If you know me personally, chances are you already know that I’m the cheapest of cheapskates. You’d probably have heard of all the things I put myself through when I travel. But those who only know me on social media tend to only see the glamorous side of my adventures.
They see me strike a pose in front of the Taj Mahal, but what they don’t know is that I only had bananas for my last few days in India. They see me hop on a plane to attend a last-minute event in Singapore, but they don’t know that I had to sleep in a carpark that night. No, not inside a car. On a bench.
All those things rarely made it into Instagram. But in this article, I will share with you snapshots of the two worst hotels I’ve ever stayed at.
My General Attitude Toward Hotels
Even now that I’m not as broke as I used to be, I don’t like spending on accommodation. Why waste money on hotels when you could spend it on other more meaningful stuff, like food and experiences? Why spend big bucks on a room if you’re only going to be in it for a few hours?
But especially in the earlier years of my travels, I would really go out of my way to find the cheapest accommodation possible. The cheaper, the better. I wasn’t too fussy about comfort or cleanliness. Sometimes, the shared bathrooms were barely functioning. The toilets wouldn’t flush, and there was no toilet paper or faucet (you’d better bring your own toilet paper or a bottle of water to wash yourself with).
None of that mattered to me.
I arrived in Bandung, Indonesia with no hotel reservation. This was before booking apps. I’m not sure if Booking.com had existed back then, but if it had, I wasn’t aware of it. My phone was too ancient to connect to the internet anyway.
So, if I wanted to secure a room in those days, I’d either have to call or e-mail the hotel. Usually, I just went with no booking whatsoever and hoped for the best.
That was my plan for Bandung. Unfortunately, my plane landed much later than expected. It was already night time. To top it off, I got held up at the airport like I usually did in most Indonesian airports. It seemed like Indonesian immigration officers were particularly wary of solo travelers. Especially the ones without hotel reservations.
So, I had to go through rigorous body checks and answer the standard probing questions:
“Why are you traveling alone?”
“Where are you spending the night?”
“Who’s funding your travels?”
“Do you know anyone in Indonesia?”
“If you haven’t been here before and you don’t know anyone here, how come you know so much about Bandung?”
It was as if these people had never heard of Google. I was one of the last passengers left at the airport. With me, there was a Japanese guy who was also traveling alone. He had it worse — the officers took him to another room to undress for a ‘routine check’.
When they finally let us off, we shared a taxi and asked the driver to take us to the cheapest hotel available. The Japanese tourist didn’t have any hotel booking either.
And that was the story of how I found myself in this ‘fascinating’ ‘hotel’ in Bandung.
The lobby was a decrepit living room/coffee shop, where a few men sat drinking. After making our payments, we were taken to our rooms on the second floor.
I didn’t get to see what the Japanese guy’s room looked like, but this was mine:
The bed was so low and half the springboard had collapsed, making one side of the mattress sag to the damp floor, where roaches and lizards were playing tag. The window was broken and only half covered with newspaper.
Oh well. I was tired and hungry, and in any case, I had already paid for this shit hole, so I might as well make the best of it.
I soon figured out that it was a love motel where cheap men took their mistresses for a few hours of rendezvous. There were writings on the wall commemorating their love.
This one is slightly more poetic:
“To the love I lost, I hope you will understand all this. This room has been the only witness to our love. Nobody else can understand what is in our hearts and our dreams. I pray that you can return to your wife and kids who must have missed your love. I’m only a lady of the night, but I have feelings too, just like the rest. Goodbye, love.”
I slept okay throughout the night. The next morning, we checked out at the same time, and went on to explore the city together and laugh about our experience. He insisted on taking a photo of me, so I took one of him too.
The second worst hotel I encountered was in Guilin, China. This time, I used Booking.com. The booking was done haphazardly months before the trip. I had picked the cheapest accommodation without much thought, just so I could have an address for my visa application form.
My plan was to cancel the booking and do a more thorough search closer to the date. But I forgot all about it. By the time I remembered, it was too late. The free cancellation period was over and I would be penalized if I didn’t show up. A tiny amount, but still. Money is money.
So, show up I did — after more than an hour looking for the hotel because nobody in the area spoke any English. It was quite a distance away from the main tourist spot where most other hostels/hotels were.
The young landlady was nice though. I paid her for two nights and let her show me to my room. And what a room it was.
The photos on the booking app weren’t that pretty, but they definitely didn’t look like this. The whole room was covered in mold — from the walls, to the ceiling, and the curtains, if you could even call them that. The ceiling fan was almost black with dust and grime accumulated for God knows how many years.
There was a dusty table and on top of it, a small TV with all the buttons missing. The only saving grace was that it had an en-suite bathroom, which was — funnily enough — cleaner than the room.
It was already getting dark, and there was nothing nearby other than residential areas. I was too knackered to go find food, so I skipped dinner and went to bed.
The next morning, I woke up to all my stuff smelling of mold. As miserly as I was, there is a limit to everything, and I had reached mine. I quickly packed up my stuff and told the landlady I would be checking out.
She seemed genuinely confused why I wanted to leave so soon (I thought it was pretty obvious why), and although I hadn’t expected her to refund my payment for the remaining night, she did.
A Better Alternative to Hotels
Most of these misadventures I had with regard to hotels took place before I discovered the secret to getting free accommodation around the world.
You can find out more by watching this video. Granted, this solution may not be for everyone, but it worked fabulously for me every time.
What was your worst hotel experience? Share in the comments section below.
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