Stay: Y-Loft @ Youth Square, Hong Kong
For my week in Hong Kong, I stayed at the excellent Y-Loft at Youth Square. While it’s a little way out from Hong Kong’s main attractions, it more than makes up for it in all other areas.
The rooms are large (particularly by Hong Kong’s standard), well designed, modern, well equipped, sound-proofed, clean & comfortable and really excellent value. I especially liked the open plan bathroom area (with a big sink in the main room), the always hot & always powerful shower, free WIFI and the direct lift access from street level. A fridge, kettle, hair dryer and helpful staff were also a bonus.
I judge everywhere I stay by how well I can sleep there (since I’m a terribly light sleeper). Thankfully, Y-Loft passed the test and I slept soundly. But it’s the extra attention to detail and the unique character and design that made for such a comfortable stay. Next time you’re in Hong Kong, I recommend you check it out.
Don’t just take my word for it. Head to TripAdvisor to read reviews from other travellers.
Review: Courtyard @ Heeren Boutique Hotel, Malacca
A beautiful & unique hotel, complemented by brilliant staff, lots of included amenities and a perfect location.
- The staff were incredible, easily providing the best customer service I’ve ever experienced. Upon arrival, someone carried my heavy bag up the stairs and showed me round my room. They always greeted me when I walked through reception or when I passed one of them in the corridor. Items (such as my receipt) were handed to me with two hands (a real mark of respect). At breakfast, the entire team greeted me in unison. One time, I briefly sat in reception to read an email. Within seconds, a glass of water was brought over without me asking. Even the gentlemen delivering the free newspapers in the morning was a delight. I could go on and on. They were brilliant!
- By western standards, room rates are an absolute bargain.
- Flat screen TVs with an English language movie channel in all rooms.
- Rooms spacious, bright, clean and nicely furnished & decorated with a cosy brown and cream colour scheme.
- No noticeable noise issues.
- A really hot and powerful rain shower, massively appreciated after spending the day out in the heat of Malacca.
- Great location. Right in the centre of town and one street over from the main drag Jonker Walk, home of the famous Night Market.
- In-room tea and coffee making facilities, hairdryer, slippers, selection of toiletries all included.
- A firm, comfortable bed.
- The public areas and reception were really beautiful. Lots of water features and open courtyards. A real pleasure to explore and a completely unique ambiance.
- Breakfast included in the room price. Eggs cooked however you like, fresh fruit, cereals, toast and a variety of hot options, all served in a stunningly beautiful cafe across the street from the hotel.
- Fast and effective air conditioning.
- Free parking at the rear.
- Free Wifi
Read more »
Review: Hotel La Manufacture, Paris
A charming, modern and well-appointed Parisien hotel with excellent transport links.
Recently, I spent three nights in Paris, France, just for a break in routine. Since it was my forth time in the capital, I didn’t go for anything in particular. I went simply because it’s easy for me to get to and there’s plenty to see on foot. Plus, it’s Paris! As usual, I needed a comfortable, modern, quiet room to stay in for as little cash as possible. I opted to book a package via ShortBreaks where a Eurostar return from/to London was bundled with the cost of the accommodation. I found a great little deal for Hotel La Manufacture. Did Room 1 meet the hotel’s good reputation?
- A medium-size room. Some others reviews suggest some of the rooms here are on the cramped side. Perhaps I was lucky. Perhaps others are a little fussy. I found the size to be just right.
- Comfortable bed. Two single beds were pushed together to form a double with a double sheet and quilt.
- Good lighting. Lots of options and a large window.
- Large flat-screen tv mounted on the wall. Around 40 channels with English news channels and general entertainment channels in French, German, Italian and Spanish.
- Controllable air-con.
- Warm, comfortable decor and nice wood furnishings. No noticeable wear and tear.
- High standard of cleanliness.
- Really quiet. My room was at the back of the building facing into an inner courtyard. There was no traffic noise at all. Lift shafts were next door to the room but made very little noise.
- Mini-safe in wardrobe, nice towels, free toiletries and face cloths, hair dryer, telephone, tv guide and other magazines all included in the room.
- Free and fast Wifi in all areas of the hotel. No excuse these days to charge hotel customers for wifi.
- Friendly and helpful staff.
