Negotiating the Travel Jungle – Part 2

Hopper Gets the Chop!

Flights

On our chosen itinerary, Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok has budget airlines with several flights in addition to full service carriers. So at least that sector is easy and cheap. Bangkok to Taipei is more complicated, unfortunately. If you want to fly at a reasonable hour, then you really have little option but take one of the full service carriers – THAI, EVA and China Airlines. There are budget flights on the route – presently Nok Scoot and Thai Lion Mentari. But these only operate overnight flights departing between 2:00 am and 3:00 am. For me that’s a non-starter. I for one am not going to lose a night’s sleep spending hours at airports for a flight time of little over three and a half hours. There is one other budget carrier, Tiger Air Taiwan, with a more convenient departure around 8:00 pm arriving at 00:40 am. But since on a long trip you are likely to have more than cabin baggage, you may well find the cost for this flight is no cheaper than one of the full service carriers.

You'll Love the Beach, Honey! – Photo Blue

You’ll Love the Beach, Honey! – Photo Blue

To check what the other possibilities might be, I got back in to the Internet. I often use farecompare.com. This gives you a choice of a minimum of three fare search engine comparisons for both non-stop and connecting flights. In theory (that damn word again) this should be a major help. In fact, it is maddening! Almost every site gives the cheapest fare as Philippine Airlines requiring a change in Manila. OK! Manila is not that far from Taipei. Look more closely and you discover that this layover is anything from a horrible 8 hours to a horrendous 19 hours! No way! Who on this planet is going to spend 23 hours travelling for what is less than a four-hour flight just to save a few bucks! Do they think we are idiots?

Bangkok's Royal Palace

Bangkok’s Royal Palace

So you then have to wade through many dozens of similar connections on China Southern, Air Macau, Air Asia, Hong Kong Airlines – even China Eastern via Shanghai before you will come across one with an acceptably fast connection at a reasonable price.

Changing the Handsome Guards at Taipei's CKS Memorial Hall

Changing the Handsome Guards at Taipei’s CKS Memorial Hall

Recently I thought relief might be at hand for finding the best fare on this route. A few months ago CNN’s Business Traveller programme plugged the newish site, Hopper. The benefit, we were told, is that Hopper not only gives indications of existing prices on individual dates up to a year ahead, it uses algorithms to advise readers whether to wait before booking when historically prices might fall. In theory this should be especially useful. But just like all the others, Philippine Airlines with those horrendous layovers comes up first. And surprisingly – indeed shockingly – Cathay Pacific which has many connection possibilities to Taipei at reasonable prices is nowhere on their list.

I'm Waiting for You - tumblr.com

I’m Waiting for You – tumblr.com

But wait! Hopper also gives the option of non-stop flight information. Just out of interest, I checked return fares for the Taipei Gay Pride Parade on Saturday 27 October later this year and saw an excellent low fare on China Airlines which came with a recommendation this be booked quickly. Hopper works, I thought. In this case, though, it didn’t! For I then checked China Airlines’ own site for the same date and departure time to discover how much cheaper the Hopper fares were. And I discovered that exactly the same round-trip flights were being offered at almost US$70 cheaper!!

So much for Hopper! It got the chop. The app was immediately deleted from my phone.

Forget Hopper Baby. Can’t You See I’m Waiting for You, too - tumblr.com

Forget Hopper Baby. Can’t You See I’m Waiting for You, too – tumblr.com

There is one other piece of software worth checking, the ITA Matrix. This can be very useful in helping you find the cheapest fares for your route and many will indeed be lower, sometimes substantially so, than you can find on farecompare, Hopper and the airlines’ own sites. Yet, if you check your one-way Edinburgh to Singapore ticket, the first flight offered is on Turkish Airlines. No problem there as Turkish is a very good airline. But look at the total journey time. 42 hours 55 minutes. WTF! That’s nuts when for an extra £21 you get a 17 hour 50 minutes total time on Etihad at almost $70 cheaper than the Hopper price!!

