It’s probably no secret that I like staying in hotels, and I’m certainly not averse to a little luxury. It doesn’t make me feel guilty, I see it as a celebration of life. Down to my last cent, and you will still see me flexing my plastic so I can check-in to a fantasy world, and then checkout from reality and the mundane.
However I don’t have a 100 percent success rate – far from it. There have been some notable nightmares: times when I’ve wondered if it just wouldn’t be better to check-out and grab a few seats at the airport departure lounge.
No likey Lima?
Coming back from the mysticism and the magic of the Sacred Valley. I checked into a Lima airport hotel – in fact I think there is only one at the terminal so you can guess which one it is.
I like staying at the airport before early intercontinental flights – not because I want to be ridiculously early, it’s just I love traveling and I love airports – gorging myself in the lounge on fatty and salty snacks and having a drink in the morning – when else, really, other than say Christmas Day, can you have a drink in the morning and not be seen as having an addition?!
But staying at the Lima airport hotel is enough to drive anyone to drink. The room was modern and spacious but within a minute or two I knew something was wrong. It just looked dirty. The bathroom towels were badly folded. When I took one off the rail there it was: whoa! What’s that? A skid mark? Really?
So this then called for the ultimate test of a dodgy hotel, the bed inspection, where you pull back the covers to see the sheets. I mean, how many times have you ever felt compelled to do that?? Not many I am sure, and for me this was first, but I had just read an article about the horrors of dirty hotel beds and how sometimes the beds are not changed, they are just remade and the sheets pulled tight.
This was the case here. It looked like a very hairy primate had slept there the night before, and one that didn’t know what a bidet was – special.
I went down to front desk and asked for a room change. The friendly team said of course, no problem. Yet the next room was even worse! The carpet looked like small animals had been slaughtered on it by the previous guest, or maybe it was a crime scene. Either way it was time to bring out the big guns. I called front desk and insisted on seeing the director.
Ten minutes later there was a knock at the door. I was tired, stressed and looking for a fight. As I opened the door I was greeted with a huge smile, and warm eyes. The director asked if he could come in: of course, I confirmed. He was tall, elegant and handsome. In any other country the hotel manager might have been a model, but here he’s managing a hotel with lousy house-keeping. The smile was enough to diffuse the situation so I quickly recounted the issues and within moments I was taken to a suite…so my night had a ‘happy ending’ – well, of sorts!
When I was in India, the swish properties we stayed in were probably amongst the finest hotels I have ever experienced, but then I stayed near the capital’s airport.
On the last night of my trip, before catching a BA intercontinental flight, I made the mistake of booking online a generic airport hotel. What was I thinking? Well, I’ll tell you. I was thinking it was only 6 hours before I had to be at the airport, so why not get something modern and convenient and close to the international airport for a few hours shut-eye.
Modern and convenient transpired to be a granite clad building, within a row of neon illuminated ‘hotels’ near the flight path.
I arrived parched, so at the check in desk I asked if I could have a bottle of water. No chilled lemon scented cotton face towel and welcome cocktail here. Instead the smiling bell boy brought me water…in a dirty glass.
I was unsure for a moment what exactly I could do. I had managed to enjoy two weeks of Indian hospitality without the slightest complication or stomach ache. But I had followed a few strict rules: only vegetarian food, only cooked food, and only bottled water. Here, on a tray held out for my refreshment was a glass of water. Suddenly all my well-travelled nonchalance dissipated and I was filled with the fear that I’d get sick and spend the next day not in my swish airline seat, or ‘raiding the larder’ but instead holed-up in the claustrophobic on-board W.C. losing weight!
How was I to deal with this situation without offending my hosts and seeming like a prissy colonialist? Inspiration came, and I explained I was so thirsty that I thought a bottle of water would be better. First hurdle surmounted, now for the room.
Once I got to the room, I realised my neurosis over a glass of water was the least of my worries. The room was windowless – a first for me. It wasn’t particularly small, but just the concept of no window made the space instantly shrink and close in on me. The walls marked and grey, had no decoration or even curtains to pretend that there was a window. Really, no window?! Then the bathroom, a tiny space with grey unfolded towels and a loo roll with 3 or 4 sheets left on it. No shampoo, and just a dripping shower.
But the hotel had one great asset – friendly staff, so maybe it wasn’t such a bad place after all.
Just writing this and hearing the words in my head, makes me feel like I am a spoilt child. Back packing around Asia 25 years ago and a room like this would have been pure luxury, but coming at the end of a trip that included Palaces in Rajasthan and city oasis like the Shangri La, it was a slight shock.
My recent trip to Turkey was undoubtedly a superb experience: an amazing destination, remarkable people, beautiful landscapes and a cuisine I could eat for the rest of my life. We sailed the Aegean in luxury and were treated like VIPs in boutique hotels. But there was one night that was memorable for very different reasons.
I had booked online a place near the airport for convenience for a night; the photos looked great: it had good reviews and there was free Wi-Fi.
I hopped in a taxi thinking I’d be there in minutes. But no, the place was on a one way street, with poor access and lousy traffic. So the taxi driver dumped me at the end of a street and drove away. I dragged my case through a colourful neighbourhood that sort of made me think of a scene from Blade Runner and eventually I found the door. It was one of those places that you suspiciously think is rented by the hour rather than by the night.
The free Wi-Fi was free as described, but just not in the room – I had to sit on the stairs in the dark hallway to get a signal – another special touch!
The bathroom smelt of drains, and the loo wobbled, making me nervous I would be the one to finally rip it from the wall.
The room was on the street, overlooking a bar. The bar had a roof terrace with karaoke until 3am – wow, how special to have live music included in the room rate! Ear plugs couldn’t compete with the megawatt PA system.
So instead I decided to join in, humming and singing when I knew the lyrics to the tracks – except of course the hard core Turkish tunes. Not such a bad night after all…
Before you write me off as being fussy or spoilt, I just want to say that I love cheap and cheerful. I love the great outdoors and for me a long weekend hiking, staying in simple guest houses or inns makes for a great break. I also love B&Bing in Europe.
I am more than happy with simple accommodation. But for me it has to me marketed correctly. I don’t need luxury – the most important thing is feeling welcome, feeling connected with my destination and that the place is clean. It can be a B&B is Scotland or a Palace in India, for me the same values apply.
But please don’t give me fake reviews and fancy photos and charge 4 star prices for a failing 2 star property!
What are your hotel horror stories?
I am more accustomed to ‘on-the-cheap’ accommodation these days (there was a time….) but, regardless of that, basic hygiene levels should be met by any hotel in a location suited to international travel. That being said, at least you were not so traumatised that you couldn’t recount you experiences with a dash of humour which took away some of the ‘Eeeewwww’ factor for the reader!
🙂 Luckily at all three places the team were friendly and ‘alls well that ends well’.
But it’s amazing really how little time house keeping have to clean and prepare rooms in even the top hotels – it’s around 20 – 30 minutes!
Often in B&Bs you can expect better levels of hygiene as the owners really care about their properties and have the time to spend an hour to clean a room.
Valid point – privately owned guest houses/hotels etc tend to take more pride in how their accommodation is presented and, invariably, have fewer rooms to maintain. The larger, corporate franchises have to get the balancing right with regard to staff levels and profit margins so, I suppose, it’s inevitable that sometimes they fall below standard
It’s much the same on ferries – the poor cleaning staff are battling against time between sailings to get the rooms clean – however they haven’t failed us yet!