Hey it’s been a period since my last post. I had been busy working with my work and accommodation plans over the recent days, and am effectively free to live a civilian life while I await my official pass out date from the army on the 8th of December. Anyways, let’s get to the crux of today’s post.
Never have I been as conflicted about my experience in a hostel as at the Bunc Hostel, despite its many apparent peaks. Hidden flaws began to expose themselves over the course of six days, which on average would have cost me $15.70 per night (including GST and taxes) for a bed in a 16 bedded mixed dormitory. I applied a hotels.com free night, which was accumulated over the course of 10 prior nights of stay, and paid $80 for all.
A boutique style hostel, the Bunc perfects in making the best first impressions, and I was greeted by a twin gigantic swing doors and windows composing the exquisite entrance. Depending on the route to which one takes to arrive at the Upper Weld Road hostel, one such as myself would never have guess the enormity of scale to which the hostel territory encompasses.
This would actually be my second visit to the Bunc, although granted I had only resided a single night past, it would be inadequate to paint a full judgement from such a glance. Nonetheless I was still intrigued, once again, to be faced with an interior lobby similar to what one may find at a furniture shop. A sky high ceiling coupled by arrays of spotlights elevated a sense of grandeur, a feeling that would be inversely proportionate to the density of dwelling crowds. Fortunately for me, no crowd was to be encountered, unlike my first time, and I smoothly proceeded with my check in without the inconvenience of a queue.
Attesting to the busy climate of the situation, the counter was to be manned by a pair of receptionists at any time of day. While understandable, it still bugged me that I was not led to my allocated room and bed by any given staff. Instead, my personal keycard, worth a $10 deposit, was labelled with the necessary information, serving both as my guide and access within permitted premises. The handwriting, however, was ambiguous in referring me to the correct space, and I was left wondering about whether that single letter below was a “D” or an “O” until enquiry.
Here’s the initial view of my room, and unlike the higher floors (where I was resided before) to which the ground was of carpet, the ground shared the same stale material as the lobby area. On a off note, it boggles my mind when luggage bags are left to obstruct the ladders climbing up to the top bunk beds. Bunk beds ain’t exactly the best description of these installations, to which said installations are worth commending on. While not strictly capsule beds, the partitions did mimic that format on the lower (and extremely large) beds. Too bad the letter on my keycard was an “O” rather than a “D”, or I would’ve embraced this spacious luxury.
That’s not to discredit the upper side of things; I did follow up on this second booking on the basis of my past experience of the same nature. I did have some difficulty climbing the tall structure to my bed, but the Bunc undeniably featured a variety of highlights and functions per segregated bedspace quite worth the effort and unmatched from their competition. A cloth wall hanger was designated along with one complementary hanger for each person, which for myself came in useful to prevent wrinkling of a select few of my clothes.
Pillows! And more pillows! Ok, there were just two, but you can’t expect a sucker like me to resist the fluffy. The issued blanket was of the heavy layered kind, hence the Bunc would, more than a couple of instances incoming, lure me into unintended day slumbers. Lighting was handled in a unique manner, with a choice of your average run of the mill fluorescent light (right of image above) for a more enveloping illumination, or this funny little device you see below.
Chilling just on the opposite wall from the fluorescent tube, it can be twisted and turned to direct shine towards a preferred spot. While definitely less intrusive to the general lighting of the room, the alternative blue light left more intensity to be desired. All in all, the brighter white light did a great job of supplementing for a midnight reading experience without the obnoxious factor of sleep disruption for your roommates.
Perhaps the winning component amongst the rest of the bed facilities was the strikingly simple table like construction installed right beside the single sized bed. While traditional lockers were absent in the general scheme of things, I felt relatively unfettered to leave my belongings lying around as shown above. My (false) sense of security could be attributed to the towering height of the architecture, which sufficiently covered my possessions from immediate visibility on the room’s common walkway. Most crucially, the table allowed myself to position, cushioned by the wonders of fluffy, optimally for a pleasant laptop experience.
