I always find it interesting to read TripAdvisor reviews of places we’ve stayed, especially the negative ones. People do complain about the strangest things. The main gripe of one unhappy guest of the Sea View, the hotel at which we stayed for the first couple of nights in Patnem, was the surliness of the manager. OK, he was a bit serious and it was hard work extracting a smile from him, but given that our dealings were restricted to the checking in process (lots of form filling, but that’s not his fault) hardly significant enough to condemn the place. Another reviewer said it was the worst hotel he’d ever been, and had scuttled off to the 5 star Lalit the next day. I’m tempted to assume that he has led an extremely sheltered existence, but I wonder if I’m so used to mid range Asian hotels that I can’t see what someone sees when their previous experience of budget accommodation has been restricted to a Travelodge – somewhere that would rate as pretty fancy here.
I can’t remember what ranks as my worst hotel ever – maybe the place in Bhutan with the missing window pane (so cold that I slept fully dressed with the floor rug over my bed), or the one with the squat toilet that projected over the pig pen. There have certainly been many that were far, far inferior to the Sea View. It seems as though some people are scoring mid range hotels against the standards of 5 star places, which is very unfair I think – like complaining that your seaside B&B doesn’t have a full room service and a gym.
So what do we get for our £7 per night in this fairly typical place? Well, the floor has clean tiles, fairly new – no cracks or chips. The walls have been freshly whitewashed for the season, but a few areas have been missed – painting white on white is always hard, but normally you go back and patch the bits you missed. There a a couple of water stains on the ceiling where rain has penetrated between the corrugated plastic sheets that the back, unseen, part of the roof is made from (the visible bit being red tile). All the electric wiring is surface mounted in plastic ducting, and it, the sockets and the light fittings (some of which are in the strangest places, high on the walls) are all partly painted over with the whitewash. There are two rather battered looking metal anglepoise type light fittings, one containing a dim bulb, the other has a wire plugged into it that leads to a fluorescent tube. There’s a modest sized flat screen TV on the wall (unwatchable) and a few spindly spiders have taken up residence in the corners of the ceiling – I’m quite happy to have them there as they may trap mosquitoes. Usually you get the odd gecko, which is also welcome, but not, so far, here. Also no cockroaches – a large one was living under the wardrobe at the Sea View. The bed is actually two single iron bedsteads pushed together, so it’s nicely roomy.
Indian matresses range from very firm to rock hard – this is a rock hard one but there is a 3cm layer of foam rubber on top of it, which makes it very comfortable for me as someone for whom a soft bed means backache. I do wonder if the foam may also serve as a protection against bed bugs. The sheets have seen better days – they’ve been washed, but bear numerous stains. A pair of lurid purple curtains cover the window, which is obscure glazed and fitted with a iron security grill. The whole window recess needs a good clean. The celing fan is effective and tolerably quiet, but there is no air conditioning.
Our bathroom is equipped with a western style loo (the cheap plastic seat is wonky), wash basin with single, cold, tap and a mirror that needs cleaning. The shower is typical for this type of hotel – only cold water comes out of the well used shower head on the wall (although it’s not really cold). For hot water there is a tap at waist height, a plastic bucket and plastic jug. There’s also a cold tap with hand held spray attachment next to the toilet, in lieu of toilet paper. For a hot shower you just mix water to your preferred temperature in the bucket, and scoop it over yourself with the jug. Some TripAdvisor reviewers seem to take exception to this arrangement, but I think it’s perfectly fine. Millions of Indians bathe this way every day, and it uses less water than a conventional shower – I certanly prefer it to an inexpertly wired electric shower, and the bucket is jolly useful for doing laundry in. As the water is solar heated in a tank on the roof, it tends to be only lukewarm in the morning, but by lunchtime it’s as hot as you could want. At a cheaper hotel you wouldn’t have hot water on tap at all, it would be brought to you in a bucket. As it’s a wet room the edges of the floor could use a good scrub and the wall tiles, which go up to head height, have suffered from the slapdash whitewashing – the top row has a thick border of paint. The window, high in the wall, has dirty mosquito netting over three equally dirty glass louvres which are permanently open. The bathroom has remained relatively bug free apart from a couple of sugar ant invasions (the very tiny ones) around the wash basin.
Outside the door, which is secured by hasp and padlock when we go out, we have a shaded verandah with a plywood table (it’s acquired a cloth in the last week) and two heavy wooden chairs with cushions. The hotel, which has 11 rooms (mostly empty at present), is staffed by two lads aged around 20. They clean the room and change the sheets and towels, but only if you ask. One doesn’t speak much English and spends most of his time watering the garden with a hosepipe, and they both spend long periods sitting in one of the unoccupied rooms watching TV (ours seems to be the only one that doesn’t work, in spite of the efforts of the room boys).
There is usually a power cut at some point during the day, usually around 5:00pm for about 15 minutes, and the wifi is very flaky. I suppose there’s a tattiness about it, and in a few places a grubbiness, that simply wouldn’t be tolerated in all but the worst dives in the UK, but somehow it’s more tolerable when there’s no carpet, and it’s fine for the price – but as this is Goa the rate for December and January will probably be double, and perhaps triple over New Year. At that price it equals the £21 that we paid for the Travelodge at Heathrow the night before we left England, which is pretty outrageous for India – but on the other hand, I know where I’d rather be!
Thursday 28th November 2013
Except we’ve now discovered, thanks to a sudden torrential downpour yesterday evening, that the roof still leaks. Not too badly and it’s not over the bed, (we did have that once in Kerala and had to sleep with umbrellas over us), but enough to rule out the place as monsoon accommodation. Also there is no back up generator – the power was off from around midnight until mid morning, probably something to do with the rain. That meant no ceiling fan, but the rain had cooled things sufficiently that it wasn’t a problem. A wind-up torch is a must have for this kind of travel, and you need to know exactly where it is at all times once the sun has gone down. We’ve met a couple who are staying at the Saldanha, the place we were supposed to stay when we arrived in Patnem (and for which Agoda, to their credit, have given a full refund). They too had difficulty contacting anybody to let them in, but managed to get hold of a different phone number. Their room was very dirty but being resourceful people, and planning to stay for 3 months, they went into Chaudi, bought cleaning materials, and gave it a good scrub. Then negotiated a substantial discount on the basis of having done so. The manager is apparently very sweet but he’s just looking after the place for an elderly relative and really doesn’t know what he’s doing. So Phil and Sue, who manage holiday lettings in the Algarve, are teaching him – meanwhile they have a large room with a balcony front and back, aircon, fridge and kitchenette area for £4.50 a night. Which is a pretty good deal in anybody’s book.