooms? That would be my preference as card access lifts and rooms are strong security feature in the hotel.

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Hotel Safe

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Now moving on to the room itself. Normally in an established hotel, the door in your hotel room is solid, strong and fire retard with strong lock features. I have seen the doors in smaller hotel and motel rooms that are cheap, thin and with cheap locks. You can literally hear the commotion on what is happening next to your room or outside the corridor. In such instance, the safe in your hotel room is not safe, as it is easy to break into your room. In many good hotels, the hotel safe in the room are bolted down to the cabinet or very heavy. There is no worry of house keeping workers coming in to clean up your room as they do not have the master key or the secret code to open up the safe. If you have forgotten the password to your safe, only the management or the security staff personnel are authorise to help you in opening the safe.

As a precautionary measure, I do not placed all my money in the hotel safe – only a portion of it. I do not wear jewelery or expensive watch when I travel – leave it at home. If I see the housekeeping team cleaning the adjacent rooms in the morning, I would asked them to clean my room while I am still in the room. I would always check that the hotel safe is securely locked and thereafter checking the main door is properly locked after I leave the room. I would also leave the TV and lights on when I leave my room if I am staying on the lower floor of the hotel. Most of the time I would request and get to stay at high floor.

So my answer is that the hotel safe in the room is safe provided that the hotel has strong security features installed and implemented; and that you have taken all precautionary measures to make your room safe. There is no such thing as a 100% theft free hotel but you can take measures to minmise this risk.

Harbour Bay Amir Hotel Batam

I stayed at the Harbour Bay Amir Hotel in Batam during the Chinese New Year holidays in February 2010. The most convenient way to reach this hotel is to take a ferry to Harbour Bay Ferry Terminal in Batam. You need to take a ferry that is run by the ferry operator called Wavemaster. The journey will take less than an hour from Singapore. Upon arrival at the Harbour Bay Ferry Terminal, you can actually walk to this hotel. Here is how to do it. Just outside the main arrival gate, you can see lots of taxi outside the lobby. Looked more towards the right and you can see a small road; just walk towards the road. Alternatively, you can wait till you see how the taxi drive out from this departure area towards the road that leads out from this terminal. Just keep walking till you can see a building which is about 6 or 7 storeys high – that is the Harbour Bay Amir Hotel Batam. It takes only 10 minutes to reach this hotel if you care to walk.

The Harbour Bay Amir Hotel seems to look relatively new and beside this hotel is the Harbour Bay Mall. This is the newest mall that has just opened in Batam with Carrefour as its anchor tenant. Checking in was relatively quick and I took an elevator to my room. The hotel room that I have booked was spacious enough and carpeted. There was a king size bed but I find the pillow rather worn out. The main disappointment is that the room does not have a mini fridge and a kettle – in short there was no minibar. I do not like room that does not have minibar. I think the management of this hotel should looked into this seriously. What is the cost of putting up a minibar in each room? I think it is minimal. I am sure all guests would want a minibar in their room – to be able to make their own coffee or tea and enjoy a cool drink straight from the mini fridge. Another item that is lacking is a hairdryer in the bathroom. Many women would liked to have a hairdryer in the bathroom. The TV in the room is the small old CRT type but to me it is still acceptable. The towels given is clean but looks worn out as well. Also if there can be an additional pillow provided, it would be good. The bathroom is spacious and clean and yes there is a bathtub if you enjoy soaking in the bathtub.

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There is a lobby lounge at the ground floor which is called DLounge. I wanted to highlight something that is pleasant. I wanted to have a beer about 1 am in the night, I walked to this lounge, however it was closed. I asked the staff to confirm whether it was in fact closed. The staff nodded and told me that he could get someone to serve me. I sat in the lounge and later a male staff came to turn on the light of this lounge and served the cold beer that I wanted. Now that was excellent service which I very much appreciated. Breakfast in the morning was served in the restaurant that is on the ground level. The breakfast spread is quite standard as in most hotels in Batam. However I find that the tea that was served in the tea pot was too diluted. Overall, the breakfast is acceptable.


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One of the distinct advantage of this hotel is that the Harbour Bay Mall is just opposite this hotel. However, there were many shops in this mall that remain empty – perhaps this is still a relatively new mall. Carrefour is open and it is located at the basement level. If you intent to go to Nagoya town, then you have to take a cab which is less than 10 minutes for most locations in Nagoya. For more photos on this hotel, you can visit our website at Indonesiapics.com

If you are still looking for more information on batam and Indonesia, do visit us at –

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Mercure Rekso Hayam Wuruk Hotel Jakarta – My Review

After getting off the train from the Gambir train station in Jakarta, I proceed to the taxi counter. A lady staff at the counter asked me on my destination and immediately she got a cab for me. That was pleasantly fast. I took my ride on the cab expecting that it will be a quick ride to my hotel – the Mercure Rekso Hayam Wuruk Hotel. After all, the distance between the train station and this hotel is not far away. That is a fact, but sometimes facts and reality are totally different. The problem is the traffic. I was totally stuck in a slow snailing crawling traffic on the busy road. In fact at that time I was thinking if I could just walk, it is even faster than sitting in the cab.