The real problem with the ITA Matrix, though, is that you cannot book those tickets! This software is for the travel industry and the fares are not bookable via the internet. The only thing you can try to do if you find a ticket lower than those on other websites, is to take a screen shot. Then take it directly to a travel agent and try to do a deal. Good luck!

Conclusion

From all the above, you can tell that, unfortunately, I really have little good advice to enable you to get the cheapest rate for either your hotel room or your air fare. Both nowadays are fluid entities and constantly changing. And don’t be lulled into a false sense of security with any “guaranteed lowest price” offers. Look at the small print. This is so hedged with conditions that that guarantee is pretty much useless.

Entrance to Taipei's CKS Memorial Park at Night

Entrance to Taipei’s CKS Memorial Park at Night

Same with booking many months in advance. Who knows what might happen before your trip? Those seats on your planes and the rooms in your hotels are perishable commodities. I once took a flight from Singapore to Tokyo at the time of the first Gulf War. My Northwest 747 had all of 23 passengers. If I had gone to an agent a few days earlier, I am pretty certain there would have been major discounts on offer.

Same with the price of the hotel room in Hong Kong I had booked months earlier at the lowest rate I could find. That turned out to be a good deal higher than the walk-in rate when I finally arrived. But then neither the hotel nor I could have realized that tourism had been adversely affected by major street demonstrations at the time of my visit. Most rooms which understandably carry no value the day after will almost certainly be heavily discounted the night before.

Bangkok's Marble Temple

Bangkok’s Marble Temple

Then again, luck can – just occasionally – be on a traveller’s side. I once arrived in New York on a flight that had been heavily delayed by six hours. Arriving at my hotel at 1:00 am with a confirmed pre-paid booking, the desk clerk was clearly surprised. Assuming I was not coming and with a full hotel, my room had been given away. Seeing I was about to scream, he calmly told me not to worry. “I’ll put you in our Westminster Suite on the top floor for your three nights.”

Such are the travails and joys a traveller experiences these days!

Holidays Can Be Such Fun! – Photo Blue

Holidays Can Be Such Fun! – Photo Blue

Thai Gay Boys

Read More: Part 1 – Part 2

(c) AsiaGuys.NET

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The Unkindest Cut

His Body, His Choice”

For centuries vast numbers of boys have undergone the ritual of having part of their manhood mutilated. Yes, I know that some religious folk will take exception to the word “mutilated”. After all, circumcision – the act of removing the foreskin of the penis – has been practised by Jews and the vast majority of Muslims (although there is apparently no Islamic commandment demanding this act) since those religions were established.

Then add in the vast number of American boys who were circumcised as the medical profession in the West gradually came to believe that it would lead to greater cleanliness. In an era when bathing was less common than today, that may in some cases have been true. American influence naturally then spread to countries greatly influenced by America – South Korea being one.

You can Purchase a Complete Circumcision Kit on the Internet

You can Purchase a Complete Circumcision Kit on the Internet

Other than in the Philippines where the practice is centuries old and the vast majority of boys are circumcised at puberty as a form of rite of passage, there had never been any general history of circumcision in North Asia until after the Second World War. Only after the Korean War when the independence of the South was guaranteed by the American military did the practice really start. I doubt if there has ever been a study, but I expect most males in North Korea retain that fold of skin at the tip of their penis, whereas we know that the vast majority of South Koreans born between around 1945 and 1990 do not. Only recently has the practice been seen to be unnecessary.

According to one 2016 Study by the US National Institutes of Health, the authors estimate that 37.7% of all boys and men in the world have been circumcised. That’s a lot of guys, the more so when you take out three of the largest peoples in the world where circumcision is rarely practiced – the Chinese, Japanese and India’s Hindus.

The Medieval Looking, Simple to Use (so they say) Gompco Circumcision Clamp

The Medieval Looking, Simple to Use (so they say) Gompco Circumcision Clamp

As human rights have come to the forefront of many social agendas, so have the rights of the newly born child. Why should parents have the right to remove part of a boy’s anatomy when ideally it should be left to the boy himself to make the decision at an age to know if he wishes to have the deed done or not? I expect quite a number of guys who were cut as babies have asked that very question more than once.

