A Room With A View: The Trouble With Hotels


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A Room With A View: The Trouble With Hotels


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During a lifetime of travel, I have stayed in many, many hotels. Not always, it must be said, with the best results.

One morning I arrived at Heathrow airport. I went into central London and checked into my hotel. It was now six-thirty in the morning. I was handed a key, picked up my
suitcase and opened my room door. There were two people, a man and a woman sleeping soundly in my bed. I stood there, mouth open when the man opened his eyes
and said, “Who the hell are you?”

I stammered something incoherent and went back down to the front desk. Rather angrily I explained what had happened.

“Oh, I see,” said the woman at the desk. “Was he a Cathay pilot?”

“Well silly old me,” I said. “There he was in bed with his girlfriend and I never thought to ask him what he does for a living.”

The hotel was owned by Aer Lingus, the Irish airline which might explain things.

A few months later I was staying at the Orchard Hotel in Singapore. I woke early, the morning sun streaming through the windows, in desperate need of the toilet. I leaped out
of bed, ran across the room, opened the door and realized I wasn’t in the bathroom at all, I was standing in the corridor.

“Silly old me,” I thought. “It’s the wrong door,” and I turned round to see the room door closing gently behind me. Frantically I grabbed the handle. It was irrefutably and
irredeemably locked. So there I was standing in the hotel corridor at six in the morning naked as the day I was born. At the end of the corridor was a maid’s trolley so I
furtively sneaked up to it. There was a small pile of hand towels so I took one, held it modestly in front of me and pressed the button for the lift.

The doors opened and there was a young, fit-looking business executive in his T-shirt and shorts and Nike trainers, off for an early morning run. He looked at me with

“Good morning,” I said, cheerfully, holding the four square inches of towel in front of me. “Beautiful morning isn’t it?”

He backed away slowly and carefully trying to squeeze himself into the corner.

I strolled as casually as I could across the lobby, explained my predicament and it was the fastest service I’ve ever seen in a hotel as they grabbed a spare key and ushered me
frantically back into the lift.

Now apparently I’m not the only person this has happened to. I’ve heard the same story from several other people but I have one hotel story which I have never heard
duplicated, certainly not bettered.

I was in Kaohsiung in Taiwan. I spent the afternoon in an old-fashioned steel mill. It was the height of summer, about a hundred degrees and all around me were open
furnaces and heaps of white-hot steel bars. Eventually, thank god they took me off for dinner which was preceded by about a gallon of cold beer. The dinner was, as usual, a
banquet with endless courses and endless toasts of undying love and friendship accompanied by Taiwanese rice wine. At last, exhausted, I went back to my hotel,
went to the front desk and asked for my key.

Helena Lopes at Pexels

I walked into my room, went into the bathroom, used the facilities and started to brush my teeth when I realized that it was NOT MY TOOTHBRUSH. Nor was it my

It was like something from the X-files.

I crept into the room to see someone sound asleep in my bed. On the floor was the blue-and-white dressing-gown that the Japanese call a yukata. It was perfectly obvious what had happened. Some Japanese had broken into my room, stolen my toothbrush and was now brazenly sleeping in my bed. My first instinct was to grab him by the throat and hurl him into the corridor but somewhere, through the mists of the night’s festivities, a small voice in my head was telling me that something wasn’t right.

I marched out of the room, took the lift and stormed across the hotel lobby. The duty clerk was half asleep when I said, “Hey, you. There’s someone in my bed and I want him out of there. And he’s stolen my toothbrush.”

“Are you sure you have the right room?” he asked.

“Of course,” I snarled. “I slapped my key folder in front of him. “Room 237,” I said.

He looked in puzzlement. “Ah yes,” he said, “that’s the correct room number. Unfortunately you’re in the wrong hotel. Your hotel’s next door.”

With all the dignity I could muster I strolled across the lobby, got briefly stuck in the revolving door and exited gracefully into the night.

Which brings me rather neatly to the Taj Mahal hotel in Mumbai. The Taj, as everyone called it was a wonderful old hotel which was tragically almost destroyed by Pakistani
terrorists in 2008. I was there two years before. I was staying, as I usually did, in the old wing when, at about two in the morning I was woken by the most god-awful racket. I opened my room door to see two Arab children, a boy and a girl of about eight or nine years old riding their bicycles along the corridor, chasing each other, laughing and shrieking and ringing their bells as loudly as they could.

“Stop that at once,” I yelled.

They ignored me completely.

One of the room doors was open so I marched along the corridor. Inside was an enormous Arab, lying on a couch with a drink in his hand. At that time Mumbai
was home to a great many rich Arabs escaping from the rigours of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf.

“It’s two in the morning,” I said. “Can you please control your children?”

He waved a disdainful hand at me. “Go away,” he said.

The next morning I approached the desk clerk. I told him that I wanted this nonsense stopped.

He looked at me with a mournful expression on his face and he said, “Oh yes Mr Hughes, those children, those holy terrors. We have many, many complaints.”

“So do something about it,” I said. “Throw them out.”

He said, “Mr Hughes, how many lifts do we have in this hotel?”

I looked across the hotel lobby. “Three,” I said. “And what relevance does that have?”

“Only last week those holy terrors were playing in the lift. Pressing every button, going up and down, up and down. The hotel guests were terribly unhappy. So I called
the father. Please restrain your children from going up and down, up and down in my lift,” I said.

“I’m sorry,” I said, “what are you trying to say?”

“What do you think that father said to me?”

“I have no idea.”

He said, “How much does it cost to buy the lift? So you see the problem I am having Mr Hughes?”

I retired, defeated and went off for breakfast.

So all those advertisements you see for beautiful couples and sharply-dressed business executives having a wonderful time in their five-star hotels may not necessarily be

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