The Mercure Rekso Hayam Wuruk hotel is located in the North of Jakarta in the area called Glodok. In Glodok, you can see lots of local Chinese Indonesians; most of them are running their businesses over here. The Chinese in Indonesia are very enterprising people. Take a stroll around Glodok and you will soon realized that the Indonesian Chinese have the inborn ability to seize business opportunities whenever they sees it. This hotel is very near to the Presidential Palace. In fact if you are taking a cab, you will probably pass by it. Yes, the Presidential Palace looks grand and beautiful and unfortunately No, you can’t walk in and visit it.

Checking in was smooth and professional; but somehow I just couldn’t feel the warmth hospitality here as compared to other hotels, especially the smaller hotels. Anyway, that is not a major issue for me. I took my luggage and walked to the lift and head straight to my room. When I saw my room, I liked it straight away.

The room was spacious, clean and well layout. The bed and the pillows were clean and firm. One of the first thing that caught my eyes was the large flat screen TV on the table. Many hotels in Jakarta are still having the old conventional CRT TV. The air-conditioned was strong and cold. In fact I need to tune it down as I normally do not like room that is too cold. I got a room with a good view of the city, which is nice. There is a mini fridge for cold drinks as well as a small kettle where you can make a cup of coffee/tea. And yes, there is a small safe deposit box that is placed inside the wardrobe. The bathroom is clean and spacious enough for easy movement. There is a clean bathtub as well as a hairdryer. On the whole, I find the room cosy and comfortable.

If you intend to walk around the area near the hotel, you do need to watch out for heavy traffic on the roads. There isn’t any pedestrian malls or pavements that you can walk safely. The nearest mall that you can walk to is the LTC Glodok. But if you keen in shopping for the latest fashion or accessories. this is not the place. LTC Glodok is a mall that caters mainly to businesses. It is a mall where you can get all kinds of hardware, ventilation fans, bolts and nuts, pipes, etc. However, there is a supermarket and food court which still cater to some of your personal needs. If you still want to shop for clothes, you can take a cab and asked him to take you to Mangga Dua which is relatively nearby. For sightseeing, the national monument and the national museum is also nearby. But you still need to take a cab to reach there. I don’t advise walking too much, as you will be walking along the main roads with lots of vehicles very close to you.

For more information on Mercure Rekso Hayam Wuruk hotel in Jakarta; and information and photos on Indonesia, do visit our website at :- Indonesiapics.com

Mutiara Hotel – Bandung, Indonesia.

On my visit to Bandung, my initial plan was to book a service apartment but unfortunately it was fully booked. My next option was to book Mutiara Hotel. The reason was that since I was planning to take a train back from Bandung to Jakarta, Mutiara Hotel will provide me with an easy access to Bandung train station. It is after all the nearest hotel to the train station.


Mutiara Hotel is located at 60 Jln Kebon Kawang, Bandung 40171. When the taxi that I took finally arrived at the hotel, my first impression was that it must be quite a old hotel. The check in lobby seems to be small, spartan and simple. However, check in was quick and a staff showed me to my room. You need to walk out of the hotel lobby through a small exit to the car park and walked across the next building. The hotel buildings is an unassuming 3 storey like houses that are connected to one another by corridors.

When I finally opened the door to my bedroom, it seems small, even though I have booked an Executive Room. I asked the staff whether is this an Executive Room, he confirmed it. It was on the third floor with a view of the swimming pool. The room is simple and small, and the bathroom seems to be worn out after years of usage. On the positive side, there is a mini bar and a small fridge where you can put your cold drinks and fruits. The TV had multi channels where you can watched programs from different countries. Also, there is a lift that goes from the first floor to the third floor – where I am staying. The common corridor that connects the rooms is an open space walkways.

Mutiara hotel has a certain characteristic that makes it unique. The building looks old and colonial. The best aspect of it is that there are lots of greenery around. You can see trees and plants everywhere. That is something that is very pleasing. Near the pool, there is a mini garden – with a mini fountain and Koi fishes. The environment is slow and relaxing – after all, that is what vacation is all about.

The railway station is nearby to this hotel. If you walk, you can reached the train station by approximately 10 minutes. If you are just outside the hotel lobby facing the main road, there is only 2 ways to walk – right or left. Just turn left and keep walking. However, just remember that the railway station is opposite the road. It is a small building. While walking, looked out for vehicles, as the traffic is heavy and there is hardly any pavement at all.

Morning breakfast is served at the Tiara restaurant on the ground floor. Breakfast is basic but sufficient. If you are looking for a sumptuous spread, then you will be disappointed. From this restaurant, you can have a good view of the swimming pool. The pool is small in size – it is good for a quick dip. But I do liked the greenery surrounding the restaurant and the pool. The whole place is cosy and relaxing.