Now, though, circumcision is entering the political agenda. In one country, Iceland, a bill was tabled in February proposing a six-year prison term for anyone found guilty of “removing sexual organs in whole or in part.” This bill clearly refers to boys since female circumcision has been banned in Iceland since 2005.

The Member of Parliament who introduced the bill did not consult religious bodies beforehand. “I don’t see it as a religious matter,” she claimed. “Every individual, it doesn’t matter what sex or how old… should be able to give informed consent for a procedure that is unnecessary, irreversible and can be harmful. His body, his choice.”

Iceland's Parliament Building

Iceland’s Parliament Building

Naturally Iceland’s religious leaders have cried “Foul!” and are fighting to prevent passage of the Bill. Further afield, the President of the Conference of European Rabbis expressed “extreme concern. We cannot ignore the dangerous precedent this sets in Europe and the implications it has on Jews’ ability to carry our religion in an open and free manner.”

This writer has plenty to say on the matter of forced circumcision. However a blog of this nature is not the place for such a personal discussion which inevitably must delve back into history for the reasons for religious practices. So I have restricted myself here merely to reporting the news along with some of the background.

Have You Been Circumcised?

Have You Been Circumcised?

AGN Gay News and Updates

(c) AsiaGuys.NET

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Its Been a Long Time

Happy Memories of Asia

Reading predictions elsewhere about the doubtful future for Bangkok’s go-go bars took me back to my first visit to that amazing city. I doubt if any gay visitor to Thailand in the mid-1980s was anything but gobsmacked by the amazing variety on offer in the go-go bars. Here were some of the loveliest boys on the planet having fun, many throwing killer smiles at you in the hope you’d be so smitten you would immediately off them.

Recent Bangkok Gay Club - GoThaiBeFree

Recent Bangkok Gay Club – GoThaiBeFree

Well, to be honest, not all the boys smiled. Twilight was a sleaze-type joint run by a pair of severe-looking mamasans with a short retainer running around adding in extra chairs as more and more punters came in. There never seemed to be more than a couple of dozen on weekdays but it would be packed to the rafters on Fridays and Saturdays. The boys here danced in underwear until around 9:30 pm when, with a bark from one of the mamasans, the next group of four due on the tiny stage would take off their pants, quickly try to encourage some life out of their manhoods before it was their turn for a five-minute stint. Thereafter they would be replaced by another group while the earlier group, still totally naked, would wander through the audience and stand around one of the pillars gazing into nothingness.

I'm Here for you Honey – tumblr.com

I’m Here for you Honey – tumblr.com

I loved Twilight and visited almost every night. But I sometimes felt sorry for the boys. It was clear they did not enjoy being in the buff and would do their best to cover their nakedness with their hands. Across the road in the Barbiery go-go bar it was completely different. The dozens of young boys dancing and presenting exciting and sexy shows for our pleasure all seemed to be having a load of fun. This was hugely infectious. It was no surprise as boys were offed so quickly that not many remained as the evenings came to a close.

Bangkok Boys are Waiting – tumblr.com

Bangkok Boys are Waiting – tumblr.com

Boykakke

Enjoying Bangkok’s delights to the full, I almost fell in love half a dozen times. These young guys with their smooth brown bodies were so beautiful, so willing to do whatever I wished, were happy to stay overnight with more to come in the morning before they would quietly leave with their tips, usually just before I managed to make it to breakfast as the service was closing. What joy!

I had decided on this first trip to add in a second city. Flying from Europe, Cathay Pacific had a great fare linking both Bangkok and Hong Kong. So Hong Kong it was. I was excited about visiting this last colonial outpost set on the edge of a China finally opening up to the outside world. I was aware that Hong Kong had little of what Bangkok had to offer a gay man, apart from a couple of bars which I had been told were closely watched by the police. But that was OK by me since Hong Kong was for sightseeing.

