Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The Howard Hotel in Kenting, Taiwan



Jessica and I planned (as far as we planned anything for this trip--which is not very far) to do some camping at some point while scooting around Taiwan. I brought a tent, two sleeping bags, two sleeping pads, a couple of tarps, and various other camping gear. It was all loaded in my big back pack, which Jessica ended up wearing for most of the trip, as she rode "bitch".



At this point I should clarify something. She had to ride bitch only because I have various paranoid fears, one of which has to do with riding on the back of a motorcycle or scooter. Basically, I cannot handle it. I've tried closing my eyes, hanging on extremely tightly to the driver, looking at scenery, and praying. The only thing that seems to help is for me to get drastically intoxicated, and in that case the safety factor is negatively impacted, as I could easily fall off the back (especially if carrying a huge backpack). The fact is that because of my fears, I was the real bitch, despite my riding in the non-bitch position.

As a disclaimer, I'd like to say that I don't mean "bitch" in a derogatory way, but only as a way to describe the position of riding on the back of a motorbike. I realize that the word has negative connotations, and for that I am sorry, but I believe that it is an accurate use of motorcycle parlance.

But I digress...

In the end, we didn't camp out at all, but stayed with Jessica's relatives or in a hotel. The Howard Hotel in Kenting, to be specific.

The Howard is a four or five star resort hotel with all the goodies that you'd expect to go along with such a rating. Our stay there, however, left me unimpressed. My rule of thumb with hotels is to avoid one star hotels, as they are usually dirty and have few amenities. Two star hotels are also to be avoided as they are usually the same as one star hotels but more expensive. Three star hotels are my favorite, as they are usually inexpensive and they have most of the things one needs to spend a comfortable night or two. Four star hotels are usually basically three star hotels for a higher price. Five stars are right out due to the cost, besides which most of the extras they provide are totally unnecessary and go unused.

Such was the case with the Howard.

Now, the purpose of this entry is not to rail against a hotel, but I thought that since Jessica and I decided to write down all the problems with the place, I might as well type it out for future generations to see.

The trouble began when we first arrived at the hotel. The clerk at the desk told us that the only room they had was a huge room with two double beds and a loft, which was obviously too much for two people. I find it difficult to believe that they didn't have any other rooms available, as the place wasn't that busy and it was a Monday, but there wasn't much we could do about it at that point, as it was too late to shop around, and we were both exhausted.

Here is our list of other grievances:

1. The first clerk we spoke to said that the quoted price ($5100 NT) included breakfast AND dinner. Once we agreed to take the room, however, the next clerk said that dinner was not included.

2. After we checked in, no one offered to help us with our luggage. Granted all we had was a plastic bag and a large backpack, but there were at least four hotel employees standing around the concierge desk, and for five grand per night those guys should have carried us to our room.

3. The HBO channel didn't work on our enormous, flat-panel TV. Jessica called the front desk to inquire about it, and they basically said, "Wow. A lot of people have complained about that. We'll check to see what's wrong." It never got fixed. One reason that bugs me is that they had a big cardboard advertisement propped up on the TV stand crowing about how all their rooms feature HBO.

4. The bathroom sink was clogged. I was eventually able to get the clog cleared (it was disgusing--hair, and goop, and who knows what else), but by then I was pretty grossed out. We almost called to complain about that, but we'd already called about the HBO.

5. The ice machine on our floor was out of order.

6. The hotel is very large, and there are a lot of direction signs showing where things are. One amenity that the hotel boasts of having is a sauna, and there are signs all over that say, "sauna," with arrows pointing in various directions. We searched the hotel for about an hour and couldn't find it, but we did notice that some signs said it was on one floor, some said it was on another. Finally we asked someone and she said it was closed. I guess we were better off than the guy we saw wandering around looking for the parking garage. Long after we gave up the sauna quest, I saw him stumbling around in a confused daze. Apparently he never found it.

7. When we went to check out (we had already paid cash up front), I had to stand in line for about fifteen minutes behind some woman who was going through her bill line by line. All I wanted to do was drop my key off, but I figured I should go through all the formalities. Finally I got tired of standing there and just laid my key on the counter. Granted, this was not really the fault of the hotel--unless they really had messed up that lady's bill--but they could have put her aside with the concierge or something and dealt with the customers who didn't have problems.

In the Howard's defense, it was a comfortable room with a nice view, and they have a nice swimming pool, but it was definitely not worth the price. Next time I'll plan ahead and make reservations at a reasonably-priced place.

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