Hosteling is fun for the middle-aged too!

Beijing Travel Blog

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The Jade Youth Hostel isn't bad, really.  I don't know what the standards of most folks are who frequent hostels, but my previous experience in China is four and mostly five star hotels on the group tours I lead.  However, I started traveling in China almost 20 years ago and figured today's hostels might be similar to the better hotels of that era and packed accordingly.  Good thing I did!

I would post some photos but am unable to from this internet cafe -- I hope to find a place to add them later.

My third floor room is very small with two narrow beds, a desk, small table, TV hanging from the wall, and a smallish window (with screens!). The bathroom is moderately sized, but the shower has no tub or enclosure, so the whole bathroom floor is the drain, not unlike some cruise ships.  I am glad I threw a couple of old washclothes into my suitcase because there are none here and the towels are bit dingy but clean.  I was pleasantly surprised to find the usual amenities found in 5-star hotels here at the JYH, too.  Two toothbrushes with paste, two small bars of soap, shower caps, shampoo, conditioner, and two combs.  The beds are hard but have some foam that make them more comfortable than some I've slept on.  But the two little lights over the beds have those 25-watt dim bulbs that seem actually to make the room darker when they are on!  However, I brought a little reading light so that wasn't much of a problem.

What was a problem was the temperature.  Advertised as having air conditioning, the staff at the desk when I complained it was too hot said that now it's autumn so you don't need air conditioning, only "wind" (the fan).  The weather has been sunny and in the mid to upper 80s, and with my room on the south side, the room is way too hot and never cools overnight.  So, I located a 2-star hotel nearby with air conditioning in each room and was going to move out this morning, but either others complained or something, because just as I packed all my stuff up four fuwuyuans, attendants, showed up at my door and said they had turned the "cool wind" on -- which indeed they had.  They knew I was going to leave, so asked me to stay.  They assured me the "cool wind" would remain on for the next two days and even let me move to the other side of the building, so I'm still here and happy.  Oh, and my dim lights were actually broken and the new room has lighting you can actually read by!

Other amenities are a nicely furnished lounge area where folks can watch movies on a plasma TV and read a lot of magazines and books left by previous travelers (Batman was on the night I had dinner in there).  Breakfast is so-so but perfectly ok.  I was also pleasantly surprised to find an elevator to schlep my stuff up to the third floor.  All in all, a very good place to stay if you're not too picky and want to spend less than $30 a night, compared with five or more times that at 4 and 5-star alternatives. 

Also, there's an internet cafe where it costs a very reasonable Y10 (about $1.30 per hour).  But one nice thing about staying here is that you get to chat with other travelers at breakfast and share information.  A 50-ish German woman living in Holland, Heidi, told me about the internet cafe where I am now that's only Y3 an hour.  It's unmarked and underneath a vegetable market in a hutong, with two huge subterranean rooms and perhaps 100 computers, being used by mostly young Chinese men who are playing games or watching movies streaming online.  Maybe posting on Youtube!

Well, I've been here long enough and want to get back up in the daylight!  I'll be back later or tomorrow!

SallyG says:
Hi there! Hope you're having a great time. Beware of Donkey Hotes.
Posted on: Sep 18, 2006
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Hi from Beijing, finally.  I'm glad I made no specific plans for the few days after my arrival, because I would not be as serene as I am now!

I should have had a premonition from the beginning.  My Detroit-Tokyo flight on Wednesday was delayed two hours to let a big thunderstorm pass and since I knew the layover at Narita was only ONE hour, it was obvious that I would be spending a night under Japanese stars.  From the plane on the ground in DTW I phoned a contact to ask her to email a contact in Beijing to cancel my hostel stay, so at least I wouldn't lose the money for that.

Having gone through this drill in Narita three or four times previously, I was cool with going to the Radisson, a comfortable hotel, with a free dinner, breakfast and three-minute call anywhere in the world and returning to the airport Thursday morning.  No small children ran away in fright after seeing me, so I assume my lack of makeup or hair-curling wasn't too extreme. It was only checking in for the flight that I learned that the run to Beijing would be taking a leetle detour to Shanghai first.  A Chinese fire drill there and a net of about three hours extra until arrival in Beijing about 4:15 pm.

As I'm "on the cheap" for the first half of my travels here, I decided to take the frugal option of the airport shuttle bus (Y16) instead of a taxi (Y70-90) to a hotel downtown where my hostel's website said they would pick me up.  However, I was directed to take the wrong shuttle and arrived at the end of the line, the old railway station.  Meanwhile, on the way, my seatmate, a pleasant young man who is a China Eastern flight attendant just back from a run to London, called on his cell phone to the hostel.  I found that their car was "busy" just then and they couldn't pick me up even if I were at the correct place. 

Still not too upset at this point, I dragged my rollerbags and slogged along with my backpack away from the station and its notorious ripoff cabbies to another intersection where five or six taxis stopped for my business.  However, when they found out where I was going they said the equivalent, I think, of NO WAY in Chinese and sped off.  After a half-dozen of these, I finally remembered what my father had done during a trip to Paris when I was a kid.  Finally he ordered my mother, sister and me to jump into the next cab while he loaded the bags into the trunk and THEN told the driver our destination.  I did the same and it worked here in Beijing just as it had on the Champs Elysees four decades ago.

I had to direct the driver to the neighborhood of the Jade International Youth Hostel, and suggested  he use his phone to call for final directions.  We finally made it and I rounded up his fare to Y20 to include the phone.  Yesss!  Finally got here nearly 24 hours later than scheduled. 

I'll send this off and start another entry because I'm at an  internet cafe where they give no warning when your time is up and I already lost this section once!  Back in a minute.

Eric says:
I was just in Beijing a few days ago. What do you think of the driving and the traffic? :)
Posted on: Sep 27, 2006
photo by: Eric