My train from Machu Picchu to Ollantaytambo arrived at about 9:40pm so I made reservations with a hospedaje (Peruvian budget hotel) in Ollantaytambo.
I made the booking on the first day in Ollantaytambo. At first I booked a night on the 25th. Then I realized it was supposed to be the 26th so I walked over to change the date. Then after I changed my return date of my train, I had to make adjustments at the hospedaje again.
On the night of 27th, I arrived and was sent to a three-bed room along with my suitcase which I left there. The room was very nice for its 30 soles price (S$15).
In the morning, at checkout, the younger employee called out to the older (but still not that old) employee. The latter talked about “propina” which I did not understand. In the end, he said “money”, pointing to my luggage.
I gathered that they want a storage fee. When I asked how much, the younger employee’s eyes shone brightly and she whispered, “10 soles.” I thought that was a ridiculous price for 2 nights of storage and turned to the other employee who said, “5 soles.”
I took out a 10 soles bill and they looked around for change. I wasn’t very pleased when I found out that “propina” meant tip. Just because I am foreign doesn’t mean I print money at home and I can freely distribute my wealth around.
Still, I left my stuff at the hospedaje and went for breakfast at my favorite cafe in Ollantaytambo–Heart Cafe. I enjoyed their menu of the day and their lattes.
Then I collected my luggage and got on a mini bus to Cusco.
Fortunately, the bus stopped in San Francisco square instead of the bus stop for Ollantaytambo collectivos. San Francisco square has quite a few accommodation choices.
I dragged my suitcase up a slope, checked out one hostel I’ve seen featured on Hostelworld.com. The price of a dorm room was cheap US$10 (S/ 28) and a private room was US$40 (S/ 112).
I walked out with my stuff since I was not willing to pay US$40 for a room in Peru. I found another hostel but it did not have any private rooms available.
The I spotted a dodgy little place with a sign. I walked in and saw a courtyard. A middle aged lady walked out. I told her that I have no reservation and if she had a room.
Indeed, she did have a room right behind the counter. It was a private room “with Wifi” but no private bathroom.
The price was a reasonable S/ 40 (US$14). I decided to take the room because it was a very good deal.
The toilet and bathroom are built separately in the courtyard. Using them in the morning isn’t a problem but at night, when the temperature drops down to 7 degrees Celsius, taking a shower is an ordeal.
Still, I can’t complain about a US$14 room. I’ll even stay an extra night (or more if I do not go to Nazca).
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.
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).
Other dishes include stir fry dishes such as this. On the upper right is Chinese-style pork knuckles. They are divine!
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.
While there wasn’t a bed and I was kept up at night by a snoring neighbor, it was plenty of fun since I got to soak in hot springs and participate in Gintama Land games.
Saving on sightseeing
Buy discounted tickets at 7-11
If you read Japanese, you can go to 7-11 to see if they sell discounted entrance tickets to places you want to visit.
There is a touchscreen machine in the store selling these discounted tickets. I had to poke around a bit before I found the tickets for Ooedo Onsen Monogatari (180 yen cheaper than buying at the door).
I believe there are discounted tickets for Skytree and other sites.
Sites with no entrance fees
Even if you are not a Japanophile, Japan is just bursting with so many amazing things to see.
Shrines are free to visit but it’s not free from capitalism.
I bought a charm for safe travels at Meiji Jingu and had my love fortune told in a slip of paper at Dai Jingu
(Fortune: I am supposed to really want love for it to come to me. Libra and Taurus are good choices, so is B bloodtyped folks but avoid Pieces people.)
For me, staying overnight at Ooedo Onsen meant saving one night’s stay at a hotel. Since I already want to soak in hot springs, adding on the extra 1,700 yen wasn’t too bad. But if you are travelling in pairs, this might be a more expensive option for accommodation.
Since I was going to spend the rest of my night at Ooedo Onsen, I decided to pay for the evening entrance (past 6 p.m. 1,680 yen) instead of day entrance fees (from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. 2,180 yen). I also bought my tickets from 7-11 so there was a 180 yen discount.
Before heading to the ticket counter, visitors need to put their shoes in shoe lockers.
After putting away my shoes, I went to queue with the rest of the people. Since there was still about 10 minutes before 6 p.m., everyone had to wait patiently.
About 5 minutes before 6 p.m., a lady dressed in traditional outfit came out with a pair of clappers and said lots of things in a sing-song tone.
I remember from their Web site that she’s the kanban-musume Oshino. This literally translates to “Signboard girl” which means she’s the attraction of a business.
Too bad I wasn’t too sure what Oshino was saying. I guess it was to welcome all of us to Ooedo Onsen.
Soon, the counters opened for the evening session. I handed over my my coupon and was given a wristlet with a barcode taped over and a key.
Before heading into the changing room, everyone gets to choose a yukata. There are different designs and sizes of yukata. I picked on with purple flowers.
After yukata choosing, it’s time to hit the lockers. Find the locker corresponding to your wristlet. It’s in Japanese so if you don’t read hiragana, you might need help.
