What staying at a Chinese-run hostel in Europe is like

Beds in dorm

The first time I was in Europe in Barcelona in 2009, I stayed at a Chinese-run hostel to save on accommodation.

This time in Florence, I did the same since accommodation in Italy isn’t that cheap.

A Chinese-run hostel is unlike the usual international hostel that you see:

  • The business usually doesn’t advertise on hostelbookers or similar sites (but I’ve seen one advertise on AirBnb).
  • The clientele is mainly Chinese-speaking people (as you would expect).
  • The hostel is in an apartment.

In Florence, I stayed in the Chinese-run hostel for 5 nights since it was one of the cheapest option around.

I paid 25 euro for each night  I spent in the dorm and paid an extra 5 euro for dinner. The price includes a Chinese breakfast every morning.

Back in Barcelona, I booked a double room for myself and was given a room large enough for 6. This time in Florence, I wasn’t able to be as generous with my money so I opted for a bed in the dorm.

On the night I went, my dorm which had 6 beds (including one unoccupied upper bunk) only had 4 residents. One of the beds was occupied by the other lady who helps out at the hostel.

However, on the busiest night, there were 8 people sleeping in it (with extra beds stuffed into the large space). The lady who helped out at the hostel had to sleep in the kitchen, along with the owner of the hostel.

Dorm beds in hostel

What does a Chinese-run hostel look like?

First off, it’s usually in an apartment with rooms boarded up to make smaller rooms or in the case of dorm rooms, a large room with a few beds pushed against the wall.

The Florence hostel I stayed at had 3 large rooms with multiple beds and a smaller room with a double bed. One of the large rooms was used as a dorm room while the other 2 were rented out as doubles for couples.

There is a kitchen/dining room where everyone has their breakfast.

If you are lucky, there are more than one toilets/bathroom. If you aren’t lucky (like me in Florence), there is only one bathroom/toilet.

I had to share that one toilet/bathroom with 13 other people on the busiest day in Florence but it wasn’t too bad because everyone was polite about doing their business quickly.

What I like about a Chinese-run hostel is that the guests are less random people: everyone is Chinese (either from China, Taiwan or less likely Malaysia). Since we share a common language, things get friendlier easier.

The dorm owners are usually very generous about travel tips in their cities. The lady in Florence took us out for a walking tour of Florence while the lady in Barcelona had a notebook filled with travel tips.

The people you meet at a Chinese hostel in Europe

The people I’ve met at the hostels were usually from China.

A lot of them were students studying in other parts of Europe, taking time off for a weekend holiday at a nearby European city.

Most of these Chinese kids are spoiled.

Two of the people I met in Florence were studying in Switzerland. They took the train down to Italy the night before and came to Florence to “do some branded goods shopping”. The transport for each of them were 300 euro for a return trip but it wasn’t much of a problem for them.

But I did meet one not spoiled Chinese student who was studying in France and was visiting Florence.

In Florence, I also met a newly wedded couple from Taiwan who were more rational beings. I’m thinking it’s a combination of being Taiwanese and being adults that made them so much more pleasant than university kids. (I sound like a cranky old lady.)

I’ve only stayed at Chinese hostels run by ladies from mainland China. I’ve read about those run by Taiwanese families but not stayed there before.

I never sat down and asked the ladies why they decided to leave their country and come to Europe. And if running a hostel was their ambition when they left home. I feel that it’s too personal to ask such questions, although they do make good stories.

Food at a Chinese hostel in Europe

The Chinese hostels usually provide breakfast. The food is likely mainland Chinese-styled breakfast with buns and noodles as dishes. I did eat a seafood paella once in Barcelona.

For some extra euros, the hostel owners would prepare an extra serving of dinner for you. The food is still Chinese.

In Florence, I got the chance to eat dumplings–something I haven’t seen for a whole month. The filling of the dumpling was odd though, there was glass noodles and some vegetable with soy sauce. (I like dumplings with juicy meat fillings the best).

Chinese dumplings for dinner

Other dishes include stir fry dishes such as this. On the upper right is Chinese-style pork knuckles. They are divine!