The HSBC HQ dwarfing the Colonial Era Supreme Court

The HSBC HQ dwarfing the Colonial Era Supreme Court

I wanted to cram as much as I could into my four days – the harbour, the old funicular tramway up to the Peak, the ladder streets near Central district, the ancient trams running across the top of the island and the ferries which plied across the harbour for a pittance, some Chinese temples, the old colonial architecture set against Hong Kong’s new skyscrapers, and of course a sunset champagne cruise around the island aboard one of the icons of old Hong Kong, a junk.

Today Only an Official Tourist Junk plies the Harbour

Today Only an Official Tourist Junk plies the Harbour

Throughout my visit the weather was hot and fiercely humid, even more so than Bangkok had seemed to be. I was used to the beaches of Spain and Greece in the height of summer, but none had anything like Hong Kong’s 95%-plus humidity. I thanked the Lord for the many shopping malls whose air conditioning provided me with oases of relief!

A Musical Theme in one of Hong Kong's Swanky Shopping Malls

A Musical Theme in one of Hong Kong’s Swanky Shopping Malls

With nightlife restricted, I noticed there was a concert on Saturday evening, one with a programme I rather fancied. So I found where to buy a ticket and that evening made my way to City Hall, not far from the cross-harbour ferry terminal. The smallish concert hall was quite full and the orchestra played quite well. But not well enough for my liking. So instead of waiting for the second half, I got myself a drink from the bar. Then I wandered outside to gaze over to Kowloon, leaning on the railing by the waterfront, watching a myriad of different ships, junks and little boats criss-crossing the busy waterway, aware of planes up to my left as they made their progress over Kowloon before the notoriously steep right-hand turn and – boom! – they would be on the runway.

A 1998 Photo of one of the Last Cathay Pacific Flights into Hong Kong’s old Kai Tak Airport after completing that Scary 90-Degree Turn - Frederic J Brown / Getty Images

A 1998 Photo of one of the Last Cathay Pacific Flights into Hong Kong’s old Kai Tak Airport after completing that Scary 90-Degree Turn – Frederic J Brown / Getty Images

It was a clear, balmy summer’s evening. I loved the view, even if it had none of the drama of that from the Kowloon side, truly one of the most spectacular harbour views in the world.

Night View of Hong Kong Island from Kowloon

Night View of Hong Kong Island from Kowloon

And then I saw him. Out of the corner of my eye, to my right I noticed a tallish, slim guy, I assumed Chinese, also leaning on the railing watching the night view. It was not long before he looked at me, a look that was a little overlong for a mere casual glance. Hmm! I thought. He looks cute. My gaydar was working overtime. But this being Hong Kong, I had heard all about possible entrapment and I was concerned about casual hook-ups.

Hong Kong Gay Hook-Ups often had to take place here – tumblr.com

Hong Kong Gay Hook-Ups often had to take place here – tumblr.com

Then I threw caution to the gentle breeze. I slowly inched towards him. He did the same. Eventually, I was beside him. He looked quite lovely.

“Excuse me, do you speak English?”
He turned towards me and I saw that lovely face
“Yes. I was at school in England for a few years.”

Still concerned about entrapment, I decided the best ploy would be to invite him first for dinner or a drink. He had already dined and so we headed for the nearby Hilton Hotel bar where, it just so happened, I was staying! I learned he was a musician, a singer and guitar player and performed with a small band. Nothing special he told me, but we have a small following in the pubs and clubs. No concert on a Saturday night? Usually yes, but this one had been cancelled as it had been due in the nearby Dateline gay bar which had had a police visit only the previous evening. So he was free, he told me, with what I assumed to be a hint of a suggestion.

Can you imagine 3 Cuter Young Hong Kong Guys? Actors Danny Chan, Leslie Cheung and Paul Chung in the 1981 Hong Kong Movie “On Trial”. Danny and Leslie were Closet Gays at the time. All Died Tragically Young. Danny of a Drug Overdose aged 35. Paul and Leslie committed Suicide aged 30 and 47 respectively - pinterest.com

Can you imagine 3 Cuter Young Hong Kong Guys? Actors Danny Chan, Leslie Cheung and Paul Chung in the 1981 Hong Kong Movie “On Trial”. Danny and Leslie were Closet Gays at the time. All Died Tragically Young. Danny of a Drug Overdose aged 35. Paul and Leslie committed Suicide aged 30 and 47 respectively – pinterest.com

I’ll cut the rest of the story short. He came to my room and for the first time in my life I enjoyed an evening of lovemaking with a passionate young Chinese. Make that two evenings for we also spent the next night together. How I loved it! And how I started to love him! This was more genuine, more loving than my encounters in Bangkok. But then those had been with boys making a living. This was with a lonely young gay man, still afraid to be known as gay in homophobic Hong Kong and especially the effect on his young career if ever he was outed.

