Back when I was in high school, there was a Hong Kong drama about a man with special needs but with a golden heart. The character’s name was Fei Mao (Fat Cat) so I thought it was funny when I saw this rather fat cat in my hostel in Hong Kong.
The cat had a huge belly and a bell at its throat so it rang musically where ever it went. One of its hobbies was to scratch the side of the fake-leather couch.
In the hostel, there was also a sign warning people against feeding the cat. I later found the cat being ushered into some other person’s flat so I suspect the hostel doesn’t own it.
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).
I spent seven nights there and loved the location. It’s between Chinatown and the Financial District. Plus, Union Square and Market Street is within walking distance. For the facilities and location, the less-than-US$30 rate is darn cheap.
The area’s also safe for a solo woman traveller since I didn’t see many shady characters hanging around at night.
I was given the Haigh Ashbury bed in one of the two rooms on the fourth floor. There are six beds in each room. I believe the third floor has extra rooms (and showers) as well.
The room is not tiny as there’s still space for everyone of us in the room to open our luggage. There’s also storage underneath the bed. Remember to bring your lock.
My bed was comfortable. The room is nice and toasty at night if we keep the windows shut. Sheets were clean. Two mirrors in the room, in case you are a mirror person.
There were two power outlets which were shared among six girls who probably each have 2 devices. Other power source is available in the hangout area.
If you are a people person who LOVEa making new friends, this is the perfect place for you. You’ll make lots of friends with the guests and staff in the kitchen/hangout area.
Unfortunately for me, I’m not that much of a people person so I kept to myself most of the time. (The hostel actually inspired my ealier post on ISFPs and hostels.)
The fourth floor is the hangout area. Unfortunately, the hangout area is the thing between me and the bathroom. So most of the time, I have to not-so-discreetly walk to the bathroom while everyone’s chatting about. (Psst, the shower next to the toilet has hotter water than the other one.)
If you are a light sleeper, the hostel has lights out at 12 midnight (hurray!) and most people leave the hangout area for some place else. Just in case, bring earplugs for snory roomies. I got mine from Daiso which has a branch right on Market Street.
Overall, the Pacific Tradewinds Hostel is a great place to stay. Do remember to make advanced bookings because they had to turn down a lot of people while I was there.
Pacific Tradewinds Hostel
Pro: Great location, cheap (<US$30), safe area, near good food
Cons: More power points please.
During my San Francisco trip, I had the chance to stay at two different hostel. Well, “chance” doesn’t really describe my situation. I had to book separate places because I misinterpreted my work schedule.
This is the Fort Mason branch of Hostelling International’s three hostels in the city. I didn’t pick the other two because they seem to be in shady locations. For a solo woman traveler, safety is always a priority.
I got off one bus stop too early and had to drag my luggage up an extra slope. (I should have stopped at Van Ness instead of Polk.)
After I reached the Fort Mason entrance, there was another slope to conquer. The slope’s not too bad and there’s a beautiful community garden along the way to distract me.
The hostel front desk is on top of the hill. There’s plenty of parking space around.
I lived in this building. The stairs leads to the breakfast room.
The front desk person is curt but I don’t expect hostel staff to fawn over me so it was the right amount of civility. She used a marker to write that day’s date on my receipt for use as an entrance pass and my breakfast slip.
I was lucky enough to get one of the smaller dorm rooms. There was only six beds instead of some other’s 10 to 12. There’s a radiator in the room for those cold San Franciscan nights.
I had the lower bunk which is good because there’s no ladder to climb up the upper bunk. You’ll have to step on the rungs (which were quite high). Under the bed is a luggage space which I locked with my padlock. I couldn’t find a power point in the room.
Room access is with an electronic card. My Room 13 was right outside the bathroom so it was convenient for showers. The bathroom was bright with three showers with three toilets.
There’s a theater and a large kitchen. I did a bit of blogging in the kitchen since there was Internet connection there.
Hostel with a view
The view from the hostel itself is not too fantastic as it’s covered up by trees. But if you stand at the edge of the hill, you’ll get a great faraway look of the Golden Gate Bridge (if the weather is gracious with low fog).
In the mornings, cyclists will ride past the hostel since it’s along the way to the bridge.
Breakfast was great. I had a bagel with peanut butter, a fruit (which I forgot to take away), unlimited coffee and juice. The breakfast lasted me from 11am to 3pm.
One thing cool about Fort Mason on Friday is Off the Grid. At least there was one the Friday I was there.
The event brings the street cards and food trucks around the city in a central location. Head banging music and crowd expected. I had the chance to try out the Creme Brulee Cart there.
Fisherman’s Wharf Hostel
Pro: Good view, great breakfast, space, cheap (US$29.99), safe area
Cons: Far from most sights, a bit of a trek from nearest bus stop, slopes, no power point in room