It was an egg sandwich, some orange juice, a banana, and some cereal. Oh, and some coffee. It wasn’t bad. It wasn’t good. The cereal had little black things in it. I wasn’t sure if they were burnt offerings or something else. In the end I didn’t finish the cereal, mainly because I sometimes have a morbid imagination, especially when it comes to third world countries.
It was the second hostel in which I stayed in Xian. Due to my head cold, I made an effort to get a $20 private room for 3 days. I did that so that I could sleep well. The room was well worth the money. Quite comfortable, with a couple of minor irritations. First, the mattress was on the floor. I haven’t slept on a mattress on the floor since the 1960′s. Second, the shower vacillated between very hot and very cold without any interference from me. Catching it at the right temperature became something of a personal challenge for me, one in which I ultimately failed. In the end, I started using the communal shower down the walkway.
That’s the first hostel I stayed at in Xian and the bike I rented there. The bike cost $3 a day to rent. It was a bargain. The city had walls. It was hard to get lost on a bicycle.
Physically, the first hostel I stayed at in Xian was really nice. Everything was clean and nice and comfy. My only real complaint was that the bar and restaurant staff on two occasions asked me to give up the table I was occupying to some Chinese people. "They’re friends of the management." they told me. I told them that I couldn’t care less who they were and there might have been a confrontation had the people I was with not insisted we move and avoid any hassles. Eventually, I moved to a different hostel. The best vote that can be cast is one made with dollars. Truth is, from what I understand, the vast majority of lodging establishments in China do not accept non-Chinese peoples.
You know you’ve been in a place way-too-long when the hostel staff want to take pictures with you before you go. The two young ladies worked in the hostel. The Chinese guy behind me is Tiger, one of my roommates at the hostel. Tiger lives in Beijing and I plan to visit him there when I go back to catch the plane to the states. The guy on my left is Christof, a Swede who travels the world in search of wonderful spots to scuba dive.
We had two bunk beds and four lockers in a small room. Two people couldn’t dress at the same time. You had to hope the guy above or below you was having a restful night. You had to hope that no one would come in drunk in the middle of the night. Four bed dorm rooms cost more than six bed dorm rooms. Six bed dorm rooms cost more than eight bed dorm rooms. Eight bed dorm rooms cost more than 10 bed dorm rooms. By the time it gets to a sixteen bed dorm room, you can be virtually guaranteed that a good night’s sleep isn’t achievable. The largest room I’ve ever slept in was a 36 bed co-ed room at Vondlepark Hostel in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Sleeping in a room with that many people is a form of Hell. Even the military doesn’t put that many people in a room. Outside of a hostel, I think that only refugee camps house that many people in one space.
It’s the Hall at one of the hostels where I stayed. It reminded me of a Holiday Inn. We had six in our room and the bath was down the hall, so I‘m sure it wasn‘t a Holiday Inn. It was just such a long hall.
This is a picture of the Central Hostel. It’s located right across the street from the train station. The cost to stay there was a little less than $9 a night. It was O.K. Being across the street from the train station I expected it to be a little seedy and it was. But, the physical facilities were good, the amenities were so-so and the location was pretty good. The hostel only occupied one floor of the building. The rest of the floors were part of the Central Hotel, an actual hotel. One of the best things about it was the 24-hour McDonald’s around the corner. I could get a cup of non-instant coffee no matter how early I got up.
It’s the hostel that I liked the most in Beijing. It was located in a hutong. Hutong actually means a "narrow street" or something to that effect, the point being that it’s a small side passageway. The houses located in the hutongs tend to be built around the open-courtyard plan. There may be one to four families living around the same courtyard in a building. They may or may not have plumbing. Normally, they’ll have electricity. The hutong is not the rich part of town. There is a lot of political controversy in Beijing as the government is trying to do a wholesale replacement of the hutong with more modern housing such as high-rises.
That’s me in the tiny little cramped courtyard at the hostel where I was staying. It cost me $14 a night to stay there. Not in the courtyard. In a bed in a room. Actually, it was a nice place. It was clean. My roommates were quiet. There was good transportation connections nearby. There were convenience stores and food outlets right down the street. I’d stay there again, even if I did have to stand on the toilet to close the bathroom door. Those Chinese people must have really, really small feet.