Hotels (in which Carrie learns she is way too old for hostels)
I mentioned the name of the hotel we stayed in while in Beijing a couple of times: The HuLu Hotel. The HuLu Hotel was wonderful. It’s in a central location, tucked away down one of the hutongs. Staying there, I really felt at home in Beijing.
HuLu House was quiet, lovely, had great common spaces, and amazing customer service. (Also, the breakfasts they serve were apparently amazing, though I never got a “real” breakfast because we left too early for that on both days. On our Great Wall day, however, they got up early and prepared us a “light” breakfast that was truly impressive. I should have taken a picture.)
I’m not sure if HuLu house would work for me for a business trip–it’s too far from the office, and the internet is probably a little too spotty for a business traveler–but I would stay there again in a heartbeat if I were traveling for pleasure.
I was sorry to leave HuLu House, even though the shower in my room was much too short, because I enjoyed my stay so much.
But Mongolia called, and Mongolia is exciting!
I should say that I really do like Mongolia, and will post separately on that later. Right now what I want to focus on is the contrast between HuLu House and the hostel where we are staying in Ulaanbaatar (still don’t know how to spell the city name correctly).
Where HuLu was quiet and peaceful at night, this guesthouse is noisy and crowded. Where HuLu had delightful common spaces, the guesthouse has people sleeping in the common spaces. Where HuLu was welcoming and hospitable, the guesthouse is baffling and silent. That is, when we arrived there was no clear instructions about keys (though I did get one when I remembered to ask), and no standard rundown of where things were located or any other house rules.
(I should note that I had issues with the drivers sent by both locations to pick me up from the airport. The HuLu House contracted out, and the driver got incredibly lost. The guesthouse’s driver never found us–at best, he was late–and the taxi driver we eventually contracted also got lost. A sign that this trip is supposed to be about public transportation, maybe!)
Now, I’ve stayed in hostels before, although admittedly not that many. I’ve never done a backpacking tour through Europe on the cheap, after all. But in my limited experience they’ve been clean and the people have been nice.
Well, I should say here that the place is clean and the people are nice. Really clean, and really nice. (I witnessed the dusting of picture frames!)
My problem mainly is that I’m just not on the same schedule as predominantly young, predominantly male other guests staying here.
While I’m ready to crash by 10:00 PM, they’re only getting going then. (This I should note has less to do with my age than with me; I’ve always been that way, and have always been an early riser.) Instead of getting quieter as the night aged, these guys get louder. When we arrived mid-afternoon, the house was quiet and we had some very interesting conversations with the other travelers. I think most of the people who stay there are real nomads, and have been traveling for months. That can make for very interesting conversation.
However, as the sun set the crowd grew and conversations split and multiplied and voices rose in competition. I’m sure we all know how it goes. I distinctly remember, around 2:00 AM, a loud rendition of “It’s 3AM I must be lonely….” (with most of the words missing or not in English).
When I woke up in the morning at 6:30–late! I must be adjusting to the jet lag!–and thought I’d go sit in the common room, I found it entirely occupied with sleeping bodies. Not wanting to wake them, I found a spot on the floor in a back room that acts as a sort of large closet.
So yeah. I’m clearly too old for a hostel. If I were more of a night owl, it would still work for me. But not so much as an early to bed, early to rise person.
Edited to add: Read Steve’s description of our first day in Mongolia at Coming to Grips with Mongolia. Then read a later commentary at Not-quite tourists.