Thursday, January 27, 2011

The hotel of a thousand dollars

Everybody has their own definition of luxury. The Americans define it differently than the Europeans who define it differently than the owners of the 'luxury' hotel I was staying at. The Arusha Hotel's website makes a lot of claims about the quality of the hotel. "The essence of unrivaled quality" is my favorite. Words like "charming", "striking", "enchanting" float across the screen over pictures of the hotel and its grounds. They also presume to be the "leading and best loved hotel in Arusha". The rooms are supposed to be "elegant" and "refined...", cleverly balancing "all that is modern and classic."

Well, no one better than a giant Jew with pneumonia to judge a hotel's accommodations correctly.

When I first arrived, I was indeed impressed by the lobby and grounds of the hotel. It is beautiful, like the rest of Arusha. But it all changed when I was escorted to my room.

I had asked for a room on the garden side of the hotel when I made my reservations because I had heard that the street side of the hotel was very loud. When I arrived, the receptionist at the front desk informed me that she only had a room with two twin beds on the garden side, and that if I wanted a larger bed, I'd have to sleep on the street side. I was so god damned tired at this point (from traveling) that I agreed to sleep on the street side so that I could have a larger bed. I live in NYC, I'm lulled to sleep by the gentle klaxons and screaming sirens of the streets of an urban center.

I entered the room, and I sighed. A sigh of ultra-disappointment™. For $250 a night, I expected something a little more than a large closet with a double bed in it. Aside from being small, the room was dingy and dark. It didn't feel comfortable, and it especially did not feel luxurious. There were stains and marks all over the place. The TV was old, and the shower didn't even have a door or a curtain on it. It was just open with a half pane of glass so that joyous amounts of water get splashed onto the floor every time you take a shower. The worst part of it was that the air conditioner didn't work. They send an engineer over to fix it, which he did, but I was disappointed to find out that I would have to endure the sound of a broken-as-hell air conditioner all night. You know what that sounds like? Like someone taking a wrench and lightly tapping a piece of metal 38 times a second, every second, of every minute that its on. That's fun to NOT sleep to.

The next morning I decided that I could not spend a week and a half in this room. I walked around the hotel to see if I could spot better rooms. It appeared that there was another wing to the hotel that looked slightly newer. I asked the receptionist if I could be moved to one of those rooms. She said they were executive rooms and they go for something like $315 a night. I almost declined... but then I decided I needed something better than the equivalent of a room at a Comfort Inn in Nothingville, KY for this trip, especially since I was sick and planned on spending a lot of time in the room resting. So I ultra-agreed™ to the executive room.

But the wonderful receptionist did something better.

She said, that not only would she only charge me $300 a night, but that she would upgrade me to a suite.



The suite was sooooooo much better. It was spacious, had modern fixtures, flat screen TV, appeared more clean and a lot less dingy, and the (main) bathroom had a separate, fully enclosed shower (there were two bathrooms).

My initial excitement quickly went flying out the window when, during the first night in that room, the air conditioner exploded. It made a horrible hissing and crashing sound, then stopped conditioning air, and shut off completely shortly after that. The good thing was that there was a second air conditioner in the room, which worked fine. So I let it be.

But then...

The first morning in this room is when I encountered the second major flaw. While I was taking a shower, I noticed that the drain didn't drain fast enough, so the water built up fast in the shower and very quickly leaked out of the shotty glass enclosure and formed a small ocean on the floor of the bathroom. Fun.

The second night, I decided to turn on the ceiling fan above the bed to help cool that area of the suite down. The great thing is that when they designed this room, they thought it would be a really great idea to install chains hanging from the ceiling to hold the mosquito net 1cm away from the spinning fan blade. Anytime you touched the bed, the fan would start chopping at the chain, giving you the impression that either the chain was going to snap or the fan was going to come off its hinges, come flying down at you, and slice your neck into delicious pieces.

So no fan, no AC, and no dry bathroom floors.

But what really irritates me is that this is a hotel that charges me $300 a night. For $50, you could redo the sealant at the base of the shower glass enclosures and fix the drain, for $10, you could move the chains that hold the mosquito net, then, you could just straight up give me $75 so that I can have more money.

I would have felt a lot better if A) the hotel was cheaper and B) the hotel didn't boast how luxurious and wondrous it was like it was the best thing to happen to Africa since the European colonialists left.

The pros? The staff were very nice. Just great, friendly people who smiled often and were eager to help. Also, the location of the hotel was perfect for my needs since the location where I was working was within walking distance. But man, they gouge you with the bill. They charge you a 5% 'convenience' fee for using a credit card to pay. 5% of my bill turned out to be almost $200. Great, thanks guys, I'm happy to pay you so that I can pay you.

I love Tanzania, I love Arusha, and I love Africa. I just didn't love this hotel.

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