You’ve enough of the lists ‘Best sleeping places around the world’. Mine is about some worst places to sleep around the world. They are the cheapest, too. I remember all of those places so vividly that none of them deserves to be the ‘-est’ among others.
– Haunted island, 5 people in one-person tent and raiders of the lost axe I knew that island-hopping is one of the must-do’s for every visitor in Kota Kinabalu, Borneo. But you need to be careful when you pick your island. Of all islands off the shore of KK we (me and four CouchSurfers whose names are to remain undisclosed) chose Sulug, for no particular reason really. ‘Do not go there,’ my host’s father said. ‘But why?’ ‘Just don’t go. It is haunted.’ ‘But we wanted to camp there overnight and then get back in the morning!’ ‘Wait… You are staying on Sulug overnight???’ – everyone seemed to become terrified at the sound of it but no one could explain what was wrong with the island. I found out as soon as the boat dropped us off and left. ‘We will pick you up tomorrow at 6am!’ the boatsman said optimistically. Sulug once was home to a small Muslim village, all the inhabitants of which were later slaughtered by the Japanese. Now, Sulug is covered with dense jungle and a cemetery. Any more questions why it is haunted? We had fun there, chopping firewood with a small hatchet, making coffee on the bonfire and singing Malay drinking songs. When it started raining, we decided that the best thing ever would be to squeeze all five of us into my small one-person tent. It was, indeed, fun. Until somebody lit up a joint and turned the tent into a cute little gas chamber. But that’s not the story. The story ends when around midnight, one of the guys went to get more firewood. ‘Hey guys… Have you seen the axe? I can’t find it.’ The hatchet disappeared in the most mysterious way. It would have been a great practical joke except it wasn’t. We never found it, but, on the other hand, no one was chopped into pieces either. Zombies:humans 1:1. – Stowaway with a ticket The ferry from Wadi Halfa in Sudan to Aswan in Egypt sails once a week and despite its small sizes gets overbooked very quickly by over 500 people. I don’t need to mention that in this part of the world you don’t get a suite with private bathroom. On the upper deck, people were piled on the floor, in several shady places under lifeboats (only two for 500 passengers, yes) and inside the lifeboats. The hull was divided into a male half and female half, the latter being filled not only with noisy ladies and their sacks of food, but also with their ever screaming and crawling babies.
I felt out of place, without a baby and without food. Luckily, a fellow traveller and I discovered one place on this Noah’s arc that was not full of feet and sweaty armpits. The storage compartment under the bow smelt of spice and dust, and due to workmen’s laziness was not filled with the luggage except for a few sugar sacks in the middle. We spread our sleeping bags on the floor and slept in peace and quiet under the deck full of sleepless chaos, like some illegal ticketless immigrants trying to make their way out of Sudan hidden in the sugar sacks.
– Silence in the library! When I was studying in Dublin fair city, Trinity College just opened a 24h library room. The exams were nigh, so many nerdy boys and girls wanted to spend the time of their lives there, within 4 stone walls of Alma Mater Studiorum, drinking water, eating peanuts, bending their back and licking the tips of their fingers to turn old smelly pages. Now that I describe it this sounds a bit creepy. I decided to try, too. The Purty Kitchen bar closed around 12, and I said goodbye to my CouchSurfing friends and told them that I was going to stay the night in the library… Nobody was surprised: I am pretty sure there is a club called ‘Library’ in Dublin. The library room was surprisingly full of people – studying, chatting, playing chess on their computers, sleeping etc. At first I tried to follow the first ones, but finally ended up with the latter. I was waking up every now and then, and each time people were disappearing – until I was left completely alone in the dim light of my laptop monitor. At 5am, a new guy arrived. I was confused merely by the fact that somebody would wake up at 5 to come to the library. Although, maybe he got kicked out of the last open night club in the city and was too tired to find his way home. Back then, I thought that libraries are excellent for horror movies. And then Steven Moffat wrote that episode of Doctor Who.
– Smiling head on my doorstep On my trip to Pakistan, upon my arrival to Hunza valley, I decided to do this small trek that Lonely Planet describes as ‘easy’ to the Ultar Meadow. There, you can see the snowy peaks of surrounding mountains, hug the grazing sheep and enjoy the sound of landslides and snowfalls far far away in the mountains during the night. When I arrived to the top, almost dead, with a fellow CSer Khairullah, the workers up in the meadow have just slaughtered a small calf that, as they said, ‘had an accident’. The calf’s head was carefully placed right next to the door of the shepherd’s hut where I was planning to spend the night. It was Sunday, so all the people were leaving or already left the place. It was all mine, both the hut and the calf head. Later on, the workers’ supervisor invited me to their tent. Another guy was telling stories of his young years as a mountaineer (‘before 9/11 when tourism was still popular and alive in Pakistan’), they fed me loads of rice and of course reminded me how tasty salty tea is. I returned to the hut when it was already dark, and a few boys who came that day to look after the sheep were hanging out in front of the place, drinking tea or whatever. When I fell asleep, they were still out. When I woke up, they were out again. I’m not sure they even slept. Neither did I, to be honest, because of the freezing cold.
