Having read some glowing review on here, I was rather excited in anticipation of my trip to Ipoh and this auberge.
Upon arrival, my girlfriend and I were greeted by sniggers from the manageress and one of her staff, amused I'm sure by the appearance of two white people. Despite my best efforts to initiate the usually obligatory exchange of pleasantries, I was stonewalled by the ignorant staff, while they chatted in Malay, until the manageress quoted us the price (tax, of course, to be added) and began the arduous process of listing a whole ream of stern rules. I had never heard anything of its ilk!
Shocked and disheartened, I trundled off to my room for a nice shower. It was a hot day and had been a long bus journey, followed by a 35RM (!!!!!!!) taxi ride from the bus station to this most inconveniently located hotel. I turned on the shower and was almost frozen to a solid block by the water that came out. Despite my complaints, this remained the case throughout our stay. After a trip out for dinner, I was just about ready for bed, what horror when I realised the blanket was a raggy old towel and the sheets were covered in cigarette burns and pink stains (I'm none the wiser, either).
The next day, we went to rent a motorcycle. We were told we would have to lay down a deposit, by credit card, for 1000 (yes, ONE THOUSAND) ringgit. Luckily, my girlfriend had her international credit card on her person, by pure chance. This was quite a turn of fortune, as they refused to accept our passports (the standard deposit system). It is dubious as to whether this transaction has actually been cancelled, as we were told the manageress was unavailable throughout the two hours before we had to leave for our next bus. (Actually, I could see her milling around with the poor pet dog that she keeps chained up inside the hotel all day. I suppose walking it up and down the dingy corridors counts for its daily exercise.) Needless to say, my girlfriend will be checking her statements, as the bike was returned in exactly the same condition as when we rented it.
When we rented the bike, we envisaged escapades of joy and marvel around Ipoh, not solely from our own imaginations but, indeed, from the mystical Ian's! Anyone who looks on the hotel's website will see a whole itinerary of activities for the day. This includes such wonders as the Ipoh Halong Bay and the Mirror Lake. When we asked whether they had any maps or information about these sites, the response was a simple, one note, "no". Stunned and dismayed, we retreated for a bite to eat. I could not believe the treatment we were receiving. We returned to the reception and the manageress stared us up and down and demanded to know why we hadn't left yet. We told her we would like to know where we could get a map of the town. How on earth could we possibly navigate a town (beginning from its industrialised outskirts) to which we had never been before with no maps or guidance? She replied that we would have to drive into the town centre to tourist information. "It's down the road, turn left and straight on." This resulted in a great deal of aimless driving and having to ask a great number of different locals for help. I can only be thankful that virtually everybody else we have met in Malaysia has been amongst the most hospitable people I can conceive of, including those who eventually pointed us in the right direction.
When we finally arrived at the tourist information centre, an hour and a half later, we showed the extremely friendly assistant a list of the recommended places on Ian's website. He had not heard of ANY of them, except Kellie's Castle and the Cave Temple. Thank heavens that he had an alternative itinerary for us to follow.
Having already paid an extortionate amount to get from the bus station to the hotel, we were witlessly optimistic that, like the reviews on this site, we may be given a ride to the station when we departed. Oh good heavens, how wrong we were! Not only would they not help us to book a ticket to Penang, the woman at reception would not even find out bus times for us. When we asked the manageress for directions to go there and buy a ticket for ourselves, she again gave us the vaguest of directions. In fact, the name of the bus station she gave us was wrong! We were duly informed that it ceased operations some months ago. As you can imagine, this wasted even more of our day, as we had to make the 50km round trip by motorbike to purchase tickets for the next day.
There's more besides! That evening, we sat down for dinner at the food stalls next door. It began to pour with rain and, although we had parked the motorbike under a cover, it was not fully protected. Well, motorbikes are waterproof, are they not? Apparently not! The next thing we knew, the security guard, flanked by two large Indian men, raced over asking whether we had the keys. I told him my girlfriend had them in her handbag. The two large men then scuttled over to my girlfriend, paying the friendly vendor, and demanded that she move the motorbike. I don't have any idea what their problem was, but I presume it may have something to do with the authoritarian and dictatorial management in this hotel, characterised by the ridiculous number of absurd rules and regulations all over the hotel. My girlfriend was forced out into the rain by the two men, got absolutely drenched to the skin, and then had to go upstairs for, you guessed it, a freezing cold shower.
I should add that, when we arrived, we noticed the room tariffs on the website (in looking up the infamous itinerary). We paid 60RM + tax. The website specified a price of 50RM for Sun-Thurs. We stayed Mon-Wed. Make of that what you will.
This hotel is perhaps the most appalling establishment I have ever had the misfortune of perusing. It is appallingly located, the service is dreadful, the shower isn't hot, the bathroom has no natural daylight and bad plumbing (resulting in horrible odours) and the room is covered in cigarette burns and stains. I got the distinct impression that we were mistreated and unwelcome in these lodgings, I just hope it wasn't, though I fear it was, due to our European heritage.
As a postscript, I would like to exempt from my complaints the overall conduct of the security guard (despite his minor transgression regarding his involvement in wet-motorbike-gate), the lady on evening duty at reception who was helpful and greeted us with a smile and the old Chinese chap who runs the chicken rice stall next door.
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