The Backpage: Give me your biggest and best room! 19



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Holidays loom and with them the urge to travel which reminds of that time in Belize in Central America when I woke up in a graveyard.

Given that most people in a graveyard never wake up I counted myself lucky. As I blinked and greeted the dawn, I heard a groan.

“Oh Lord,” I thought. “It’s the end of the world! The dead are rising from their graves”

It was not the deceased, however, who were rising but my travelling companion.

We had become separated during an enthusiastic tasting session of the local rum the previous night and had both independently homed in on the graveyard as a makeshift dormitory.

“Morning” I said as his head appeared over a nearby headstone. “I think I’m going to die” he said lighting a cigarette. “You’re in the right place,” I said.

I don’t sleep in graveyards any more and my holiday and travelling aspirations have become more round edged, my fantasies seen more in soft focus.

I don’t drink rum anymore either but that’s another story and while the graveyard left a bit to be desired in the way of comfort, it wasn’t the worst night I’d ever spent.

If you want to experience sleep deprivation and discomfort on a grand scale, you must spend a night in the cells at the Lismore lock-up in the depths of winter.

I can’t rate the pillows because there weren’t any on the night I involuntarily checked in, the room service was terrible, the one blanket was substantial as a page of newsprint and some of my fellow guests had serious snoring problems.

Hospitality-wise, it was a one star experience but better in a way than the night I spent in a hammock on a jungle fringed Mexican beach.

Exhausted after a day of traveling, I slept soundly. The next morning, I greeted the day with a shriek when I slid out of my hammock and saw a large snake curled around the base of one of the trees to which I’d tied the hammock.

“It’s dead” said my mate waving his machete at me. “I killed it. I didn’t want to wake you.”

“Thanks,” I said. We camped on the beach for a week and I had not a moments sleep for the next six nights as I lay wide-eyed in my hammock and listened for the slithering sound of approaching reptiles.

Whereas once I checked my accommodation for snakes, my first act on entering a hotel room now is to check the pillows for the right degree of fluffiness.

“Call this a pillow?” I’ll snort if my head doesn’t descend into a soft, accommodating valley of down. Mattresses are also critically appraised and bathrooms assessed not only for their spaciousness but also the delicate hues of their marble and the capacity of their spa baths.

Occasionally I think of that time I slept in a park in Mexico and on awakening, was seized with a desire to attend to my toilet.

There was a public convenience in the park outside of which my fellow homeless itinerants were queuing, shuffling slowly forward.

When I reached the end of the line, I handed over a peso and was handed a single, very thin, sheet of toilet paper.

Ahead was a cubicle with no door in which you sat while the man next in the queue, and all those behind him, stared at you.

I never did get my peso’s worth.

I spent so much time sleeping in some of the worst hotels in the world when I was younger that I’ve tried to make up for it by sleeping in some of the better ones as I’ve grown older. I’m still a long way behind but I’m doing my best to catch up.

I’ve heard some people dismiss the towering monoliths which mark the centres of some cities as lacking in character.

“I prefer small, boutique hotels,” they sniff.

“Tossers” I mutter. Show me a huge hotel with a massive foyer, chandeliers, hovering staff and a martini menu the length of your arm and I’m a happy man.

Big hotels? Bring ‘em on! The bigger the better!

I’ve come to realise that hotels can double the enjoyment of traveling. There are those who spend weeks trawling cyberspace looking for the cheapest hotel they can find.

I wish them well but most of the great travel memories I hold feature magnificent hotels. They’re the wealthy class’s gift to the world for without the indecently rich, they wouldn’t exist.

Waiter! Fetch me another martini!


Tell us, do you stay in nice hotels now that you’re older and wiser? Or do you prefer more rustic accommodation?

Mike O'Connor

Mike O’Connor is a Brisbane-based motoring writer, travel writer and columnist. He’s driven hundreds of different cars, travelled widely and mingled with famous people, none of whom, he confesses, can remember meeting him.

  1. I don’t go on holidays to sit in a hotel room no matter how plush it is. A clean modest hotel is all I need. I go on holidays to be out, seeing and doing things.

  2. He wrote about Lismore lock-up as his worst night. Mine was the drunk tank behind the Melbourne Magistrate’s court (now a museum exhibit) after celebrating Moomba Monday well but unwisely as an 18yo. Too long a story to write here. I learned a lot that night, enough to never, ever go back. Now I wander the world when I can, staying in hotels ranging from five star (on discount) to hotels which could only wish for a star. Two in India were examples of good and bad:

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  3. I prefer a more modest style as long as it’s clean and comfortable that will do me.

  4. I don’t see the point of spending good money on somewhere to sleep and shower, I would rather pay less on the accommodation and spend the money on seeing and doing things I might never have the chance to do or see again. As long as the beds and facilities are clean who cares how many star ratings it has!

  5. Well at least you have lived and now know what you like. I still like sleeping under the stars but a good pillow is a must.

  6. We are campers and trekkers so we are fine with basic. Love being in remote places away from technology.

  7. You know I agree with a lot of you you only use the hotel room for sleeping and having breakfast in the morning because your out all day site seeing but at the end of your holiday it’s good to have a couple of days of luxury to enjoy.

  8. Have spent some great nights in hotelsBUT two of the best 1. In Moscow in 1995 ghastly hotel..concrete bunker!, sharing a room with a new tour friend, showed into a tatty room ..opened the tatty curtains and there was the Kremlin, St Basil’s and Red Square there ….did not close the curtains all night! 2. In Athens,(another tour but this tim with my husband) shown to our room…wow..the bridal suite, huge windows immediately in front of the Parthenon on the hill all brilliantly lit! Who needs to sleep with views like that!

  9. I’ve stayed in the best and the worst. The worst was a staff motel attached to the airport at Colombo, Sri Lanka, many years ago. Bed bugs, fan threatening to fall from the ceiling, bathroom/toilet uncleaned, etc. Ugh. And I’ve been fortunate to be upgraded to magnificent suites in 5 star hotels (thanks to my career at the time). I’ll take the latter any time!

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