The No. 953 Express from Kuala Lumpur pulled into Singapore’s Woodlands Station around 9:30 p.m. on Friday, May 1. I was on that train. I didn’t have a hostel reservation for the night. I didn’t even know which neighbourhood I’d be staying in. It wasn’t the smartest approach to a new city but thankfully everything turned out pretty well.
I was fully prepared to just “wing it” until I started chatting with a young German backpacker as we waited to clear customs and immigration. Mischa was under the impression that he had picked the best hostel in all of Singapore. I was skeptical but with the prospect of a half-price taxi looking pretty good, I decided to tag along to Mischa’s hostel and see if they had a spare bed for the night.
After a 20 minute cab ride we pulled up at a building that was clearly marked as 259 Outran. That was the address we were looking for. But this couldn’t possibly be the place, I thought. This is clearly a boutique hotel not a backpacker’s hostel. Surely there’s an extra zero on the advertised price of $37 a night. Hotels in Singapore are amongst the most expensive in the world. Mischa must be mistaken.
Once inside the lobby I was even more suspicious. The place looked fantastic. There was a long table made of reclaimed wood that was just like the one I had in my Toronto home (only about three times as long). There was a large flatscreen TV, comfy looking sofa, several tables and chairs, vending machines, a beautiful kitchen – and that was just what I could see from the front door.
We spoke with the clerk and managed to secure two beds for the night. They were fully booked for Saturday night so I decided to stay Friday, check out Saturday morning, and return for eight nights starting on Sunday.
Early in the morning on Saturday #44 I started my online search for The Second Best Exotic Singapore Hostel (pun intended). You’d think that would be a fairly easy task. It is not. All of the hostel booking websites use their own ranking systems, and I know for a fact that these can be hacked and manipulated. A hostel in Peru that scores 4-1/2 stars would never be confused with a 4-1/2 star hostel in Auckland. And on top of the lack of international standards, there’s the problem with the system whereby customers do the ranking. This might sound like the ideal method but in reality it leaves many things open to interpretation and personal taste. I’d much rather know that a hostel scored low marks because it was clean but “boring” while an adjacent hostel got high marks when it was infested with bedbugs and had mushrooms growing in the showers, but had a 10-for-1 deal on Jell-O Shots in the bar.
So around noon on Saturday #44 I checked into my second Singapore hostel in as many days. Bunc Hostel @ Radius turned out to be a very good hostel as well. It wasn’t quite as awesome as The Plot but it was still better than 9 out of 10 hostels I’ve visited in my 10 months of travel.
I explored Little India on Saturday afternoon but by 4:00 it was raining cats and dogs so I found a seat in a cozy little bar and started to make some notes. Within a few hours I was onto my fourth beer and had the makings of my own personal hostel rating system. I’m not ready to publish details of the system or any specific ratings just yet but give me a week or so. It’s item #1 on my “rainy day” list.