- 24 hour bar.
- Really nice location. Near an interchange metro station and lots of restaurants and shops. Away from the tourist areas so you’re mixing with real Parisiens living their lives.
- Breakfast included in the room price. A typical continental spread of breads, cheeses, cold meats, cereals, pastries and boiled eggs. Really lovely.
- A really narrow bathroom. I actually rather liked it because it was different and quirky. That said, the toilet was about 30cm away from the other wall so using it was difficult even for a skinny guy like me. People of larger proportions would probably have to sit on it sideways.
- The shower was right in front of a window. The glass was slightly frosted but there was no blind or curtain. On top of that, a bright halogen bulb lit up the shower area like a shop window, so showering at night would probably only be for the brave.
- Central faucet on sink. It’s one of my hotel bugbears. Seems every hotel has them these days. Really annoying to use.
- During one afternoon, I placed the ‘Do not disturb’ sign outside my room. I had walked a lot that morning and fancied a nap and had noticed the chambermaid was working on my floor. After a short time, I was woken up by the phone ringing. It was reception wanting to know when I would be vacating my room. It’s my personal opinion that if a hotel has “Do not disturb’ signs, they ought to respect them and that if I’m paying for a room for three nights, it should be my decision whether I want the room to be cleaned or not. It’s worth pointing out this was the only customer service issue I had though.
Despite the annoyance of being woken up unnecessarily, I really enjoyed my stay at Hotel La Manufacture and would highly recommend it to you. It’s well-appointed, well-run and offers everything you could possibly need. Rooms are a good size, quiet and comfortable and include all the necessary extras. It’s often a requirement of people visiting Paris that they avoid the chain hotels and stay in a typically Parisien hotel. This hotel would meet such a requirement since it’s set in a typically Parisien-style building (with large iron main entrance door) and is independently-owned. Next time you’re in Paris, I’d say Hotel La Manufacture is definitely worth at least short-listing.
Hotel La Manufacture
8 Rue Philippe de Champagne
Tel: +33 (0)1 45 35 45 25
Funky, modern, good value accommodation for students and travellers on a budget.
Having spent 5 weeks staying in dorms and hostels in Singapore, Australia, and New Zealand, I needed to treat myself when I arrived in Hong Kong. I needed some space, some privacy and some comfort. Money was getting tight though, so I also needed somewhere that offered all of this but for as little money as possible. After a lot of review reading and price comparison, I found Y-Loft at Youth Square.
Taking up the floors 12, 13 and 14 of the Youth Square building in the Chai Wan district of Hong Kong Island, Y-Loft calls itself a hostel, but really this is a hotel that happens to have a few large dorms. The rest of the rooms are large, private, twin ensuite rooms that are comfortable, clean and funky! If you’re not a fan of bright green and orange, best stay clear of this one.
- Large, clean, private rooms, many with balconies facing into a central courtyard and all with ensuite facilities
- Modern custom furnishings with a zingy colour scheme.
- Big flat-screen tv with a couple of English language channels showing mainly boring British and American imports (except Big Bang Theory which is brilliant).
- Unusual room design. Enormous sink in the bedroom, separate from the rest of the ensuite bathroom.
- Direct connection to a shopping mall with shops and eateries open until late. Great if you have a late-night hankering for tiramisu.
- Power shower! Perhaps the most powerful shower head in the history of mankind. Was literally blown about the shower cubicle.
- Kettle and mugs in the room but bring your own tea bags and milk.
- Staff spoke good English and were very approachable and helpful. They could book tickets for you and had good local knowledge.
- Very quiet. No street noise at all.
- On-site laundry was spotless, easy to use and cheap. Buy tokens from reception.
- Free on-site gym looked barely used. Equipment was top of the range.
- Free Wifi in all rooms.
- A bit of a slog to get to. The building is directly connected by flyover to Chai Wan Station on the MTR Island Line (well signposted), but to get to Hong Kong Central takes around 30 minutes.
- Finding the reception for the first time is a complete pain and navigating the building itself will make you want to punch your way through a wall to save yourself time and effort. Read my advice in the verdict below if you need some help.
- The Youth Square building has four lifts, but they always seemed to be in use when I needed them. I often had to wait several minutes for one to become available.
