The Hotel Room Issue

by Ieuan Ben Pawl Dolby

Two items of utmost importance are at the forefront of any search for the perfect holiday!
Where to go and where to stay!
All the other little details like sun, sand, snow or sex are so very unimportant when faced with these two rather large and cumbersome issues. It is the second item that I am going to discuss here, the “where to stay” part of the holiday, the piece of the jigsaw that can make or break that once yearly trip that has so long been saved for and so long looked forward to.

Only last week I went for a three-day trip to the Southern Coast of Taiwan (a bit like a trip to Brighton Beach for those living in England) to the holiday town of Kenting. It is not the first time that I have been there and it certainly won’t be the last but it might be the last time that I stay at this particular hotel!

For some reason this hotel that has five-stars liberally plastered over all the walls and doors took vengeance against I, my wife and son. The television had no sound and the subsequent fix did not last five minutes, nor the second one or third. They seemed reluctant to change the set, the remote or the room. The hair dryer had a mind of its own and twice started itself, the shower kept on falling off the hook and I have witness to this by the lumps and bumps on my crown and the smell of wet paint was just a bit too much to bear! At the swimming pool an arrogant lifeguard made me see red by suggesting that we should leave the pool or wear a swimming cap. This in itself was understandable but the insistence that my six-month old son wear one too was pushing the limits of my temper. Oh, and don’t tell everybody but the soup had a cockroach in it!

I don’t let little things in life get me down, but that was taking poor service to extremes. In any hotel of any rating one half expects that something will blemish the stay, two mistakes are tolerated but three is pushing the limit. Simply put, I will find somewhere else to stay next time I am in town.

Anywhere in the world it is easier to find a place to stay if one has prior knowledge of the town or city. It is very hard to find the ideal room if the holiday is blind, to a new and unexplored city in a foreign country and especially were the language is Double Dutch!

Choosing a hotel is further complicated by the stars, a system that was developed to help those searching for a place to stay by giving an idea as to what lies behind the doors. But the rating system is so subjective, so open to taste, area and to individual opinion! A simple two-star can be an extremely friendly, clean, comfortable and central place to stay, yet the five-star resort down the road might be cold, large and so out of it all as to be characterless! The real Ritz Hotel certainly bears no resemblance to the Hotel Ritz in
another country that I stayed in once upon a time - this one was cockroach infested, had an un-lockable door, no window and with extremely holy (in the literal sense) sheets that had seen many a guest falling asleep with a fag in his mouth! Yet both have five stars!

The price range of a hotel is a better indication of what might be found across the threshold! Not the price when compared to those found back home but to other hotels in the region or town that is to be visited.

Photographs or pictures supposedly taken of the subject matter are no good, a wide angle lens might have been used, the shots might even be of another hotel completely and the building site next door might have been cleverly etched out!

An excellent check, one that has served me well in the past is to give the prospective hotel a quick call under the pretense of being an awkward customer, planning to arrive with a vegetarian and hyper active grandmother, a sick and large dog of indeterminate breed and with thirteen children and the kitchen sink! In
other words ask questions, see how they respond. If they are polite and try to accommodate then things are

looking good. If they get defensive or upset then ………. of course give a false name! Maybe also make two calls, one in the evening to check that no loud music is playing in the background and one in the daytime to check that no construction work is going on.

Magazine advertisements and articles more often than not tend to exaggerate a hotels stature and benefits. A couple of years ago my wife and I decided to go to Bali. She booked the flights and I went all-out for the perfect place to stay. I researched and browsed, I studied and sweated through piles of information so that I would end up with the most perfect and ideal room, one that was cheap at half the price, central, cozy and safe. I eventually got around to booking one, a four-star villa, native style, including breakfast and in the heart of town. I can honestly say that prior to arriving I was a satisfied man but when I saw the bath at the end of the bed I realized that all was not as it seemed. How was I to know that “native style” meant that the bath was in the same room as the toilet and the bed, how was I too know that half the population of mosquitoes in Bali resided in our ‘native style’, open top villa? Lucky it was central though as we needed to get some insect repellant urgently!

Another means to gaining a good idea as to the value of a place is to ask somebody! Word of mouth is amazing and can give a far better idea as to what might be lurking in the shadows. Good places generally get bandied about; bad places never seem to be heard of! A good place for reviews is on the web. Certainly don’t believe
everything that is written about the hotel, as the manager himself is quite capable of writings his own reviews which ultimately make his establishment fit for kings. Go to websites that are general or travel orientated and without advertisements, if the hotel receives one negative report and five good ones you might be onto a winner!

When on business I tend to stay at the chain hotels, the Holiday Inns, the Sheratons and the Meridians of this world. Either I book or my company books, simply because whether one is in Cairo, Canberra or Cape Town the hotels are identical, the standards are similar and the service repeated. It is not until passing out through the hotel doors that a person’s whereabouts in the world can be determined. These chain hotels are built like a Ford production line, “you can stay at any hotel you like as long as it is green”, without character or setting but certainly with a standard that can be easily slid into, a service that is ideal for what is required and a room that provides a comfortable pillow to rest the head on. These hotels give anonymity to all who stay; they provide a businessman the knowledge of were his mini-bar will be located even if he has never stayed at that particular hotel before! They don’t provide water games at 1800 with a host who speaks twelve languages very badly indeed or a discothèque that plays the latest in dance music but they give security and guarantee at a price.

If this is what is suitable, a service with a false smile, then these hotels might fit the bill for a holiday – just ignore the stuffy suited guys who meander around with brief cases and don’t trip over the wires of laptops perched on bony knees in the lobby – they give what is required, prior knowledge of a standard!

Well, in summary: do a bit of research. Get on the phone and do a bit of class acting.

Sift around the Internet and pull out the hopefully honest opinions and if friends can give advice open the ears and listen carefully. Don’t believe all that the travel agents say as they want their commission as much as the next person. Don’t believe all that advertisements tell you, as they never give the negative points! Don’t believe all those lovely glossy pictures – strange to see a Black Cab taxi in Beijing and why is the New York skyline behind that lovely Hotel in Istanbul – pictures can be stolen, appropriated or cleverly altered to suit. If still in doubt opt for the chain hotels, if still in doubt cancel the holiday or find another town or country to visit!

Oh and when you get back from your holiday get on the internet and post some stories or anecdotes of your holiday. Tell people what the hotel was like; give out so that others may find it easier to locate the idealplace to stay. And hopefully if the hotel gets a bad name it will soon go out of business!

Hope you have a good holiday!



About The Author:
Author and Webmaster of Seamania.
As a Chief Engineer in the Merchant Navy he has sailed the world for fifteen years.
Now living in Taiwan he writes about cultures across the globe and life as he sees it

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