Through out the years as Ghana’s number 1 celebrity and lifestyle blogger (yes let me blow my own horn a bit), I have had the chance to experience some of the best hotels from around the world. From fairly rated hotels to 5 star hotels, each experience is often unique in its own right – from the comfort of the rooms to the delightful cuisines they serve.
However, my fond memories of hotels are not always about the luxury and comfort they offer. In fact there have been a few ‘that type of hotel’ experiences in between, and the memories from them are equally unforgettable in their own right.
My first experience with ‘that type of hotel’ was in Nigeria, and after that I continued to have more of such experiences – yes in Nigeria over and over again. It all started with my romance with the African Movie Academy Awards (AMAA), which is held in the State of Bayelsa annually. Due to the fact that film makers and stars from all over Africa and the Diaspora descend on Yenagoa (the State capital) for the awards, often the city runs out of hotels – and so some of us have to settle for ‘that type of hotel’.
So what exactly is ‘that type of hotel’? It is the kind that you check-in not knowing whether it is a 1,2, or 3-star hotel. No matter the comfort it comes with, you will still have a feeling something is missing (and deepening on how long you stay there, it could matter or not matter). It promises complimentary English breakfast if you are lucky, and when it does serve breakfast it is often not what you expected (either the taste is off, or surprisingly good). In Nigeria, you will often find a bucket or pail in your bathroom, fret not for it is only to provide water for you in-case you love bathing from a bucket more than taking a hot or cold shower. If you go to meet the bucket already full, then you have no option, you have to bath from the bucket and most likely there is no running water available in the hotel. A stable internet connection is a luxury in ‘that type of hotel’.
In my first experience with a ‘that type of hotel’ in Bayelsa, an actor’s room almost got burnt down due to a bad electrical wiring. Yes, the hotel owner had rushed to get some rooms ready so guests from AMAA could stay in. My second experience with ‘that type of hotel’ in Bayelsa I cannot even remember because perhaps by then I knew what to expect, or I had gone through so much hustling to get to Bayelsa, that nothing else could matter.
There was one particular year that the AMAA was held in Lagos and so I went to cover it at my own expense. I asked a friend in Lagos to find me an affordable hotel to stay for a short while, that would also not be too far away from the airport (bearing in mind the nature of Lagos Traffic). When my friend told me the hotel was in Ojodu Berger, I felt some kind of relief because the area sounded rather posh in my ears. Well, I didn’t have to wait to see or check-in to my room to know that I was deceived by the fancy sound of ‘Berger’. The area was far from posh, in fact it was a noisy working district full of brisk business and heavy commuters. And well, my hotel was ‘that type of hotel’. Perhaps the worst kind – a dingy hotel in a noisy neighbourhood. The net in the windows were torn and so the louvre blades had to be closed at all times in order not let any mosquitoes in. I can’t remember whether there was an air conditioner in the room or if it just wasn’t working, but I remember the low blowing ceiling fan and all my tossing and turning in bed whenever the power went off (yes the chronic Nigerian electricity crisis didn’t make my stay any less unbearable). To make things even worse, that particular trip to Lagos ended with me missing my flight back home (but I will save myself from the painful experience and leave it here).
There was another time in Lagos when I had to attend the City People Entertainment Awards as a nominee. I got there with a fellow nominee from Ghana but due to the crazy schedule of organisers they seemed to have forgotten about our arrival time, and we had to find a hotel to stay for the night so we could move to our original hotel the following day. So we asked a driver at the airport to take us to an affordable hotel so we could stay for the night. Needless to say, he drove us straight to a ‘that type of hotel’. Well, this time it was a little different , it looked like ‘that type of hotel’ where taxi drivers take couple who meet at a nightclub and search for a place to spend a night of pleasure. Well, I was clearly not there for pleasure, and i wasn’t finding my stay pleasurable either. I don’t remember the name of the hotel but I vividly remember a notice pasted on the door which said “Smoking, but please only cigarette”. Well, I struggled to sleep throughout and couldn’t wait to leave. Clearly, there was no WiFi connection and I wasn’t roaming with my mobile internet so my entertainment options came very limited. The following day, as we waited to hear from the organisers of the awards, I found out that even dingy hotels have checkout times, and they like to stick to them. Yes, they wanted us out by 12 noon, and clearly I wasn’t going to pay for another night there. The hotel wasn’t willing give us a late checkout while we waited for the organisers to come for us. I left the hotel to look for a better alternative while we waited to hear from the organisers. I tried checking into a new hotel but my debit card wasn’t working with their POS system and while we tried sorting it out, thankfully we had a call from the organisers that someone was coming to get us. Phew!!! And by the way I ended up winning my nomination.
