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Published: April 24th 2009
"Say what??" you must be thinking about now? That subject line may make no sense whatsoever right now, but in actuality, it does; you will just have to read further in order to unravel the meaning.
Today, the topic is about ladybugs, Spiderman and the turning of a knob 69 times. More specifically, the rooms in which I have stayed the past few weeks.
I started off the Indonesian portion of my latest endeavor in Yogyakarta, a sizable city in Central Java, towards the southern part of the island. Yogya (don't pronounce those "Y"s think of them as "J"s instead; the city is often spelled Jogjakarta and sometimes the very ancient, Djogdjakarta) is best known for the 1200-year old temple, Borobudur, 42 KM from town, built from over two million blocks of stone and comprises nine total terraces of which one can walk around and view up close all the intricately detailed carved relief work. A friend from my home town treated me to a week in luxury, in both Yogya and neighboring town, Solo. We saw and conquered Borobudur (my second time there) as well as Prambanan, a larger-in-area temple ground that was badly damaged in the May, 2006 earthquake. As soon as we walked up to the temples we were quickly filed off to one side. Before we knew it, three dark fancy cars pulled up next to us and out came a half dozen bodyguards surrounding a quiet, well-dressed gentleman. He turned out to be a Libyan Diplomat who didn't seem to care one bit that he was being chauffeured around the Hindu temple complex. He was there maybe 10 minutes and then left.
Ok, the room in Yogya's Melia Purosani was larger by miles than places in which I normally stay when traveling. The A/C was blasting when I walked in (when traveling on a budget, I always opt for a fan room which *sometimes* comes with a fan), the two queen size beds were immaculately made and draped with a runner befitting of the room's decor and the couch and writing desk were somewhere far off in the distance I could hardly locate them. Inside one closet was a fully stocked fridge (with of course, items at exorbitant prices; needless to say I didn't succumb to temptation) and a personal shoe shine block (complete with a complimentary black shoe shine kit, though I personally couldn't see a need for it for my blue rubber soled Keen trekking sandals, the only pair of shoes I own other than a pair of flip flops). The other closet had Melia robes and slippers for use while in the room. Ahhhh..... The coffee counter was generously supplied with coffees, Jasmine teas, sugars and creamers and replenished as often as we liked. Some of the Jasmine tea bags are in my rucksack as I write this. Can't leave anything good behind!
The best part for this frugal traveler was the well-stocked bathroom toiletries, again, gratis, compliments of Melia Purosani and the Melia Hotel chain of Spain. We want your stay with us to be memorable and exciting. Or something like that. I can't even go into detail on all that was on display (but I can tell you there were no fewer than 16 free items for the taking!), but every time Dale or I took something away, it was dutifully replaced the very next morning by the housekeeping staff. My bed was made for me every day and the key card worked in the door every time I used it. Bliss......
I realize this is nothing special for many of you who are reading this, nothing different than how a hotel generally operates, it's just being out on the road for 2 1/2 years ON A MAJOR BUDGET has not allowed me the freedom or excitement to experience this kind of *luxury* in a long time.
One night I stayed in a ramshackle room with two twin beds, both with ripped, unclean sheets and the dirtiest mattress I think I have ever laid eyes on. The pillows were rock hard; there was no bedding. The walls were filthy with grime and bloody markings from fingers having just caught and killed mozzies, then wiped on the bare concrete for all to see. The door was barely attached and the duct taped louvered windows could have easily been removed and a hand inserted to turn the handle on the door. The only way for me to ensure it locked was for me to leave the room and lock it from the outside. A young man knocked on my door at 9:30pm and begged and gestured me (in Bahasa Indonesia) to come outside. He didn't look like he worked there and I repeatedly told him no and to please go away. He was pretty persistent but with neither of us effectively communicating in a common language we both understood, he eventually left and never came back. Needless to say, it was a fitful night's sleep. What more could I expect from a $2.17/nt room?
I have slept on sheets evidenced by Indonesian women's long and dark hair (sometimes I am extremely grateful to have my sleep sheet tucked inside my rucksack for this very reason), very pretty, bright and most likely brand new ladybug sheets, and tonight I am sleeping with Spiderman.
Going up in price for a room doesn't always mean getting more. I paid $6.00/nt and got a big room with attached bathroom, 2 towels, a blanket, effective ceiling fan and a lovely filling breakfast served on my front terrace by a lovely young Balinese man with a genuine smile and gracious, patient attitude. I paid $7.00/nt in Lombok, got the ladybug sheets (^_^), a leaking mandi with a moldy scooper (a mandi is an Indonesian-style bucket shower; the bathroom usually comes with a tiled or concrete basin that holds the water, and one dips with the provided scoop the water and pour it over the body), an ineffective fan whose plug had the tendency to constantly fall out of the wall, and a breakfast consisting of tea (or coffee) and one piece of toast with chocolate sprinkles set outside my door long before I even got up! Cold toast and ants crawling all over the plastic sugar bowl don't make for a good start to any day. Today, I moved and got Spiderman, a small but powerful bedside fan, a bedside table at the perfect height to do some writing, no one lurking outside my window and hot water at my disposal from the nearby kitchen (to enjoy the Melia's Jasmine teas). All this and an English-speaking guy running the "reception" counter for under $3.50. Now this is more like it.
My least favorite room thus far in the past month was on Pulau Madura, off the northeast coast of Java, known primarily for their bull races. I had a few days of "bad stomach" and it just happened to be while staying in a room with no attached bathroom. I was fortunate it was just a few doors down but little did I know when I accepted the cheap room the lock was going to give me so much trouble. The first time I used it I only had to turn the key about 10 times until it latched. It got worse after that. 25 times, I counted when I left to find a stall for dinner. Attempting to get into the room after a fabulous, under-fifty cent meal of rice and sate kambing (goat), I lost count after 30 turns. The key just went around and around and around and nothing inside the mechanism wanted to latch or unlatch, as it were. Finally, success. I vowed not to go out until the next morning cause it was such a pain to leave the confines of my quarters. Sometime in the middle of the night, however, I had a bathroom emergency. It took 69 turns of the key and then almost that many to lock it back again before nearly not making it successfully to the loo. I left the $3.50 room the next day.
Maybe I should bite the bullet and stay at the higher-priced places from now on? Is $6 or $7 a night really going to break the bank? The way I always look at it is if I can save a dollar here and a dollar there then I can afford to splurge when I need to. Some nights the $3 and $4 rooms won't be available so I will be forced to put forward a bit more. Then, I can't complain.
Til now, it's Spidey and me, bedding down soon and looking forward to a good night's sleep.
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