On the whole, the hotel do need to renovate its rooms. And the Executive room that I have booked seems to be of similar size with that of the standard room. I think there should be a difference – in terms of size of the room, the facilities in the room and of course a good view. That is the reason why people are paying more for a better room. Other that this, Mutiara hotel is a nice place to stay. There are a few factory outlets and restaurants that are close to this hotel. And if you explore the surroundings further, you can even find a beautiful church that is about 15 minutes walk from this hotel.

For more information and photos on Mutiara Hotel, the city of Bandung and Indonesia, please visit our website at Indonesiapics.com

Formosa Hotel – Batam Island, Indonesia

The location of Formosa Hotel is ideal for travelers heading to the center of Nagoya town in Batam. Formosa Hotel is situated at No. A8 City Plaza Nagoya, Batam Island in Indonesia. For those who does not know where is Batam Island, it is situated south of Singapore. Batam island is easily accessible by an hour ferry ride from Harbour Front in Singapore.

Formosa Hotel is not a new hotel but it is still a comfortable place to stay in Batam. I would rate this hotel as perhaps a 3 Star hotel. There is no swimming pool or garden where you can enjoy. Everything seems a slightly compact in size. The frontage of the hotel and car park is small. The front reception counter and the lobby is compact. It has a small coffee house also on the ground level. There is a health center where you can get a massage; and a KTV center at the top floor. The KTV center has quite a number of KTV rooms as well as hostesses.


I have stay in this hotel on numerous occasions, and I find that checking in at the reception counter is always very efficient and fast. Many Singaporeans stay in this hotel and that is why the hotel also quote its room rate in Singapre Dollars. You can also pay in Singapore dollars or Rupiah. All major credit cards are also acceptable. Personally, I think the staff at this hotel is well trained and polite; a definitive plus factor.

There are 2 lifts in this hotel that can bring you to your room. I find that the lifts are rather slow but spacious. After landing at the designated floor, finding your room make take some effort for some people. The floor consists of main corridors and sub corridors that lead to rows and rows of rooms. Sometimes you feel as though you are in a maze. Perhaps the management of this hotel could consider putting up more signages or direction boards to help customers to identify their rooms quickly.

I have wrote earlier that everything seems to be compact in size on the ground floor. Luckily for the rooms, it is not compact. In fact I find the room quite spacious in size like most 4 star hotels that I have stayed. The floor is entirely carpeted, the air-conditioned is strong and the bathroom is also spacious. The room even has a mini fridge and a kettle. So having you favourite hot or cold beverages is now easy. Of course, there is also a TV with multi channels. The windows of the rooms either have the view of the main road or the side or back view of Lucky Plaza mall. Surprisingly the rooms that I have stayed in numerous occasions are quiet.

Getting your daily meals whether lunch or dinner is absolutely a easy thing to do. You can eat at the numerous food outlets or restaruants in Lucky Plaza or Centerpoint Mall. Or alternatively you can try eating at the numerous coffee shops that are located nearby this hotel. Shopping is also a breeze, as there is many shops at the 2 malls. Everything that you need seems to be just around the corner.

I like Formosa hotel for its prime location, the close proximity to malls and food outlets. I like the rooms which is clean and well maintained. Also I think the staff of this hotel is efficient in getting things done. Overall, Formosa Hotel is a great place to stay.

For more information about Batam and Indonesia, please visit IndonesiaPics.com

Arcadia Hotel

Arcadia Hotel in Jakarta is located at 114 Jl. KH. Wahid Hasyim. It is very closed to Jl. Thamrin. It took about an hour ride to reach this hotel from the airport.

The first impression upon arrival is that it is a relatively small hotel. Step right in and straight away you can see the reception/reservation counter. Look straight further, and you can see the lifts and the restaurant. And that is it, you have almost see it all.

Checking in was smooth and fast. The corridor leading to my room was long and narrow. What impressed me is the door to my bedroom. The design of door is beautiful and artistic.

Upon entering the room, the instinctive response is the size of the room. It is very small and compact! Even the vanity room (toilet) is small. The queen size bed took up nearly half the space of the room.There is very little space availble for movement.

The bed is clean and comfortable. But the blanket seems a little worn-out. There is a small TV and a mini bar (fridge) with cold can drinks and beers. They even provide you with a small kettle for you to make hot tea/coffee.

The location of Arcadia Hotel is a prime factor why many travelers choose to stay here. It is very close to Jl. Thamrin.

Sarinah Department Store is just 5 minutes walk away. There are plenty of restaurants for you to choose. There are MacDonald which opens 24 hours, Pizza Hut, and local food outlets. If you feel like catching a movie, the Cineplex is nearby. There are plenty of cabs that can take you around Central District. I took the task of walking from the hotel to Plaza Indonesia. It took about 30 minutes.

Despite its size, the Arcadia Hotel does fulfilled the needs of the budget travelers. Is this a good budget hotel to stay? My answer is:- Yes, it is value for money.

For more information on Jakarta, check out IndonesiaPics.com