Every backpacker has a hostel horror story. So why do we stay in them? The positive aspects of hostel life often outweigh the bad. Hostels are cheap, they’re a great way of socialising and meeting travelling friends and often contain all the amenities that a long term traveller could need.
Now, about those bad points. We’ve all had to put up with people snoring in dorms, people having sex in dorms and even people vomiting in dorms. Sleepless nights due to all night partying or room mates turning on the lights to rustle around in plastic bags (I can feel a post about hostel etiquette brewing but I’m sure that’s all been said before). Usually these problems are due to other travellers and not so much the Hostel’s fault. Until now.
Anyone that has taken the trip to Escondido from Oaxaca will know that it’s not the easiest one. You have two options: an 11 hour ride on a comfortable coach along the highway or a 6 hour mini bus trip through winding mountainous tracks. As the 6 hour option was much cheaper and faster, we opted for this one. As soon as we began winding up the high, winding passes and fellow passengers began vomiting with travel sickness, we regretted our decision.
Arriving in the searing heat of the Puerto Escondido evening, we couldn’t wait to unpack, shower and grab a few cold beers to recover at our Hostel: Tower Bridge. Some Aussies that we had met back in Mexico City were staying there and the Hostel world reviews were glowing. Add to this that it was only £5.80 a night for a private room (£4.14 for a dorm) we couldn’t believe our luck – a nice hostel with a pool and we would even have a cheap en-suite private room for less than we would pay for two beds in a dorm. It turns out this was all too good to be true
Now, what did Hostel World say about this place?
“The Tower Bridge Hostel is an intimate and beautiful hostel located near Carrizalillo beach in Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca. We are only a short walking distance to the tranquil beaches of Playa Bacocho and Playa Carrizalillo… The hostels goal is to provide a relaxing environment with a wide assortment of amenities for your entertainment, including a large free form swimming pool only steps from your door that features a rock garden. ”
Sounds perfect right? What about those Hostel World reviews? It has a rating of 8.3 which isn’t the best, but certainly isn;t the worst. I’ve stayed in some hostels with a rating of 7 that have been lovely. Plus the reviews were glowing:
“I had a brilliant stay at the Tower Bridge Hostel. The atmosphere is very inviting, relaxing and chilling. I could stretch out with a cold drink next to the pool which is surrounding by palm trees, and have interesting talks with the great people who stay here. The staff is excellent and very friendly, always there with support. Dorm room is nice, and they are even improving it. Bar is perfect for fun talks and cocktails. I have never stayed at a hostel like this before!”
We arrived around 8pm, sweating and nauseous from our meandering journey, desperate for a beer and a shower – in that order. The reception area had the fusty aroma of a damp mausoleum with the receptionist as it’s lifeless resident as it took about 5 minutes for her to gather we were wanting help (Facebook is clearly more important than guests).
It was at this point that we were told that the water in our en-suite and all upstairs rooms was out of order and would be for a few hours but we were welcome to use the shared dorm showers. As the en-suite was something of a luxury anyway this didn’t bother me at all.
In the bar area the two barmen, 40-something Aussies with bleached surfer hair and paunches giving away that their wave riding days have long since passed forced drinks in to our hands (hey, that’s one thing I can’t complain about) and informed us that we were playing ‘Wheel of Fortune’. Now, this is where things get creepy. The hostel was generally filled with young backpackers, like, under 20s. The game involved everyone being as drunk as possible, spinning a wheel colourful wheel on the wall of the bar and and doing whatever dare it lands on – this could be ‘take off an item of clothing’, ‘swap clothing’, ‘touch *body part*, lick *body part* etc. As a couple in our late thirties, licking drunk teenagers body parts isn’t something we usually get involved in so we sat it out and drank our beers – Each to their own. However, the two (by now pretty plastered) barman wouldn’t stop hassling us to join despite our objections.
I’m no prude but there’s something sinister about 40 year old men getting raging drunk with teenage girls and peer pressuring them to join in stripping games.
We couldn’t wait to get to the sanctuary of our ‘private’ room, we didn’t care if there was no water, we just wanted a little rest and privacy after a long days travelling.
The room was on the second floor with the door opening onto a shared balcony, the only problem being that the frosted glass front of the room wasn’t so frosted anymore, with the opaque sticker starting to peel off in chunks giving a full view in to our sleeping area. Too tired to complain (its nothing a towel or sheet can’t be hung over the top off) I entered the room to find that the en-suite was much more en-suite than expected. The shower and toilet were in the same room as the bed with only a thigh height wall to cover your modesty – not what you need if you have to rush to the toilet after some dodgy tacos (a sure fire romance killer). Add to this that the frosting had peeled off the window near the toilet in such a way that if you were standing to pee, the window gap was perfectly situated at penis height.
Were we in a Hostel or a seventies soft-porn peep-hole B-Movie
Somewhat glad to be having to use the shared toilet block, I wandered over with my towel for a shower only to find the lights don’t work. Stuck in a pretty big room with no lights, I stumbled around, hands probing the wall for the shower only to find myself tripping over the piles of junk filling the room. Using my trusty iPhone torch I managed to locate the taps only to find a trickle of cold drips coming from the shower head. I suppose the full building’s water is off then.
At this point I would have just jumped in the hostel’s pool if it didn’t look like it hadn’t seen a cleaner since it was installed. Another guest claimed that her friend had got an ear infection from swimming in there. I’m willing to believe that.
3 days and the water that was to be fixed in ‘a couple of hours’ was never seen. The hostel was dirty, smelly, and above all, seedy. I loved the beaches of Puerto Escondido (or loved the sea seeing as it was the only place I could get clean!) but not Tower Bridge Hostel.
At least I finally found out what the reception smell was… The ancient looking hostel dog that has so many paws in the grave that he makes the sound of a broken accordion sound when he barks.