- Firm bed. Very firm bed. Don’t jump onto it on arrival. You’ll snap your neck. Took a little getting used to but I did so much sightseeing, I still slept like a sloth.
Every box ticked as far as I’m concerned. Y-Loft was comfortable, clean and modern. On the negative side, a degree of patience (and maybe a degree) is required in getting to and from the building and navigating the building itself, but this problem is almost negated by the hotel’s many positives. In other words, it was worth the hassle. Price wise, Y-Loft was a complete bargain. Book through dedicated hostel booking websites for the best deals.
Where’s The Reception?
I’ve never had to write a ‘Where is the Reception?’ section before, but for Y-Loft, it is completely necessary. Finding it for the first time is a nightmare if you don’t do some research beforehand.
I’m assuming that you’ll be traveling to Y-Loft in the MTR. Take the train to Chai Wan, the last stop on the Island Line. Upon alighting, follow the signs for Exit A. Go through the doors into the New Jade Shopping Centre. Pass through the centre, veering right and pass through a second set of doors leading outside. Walk along the footbridge, then take the first right. Look up. That’s Youth Square. Look down again. You’re approaching a bizarre, user-unfriendly entrance to the building. Head straight on by stairs and slopes (not the escalator) and find the lifts. Call any lift and head for floor 12. Upon alighting the lift, turn right. Reception is just around the corner. Phew!
Where’s My Room?
Really? You’re kidding!
Nope. Listen carefully to the instructions given to you by the person on reception about where your room is. This building makes no sense whatsoever.
Y-Loft at Youth Square
238 Chai Wan Road
A cool, comfortable, clean & convenient base for your explorations in the island state.
Searching for somewhere to stay in Singapore actually took longer than I expected. What I was looking for was somewhere that offered me a lot for my restricted budget. My accommodation searches revealed that on the whole, you get what you pay for in Singapore. It seemed the cheaper the place, the less comfort and amenities you got. I quickly learnt that what I needed to find was somewhere that offered value.
Hangout @ Mount Emily had precisely that. A hostel/hotel geared towards young travellers and backpackers who need just a little extra comfort for their money.
- Staff were happy and helpful. Smiles were easy to find (actually, smiles were easy to find all over Singapore). Questions were always answered thoroughly & knowledgeably.
- Rooms are generally a good size. The two rooms I stayed in had ample room for two people. Good sound proofing.
- Big buffet breakfast included in the room price. Some strange choices (early morning lasagne anyone?) but much appreciated.
- Laundry facilities on-site. Really useful and cheap. I don’t know why more places don’t offer washers and dryers.
- Free unlimited use of internet-enabled computers and building-wide wifi.
- Large common room with pool table and big screen tv.
- Awesome rooftop terrace with a nice view of the city centre and a shower pool to splash about in.
- Cleanliness in rooms and in all public areas to a high standard.
- Dorms are nicely laid out. Custom-built lockable cupboards separate each bed offering a bit of extra privacy.
- Quiet neighbourhood with a small, leafy park right on the doorstep. Away from the hustle and bustle of the city. It was lovely to come back to after a busy day of sightseeing.
- A general feeling that the place is well-run and that the staff care. Comforting for nervous travellers.
- Air-con! Wonderful, wonderful air-con!
- I wasn’t bothered by it, but some may find the short daily walk and MRT ride to and from the hotel a little tiresome.
- Due to its hybrid setup, it’s not the best place to meet people and make new friends.
- Plain rooms. Lots of Ikea furnishings.
- Some private rooms don’t have windows.
If you’re on a tight budget but require a few more home comforts for your money, this is the place for you. Ignore any concerns about the location. It’s really not that far a walk and you’ll be glad of the peace once you get back after being on the go all day. For the money, you could only really expect the hotel to be clean and comfortable. It is, yet you also get free wifi, free breakfast, a funky common room and rooftop terrace to hangout in, helpful staff on call 24 hours a day, big, airy rooms with air-con, laundry facilities and even bikes to hire. What’s not to like? Book far enough ahead, and you could bag yourself one of the biggest bargains Singapore has to offer.
