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 ]

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 ]

Days and Days on KL’s Trains

Kuala Lumpur’s commuter train system is quirkier than Singapore’s efficient MRT network, but if you’ve got no interest in the quickest trip from A to B, the KL trains offer better value. I had read what a mess the system was to build, with four different companies winning development bids. There was no disappointment: it was a pleasure to see and ride the result – if only for the amusement of making a connection. No overall design integrated the development plans of the four companies, and switching between lines usually means exiting one station and walking to another. My favorite ... [ Read More ]

A Morning’s Jaunt in KL – Rice Porridge & Books

KL’s sightseeing attractions include the world’s tallest flagpole, the fifth tallest radio tower, the Petronas Towers – once the world’s tallest buildings, now surpassed. All are hyped as unrecognized wonders of the world. Well, okay, the Petronas Towers are impressive, but they are, after all, just two more pillars of glass and steel, and the tallest flagpole is still a flagpole. The only time I recall seeing the pole it didn’t even have an outsized flag flapping at the top. So, with a morning to spend in KL, what do you do? Head to Chinatown — the earlier the better. ... [ Read More ]

Not Just for Visas Anymore – Bangkok, Part Five

Bumrungrad Hospital – that “marble-floored mecca of the medical trade” – had 55,000 American patients in 2005, a 30 percent increase over 2004, according to an article in the July 31 issue of Time magazine. Total foreign patients at Bumrungrad in 2005 were 400,000, and Thailand as a whole is expecting one million medical tourists in 2006 (Thai Day, April 20, 2006). Bumrungrad regularly draws comments from first-time visitors, such as, “It’s the most modern hospital I’ve ever been in my life,” which is what a 60-ish American residing in Bali said after an annual check-up there. A long-time Bangkok ... [ Read More ]

The ‘Home Leave’ Visa

The best advice on getting Indonesian visas in America or Europe is, “Don’t do it.” Arrange your travel so that you pass through Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, or Singapore, where it is the usual three-day, no-muss-no-fuss, in-and-out (one day if you pay the ‘express fee’ in Bangkok and Singapore). Not to say there can’t be complications and frustrations at the visa mills of Southeast Asia, just they are much less than at their counterparts in Western countries. Most of the recent visa complaints I’ve heard have come from people trying to get visas in America or Europe. The Los Angeles Indonesian ... [ Read More ]

To Your Health in Penang Hotels – Penang, Part Three

Walking out in Penang on a Sunday afternoon, when Georgetown is considerably more traffic-free than it is during the week, my friend and I entered the lobbies of a couple of interesting looking hotels to find small crowds of dark-skinned Indian and Sri Lankan women looking at us hopefully. These old, rundown places seemed to host the primary weekend business activity, and we finally became a bit more wary about the doorways we’d walk through.   Almost every hotel in Georgetown has a “health club” — a euphemism for a massage parlor and brothel — and the really low-end hotels ... [ Read More ]