When I first heard that we would be staying in hostels during our journey I was extremely distraught. I would much rather be staying at a hotel than an old run down hostel with people partying all around. But there was no way of convincing my dad not to. I knew that eventually I’d have to face my fear and sleep in a hostel. When me and my dad stayed at our first hostel in Beijing, I was expecting the worst. My dad assured me that it was not going to be full of parties or anything like that, but I still didn’t believe him. When we walked in, it was quite dirty, looked run down, and smelled terribly of smoke. The only perk was that there was internet in the lobby, which would provide me with a much needed chance to talk to some friends from back home. Everything so far was what I had thought it would be. We got up to the room and I expected the worst. It wasn’t far from my expectations. The floor was dirty and stained, the beds were solid as rocks and it smelt of mildew. I sighed, decided that it was better than the floor, crawled into my sleep sack, and went to sleep. I awoke not any more refreshed than when I had gone to sleep. My dad and I had no desire to stay in that room any longer than necessary, so we headed off for the Sheraton where the luckier (or so I thought) portion of our family was staying. We arrived and saw it was no better for them than it was for us. Due to the fact that we were trying to fit four people into a room designated for two we had to move like ghosts, and talk like we were at a funeral. It seemed there was no way out. I rode out the next couple of days until my family decided it was time for a change. We moved everyone into a six person dorm room in the hostel. I had expected that this too would be a terrible experience, but it turned out much nicer than anything I could have possibly have hoped for. The room was far better, no musty smell, cleaner floors, and better beds. But best of all was the fact that there was no pressure. We didn’t have to be silent any longer. The little kids could run and yell and have all the fun they wanted (which included shining laser lights at the feet of passersby from a window). We met a few new people and I got to liking hostels. We had a good time for the few nights we stayed in the hostel. It had entirely changed our minds. We now wanted to stay in hostels everywhere! We bid goodbye to ours friends at the Zhaolong Hostel in Beijing and left for Xi’an which was a twelve hour train ride away. We stayed at another hostel which was also quite pleasant.
Aside from the fact of a dirty room with mosquitos hanging around in it, it was all right. They had a restaurant in the center of the hostel which had some very good food, well, as far as hostel food goes. They also had a TV with forty DVDs to choose from and three computers all hooked up with internet. The little ones loved this hostel, watching loads of movies from Me, You and Dupree to The Fantastic Four (which we watched with subtitles, which were actually for some unrated movie involving the take over of a high-school in the U.S. by Hungarian and Serbian drug lords.
We didn’t know how this could possibly be topped, but we had heard great things about the ‘Mix’ hostel in Chengdu where we would be headed next so we decided to check it out. It was great, they offered free wireless internet, loads of free mp3 downloads, a non-smoking dvd room with a lot of DVDs and mosquito repelling incense! What more could you want from a $3.00 per person hostel? The staff all spoke great English and even threw a Halloween party in which the kids participated and had great fun. Another advantage of the hostels are the fact that they can schedule trips to tourist attractions for a good rate. From Mix we went to the Leshan Great Buddha and the Chengdu Panda Reserve. As I’m writing this post from a Sheraton, I have to say it’s nice to have a break from staying at hostels, but there’s no better way to make friends (some of whom may read your blog, or our blog for instance) and have a good time than by staying at a hostel.