Hangout @ Mount Emily
10A Upper Wilkie Road
More reviews on Tripadvisor
While in Hong Kong, I stayed at the brilliant Y-Loft in the Chai Wan district at the eastern end of Hong Kong Island. My room was spacious, clean and modern. It was a real treat to stay there after weeks of staying in hostels.
There was however one flaw. My room took a while to get to. The hotel itself lives on the upper floors of a busy skyscraper (called ‘Youth Square’). There are four lifts, but more often than not, I had to wait a few minutes for one to become available. Then, upon reaching my floor, it was a fair old walk to my room.
This video captures the walk from the lift. It also captures me taking a wrong turn immediately after the lift doors open and the rustling of a carrier bag with a slice of tiramasu inside. Yes, you can get tiramasu in Hong Kong. No, I don’t feel stupid for eating tiramasu in Hong Kong.
Staying in Scandinavia doesn’t have to cost the earth. If you know where to look, you can get some very good deals. One such hotel is Scandic Front in Copenhagen, where I stayed for four nights. Does a hotel that promises “comfort, warmth and quality” deliver? Here’s my review.
Update: This review was modified on 21st May 2009 to reflect the hotel’s name change. This hotel was previously known simply as Hotel Front until Scandic acquired it.
Rooms come in sizes small to extra large and are priced according to these sizes. I stayed in a single room for £57 a night plus taxes via Hotels.com. Even for their smallest category room, my room was quite spacious. As well as an amazingly comfortable bed, there was a not so comfortable lounge chair with coffee table, a desk and office chair, a mini bar, a flat screen TV and a copious amount of storage space. The decor was modern and minimalist with white walls and black furniture. The carpet was a thick shag pile. A set of double French doors opened into the room, letting in plenty of light and air. Artificial lighting consisted of spot lamps, which had to be pointed to the ceiling in order to get the best light. Overall, lighting was poor, including in the bathroom. The en-suite bathroom housed an excellent rain shower, a terribly small and inconvenient sink and of course, a toilet. The flooring was heated and made up of pebbles set into concrete.
The location of the hotel is surely one of it’s best qualities. Literally right by the water’s edge, opposite the new Opera House. The iconic, lively and colourful Nyhavn with it’s many bars and restaurants is 2 minutes walk away while Kongens Nytorv Metro station, connecting you to other areas of Copenhagen and the city airport is 8 minutes away. Amalienborg Plads, the royal residence, is just around the corner and the statue of the Little Mermaid is about a 25 minutes stroll in the same direction. The world famous Strøget shopping street is 10 minutes away. All of the cities sights are within walking distance. If you’re arriving via the main train station though, it’s quite a walk. Either catch an expensive taxi, or take the S-Train to Nørreport and change to the metro to Kongens Nytorv.
Each room has a free mini bar which is topped up daily. It contains four bottles of water, a bottle of Coke Light, a regular Coke and two bottles of Carlsberg. The hotel provides free wifi in-room and in public areas (ask at reception for the password when you arrive). On the flat screen TV, there was a meagre selection of channels in Danish, Swedish and Norwegian. The only channels in English were Bloomberg, CNN and BBC World News. Luckily, Scandinavian TV stations import a lot of television programmes from Britain and the US which are subtitled rather than dubbed, so English speakers shouldn’t go without something to watch. Besides the regular channels, there are 4 Pay TV channels provided by the hotel. The toiletries provided in the bathroom are of a high quality. Each room contains a good-sized safe and a hair dryer. Strangely lacking is tea and coffee making facilities. Bicycles can be hired at reception for DKK150 per day, as can DVD players (price unknown). The hotel’s restaurant, Front Diner, sold pricey American diner-style food (burgers, steaks etc.). While expensive, the food was good and filling and the ambiance was relaxed and friendly.
The best thing going for Scandic Front is its staff. Whether from housekeeping, at reception or in the restaurant, every single member of staff I encountered was friendly, relaxed and noticeably tried to be as helpful as possible.
- Free mini bar
- Free wifi
- Very comfortable bed
- Excellent rain shower
- Extremely helpful staff
- Cosy and clean rooms
- Sound-proofing of the windows and doors was quite bad. The hotel isn’t on a particularly busy street, but buses do stop outside and can be heard up until midnight and from early morning. The room doors are quite thin and slam loudly.
