MY XMAS EVE experience in a hotel in Penang led me to conclude that it’s a four-star hotel with a no-star carpark operator.
The good hotel image was tarred by a carpark operator intent on making as much money as it could on the evening of Xmas eve.
The hotel, Cititel, being located on Penang Road, was just a couple of minutes’ walk from popular spots for people to get merry.
People were driving up oblivious of the fact that the three-storey car park was not just full, but overflowing. There was no electronic sign that indicated if the carpark was full – or how many lots were available.
I guess many locals didn’t bother – they handed their keys to the valet, who parked the cars like sardine fish in cans.
On the two-lane ramp leading from the ground level, cars were parked on one lane - so, good luck to you if you encountered another car coming in the opposite direction. Someone had to back up to make way.
And good luck to those who had found car lots earlier. Many were stranded because of double-parking.
My frustration reached a flash point when I spotted the young man in the booth waving cars through the entrance, gleefully collecting a fistful of cash.
Needless to say, the collection must have been super that night – but drivers were cursing their luck as they circled the carpark, and ended up having to leave – or hand the keys to a valet who would double-park wherever he could.
My car is a MPV, and I was not willing to hand the valet the challenge of parking it without risking knocks and scratches.
I had no choice but to drive out to nearby streets in search of a rare public car lot. I did find one – and it was close to midnight.
At around 1.30 am, figuring that some merry-making people would have driven their cars from the hotel carpark, I came down from my room to check things out. I went out retrieve my car, hoping I wouldn't get mugged at such a late hour.
Still on the subject of hotels, I was fascinated to hear about a hotel that had just 16 carpark lots - and guests have to pay RM5 (instead of the parking being free in Cititel and other hotels).
This is a relatively new hotel called Tunes Hotel.com on Jalan Burmah, which is in the city. It gives you a five-star sleeping experience at a one-star price.
The bed is said to be excellent, but the room is small. The concept is akin to budget airlines.
Otherwise, you battle the afternoon heat with the aid of the ceiling fan.
And you either bring your own towels, or rent one for RM5.
No, there’s no free use of a hairdryer either. It will cost RM1 per stay. That's peanuts and I wonder why the hotel can't just provide it for free - and save on the administrative work.
The rooms do not have telephones or television sets, let alone safes and mini bars filled with cans of beer.
Check out www.tunehotels.com - room rates go for a song. They now start at RM15 - but it could go lower sometimes.
In May last year, The Edge Malaysia reported that rooms were available for as low as 2 sen a night then!
But anyone can see that that’s a gimmick - probably there were only a handful of rooms at those rates.
Guess who is behind the Tune Hotels.com chain? Tony Fernandes, the incredible CEO of budget airline AirAsia ('Now everyone can fly'). He co-founded the hotel chain.
Other money topics in travel stories:
COPENHAGEN: Environ-friendly city with free bicycles
HK: My encounter with an unsavoury sales practice