Hong Kong’s Hugely Popular mid-1980s Canto-Pop Kings: Leslie Cheung, Andy Lau, Aaron Kwok and Jackie Cheung. Apart from Jackie Cheung, all were assumed to be Gay. Leslie eventually Came Out but the other two Married much later in their Careers – Click to see full sized image

Hong Kong’s Hugely Popular mid-1980s Canto-Pop Kings: Leslie Cheung, Andy Lau, Aaron Kwok and Jackie Cheung. Apart from Jackie Cheung, all were assumed to be Gay. Leslie eventually Came Out but the other two Married much later in their Careers – Click to see full sized image

On Monday we parted, he to rehearsal, me to complete my sightseeing and get ready for the long flight back to Britain. As I killed time that day, part of me wished I had come to Hong Kong first and spent more of my time here. Silly thought! How could I possibly have known I would find such a cute young man so eager to meet up with a foreigner and happy beyond measure to spend time with him.

With the glittering lights of Hong Kong Island disappearing fast from my plane window, I smiled. My two weeks had all been a wonderful adventure, filled with so much excitement and interest for a gay tourist. I resolved I would return one day.

Anthony Wong and Denise Lau. Two Hong Kong stars who found Coming Out in the New Millennium far easier - Time Our

Anthony Wong and Denise Lau. Two Hong Kong stars who found Coming Out in the New Millennium far easier – Time Our

It took the better part of 18 years before I fulfilled that resolution. Friends told me the Bangkok scene would be less exciting thanks to a much greater degree of government control over nightlife. But Hong Kong, having repealed the hated British colonial anti-sodomy law in 1991, had become much more open. This time I hit Hong Kong first, enjoying the delights of the labyrinthine bar and dance club Works, filled with mostly wonderfully handsome young Chinese and their western admirers and where you could hardly move on a Saturday night. Saunas had begun to mushroom with the tiny CE off Lyndhurst Terrace attracting older westerners and young Chinese, and another much larger establishment on Lockhart Road whose name now escapes me. This was very different from the Hong Kong I had known all those years ago. But it was a great deal of fun!

Old Hong Kong Street outside CE Sauna

And then I saw him! No, not another ‘him’! The same ‘him’! My companion of 18 years earlier. On this visit I was staying in the cheaper and strangely named Bishop Lei House in Mid-Levels. I had decided to walk down the hill to get some easy exercise. Near the bottom of Wyndham Street close to its junction with Queens Road Central, we just happened to pass each other. Both of us stopped, looked around, smiled and said almost in unison, “It’s been a long time!”

After a short chat on the street, he suggested moving to a small nearby café. Although we had both aged somewhat, I still saw in his face the young man who had so entranced me all those years ago. We filled each other in on what we had been doing since we had last met. He, it turned out, had become a big star in the Hong Kong pop world. He was also considering ‘coming out’, although he would not make it public yet. He was happy he now had a long-time partner.

“We must keep in touch,” he generously suggested. He had no name card and so wrote his address and email on a paper napkin. “I’ll be in touch,” I said, adding “Hopefully we can meet up for dinner whenever I can next afford to come this far.”

Hope you had fun in Hong Kong – tumblr.com

Hope you had fun in Hong Kong – tumblr.com

I knew it was not to be. I had no idea if I could ever afford to return to this bustling, fascinating, increasingly polluted and by now expensive city. Besides, once you have seen the sights of Hong Kong and sampled some of its utterly delicious food, there is not much left for the visitor, unless as a stepping-stone into the equally fascinating world of China.