- The hotel requires a credit card to be authorised on arrival, even if you’ve paid in advance. As I don’t have a credit card, I was charged a deposit of DKK500 (£50) a night or DKK2000 (£200) for my stay in case I made use of any extras. This was charged to my Maestro card. When it came to getting my money back, it turned out they couldn’t refund onto Maestro and so they gave me the cash back. Due to the exchange rate, I only got back £190 (£10 less than I paid).
- Housekeeping go to every room between 1800 and 2000, offering a turn-down and a free apple. It got irritating pretty quickly. Stick the ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on your door to avoid it.
- No tea and coffee making facilities
- Poor in-room lighting.
- Practically unusable sink in bathroom due to central location of faucet and small size (a case of fashion over function).
- Breakfast is not included in the room price.
For what I paid, I can’t really complain. The location was perfect, the room spacious and comfortable and the extras most welcome. The free wifi in particular was most appreciated. However, I can’t help but feel they need to get the basics right first before worrying about things like luxury toiletries and allergy-free bed linen. Sound-proofing is a priority for me. I don’t want to hear other people flushing their toilets or people yelling in the street while I’m trying to sleep. Installing thicker doors and making sure the windows shut properly will solve this problem. This is especially the case when you consider prices for the room I stayed in can more than double in peak times. Offering a “home from home” is all well and good, but it’s no good if you have difficulty getting to sleep. Whether I’d recommend Scandic Front hinges on whether you can find a good deal. If you find the asking price is over £100, I’d suggest you look elsewhere. If, like me, you’re lucky and you find a price nearer £50, then go for it. You can do a great deal worse.
Scandic Front Sankt Annai Plads 21, Copenhagen 1021, Denmark
A stylish and ultra-modern hotel set inside Switzerland’s tallest habitable building.
With it’s modern, minimalist rooms, amazing bathrooms, great location and affordable prices, the Ramada Plaza in Basel has a lot going for it. Did it meet my high expectations?
Ultra-modern, minimalist, yet comfortable. That’s how I’d sum up the room in simple terms. The room has floor to ceiling windows with electronically controlled blinds, mock wood grain covering one wall with bare cream-coloured walls elsewhere, a low lying, firm and comfortable bed, a surprisingly hard corrugated carpet, a television and a wooden desk with chair. To some, the room may seem designed for practicality only, to serve a purpose. I’m someone who appreciates minimalism though and loved the way the room was designed. It’s bare walls, perhaps surprisingly, didn’t feel cold at all. The lighting in the room is excellent, certainly helped by those huge windows. If the design of the main room doesn’t meet your approval, the bathroom surely will. The deep green walls, wood panelling and sumptuous underfloor and panelled lighting will make you linger in the bathroom much longer than you intended. It positively oozed style. The bathroom has everything you might expect; sink, shower, toilet. Noise-wise, there’s nothing to worry about. I was on the tenth floor and didn’t hear anything other than my own mutterings and the tv, so sound insulation is excellent. Room cleanliness was also excellent.
The hotel, Switzerland’s tallest habitable building, is just outside the center of the city next to an exhibition center. It is very easily accessible by tram from the main shopping area and Basel SBB, the city’s train station. If you have time to wander Basel’s streets (and you should), the hotel is so tall, you should still be able to see it from where you are, so you’ll never get lost. The immediate vicinity is very safe (as is Switzerland as a whole) and very quiet. Basel is a surprisingly quiet city with very little traffic. A short walk or a ride on the tram brings you to shops including Migros, a large supermarket. There’s also a Starbucks and a McDonalds if required.
In the main room, you’ll find a safe, a mini-bar, a desk and chair, a television with around 50 channels (including CNN, BBC World, BBC Prime, Cartoon Network and channels from almost every Western European country) and air conditioning. A up-to-date TV Guide magazine is supplied. The bathroom is fitted with a hairdryer.
The staff on reception were very welcoming and efficient. Upon arrival, I was welcomed and personally shown how to use the lifts (your key card is required). They all spoke excellent english.
- Really well designed, minimalist rooms. The bathroom is particularly good.
- Great location. A tram stop is right outside the hotel and can take you anywhere within the city, including the main train station, within minutes. The hotel is set on a quiet, modern square away from any traffic, so the area is very peaceful.
