Apparently Penang has origins in gold. Lots of goldsmith shops, and lots of families with heritage in goldsmithing. That’s the story behind the guesthouse I chose in Penang. I’m trying to limit my lavish lodging stays in favor of simpler, more local establishments. I can stay at Holiday Inn anywhere. I’m not looking for a Westernized experience in the East. So I’ve been seeking out hostels, guest houses, and simple hotel accommodations with a target budget in mind.

Rewind to Singapore. There, that budget meant hostel, albeit possibly a more upscale hostel. I selected one with a pod configuration, which gave slightly more privacy and soundproofing than an open dorm, bunkbed style hostel. This also gave me a locker space in room, which was essential for me.

The room was pleasant and had “air con”. 10 pods behind a keyed main door with automatic lights in your pod when you keyed in (pretty fancy!). I had no problems with noisy neighbors or sleeping at night. Even when people came and went, it wasn’t terribly bothersome. Moreover, I was hardly in the room, though it was a magnificent air conditioned reprieve from SG’s sweltering heat.

The main area was also quiet. The kitchen was small, but offered sustenance in the morning. I was surprised by the general lack of traffic and conversation. Discussing other travelers’ road trips is one of the benefits I was looking forward to; the absence of networking in the hostel (and the presence of it at restaurants, bars and taxis) has extinguished the reason that most compelled me to book a hostel initially.

The shared bathroom also had reasonable privacy. Four sit-down toilets were adjacent to a row of full door showers. Some people left their toiletries by the sink, which completely weirded me out. I wonder if they realize they had to put that toothbrush BACK in their mouth.

If I have one area of complaint about the hostel, it would be the bathrooms. Not the cleanliness or sanitation… For me, they were on a different floor, which is mildly irritating when nature calls and during slumber hours. But more annoyingly, the bathroom did not have “air con”. I found the hot water in the shower unnecessary after working up a sweat during my first cleansing. You can imagine the remaining unpleasantries that accompany an air-condition-less bathroom in “feels like” 114F (45C) heat with nothing more than the thwip of a ceiling fan to promote cooling.

So needless to say, private bathroom became priority one for accommodations at my second stop. I still wanted to be in the midst of the action, so my target budget afforded me a guesthouse in Penang. The guesthouse, which is nestled above and behind a small restaurant, is a tiny loft with a toilet-cum-shower and a nonadjacent sink below the bed. A small flight of stairs leads to the bed. I’m not sure if the guesthouse storefront allows 24 access… I didn’t tempt it.

The mattress itself is about as comfortable as the hostel’s. But the guesthouse came with other perks in addition to the private shower/WC. I like being able to remove things from my pack–makes finding things easier. The on-premise laundry was free to use, so I have a backpack full of clean clothes once again. Plus you feel like a Soprano when you walk through the restaurant to the back staircase.

Both places have some things in common. For some reason, Singapore and Penang have not been introduced to napkins or paper towels. Thankfully both places had the tp. Both had AC in room. Both had reasonably comfortable beds. Wifi existed in both, but good luck. So far, I’d do either again, and may even lean hostel if the networking were more effective, but I’m guessing towards the end of the trip I’ll relish the creature comforts of a hotel-style accommodation… Motel 6 here I come! Perspective is a humbling thing.