Kuala Lumpur: Hotel Paloma Inn
Get There: In amongst the heat of Bukit Bintang, the location is prime. From KL Sentral it’s a short Monorel to Hang Tuah and 2 blocks walk from there. Or type this into Google Maps: 12 & 14, Jalan Sin Chew Kee, Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur.
Cost: It’s about 40MR (13AUD) for a dorm.
Free Wi-Fi: Yep.
Free Breaky: Damn right: fruit salad, traditional roti canai and cakoi.
Bar: Plenty of beers in a big fridge at reception and a nice courtyard to drink ‘em in, but not a dancing-on-tables-to-blaring-pop-music type of atmo (like the bars on Changkat Bukit Bintang).
Hands down the cleanest place I’ve ever stayed in Asia, Hotel Paloma Inn is for higher-end hobos. It’s not that it’s particularly expensive, but it provides a level of customer service, hygiene and stability that would scare away the dirty old sex tourists or pseudo spiritual types.
This place is pleasant and safe rather than gritty or thrilling. But KL can be pretty gritty and thrilling, and this joint is right up close to the action. It’s two seconds from Jalan Alor, the hawkers night market where a clutter of semi-permanent tables and chairs line the road and people from Myanmar and the Philippines attempt to transform passers-by into paying customers. The food is cheap and wholesome and you can find stuff from all over Asia. The street is a seething mess of colour, steam and noise; lanterns hang from the buildings and tourists gorge themselves on seafood and beer.
Round the corner is Changkat Bukit Bintang, the seedy bar strip. Cheesy cover-bands make horrible pop songs sound even worse (at a nauseating volume) and beautiful women seductively offer massages. Skeletal, piss-soaked drunks sit outside the convenience store and beg. When they get enough cash they buy whiskey for four dollars a flask and then vomit and pass-out in the gutter. Those buying snacks and cigarettes generally avoid eye contact. Changkat Bukit Bintang is a good place to have your senses assaulted and contemplate overpopulation. It’s also a good place to drive alcohol into your face with furious gusto and think little.
KL is often a starting point or stopover, and Hotel Paloma Inn is the right place to take shelter from the storm. While durian consumption and preparation is prohibited, along with smoking in the dorms, the bed sheets are a stark white and the fans are fully operational. There are little lamps that protrude from the wall at each bunk and the electricity sockets are designed in such a way that makes them compatible with any plug in the world. Amazing, I know.
The overseer, Madam Ong, has an almost maternal vibe. It’s not that she’s affectionate or domesticated – more like a modern, got-her-shit-together, fully empowered woman who is wise and warm hearted. And she can probably look after you better than you can look after yourself.