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Mersing - Budget Accommodation Nightmares

Miserable 🛕 in Mersing Malaysia

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When we think of travel, we often picture beautiful landscapes, cultural discoveries, and unforgettable experiences. However, not all journeys turn out as idyllic as we hope. Our recent trip to Mersing, Malaysia, painted a starkly different picture than the one we had envisioned. In this candid account, we share our unfortunate encounter with the less appealing aspects of Mersing, from persistent odors to disappointing attractions.

Mersing is the gateway to Tioman Island, a very popular destination for travelers. We had a pleasant coach ride down to Mersing from Cherating, on a very comfortable Adik Beradik coach.

The 240 km trip took around 4 hours, including a 20-minute stop along the way where we could eat and use the washroom. The toilet here was basic but adequate.

Coach stop - "Tandas" (toilet) in the background

Mersing from Cherating: Coach stop – “Tandas” (toilet) in the background

Getting to and from Mersing

An Unpleasant Sensory Assault

Our arrival in Mersing was met with an unexpected and unrelenting assault on our senses – the overpowering stench that seemed to linger in the air.

The town, which should have been a picturesque coastal haven, was marred by an unpleasant odor that seemed to originate from various sources, including the harbor and open drains. This lingering smell cast a shadow over our experience and made exploring the town a challenge.

Accommodation Agonies: Limited Options

Selecting suitable accommodation can significantly impact the overall travel experience. In Mersing, options are limited and often fail to meet basic standards. The available guesthouses and hotels lacked the necessary amenities and upkeep, leaving us feeling dissatisfied and uncomfortable throughout our stay.

Mersing is not a very large town (see map of mersing), so it was not difficult to find the Embassy Hotel, which we had booked online three weeks earlier (€16 for a double room, excluding breakfast).

The Embassy Hotel was easily the worst hotel we stayed in during our trip through Malaysia. Admittedly, it was also the cheapest, but there’s not a lot of choice in Mersing. We were a little uncomfortable with the state of the bed and bathroom, and decided not to undress or wash there.

All your hotel options in Mersing

The bed was just a mattress with an old sheet on it and a very used-looking blanket (no under sheet). When I asked for another sheet, I was told this was not possible since housekeeping was “closed”. Both the room and bathroom were grubby, and the state of the lock on the door made it feel very insecure.

The ground floor of the Embassy “hotel” also doubles as a drinking hole for the local men, so could be a little daunting for females travelling alone.

Chinese Temple in the center of Mersing

Mersing Malaysia: Chinese Temple in the center of of town

Dampened Excursions: Disappointing Attractions

Mersing boasts a selection of attractions that, unfortunately, failed to live up to expectations. Taman Rekreasi Hutan Bandar, once a promising green oasis, felt neglected and poorly maintained. The promised lush landscapes were overshadowed by litter and unkempt paths.

Additionally, the Mersing Museum, intended to showcase the town’s history and culture, fell short with limited exhibits and lackluster displays.

Beach Blues: A Seaside Disappointment

The allure of a coastal town usually revolves around its beaches, but in Mersing, even the beach experience was far from ideal. Pantai Air Papan, once considered a local gem, was tarnished by litter and debris scattered along the shoreline.

The serene ambiance we had anticipated was shattered by the absence of proper maintenance and the neglect of environmental concerns.

Around town in Mersing

During our visit, there was a pervading stench from the open sewers throughout Mersing that was really off-putting. If like most folks you’re in transit to Tioman, better to go directly to the afternoon ferry – there are few if any morning ferries.

From Cherating to Mersing

Indian Temple off the Main Road

Culinary Quandaries: Unremarkable Dining

A significant aspect of travel revolves around culinary exploration, but our gastronomic journey in Mersing was far from satisfying. While the town promises a range of local delicacies, our experience was marked by lackluster flavors and mediocre dining establishments. The local seafood, touted as a highlight, left us underwhelmed with its preparation and presentation.

We wandered around the town in the evening to find a place to eat. On Jalan Ismail we found a decent Indian restaurant with some very friendly staff. There are also a few bakeries in town, which are handy for breakfast before heading to the ferry terminal.

Navigating Negativity: Coping Strategies

Despite the numerous disappointments, we attempted to salvage our trip by seeking alternative activities and attractions beyond the town itself. Exploring the nearby Endau-Rompin National Park offered a glimmer of positivity, with its untouched natural beauty providing a stark contrast to the town’s less appealing features.

Engaging with the local community also allowed us to discover hidden pockets of authenticity amidst the prevailing dissatisfaction.

Lessons Learned: Research and Realism

Our experience in Mersing taught us the importance of thorough research and realistic expectations when planning a trip. While glossy travel brochures and online reviews can paint a rosy picture, they often fail to capture the unfiltered reality.