The next time is stayed in ‘that type of hotel’ in Nigeria was when I went to Lagos, after taking up a new job as the Managing Editor for Pulse.com.gh. As part of the launch process I visited Ringier Nigeria for a week to study how they run Pulse.NG in order to implement the same back home for Ringier Ghana. The company had a deal with one hotel, so that was where I stayed. It was a regular hotel but it felt neglected. I had to deal with the stress of struggling to sleep in heat because there was no generator when the main power supply went off. The excuse from the hotel was that there were not enough guests around for them to put on the generator…really?
My last stay in ‘that type of hotel’ in Nigeria was last year, 2015. I was in Lagos for the New Media Conference so a friend suggested a hotel in Surulere for me. This time there was no surprises, the name of the area couldn’t deceive me (unlike Ojodu Berger); and I guess by now I had enough experience to deal with ‘that type of hotel’. What I remember the most was that, it was during a time where Nigeria had been hit with a fuel shortage. So when the electricity went off, management turned on a small generator in the afternoon and told guests not to use the air conditioner. Then after 6pm (8pm to be precise), they turned on a bigger generator that allowed guests to turn on their AC at least for a comfortable night’s sleep. Needless to say, I attended the conference without being able to iron my shirt.
Now for those of you who think ‘that type of hotel’ only exist in Nigeria, let me bring you back home to Ghana. There are plenty of them in Ghana and I often book or suggest some for friends visiting from Nigeria – and no, not as payback!!!
My recent trip to the Volta Region for the Vodafone Ghana Music Awards nominees jam brought me in contact with a special kind of ‘that type of hotel’. And just as I didn’t mention the names of the Nigerian hotels (well mostly because I don’t even remember their names), I wont mention the name of this hotel in Ho.
After checking- in, I and my colleague reporters went straight to to the restaurant because we were very hungry. I decided to try a local delicacy, ‘Wokple’ for the first time and I enjoyed it. Though I wish the chicken was organic fresh chicken rather than what looked like imported frozen chicken. After the heavy meal, now it was time to go back to my room and rest a bit ahead of the jams in the evening. The hotel had wifi (at least on and off) and this time I wasn’t roaming so I had internet on my phone as well (only in limited areas…isn’t it funny how most mobile networks lose stable connectivity as you move away from Accra?). So, there was some options for me for entertainment, plus the hotel had some satellite channels I could watch.
From the electronic door to a bathroom that at least had hot shower, the hotel surely was standard. But it was ‘that type of hotel’, the type that puts in too much effort to let you know you are not in your house. There were signs posted everywhere to remind you of that, just incase you didn’t know or have never stayed in a hotel before.
There were signs to show you how to turn on the hot or cold shower; how to turn on the air conditioning; and how to use the heater. In fact the only thing I missed out on was the guide on how to flush the toilet.
There was a notice next to the phone that boldly spelt out the charges that came with room service and yet when I called to order my dinner, the kitchen staff explained it again to me. I screamed in my head, ‘I bloody know that…the notice is boldly in my face as we speak’. It was a little irritating but thank goodness, when the meal arrived it was amazingly tasty.
So there you have it, some of my experiences with ‘that type of hotel’ from Nigeria to Ghana. I am sure you do have your own such experiences. Do share them, after all a great stay away from home is the memories you take with you back home…good or bad!!!