On the flight to Bangkok, I took out that napkin. I looked again at his handwriting. I smiled at the memories. After a few moments of reflection, I folded it and put it neatly on the lunch tray. Soon a flight attendant had whisked it away.

Demon Guardians at Wat Phra Kaew

After my week in Bangkok. I never did get back to Hong Kong. All I know from the internet is that my brief friend remains a pop singer of some repute giving concerts all over Asia. I am happy that we met when he was a struggling club artist. There was a hunger and a longing in him then that had been replaced by quiet, almost knowing confidence in that Wyndham Street coffee shop. He doesn’t need it, but I will always wish him the best of good fortune.

(c) AsiaGuys.NET

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Negotiating the Travel Jungle – Part 1

Why Has It Become So Dense?

You are excited. You’re planning your annual holiday trip to Asia anticipating all the fun you will find in the bars and from the apps. Your only decision? Where to go and how to get there.

Well, not quite, unfortunately for there are a lot of pitfalls long before you get to your exotic destinations! The most obvious one is your travel arrangements.

Lovely Thai Hotel

Lovely Thai Hotel

Let’s assume that you want to fly first (no dears, not first class – first sectors!) from Edinburgh to Singapore at the back of the plane in steerage. After a few days shopping, lying by a pool to get over jet-lag, cruising the often great eye candy along Orchard Road or even spending some more energetic time in a gay sauna and elbow-bending in a gay bar, it’s time to move on.

You decide on the regular bus service up to Kuala Lumpur, far easier and only a fraction longer than taking a flight. Those hot Malay and Chinese guys are all over the apps these days. So you won’t even need to wander far from your hotel!

Kuala Lumpur's Petronas Twin Towers

Kuala Lumpur’s Petronas Twin Towers

You then continue on to Thailand for the main part of your trip – much more (!) rest, recreation and your fill of nightlife. Nearly exhausted, you move to Taipei. Perhaps, if it’s the end of October, you want to take in the annual Gay Pride Parade which last year attracted around 125,000 marchers, mostly from around Taiwan and other parts of Asia, and almost all slim-fit and wonderfully cute!

Taipei’s Gay Pride Parade 2017

Taipei’s Gay Pride Parade 2017

Not a complicated itinerary by any means. And in theory it should not be difficult to plan, but you want to ensure every penny is well spent. You will find plenty of competition on the long international flights, although for your routing you have to factor in at least one plane change. This is a good time to take a look at Qatar Airlines. For many months this tiny Gulf state has been the target of economic and political sanctions by several neighbouring countries, including Saudi Arabia with whom it shares its land borders. These countries have banned Qatar from their air space. Flying east, that’s not a problem for the airline, as it will fly over the Gulf. Fly in any other direction, though, and detours become essential. The airline’s costs and load factors have clearly been affected. For travellers this has been a boon as there have been special fare sales at least once a month. The biggest discounts have been in their excellent business class. In one recent sale, the cost of that Edinburgh to Singapore ticket dropped by around 40%!

Buildings in Qatar's Business District

Buildings in Qatar’s Business District

In the bad old days, finding one-way tickets was a real pain. They tended to be far more expensive than half the cost of a return. Now many carriers happily offer one-way tickets. So that “open-jaw” as it’s called in the business (arriving at one destination and departing from a different one) is now much easier.

Once you have locked in the intercontinental flights, you know there are budget carriers from Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok and Bangkok to Taipei. So that only leaves hotels. If you have no friends who can give advice, you probably know roughly where you’ll want to stay. Definitely near a subway, probably close to one of the gays areas, and certainly within the budget you can afford. If you are still not confident, you’ve heard about TripAdvisor where travellers give their own impressions of the hotels they stay in (for more information on TripAdvisor, please check back to our earlier article here). That will give you some sort of guide. An evening searching the Internet should then have provided you with most of the information you need. Right?

Will you have time for one of Thailand’s Southern Beaches?

Will you have time for one of Thailand’s Southern Beaches?

Well, that again is the theory. Sadly, in practice, unless you are pretty well clued-in on the intricacies of the search engines you consult, you will definitely end up wasting a great deal of your precious time and perhaps even some of your hard-earned cash.