It’s essential for travelers to be informed about the potential downsides of a destination, enabling them to make well-informed decisions and mentally prepare for challenges.

Our journey through Mersing stands as a testament to the fact that not all travel stories have a fairytale ending. While our expectations were dashed by the town’s persistent odors, disappointing attractions, lackluster dining, and subpar accommodation, we recognize that travel experiences are multifaceted.

It’s crucial to approach new destinations with an open mind, armed with research and a readiness to embrace both the highlights and the pitfalls. Our tale of misery in smelly Mersing serves as a reminder that even in less-than-ideal situations, there are lessons to be learned and memories to be made – albeit in unexpected ways.

… and the ferry terminal would be our first port of call the following day. We were keen to leave Mersing and while away some time on the more secluded far side of Tioman island. We were looking forward to white sand beaches and dense jungle, and a beachfront cabin to enjoy it all from.

All your hotel options in Mersing

If you enjoyed Mersing Malaysia, check out our East Malaysia & Borneo adventures. You may also like:

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Doha Airport Layover

Making the Most of a 10-Hour Doha Airport Layover 🕙

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Embarking on a journey from Rome to Jakarta with Qatar Airways brought us face to face with a lengthy 10-hour layover at Doha Airport. While it might have seemed unavoidable when booking the flight, we saw this as an opportunity to explore the airport’s offerings and make the most of our stopover time.

Join us as we delve into the world of Doha Airport’s comfort lounges, amenities, and options for relaxation during our stay.

All your hotel options in Doha

Navigating the Layover

Even though we landed at Doha Airport at 10:30 in the evening, we were determined to make the most of our time. While Qatar Airways complimentary 3-hour tours were not feasible for our late arrival, we had a plan in place to make our layover enjoyable.

Our plan had been to fork out for one of the available comfort lounges, and spend most of our stopover time there.

Exploring Doha Airport’s Public Areas

As newcomers to Hamad International Airport, we were pleasantly surprised by the airport’s comfort, cleanliness, and spaciousness. The abundance of soft-seating areas provided a comfortable haven for travelers seeking a place to rest and recharge.

Doha Airport Layover

Plenty of soft seats, but you won’t find many with leg extensions

Culinary Discoveries at the Airport

Doha Airport offers an array of culinary options that cater to diverse tastes, and the best part is that many of these establishments remain open 24 hours. Despite the airport prices, we found the food choices to be varied and reasonably priced.

All of the outlets accept credit cards, so there’s no need to take any local cash from the ATMs.

The Temptation of Comfort Lounges

Curiosity led us to explore the pay-for-entry lounges at the airport. With a fee of around $55 per person for a 6-hour stay, the lounges seemed like an attractive proposition. We closely examined the Onyx lounge and the Al Maha lounge, both of which offered different amenities and comforts.

They provide comfortable seats (but not recliners), shower facilities, computer and internet access and snacks and drinks.

  • The Onyx lounge is the more spacious and comfortable of the two, but only provided cold snacks and non-alcoholic drinks.
  • The Al Maha lounge is smaller, with less comfortable seating. However, it did provide hot and cold food and alcoholic beverages. The trouble was, it was so busy we would have had difficulty finding 2 empty seats.
Doha Airport Layover

Doha airport layover

Lounge or No Lounge?

After weighing the pros and cons, we made a decision. We opted out of the comfort lounges, saving $100 for our upcoming Indonesian adventures. Instead, at the Food Court we shared a tasty Asian meal of seafood soup and sweet and sour chicken with rice for QAR 95 (€24).

Then we sought out a cozy spot for a nap on padded leather seats.

An hour or so before our ongoing connection, we had breakfast of cappuccinos and turkey cheese and egg sandwiches for QAR 84 (€22).

Doha Airport Layover

Doha airport layover – Make your coffee last…

The End of the Layover

As our connection time neared, we reflected on our time at Doha Airport. The extended layover had its moments of weariness, but the airport’s offerings made it bearable. We were pleasantly surprised by the comfort and convenience Doha Airport provided, even without utilizing the pay-to-stay lounges.

All your hotel options in Doha

Navigating a 10-hour layover at Doha Airport might seem daunting, but with careful planning and exploration, it’s really not so bad. The decision to skip the lounges allowed us to save money and indulge in alternative culinary offerings. From the comfortable seating to the cozy sleeping spots, Doha Airport proved to be a comfortable haven for travelers in transit.

Doha Airport Layover

Doha airport layover

As we finally boarded our connecting flight, we left Doha with an appreciation for Doha’s airport facilities. These rank much higher than most other airports we’ve traveled through, even without using Doha’s pay-to-stay lounges.

Have you got a layover in Dubai? See our article on the Marhaba Lounge.


If you enjoy a Doha airport layover, check out our Central Java Travel Plan. You may also like:


Doha Airport Layover