The size of the locker was enough for my backpack.
At the lockers, strip down to your underthings and wear the yukata.
Remember that the left side needs to be on top, or else you are wearing the bathrobe as a corpse would.
Strolling on Edo street’s
In my yukata, I went out to the fake Edo streets. There are plenty of food stalls around so don’t worry about being hungry. There’s also free hot tea and both hot and cold water so you won’t go thirsty.
When I was there, there was a performance at 7 p.m. I think the shows change every season.
Soaking in hot springs
I couldn’t take photos at the onsen or its changing room so I can only tell through words.
Before heading to the ladies’ hot spring area, we need to put our things in another changing room. There’s other lockers here to put yukata and underthings in before heading to the hot spring area.
In the changing room, there’s a corner with samples of makeup remover, toner, face lotion. There’s also hair bands and toothbrush provided.
Before heading to the hot spring, take everything off. Everyone strips naked so no need to be shy.
The hot springs are divided into indoor and outdoor pools. There’s a large section where everyone washes their hair and body. Free shampoo, conditioner and body soap is provided too.
After vigorously washing and conditioning my hair, I headed to the pools.
There were a variety of pools and areas:
Ooedo Onsen hot spring which was real undersea hot spring, instead of just hot water. The color was a bit rusty. There was also a side with recycled Ooedo Onsen hot spring which didn’t have a rusty color.
40 degrees Celsius pools
Massage jacuzzi pool
Pool with frothing machine which makes the water much more “fine” and is good for the skin
Cold water (brr)
The pools outdoors were limited. There was only a large pond and an area with a few fake vintage bathtubs.
Off to bed
After soaking in the pools for the longest while, I head to the changing rooms and bought myself a small glass bottle of milk.
At about 11 p.m., I decided that it is time to find a place to sleep.
Ooedo Onsen has a capsule hotel but it’s catered only to men. The private rooms are too expensive for me.
I think there are also large halls where they layout tatami for people staying over. This I’m not too sure though.
My choice was the ladies’ lounge on the second floor. Here, they have reclining chairs with mini TVs. They even provide blankets.
Most of the chairs were taken by the time I got there. I found a chair with a broken TV and settled there. A mother and her young son slept one chair away.
I put on my eyemask and ear plugs and tried to sleep on the 150 degrees chair.
Suddenly as I was drifting off to sleep, I heard a loud rumbling noise. I took off my eyemask and discovered an older lady snoring in the seat next to mine.
It wasn’t easy blocking her snores out even with my earplugs but I managed to sleep.
In the morning, I woke up and realized that she was gone. I was also surprised to find that it was almost 7 a.m. which meant that I had less than 1 hour before the pools close for cleaning.
I went back for a last soak of onsen. Soaking in the morning and at night was different. I could see the blue sky in the outdoor pool while at night everything was a blur because I wasn’t wearing glasses.
After the soak, I changed back into my real clothes and checked out.
Stayed: Ooedo Onsen Monogatari
Pros: Save on entertainment and accommodation; fun
Cons: Snoring seatmates; not having a real bed
The part I dislike most about travelling is looking for accommodation. I take too much time reading reviews and worrying about bed bugs.
I ended up choosing Favehotel Wahid Hasyim (pronounced FAV, not fave as I thought it was) because it has airport transport (at an extra cost). Also, it didn’t look like it had bed bugs.
I’m not sure how much extra we had to pay for the transport but it was much more convenient not having to make calls to book a taxi back to the airport. But from the airport to town, you can book a cab immediately at the counter for Golden Bird.
When we reached the hotel after our one-hour cab ride, the receptionist who was the most polite told us that their system was down.
We ended up eating at the hotel restaurant to wait for their system to go back up. We had different rice dishes and they came in cute layout.
We finally checked in after our lunch. We had a room on the third floor, looking out the streets and a tree.
The room is an OK size, with all the stuff you need. I like that they have space above the bed for us to put our things–very convenient.
Of course, there’s a TV with cable and a desk to do writing. I didn’t writes as much as I thought I would.
Toothbrush is provided and body-shampoo (unidentified liquid) provided.
What I like most about the hotel is its proximity to the Trans Jakarta station which is only a short walk away.
The famous backpacker street Jalan Jaksa is a 1km walk away. On the road leading to Jalan Jaksa, there’s the great peranakan restaurant Kedai Tiga Nyonya and the famous fried chicken place which I’ve forgotten what the name is.
If you are a Google Maps addict like me, please note that the hotel is on the lower part of Jl. K. H. Wahid Hasyim, not on top as stated in the Apple Maps app. I can be quite anal about maps, I realized.
We paid a total of S$107 for the room and the two-way transfer (which was almost as expensive as the room itself).
Pro: Great location, free Wi-Fi, comfy bed, quiet at night
Cons: Traffic can be horrible if travelling by car–but that applies to most of Jakarta
Other accommodation reviews (for the budget travelers)