Before leaving for Asia I told myself I’d live it up by staying at only the finest 5-star hotels. Compared to America, Asia ex-Japan is relatively cheap. I had just finished paying down $100,000 in mortgage debt seven months earlier than expected and felt like I deserved to be rewarded. Billing 60 hours a week for three months in a row as a consultant in order to expedite my mortgage payoff was also the antithesis of being an “early retiree.”
All excited to start booking my hotels, I clicked the 5-star only search option on Hotels.com for Seoul and Kuala Lumpur. But instead of booking four nights at the Shilla Hotel in Seoul for $350 a night, I decided to book the Centermark Hotel in Insadong for only $120 a night after taxes and fees. The Centermark Hotel was rated four stars and had free wifi. It was walking distance to all the major palaces and the Buchchon village. A $1,320 savings could easily pay for all food, transportation, and attraction tickets while in South Korea!
Then it was Kuala Lumpur’s turn to book a hotel. Originally I was going to stay at Villa Samadhi, a 5-star resort in the heart of Ampang where I used to live as a kid. The hotel looks like an oasis, perfect for a honeymoon retreat. At $250 a night for a suite with a private pool, breakfast, and wifi, it’s pretty good value compared to the prices you’d find for a similar suite in San Francisco.
But here’s the thing. My personal finance brain took over. The GDP per capita in Malaysia is only about $24,500 vs. $35,400 for South Korea and $78,000 for San Francisco! What business do I have spending $250 a night for a 5-star hotel in Malaysia as that would be equivalent to spending around $850 a night in San Francisco, something I’d never do! Instead of booking Villa Samadhi for $250 a night, I decided to book the four-star Impiana Hotel in KLCC for $120 a night. It just felt right.