Category Archives: Border Run

Singapore Backpacker Hostels, First of Two Lists

A recent development in Singapore – if you will allow ‘recent’ to stretch back three years – has been a range of inexpensive, tidy, and cozy accommodations for the budget traveler. In 2004, they were popping up at the rate of one a month, according to a Straits Times report. Now there are as many as 30, with a primary concentration being in Little India. Dorm beds can be had for under S$20 a night, with specials at some places for extended stays. Singles and doubles generally run less than S$50 a night. Common baths are the norm. Prince of ... [ Read More ]

The US$280 (plus S$10) Singapore Haircut

Ever since my first barbershop haircut at Jack’s in Vernon, Texas, when I was just a wee Midwestern tyke, I have had allergic reactions to the kinds of places I have to go to get a decent haircut in Bali. In fact, I haven’t yet had a decent haircut in Bali. I’ll accept that maybe I go to the wrong places, but it just galls me to pay 50,000 rupiah or more for a bad haircut when the standard potong rambut hole-in-the-wall charges 10,000 rupiah, and even that’s a bule’s price. So, I have been holding out since my last ... [ Read More ]

Singapore Hotels, A Short List

Singapore is by far the most convenient place for a visa run. Tickets to and from Singapore (Garuda price about US$230) usually cost less than fares to Bangkok, visa processing is slicker than in Kuala Lumpur, food is inexpensive at most hawker stalls and food courts, and public transport, like everything else in Singapore, is clean and efficient. Lodging is the sticking point. It is hard to find an inexpensive hotel without the all-night comings and goings of three-hour guests. Here are a few suggestions for accommodation in Singapore in the budget to medium price range (figured at S$1.54 to ... [ Read More ]

Singapore Backpacker Hostels, The Second List

Staying in Singapore on a budget no longer means a seedy two-star hotel with no character and charm. Last time I reviewed backpacker hostels I had given the once-over, eyeball test. Now I’ve pulled backpacker hostels off the Internet, pleased by their name, their location, their prices, some intangible aspect of their Web presence. Call this list, “Places I’d Like to Stay Sometime.” Each place below received at least a 70 percent approval rating on If booking through this Web site, note that the prices quoted are per bed and not per room. If one person books a double ... [ Read More ]

A River Runs Through It – Bangkok, Part Four

Every time I go to Bangkok, I get a dreamy longing to live in a house on a canal, my boat tucked out of the weather under a falling down pier. Even the meanest waterside shed sparks envy, although I appreciate, too, the mansions and trim gardens behind personal stone quays.   “How much for that water-logged palace there?” I want to ask someone. Surely something can be done to keep the house from sinking into the mire. I get the same sort of urge when I see the Mississippi. I want to live on a houseboat lazily, a couple ... [ Read More ]

In Penang, Visit the Dead Folk — Penang, Part Two

They stopped burying bodies at Penang’s old protestant Christian cemetery in 1892, so if you like bone yards crumbling and romantic, visit this burial ground on Jalan Sultan Haji Ahmad Shah. It’s one of the best haunts in Southeast Asia for ghouls favoring the colonial era.   The Penang cemetery holds the grave of Sir Francis Light, part adventurer, part colonial visionary, and the founder of the trading port. It is also the resting place of the brother-in-law of Sir Stamford Raffles, founder of Singapore. And in one tomb lies Thomas Leonowens, who died May 7, 1859, leaving behind a ... [ Read More ]

And Now a Few Highlights from Thailand and Malaysia?

As a follow-up to November’s Border Run, here are a few activities to watch for on any visa runs to Malaysia and Thailand in 2007: January-February, 2007, Bangkok International Film Festival – Who doesn’t have a film festival these days? Bangkok now has two. This one opens January 26, and the World Film Festival runs every October. They should be a great way to beat the Bangkok heat. March-April, 2007, Bangkok International Motor Show – “The greatest automotive show in Southeast Asia” includes a beauty contest, seminars to improve your driving skills, lectures on energy consumption and road safety, and ... [ Read More ]

The Atlanta – Bangkok, Part Two

If sleaze is the disease in Bangkok, then the Atlanta is the hotel with the cure. A sign out front states “Sex Tourists Not Welcome,” and postings inside remind guests of “ZERO TOLERANCE for sex tourists, trouble-makers, possessors and users of drugs, and for all illegal and nefarious activities.” Next door is Bangkok’s Calvary Baptist Church with Sunday services in English, Thai, Nepali, and Burmese, and a Korean Bible Study on Saturday nights.   Roger Le Phoque, long-time resident of the Atlanta and unofficial spokesperson, says the hotel has no relation to the church, although the impression is of an ... [ Read More ]

Suk 11 Hostel and Environs – Bangkok, Part Three

Normally I don’t recommend hotels where I haven’t stayed. I’m doing it again the second article in a row. Suk 11 Hostel, like the Atlanta in the July 5 issue, is a family-run backpacker joint of the right sort. This place, just down a small lane off Soi 11 Sukhumvit Rd., has a façade and lobby based on rural Thai architecture, a theme carried into the hallways and nooks of the four floors above. The two rooms I inspected were simple and clean. Air-conditioned singles with private baths start at 550 Thai baht (about US$14.50), doubles at 750 THB, and ... [ Read More ]

When Going to KL, Go to Penang, Part One

Once you’re done with Kuala Lumpur’s phallic tourist attractions, there’s a peninsula to explore, and most of if it is accessible at prices for any budget. The island of Penang, just off the peninsula, is a good choice, not least because an overnight train ride provides travel and accommodation at costs comparable to one night in a medium-priced hotel in KL.   Travelers in pairs can get a two-berth cabin for 162 Malaysian ringgit (about US$44), which is at the top end of the medium range for a KL hotel that doesn’t go anywhere. Solitary travelers can take their chances ... [ Read More ]