But just in case you were still unsettled about security, it is possible to lock one’s valuables inside the bottom of the built structure, although you do have to bring your own lock. I was personally more compelled to store my footwear inside, and the cramped dimensions of the compartment summed up why I was speculating those annoying luggage obstacles placed across the room’s walkway rather than away from it.
Humongous is the theme of the Bunc Hostel. Totalling up to three storeys piled with rooms like mine, it’s no wonder I was observing a heavy routine of housekeeping and administrative duties being performed by no shortage of staff throughout the day. Below are snaps of the long corridors on the first floor, littered with a multitude of doors leading into relevant sleeping quarters and store rooms (yes they have multiple storerooms).
Due to the populous nature and wide open attributes of the interiors, the Bunc Hostel failed to express an essence of homeliness. It’s public nature exemplifies even in its gender segregated toilets, two of which were located along a corridor like the ones above. By design, it resembled what one would chance upon in a shopping mall, from the sink and mirrors to even automated hand dryers, except it hosts shower chambers that wields irony at its finest by my standards.
For whatever reason, the interior designers had decided that privacy was of utmost importance, granting lockable doors to every cubicles except when you’re wet and butt naked. The chambers were “sealed” by the fragile curtains that in of themselves struggled to hold still while the water flowed, hence I was constantly peeking to my side while rubbing my armpits in wary of any leecher lest I get exposed. For the most part, the ground floor toilets did not face this issue as much as the second floors, to which we will get to later. In fairness, the hairdryers were sensibly arranged.
Here I was on my first morning in the Bunc attempting to secure a comfy seat for breakfast within what appeared to be equivalent of a flea market’s crowd. It was 10:22am when I had also realized that the staff had already cleared the remaining food items, 8 minutes before the official end of the breakfast time. As this was a substantially lengthy stay in comparison to my other hostel ventures, I had actually made breakfast a priority such that I’d bought packets of expensive oatmilk to go along with the free meal. This was a huge disappointment for a start, but surely I couldn’t let a small matter like this ruin my morning.
The Bunc provides a refrigerator for use on the second floor, accessible via stairs or elevator. Just to mention, the elevator technically lands you into a zone typically restricted for guests not allocated in a room of the specified storey. The photo above was taken from within the door that would be locked via keycard access from the outside, where the stairs would take you otherwise. While this was barely a security issue from my standpoint (you still can’t access the guest rooms on the wrong floor), the establishment might want to look further into this dirty little bypass.
I was headed towards the kitchen to collect my oatmilk, to which was based along an outdoor garden like environment. Upon entering the premise, it was immediately explicit the impressively vast scale of the open region. Looking back now, I’m more frustrated that the above was never utilized as an alternative free breakfast area to control the crowds, having an abundance of empty seats that would be left mostly unoccupied throughout my stay.
The “garden” also functioned as the laundry area, hosting washing machines in the neighboring kitchen at the convenience of guests wishing to dry their wet clothes under the sun right after removing them from the apparatus. On the opposite side was where my oatmilk was stored, and where a microwave and water dispenser was located. It was not uncommon to see guests prepare their instant cup noodles here and watch them shove themselves back down into the overloaded lobby just to make life worse for everyone.
On the far reaching end of the “garden” was where some rarities among hostels make their home. Who would’ve thought to play a piano (or learn to play one, like I intend to… someday) during a hostel stay? And with a projector screen to play movies on, communal interests were definitely in mind. Nevertheless I found little to no purpose being around the “garden” for prolonged spans myself, for the soaring temperatures would get the better of me.
I was politely served a remaining slices of bread with peanut butter spread, upon a humble request, to accompany my oatmilk. To leave behind the disastrous havoc of a morning, I relaxed myself to the news that was being played on one of the two wall mounted televisions. Even so, it was impossible to ignore just how overly packed my surroundings were with activity that would continuously punch me out of a holiday mood.