- The electronic blinds on the floor to ceiling windows are good fun. Good views from the window.
- The bed is firm, wide and very comfortable.
- Good value for what you get.
- No tea and coffee making facilities.
- TV could do with an upgrade
- No free Wifi
- Expensive breakfast. Not included in the room charge.
The Ramada Plaza Basel is a modern and well-run hotel perfect for any kind of visitor, but perhaps most ideally suited to business travellers. It’s no nonsense design may not suit everyone’s tastes (although I can’t imagine anyone can dislike the style of the bathroom) but for the price, even someone who hates minimalism and craves local character will be able to put up with it. While missing tea and coffee making facilities, the amenities that are provided are good. If you don’t mind taking the tram to and from the hotel, I would very much recommend the Ramada Plaza.
Ramada Plaza Basel Messeplatz 12,
Basel, CH 4058,
No Parisien charm, but plenty of comfort and space in a hotel that’s ideally located in the heart of the city.
If you’re looking for a good value, modern and conveniently located hotel in the centre of Paris (and why wouldn’t you), look no further than the Novotel Paris Gare Montparnasse.
Design and Decor
The building itself was finished in 2006, so it still smells and looks brand new. From the moment you walk in through the revolving doors, you’re greeted by a smart looking bar and reception which are both very stylish and modern. The style even extends to the corridors with atmospheric lighting and curved ceilings. The rooms are clean, bright and large. Plus, because the hotel is purpose built, the rooms are very well sound-proofed. Once in your room, you won’t hear anything other than your air-conditioning.
The hotel is a 5-10min walk from the bustling Gare Montparnasse with shops, restaurants, cafes and cinemas. The nearest metro station is Pasteur on line 6 (walk straight out of the hotel and cross the road at the crossing, turn right and then take the second left. The station entrance can be found in the centre of the road carriageways). From Pasteur you can catch a train directly to the Eiffel Tower. The road the hotel is on is very quiet with very little traffic. The area is safe to walk around in at night.
The room is large, clean, bright and well lit. In the batheroom, there is a sink, shower cubicle and bathtub (with another shower nossel for washing hair while in the tub).The toilet is seperate from the bathroom. A hair dryer, towels and toiletries are provided. There’s a safe which can store a laptop, a mini fridge (with a free bottle of Vittel water put in it each day) and tea and coffee making facilities. The flat-screen LCD TV provides pay-per-view movies and sport (in a variety of languages) plus a selection of TV Channels (TF1, France2, Canal+, Sport+, BBC World, Al Jazeera, Disney Channel, and channels in Chinese and Polish to name but a few). There’s around 15 channels in all. The bed is massive (king or queen), firm and comfortable. Also in the room is a desk and sofa bed. The room is cleaned daily and they do a very good job too.
The hotel staff are very helpful and friendly. They answered all my questions and served me to a high standard. They all spoke excellent english. Security seemed high while I was there with a permanant guard on the main entrance and your room key card necessary for using the lifts to the rooms.
- Sound-proofing is excellent. Once you’re in your room, you won’t hear anything.
- Beds are firm, comfortable and huge.
- Room sizes vary, but are on the whole very spacious, particularly for a city centre hotel.
- Transport links are excellent. Two metro stations and a mainline train station are within walking distance.
- Excellent value. It’s not difficult to find sub-€100 rooms.
- Superb bathroom facilities.
- In-room tea and coffee making facilities.
- No free Wifi. Internet access, even wired, is expensive.
- Breakfast is not included as standard and is also expensive.
- Generic Novotel rooms. No Parisian charm.
This hotel won’t win any prizes for offering a truly Parisian experience. The rooms are generic in style and the location, a business zone, could be anywhere in the world. That said, the Novotel Gare Montparnasse does offer clean, quiet, large and comfortable rooms with plenty of amenities and all, if you hunt around, for an excellent price. Getting to all of Paris’ tourist hotspots is a breeze with metro and train stations within ten minutes walk. The nearby centre of Montparnasse offers an abundance of shops and places to eat and drink. If all you’re looking for is a safe, quiet and comfortable place to sleep while you explore this great city, the Novotel Gare Montparnasse is the hotel for you.
Novotel Paris Gare Montparnasse 17 rue du Cotentin, 75015 Paris, France