We left Kuala Lumpur and made a stop in a city called Ipoh on our way up to Penang. Ipoh isn’t exactly a “tourist” destination, because there was literally one or two other travelers that we saw hanging out there when when we arrived. It was cool in some ways, because there weren’t like a thousand tourists everywhere we went, but it was a bit challenging because it was harder that usual to communicate with the locals and find our way around. We had been trying to arrange our accommodations in advance, so that when we got to a new place, we would have somewhere specific to go instead of walking around like chickens with our heads cut off. Like most travelers, we were trying to find places to stay that were cheaper than the normal hotels. Since there were no “travel’s hostels” in the area, we found a very cheap hotel that seemed like it would be ok and had decent reviews on the travel blogs that I had been using as resources.
When we got to the train station, we grabbed a cab, and when we told the driver where we were going, he gave us this funny look and with a bit of hesitation, said “okaaaay.” He asked us if we were sure we wanted to stay there, and that he could recommend somewhere else that was better. We didn’t pay attention to his suggestion at the time, because normally cab drivers try to take you to a hotel that they have some kind of deal with to get commission for bringing tourists there. We arrived at our destination on this very shady sort of street, and proceeded to enter the even shadier looking hotel. The guy at the counter (who ended up being lovely and helpful) gave us another long stare as he showed us to our room. We walked into, perhaps the nastiest room that I have ever seen in my life. It was clean and everything, but there was something “off” about it that I couldn’t put my finger on. The one perk was that the walls were painting pink, which I thought was kind of cute, but other than that, it was just dank. But we were only staying two nights, so we thought that we would just suck it up, because hey, we were traveling, and we would brave a nasty room every once in a while.
So we went out to explore the city, and everyone was looking at us like we were aliens, but it was actually kind of funny. Through a good friend, we had the contact information for some locals who lived there, so they picked us up and took us out to an amazing Malaysian dinner. We walked up to a nearby “nice” hotel and had them pick us up there, because I was a little embarrassed to have them come to where we were actually staying. We ate local foods that I would have never known to order; pork knuckles, ribs, clams, and a special local fresh water fish that was specific to that area. It was a ridiculously amazing dinner, as the cuisine in Ipoh is renowned as some of the best in Malaysia. So with full bellies, we got dropped back off at our “decoy” location, then walked back to our seedy hotel. We ignored the nastiness by losing ourselves in our books until we heard this crazy loud scratching on the wall. We looked at each other like “What the Fuck was that?” I was convinced that it was a giant rat in the wall or something, but since there was nothing we could do… we tried to just ignore it and crash out for the night.
The next day was spent exploring some cool caves outside of the city that we used the local buses to get to. Wow, with these buses. They were these rickety old school busses, that were barely running anymore, but it was fun to be using the local transportation. The people were sooo nice to us, as we didn’t know where the fuck we were going; offering us help with where to stop, what to pay and how to get back. We actually really enjoyed the experience. After another great dinner, we headed back to the hotel. Mind you, at this point, we never once saw another hotel guest there, while the owner always had a sign up that said “Full.” We wondered where everyone else could possibly be, but we didn’t really pay too much attention to it at the time.
So as we walk into the hotel, we see this other “couple” walk down the stairs. The guy was adjusting his “package,” while the girl was sort of covering her face up. As they pass the reception desk, the guy tosses the key to the owner and they walk out without any luggages or bags. Again, we didn’t think twice about it, until we got into our room, and my husband looks at me and says; ” Oh shit, Nat…I think this is a fucking brothel.” We stared at each other for a while, all wide-eyed and shit… and as we went over the events of the past two days in our head; from the weirded out cab driver, to the scratching on the walls, to the embarrassed girl exiting the building… it all became clear. I was literally speechless for a few minutes, then totally repulsed, and then feeling like a total ass for not realizing that we were staying at a FUCKING BROTHEL!!!.
Needless to say, I had a hard time getting a good nights sleep that night, and could not wait until morning, when we were getting a bus out of there. I mean, we have definitely had our share of “lessons” on the road, but this one was a gnarly one. It is not always in your best interest to go for the cheapest deal, even if you are a budgeting traveler. Thankfully, we haven’t passed through any other brothels after that. We take care to really look before we agree to stay somewhere, and I am definitely not as trusting when I read other people’s reviews on a hotel. I mean, it is kind of funny when you think about it, but damn, I never need to experience that shit again.