In the dim and distant past, a meeting with your High Street travel consultant would be the extent of your worries. You would eventually be given a suggested itinerary with flights and hotels, along with an option or two. As the travel business has increasingly migrated to the internet, though, your options have multiplied manyfold. It’s not just the number and routing of flights or the cost of rooms in different hotels. You quickly realise that if you postpone your trip by just a day or two, that long outward flight can be significantly cheaper. Great! Well, not so great! Because you then find the return intercontinental flight now is a bit more expensive, and you’ll have to search more hotels in Taipei as the one you had set your heart on is full for the new dates!

In other words, the world of intercontinental travel on the internet has become a minefield.

Taiwanese Guy Waiting for You - Photo Blue

Taiwanese Guy Waiting for You – Photo Blue

Helix Studios

Hotels

Let’s start with hotels. We’ve all heard about Expedia. Should we start there? Maybe since you’re in the UK you can look at what you know is a newish biggie search engine – trivago – or even the smaller venere. Checking each of those sites you are surprised that there is little difference in the prices being offered. So you try Orbitz. Shit! A bit cheaper but it doesn’t offer breakfast in the quoted rate! How about hotels.com? Now this is more interesting because it offers one free night for every ten nights you book. Can you make this work? Well, only if you pay a higher basic nightly rate. After all, someone has to pay for those free rooms you might end up with. The end result is that after a couple of hours, you are so frustrated because you have absolutely no idea which site to use – or if there might be cheaper ones you have missed.

All this is perfectly understandable. Yet there is another more pertinent reason behind your frustration. Unless you are a regular traveller, you are probably unaware that every search engine I have listed so far is part of one giant company, Expedia. The one not part of Expedia is TripAdvisor, but only because Expedia hived it off as a separate company in 2011.

There are of course other ways to book hotels. One is to call direct and find out if they can offer a cheaper rate. Not the ideal solution as you will have to make several international calls, perhaps being passed from department to department.

If you happen to be a more regular traveller and a member of the loyalty groups of one of the large International chains, almost certainly you will find the cheapest rate for the hotels on the group’s own sites, and you might even get a freebie or two, including complimentary internet or guaranteed upgrades.

Come Swim with Me – tumblr.com

Come Swim with Me – tumblr.com

Advice

If your travel is more or less limited to one long annual vacation, then you’ll have to find another way. My first piece of advice is: take what you read on TripAdvisor with a hefty dose of salt. It is well known throughout the travel business that some hotels get better star ratings as a result of fake reviews. And it’s not just an occasional review. Some get their staff, the staff in their PR companies and their suppliers to contribute 2- or 3-line reviews that are total nonsense. I’m not saying TripAdvisor is a dead loss. It can provide interesting information. Best, though, to leave aside the best and the worst reviews and concentrate on those by reviewers who have contributed at least 30 to 40 other reviews and which provide much more detail than “Fantastic hotel!”

Sorry! You will Miss Out on these Taiwan Guys! – Photo Blue

Sorry! You will Miss Out on these Taiwan Guys! – Photo Blue

Some travellers give much more credence to the reviews on each individual search engine, if only because these can only be provided by those who actually stayed in the hotels. Even so, I don’t agree. The real problem is that all travellers have different backgrounds, different travel experiences and different expectations. A young hitchhiker splashing out on a decent hotel for the last night of a trip will almost certainly provide a much more favourable review than a seasoned business traveller forced by his company to downgrade his accommodations. That salt comes in handy again!

Some years ago, I gave up using individual search engines in favour of an independent site, Hotels Combined. The beauty of this is that it gets rid of the need to check each search engine individually. Throughout Asia it will offer a dozen or more search engine prices, most for all the types of room each hotel has available. Occasionally it offers a hotel’s own prices where these are lower than those offered by the search engines. Try it! At the very least it saves you a ton of time.

Can I Afford to Stay in this Lovely Thai Hotel?

Can I Afford to Stay in this Lovely Thai Hotel?

Read More: Part 1 – Part 2

(c) AsiaGuys.NET

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