We had been in hotels for the last couple of weeks – since very cheap and excellent value – but now we wanted to be more sociable and interact with some young people.
So we booked up Special Bedz Hostel right in the centre of Kuala Lumpur. Hostelworld described it as a clean, great location with a friendly atmosphere. The entrance was not promising, with a dark stairwell off a very busy, not very affluent street, with a band playing loud music outside.
However, once up the flight of stairs and having taken our shoes off, we were made to feel instantly at home with the two receptionists, fun and friendly Fatin and Iera, who couldn’t do enough for us.
The communal area was full of a multinational group of young people, mostly conversing in English about their travels past, present and future. This is what we miss at hotels; the fascinating exchanges with lots of very positive young people, many at the start of their travelling lives.
We book our hostels and hotels a few days ahead, mainly using booking.com, following a simple, logical process: look in a particular price range, check ease of access from the airport/station, and then review the customer ratings.
Sometimes we are disappointed (Kyoto and Guangzhou), sometimes delighted. Our place in Jakarta, Citadines Apartments, falls into the latter.
The room is on the 22nd floor of a modern apartment block. Many of the people here are on long-term rentals, but for £46 a night, we have a palatial room with settee and kitchen areas. Also wonderful first-class breakfasts, a swimming pool on the floor below and a New York themed restaurant.
We just love relaxing in the room, looking down on the business district’s skyscrapers, leaving the curtains open each night to enjoy the cosmopolitan view.
This is a recharge before the long train journey into the centre of Java.
We stayed at the Blue Backpacker hostel in Busan. On the walls were quotes about a love of travelling. Some of you might recognise them, but they inspired us to keep going, so we wanted to share them with you.
We’ve just finished three days and nights in our tiny campervan up in the Atherton Tablelands. It’s a fertile plateau where coffee, bananas and sugar cane are grown in irrigated fields.
The campervan was a bit basic, but we enjoyed imagining we were in our 20s. When parked next to the other campervans and RVs, it was however dwarfed, so good job neither of us suffer from low self esteem.
That said, the HippieCamper was well designed with an integrated sink and fridge, came with a small gas cooker, and converted to a full-size double bed. It was fine for our seven days but we are looking to trade up for our next campervan in the Outback; an integral shower and toilet will seem like a necessity out there.
Places we visited in the Tablelands included Hippie-town Kuranda, bustling Atherton, and charming Yungaburra. At the latter, we saw our first ever Duck Billed Platypus swimming in a river, albeit for a few seconds, and a brilliant example of a curtain fig tree.
We’ve just spent five nights on Maui – its nickname is The Valley Isle, and many people say it’s the most beautiful of the Hawaii islands. Truth is we only went there because we are now en route to Australia and there’s a direct flight from Los Angeles.
We travelled 2000 miles west reading books and watching films. How different from the Polynesian voyagers who reached Hawaii about 400 AD, or earlier, using only fixed stars as their navigation.
First impressions of Maui were not good. The roads were busy. The landscape far from picturesque and the sky full of menacing clouds!
Also the island authorities seem determined to make campers unwelcome. Some told us this was a new policy to prevent the homeless arriving from California. However after two nights in a private campsite we sorted out our state permit, and were able to escape to the more isolated and beautiful parts of the island.
Staying in motels was fun in the Southern States. But here in Oregon we want to get out into the wilderness and experience nature 24/7. So your bloggers went to Walmart and bought everything you need to camp in the beautiful State Parks.
Rather than follow the coast road, we were advised the better weather right now is east of the Cascade Mountains. And our first camp just outside Culver is at the Cove Palisades State Park surrounded by stunning gorges and lakes. We loved having the place to ourselves but it was freezing once the sun went down.
Also disaster. We did a great job at Walmart earlier in the day, but the mattress pump needed batteries (rather than being run off the car battery). So we had to sleep on the ground.
Overlooking Lake Louise is the 552 room Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. A vast, luxurious and welcoming hotel.
Originally just a wooden chalet in 1890, the hotel was gradually developed at the turn of the 20th century by the Canadian Pacific Railway to lure wealthy travellers to head west by train. The famous soon came, and the Rockies were opened up to climbing and trekking.
Our gap year budget obviously doesn’t stretch to rooms starting at 439 Canadian dollars (about £265). But for some unexplained reason our cheap lodge down the road had an obscure arrangement with the Fairmont allowing us to use their swimming pool and spa. We felt like the deserving poor, but it was good to get some swimming time in beautiful surroundings.
Afterwards we sat in the bar and ordered the two cheapest drinks on the menu.
The hardest working thing in our shack is the fan. We have dissolved into a very lazy few days. Going for beach walks, wave-jumping in the sea and cycle rides to the nearest fruit and vegetable store. But most of the time we are just re-charging our batteries.
The shack on the edge of the jungle – just five minutes walk to the beach – is an exceptional AirBnB find. Hosts Eva and Johnny welcomed us with fresh coconut juice and Johnny shinned up the tree again today, to fetch us some more supplies.
Of course, the simple life is much easier when the weather is so glorious. But how we complicate our lives back home.
Change happens. Sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly.
In rural Ecuador it’s happening in front of our eyes. Down every valley. Along every road. And the result – there are almost no houses to be seen over 30 years old.
In the town where we have been staying for the past three nights, we saw two lovely old deserted places. Probably still standing only because a redirection of the Pan American highway has made Lasso a backwater.
Their wooden facias testament to a time before concrete. And a time when there was some aesthetic aspirations. Today the streets are often ugly and haphazard. Change.
Here we are with the delightful owners of the HotelPalacio – where we stayed in Montevideo. The family have run this hotel for 90 years. We are sure they do it every day with hard work, passion and generous spirits.
So what do we want from hotels on our gap year? Well it’s not much; we can’t be too choosy on our budget. And to give you an idea of what we’ve put up with so far, at one place Hilary screamed when she saw a frog in the loo!
However, it’s good to have a distinctive experience in keeping with the location and a friendly welcoming smile.
This is what HotelPalacio gave us. Our room was full of antique wooden furniture. It had a private veranda with great views. The lift was still the original installed 90 years ago. Charming and just £41 a night.