Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Bruxelles 2012 - an extensive review of Max Hotel vs. Chic and Basic

Happy new year boys and girls!

I have been so slack with posting and one of my new year's resolutions is, no, not to blog more regularly, but to only post what JUST happened, meaning I will stop back-blogging from now on. This is to help future me, when looking for old posts on certain dates.

So, my first trip of the year was on the first weekend of the year (pure coincidence), and it was to Brussels with Yelleh Belleh.

Did I mention that she's here for an internship at my office in Amsterdam? Yep.

So we took the train down to Brussels for a very affordable price of € 34,20 each return. And I found a hotel online called Max Hotel, which looked like the Chic and Basic I stayed at in Madrid. I really loved that hotel and was excited to have found a similar offering in Brussels.

Looks like the hotel review will come first. Here goes...

The Max Hotel people call it a new kind of concept of urban hotel for a reasonable price at a great location. This is very true, as it was on a main street parallel to the main shopping street of Brussels, and only a 10-minute walk (if you know your way) to Grand Place, the main square.

Because this hotel concept was so similar to Chic and Basic, I couldn't help constantly comparing the two.

First impressions
When you first enter the premises of Max Hotel, outside the main doors, you're faced with two machines to check in and out. I found this super cool, as all your booking details are in the database and all you have to do is enter your booking number and insert your card for confirmation.

At Chic and Basic, it's just like a normal hotel with a small check-in desk and a friendly Spanish dude to help you out. I think both ways suit me just fine. The human touch is pleasant and welcoming, but the machine method is just super cool. Unless something goes wrong and you're stuck outside the doors till the hotel guy sees you from the CCTV.

The room
At Max Hotel, the room was much larger than Chic and Basic's. It was pretty much like a standard sized hotel room in a standard 3 or 4 star hotel. The bathroom was also very nice and reasonably sized. Chic and Basic's bathroom was nice and modern, but the weird thing was the sink being in the room itself. It looked weird, but it was nice for watching TV while brushing my teeth and washing my face :P

So first impression of the room at Max Hotel was good. Until I discovered there was no safe to keep our passports in. Something which Chic and Basic had. Okay, never mind, not such a huge inconvenience (although I really like having a safe in the room).

We gave our feet a rest (we had only checked in at 3pm, after walking for 4 hours in the city) for about 10 minutes, then freshened up and headed out again.

The amenities
All the amenities in these kinds of hotels are never located in your room. In Chic and Basic, it was in the lobby and in Max Hotel it was on the first floor in a sort of lounge area. The big difference and winning point for Chic and Basic is that they were all free - coffee, tea, chocolate powder, cinnamon powder, all kinds of powder for your drinks, biscuits, cookies, milk, boiling water... in Madrid, I would get ready in the morning (or evening) and head out, picking up a coffee and biscuit for the walk to Baker Jo's hotel up the road. At Max Hotel, you have to pay for everything. I was quite disappointed at this discovery.

Even more disappointing was that they don't provide little shampoo and shower gel bottles to guests. You actually have to buy those two at the vending machine on the first floor for € 1 each. I guess we should just be thankful that bath towels were provided *rolls eyes*. Oh, and there is no free WiFi either. You have to pay for that per 24 or 72 hours to use in your room. For us who were only staying less than a day, and out of the room most of the time, it wasn't worth it.

The night
While we were out, we smelt so many waffles around that we just had to find a good place to have one. Unfortunately, we chose the wrong shop. The waffles were mushy and way too sweet and dripping with too much chocolate sauce. Yelleh Belleh even stained my scarf that she was borrowing, with chocolate sauce :( I hope it comes off.

We'd also decided that we needed to have Belgian chips. So at 7pm, we bought a bag of chips to share. And that was our dinner for the day, as we weren't hungry anymore. Being Malaysian, we were worried that we'd get hungry later on in the hotel, so we thought of getting cup noodles for the room. "But," I wondered aloud, "Does the hotel have boiling water?". We figured that they had to provide hot water to make tea, but in the end, we couldn't find any good cup noodles, so we decided to be strong and go without food (because we didn't want anything else).

The next morning
We had bought a little shampoo bottle from the Max Hotel vending machine because the convenience stores were selling the full-sized bottles for way too much than was appropriate. So all prepared, I stepped into the shower, and got a pleasant surprise in the form of a rain shower. How luxurious!

So, we get a rain shower, but we don't get free shampoo and shower gel. I just find that too strange. Sure, most people don't like hotel shampoos and would rather use their own, but we're talking about a cheap and easy hotel here, where either half-on-a-budget travellers or one-night travellers stay. We people are not super fussy about shampoo, really. I'd rather have free amenities than a rain shower any day.

Okay then, on the other hand, say you are really fussy about your hair and body and don't care about them not providing shampoo and shower gel. I realised, while rubbing the € 1 shampoo into my hair, that the shower area is WAY too small for a rain shower fitting. The rain was just everywhere and was getting into my eyes, and there was nowhere to step away from it, except by going back out of the shower area. I had to switch from rain to normal shower head mode, which was attached to the wall at a lower level. That solved the problem, but it didn't take away the basic inappropriateness of having the rain shower.

In conclusion
It sounds like I have a lot of complaints about the Max Hotel, but in reality, I did like it. My conclusion is that it's convenient and affordable and very comfortable to stay in. I just find that some of the things they did were useless and would have been better replaced by other basic things. I don't need such a big room, or a rain shower. What I need in place of those things is a safe, free amenities and free WiFi. In that department, Chic and Basic really wins top place. I still love it loads and would look for a Chic and Basic wherever I go.

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