The calf head outside was grinning. – The box Philippines rock in many ways. But this guesthouse on top of a mountain in Negros Occidental was the rockiest place ever. I promised not to use the -est form but let’s be fair: not every night you have a chance to sleep in a psychiatric hospital. Former psychiatric hospital. After a 2-hour bus ride (sitting on top of the bus and ucking not to get slapped by palm tress) myself +3 arrived to the middle of mountain jungle to discover this fantabulous place of hospitality. The building used to be a hospital for tuberculosis before the 60-s, then it was transformed into a psychiatric hospital, and a few years ago a local lady decided to transform it into a guesthouse. It’s still a work in process. But she was very excited to see us – and promised to give us the best room they have – since nobody else was staying at the place that night… The best room had a bathroom en-suite. When we opened the bathroom door, the ants started falling like snowflakes from the doorframe, and cockroach familie were using out toilet and shower. We never dared to go further. Curiously enough, the public bathroom next door was clean and with fresh and polished green tiles.
We desperately tried to find traces of chains on the bunk beds, but it seems that the owner was honest when she told us they were new. The dark green sheets, however, looked pretty psycho. In fact, only sheets were provided: the pillows and blankets were supposed to be brought by the guests for themselves.
Finally, there was a BOX. The magic box. It was covered with dust and spiderwebs. I opened the door and instantly closed it. The box was full of… shoes and clothes. I insisted that my travel companions didn’t look inside. The rest of the night I kept wondering what happened to the person who wore those things. The owner lady had a perfectly innocent response for this too: ‘Oh, we had a maid, that’s hers, she’s on… maternity leave!’ The maid had man-sized feet. In conclusion, the workers in the kitchen were watching horror movies the whole evening. Sounds coming from the closed doors were dreadful. Two other girls arrived a bit later and stayed in another room. They were too scared and asked one of the workers to guard their sleep and stay in their room. – Marco Polo stayed in a Hilton The most gross place to sleep solemnly goes to that What-the-fook-is-its-name hostel in Hetian, China. ‘Everything necessary for human life is here in the greatest plenty. It yields likewise cotton, flax, hemp, grain, wine and other articles. The inhabitants cultivate farms and vineyards, and have numerous gardens. They support themselves also by trade and manufactures, but they are not good soldiers,’ – in these exact words Marco Polo described the town. Marco Polo told loads of bullshit, that’s why he died. Don’t get me wrong, the last 800 years have probably changed everything drastically on the surface of Earth. How else can I explain that the marvellous city of Hotan (和田) nowadays – instead of what is described in the quote above – can only boast of a piece of a wall and a massive monument of chairman Mao shaking hands with a bearded dude that looks like Lenin (but in fact, he’s a local legendary guy who rode a donkey cart almost all the way to Beijing in order to bring some sweet treats to the Leader).
I reached Hotan around 5am, before the sunrise, and decided to hang around till the guesthouses empty out to spare me a room. In an hour or so I met John and Deliya who were as desperate to find a bed to pass out as myself. The Traffic Hotel – crappy and creepy Jiaotong binguan that you find in any town – offered us a triple. And a remarkable one. The lady from the reception told us to wait while she cleans up the room for us. She was done in about 5 minutes. It was suspicious: I worked in hotel industry before – and cleaning the room doesn’t take you just five minutes, unless you’re an advanced model of a cleaning robot Gadget-gadget. There were stains of something that could be either tea or blood on the walls, colonies of insects under the beds, no shower in the entire building and a toilet upstairs where one could only sail on a boat… And of course, there was a shine new flatscreen TV in the room. Because in China you can be homeless but you must have a flatscreen TV. – Too much stuffing is too much Ethiopian Bale Mountains campsite Dinsho Lodge offered a sleeping spot for $2, a dream of any cheap person. However, as the night fell, I discovered that sleeping outside on the grass among the colonies of warthogs and without a tent would be rather… freaking cold and wet! So I decided to stay on a couch in the common room of the empty lounge. These guys were my neighbours. No explanation was given to the fish in the jar. At all. In general, I think, taxidermy is a creepy choice of profession, but in Ethiopia, taxidermists just do not know when to stop stuffing. – In the jungle, the wild jungle… Ugandan Queen Elizabeth National Park is just one of the millions of parks where you pay a crazy amount of money to take photos of lions, cheetahs, hippos and other furry stuff. It has, however, an amazing treat for cheap people who don’t care where to sleep: a campsite right in the middle of the Park, about 1km from the lakeside. Firewood, warm showers and clean bathrooms are included in the price (15,000 shillings = $6), and usually you are the only person camping if it’s not high season. ‘Do not worry: sometimes at night you can go to the toilet and meet a hippo or a lion on your way. We are really in the middle of the jungle,’ cheered me up the lady from the Office. So here I was, in my leaking tent, in front of the fire, listening to the hippos squeal and grunt nearby (the bastards can walk as much as 20km from the water and run very fast on those tiny short legs) and waiting for the lions to come and sniff me out… I don’t know if they ever came because it started to rain, the fire was put off and I crawled into the tent and passed out.
My 5$ tent soon got soaked. Hippos outside were laughing and squealing. I woke up for a pee around 6am. There was a buffalo in front of my tent. He stared at me indifferently and went on chewing the grass. A new day started. List to be updated regularly. I doubt I will ever start digging Hiltons and Sheratons, meh.