Writer Justin Vanderstraaten wrote about his experience in a hostel on Bencoolen Street. The story is entitled, “One Evening within the Worst Room in Singapore, In accordance with TripAdvisor.”
According to Mr. Vanderstraaten he chose to look for the most uncomfortable accommodation he could find in order to challenge himself to grow. He wrote, “My loathing of boredom is why I accepted the challenge of documenting a stay in the worst hotel in the country.”
His story was originally published on RICE on Monday, June 17, and now picked up on other media outlets such as yahoo and googletrendsonline.
Though the travel website TripAdvisor, Mr. Vanderstraaten searched for, and found what he termed “the most abysmal room for rent,” feeling pretty confident that since this is Singapore, the experience may not be as bad as it was written about in reviews and complaints.
Unfortunately, he was proven wrong.
Mr. Vanderstraaten recounts the whole miserable experience, starting from climbing a dark set of stairs, (and being thankful that he packed light) to being given toilet paper, small bars of soap, towels and a “paper-thin ‘bedsheet’” upon checking in, traversing halls that were full of old mattresses, furniture and boxes, finally coming to room 217, which contained three things: a bed, a shower, and a table.
When he asked the old man who showed him his room for directions to the restroom, the man indicated that he could urinate in the shower stall, but “if stomach pain, got shared toilet down the hall.”
Before Mr. Vanderstraaten could recover from his shock at being expected to urinate right beside the bed, the old man had left the room.
Mr. Vanderstraaten then described the smell in the room, “Initially, with the door closed the place smells like ass. You realize that musty scent at the back of an previous closet? Mix that with the pungent stench of ammonia and the bitter scent of a moist towel. Then multiply the sum by a thousand. And one other thousand after that.”
After that, he discovered many dead flies trapped in cobwebs, and his skin began to feel itchy, but he was determined to endure one night at the hotel, turning to social media on his cell phone to distract him from his environment.
He then spends the rest of the afternoon this way, interrupted only by trips to the restroom down the hall, choosing, naturally, not to urinate in the shower stall by his bed.
To his surprise he fell asleep.
Only to be awakened a couple of hours later, and he began to experience an itchiness that felt, in his words, “unbearable.”
After a while he gave up and got up, writing, “what extra could possibly be gained from attempting to final until morning?” The thought of the insects traversing all over his body was the final straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back.
Mr. Vanderstraaten wrote he got rid of his clothes, shoes and bag—in fact, everything he brought with him—tossing them into the garbage as soon as he got home, in fear of the bedbugs he may have brought with him. He then proceeded to take the longest shower of his life, washing his hair at least five times.
But he also came to a realization, “Someplace round my fifth hair wash, I realise that me leaving was much less an indication of my weak spot than it was a testimony to my neighbours’ power.”
He marveled at the Burmese and Thai people he had seen en route to the restrooms, who were casually talking and smoking in the hostel. Mr. Vanderstraaten realized that the place he had fled in horror and called a “slum” was home to these people, most likely the only accommodation they could afford.
“Lodging as nasty as these exist as a result of there’s nonetheless a requirement for them. For some folks, an affordable mattress in a run-down hostel is all they’ll afford. Naturally, this makes their expertise of Singapore vastly totally different from the common vacationer who will get to take pleasure in rooftop swimming pools and room service.”
He wrote that staying in the hostel, even if it was just for a few hours, certainly gave him the perspective that what one may deem a terrible place to stay, is perfectly acceptable to others. And he didn’t even have to leave Singapore to discover this, only his own personal comfort zone.
Mr. Vanderstraaten ended his story with thankfulness for his position and possessions, and vowed to not take these quite so lightly.
What do you think? Is Mr. Vanderstraaten just another spoilt and pampered millennial, too used to life’s creature comforts—or does the hostel on Bencoolen Street deserve the bad rap it got from his story?
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