Sides to go with porridge

Would I stay in a Chinese-run hostel again?

It would depend on the price and the country.

For example in Athens, there was a Chinese hostel advertising on online forums. However, the price for a dorm bed was exactly what I paid for a single room.

In Rome, I e-mailed a Chinese hostel to ask about their bed prices. The hostel didn’t have any dorm beds left and only had a 60 euro private room. I decided to opt for an AirBnb room instead.

I do like Chinese-run dorm better than international ones because I get anxious interacting with too many people. In a Chinese dorm, the number of people is limited to the rooms they have, which makes it easier to interact since there’s not as many people around.

Mykonos, effortlessly beautiful [YQrtw Day 44 May 21]

Mykonos's colors

Location: Athens -> Mykonos, Greece

When I was planning my RTW for Greece, going to the Greek islands wasn’t in my list because

  • I do not like getting sunburnt
  • I do not like warm sea water
  • I do not like to party

In short, I’m a terrible island tourist.

But when I was in Athens, I found out about some cheap island packages to Santorini and Mykonos. It was cheaper than me trying to cobbling up everything from scratch so I decided to give one of the Greek islands a try.

That, plus my 1-week Athens transport pass was expiring.

The travel agent picked Mykonos for me to fit my bus schedule. I’m kind of wary about Mykonos because I heard that it’s a party island.

But when I arrived in Mykonos, I realized that I like the island is not just about partying.

Follow the black tar road to Mykonos

My hotel is quite far from the city center. It’s a 1.5km journey, according to the hotel. There are buses to town but they come at an hourly interval.

After checking into the hotel, I took a long rest before heading out at 4:00pm. I thought that 4 hours in town would be enough and I would be able to head back before sunset.

The road to town was easy enough. I just had to follow the coastal road till I reach the populated area.

Mykonos sea view

The walk was lovely. On the right were the cliff and the beautiful multi-coloured Aegean Sea. On the left, there were hotels built in the white Mediterranean style.

Of course, I would get jealous of people riding their monster scooters or driving their cars past me. I had to rely on Bus 11 (my two legs) instead of a private transport.

Beautiful Mykonos town

Colors of Mykonos

Mykonos’s town center is painted with a limited selection of colors. White was predominant as all walls were as white as bleached cotton. Doors, door frames and window frames were painted blue while churches had red dome roofs.

The limited color made the whole town beautiful. No building was competing with others for attention. Some buildings had green vines while others had bursts of bougainvillea framed by its green leaves.

The streets were narrow. All the time I did not know where I was going but it didn’t matter because I will find my way when I get to the sea.

I did want to find a particular restaurant that was recommended on Tripadvisor. My Google Maps took me into tinier and tinier lanes until I finally saw the shop.

I ordered two pitas: pork gyro and pork souvlaki, since I did not have lunch.

The restaurant owner must have thought that I was getting a takeaway for someone else as well because he had my order tucked into a aluminium wrap.

Pita for two

I was too embarrassed to say that I was the only one who will be eating the two wraps so I paid my bill and went to find a picnic spot.

Maybe having the picnic was a better choice since I had the view of the sea while I munched away at my pita wraps. That would keep me satisfied till tomorrow morning.

After my meal, there was more walking. I eventually stumbled upon the famous windmills and Little Venice. This means that I will have less to tick off my check list tomorrow.

Mykonos windmill

Mykonos's Little Venice

No swimming in the sea

I decided to go swim in the sea when I got back to the hotel. There’s a tiny patch of seawater in front of the hotel, near the yatch docks.

When I got to the water, I realized that the sea was freezing cold. The sun was about to set so there was no rays to heat up the water.

In the end I just looked at the bottom of the sea. The water was so clear that I could see tiny fishes swimming about.

Mykonos's clear sea water

There were also some sea plants so I figured that not many people swim in this part of the sea.

Same as always, I head back to my room as night fell. Tomorrow I’m going to the island where Apollo was said to be born.

Have you been to Mykonos? What do you recommend doing here?