Spring break is the time for the wildest (and worse) things to happen, and while there was no projectile vomiting or sprained ankles, our spring break trip to Taichung 台中 exceeded all levels of bizarreness.
My roommate – the sweetest, most generous and loving individual – can sometimes forget key details, which is why the hostel she booked turned out to be nearly 30 miles outside of the city. After riding in a cab into what seemed like a wasteland, we turned back to the city, thinking we’d have better luck booking a new place there.
We found an ad: Backpackers Hotel 200TWD a night. That’s about $6 a night.
$6 a night? The inner cheapskates came out, causing all four of us to ignore the suspiciously dark, dank hallways as we raced up creaky stairs to the front desk. What luck: the nice Malaysian receptionist informed us that there were more than several rooms available. Red flag #3, but did we listen? Desperate ducklings that we were, we insisted on going ahead and making a payment; the girl shook her head emphatically and told us that we could pay later. Red flag #4.
Enter the hotel itself. Ah, what a sexy smell of mold. And tan-colored sheets? You could go for months without washing! The state of the blankets was reminiscent of your grandmother’s floral nylon comforters. Sticking our noses into the air, we tried to sniff for a source of fresh air, ventilation, something clean to breathe.
Maybe peeing would relieve some stress, I thought to myself. Oh, no toilet paper? What a shock. Were those…rust stains on the bathroom floor? I turned around without peeing and said stiffly: “Let’s go find something to eat.”
We walked into what at first seemed like a promising Japanese restaurant. No one in the restaurant at noon? No problem! Ripped seats and scraped tables? Signs of use! The appearance of a greasy-haired, pimply teenager wearing a lazily draped Japanese server’s jacket still didn’t deter us. During our orders, there was a scuffling sound followed by the appearance of a scruffy black lab. Dog in a restaurant? No biggie. Our only concern was whether or not there was a professional cook hiding in the back, which was quickly answered as the cooking sounds didn’t start until the boy ran upstairs – with dog in tow – and we realized that he would be making our lunch.
Someone sneezed. We all looked at each other.
“I hope he didn’t sneeze into my curry,” someone said.
“Is he…cooking with the dog in the kitchen?” Another asked.
Once the food arrived, I unenthusiastic-ally picked up chopsticks, poked at the saucy mess for a bit and took a bite. Tepid, flavorless and somewhat reminiscent of hamburger helper, I put my silverware down. There was a pause.
“I don’t want to eat here, or stay in that hotel!” I cried out, voicing what everyone was thinking.
We couldn’t get out of there fast enough, leaving enough change to cover the meal and for the boy to get a haircut – and maybe one for his dog as well – and raced back to the hotel with renewed vigor, appearing wild-eyed and desperate at the front desk.
“Sorry, we’re not staying here,” we told the receptionist.
Instead of trying to hold us back with big promises of a free breakfast, the girl looked relieved, handed over our bags and nearly pushed us out the door and back into light, fresh air and civilization.
Looking back, we saw that the hotel actually had an hourly rate, and realized what kind of place it was. That is a love hotel? I would not make any kind of love on those sheets…
“It looked more like a very low-end brothel…” someone else said. We all looked at each other. “A…pimp…house?”
We couldn’t make out way fast enough to the safe, sunny, crisp and clean hostel that had clean white sheets, pastel-colored walls, and a shower with zero “rust” stains.
Check out Chau Le’s full blog here!