This would be breakfast at the Bunc Hostel, take 2. I took the effort to stay up throughout the night to ensure I tackled breakfast in a serene atmosphere. It was 6:26am when the staff begin to lay out the essentials, and then I made sense and truly appreciated that breakfast time was officially just 4 minutes away. My happiness was to be threatened, however, as I witnessed the gradual seeping in of hungry guests desperate to destroy this perfect moment; heck, the sun wasn’t even out yet!
In before hell broke loose, I took the liberty to capture each and every breakfast item available on the pallet. Here we have a hostel’s popular choice of milk in stock, and my gosh do I hate this brand! A distorted version of my favorite diarrhea inducing (but oh so worth it) creamy delight, they must’ve stirred some vomit into this product while retaining just enough of the original taste just have some prankish fun and watch the world burn. Lucky me, for my oatmilk was here to save the day.
Keeping consistency to the theme of the hostel, Bunc’s cereal options were stored in these very big jars. Of course, one is not expected to lift these jars to pour oneself a serving (or more) of sugary evil. Similarly huge spoons were arranged within grasp to ease the labor. Being me, I succumbed and chose the greater of two evils.
I had incidentally picked two slices of wholemeal bread off the tray, to my contentment, only to be had with confusion as there was no more to be had thereafter, or at least I was unclear as to where the rest were laid inside. Common sense dictates that labels would resolve my nitpicky dilemma.
This picture below was taken on the earlier chaotic morning. In any case, it’s my first time ever to tinker with a flat bread toaster, where the metal grills leave their heat imprints on the surface of the bread and one has greater control to the degree of toast/burn, albeit the process is done in a more hands on manner.
To finish it off, I went ahead with the less sugary peanut butter spread to offset my choice of sweet chocolate beforehand (I’m not that much a fan of fruit jams anyways).
Don’t get me wrong; I do love myself some oatmilk, still I must admit it was an unsuitable liquid base for the cereal. Unlike your typical cow’s milk (or soy milk), the chocolaty flavor fell flat under its lack of creamy enrichment. Dipping toasted peanut buttered bread was, too, less of a joy, hence in the coming days I’d slurp it plain and delicious. Hey, at least breakfast went smoothly today, and for that I’m grateful enough.
As I returned to store my oatmilk in its rightful place, I was met with a signage informing guests of a private event that would occur later in the evening. Just a night ago, I snuck a friend into the Bunc, and he had briefly commented on his familiarity with the space; once upon a time, he attended a private event that was held in this very same space. Surely, the establishment acknowledged the multifunctional quality of its “garden”, so why it remained underutilized on the average day undoubtedly irks me.
An opportunity arose towards my entry of the second floor toilet (usually locked via keycard access). Here, I’ll demonstrate what I meant regarding the flimsiness of those shower curtains. I only ever used the chamber leaning on the furthest wall from the entrance, as its curtains pulled horizontally, from the above field of vision, in alignment with an extended wall, sheltering the wet zone in a more meticulous fashion from other chambers.
It must have been due to the wrongfully positioned installation of those oscillating fans in this toilet that exacerbated the shower curtain effect (look this up on Wikipedia if you’re unsure of this phenomenon). Those curtains could literally fly inwards such a dramatic fashion, I felt like I was constantly getting upskirted while bare bodied inside. Even during intervals of still air were attempts of shutting the curtains problematic to immunise oneself from undesired exhibition.
Now that we’re done with the messy mornings, let’s peek into some other less hectic meal options around the vicinity. The concept of chicken rice balls had a curious appeal, so at the Dickson Road coffeeshop, the Hainan Chicken Rice Ball store was to be my center of attention. Ran by one man, it would fatigue the owner tremendously given its not too shabby customer base, hence I could empathize with the store running for only half a day. While the shop did offer vanilla chicken rice, and for a dollar cheaper, that’s certainly no fun.
$4 for two chicken rice balls, a generous serving of chicken and herbal soup is quite a deal! Upon being quickly served, I made a hasty assumption that the meal was lacking in its portions of grain. Don’t let the above picture disappoint you as I was initially; much of the rice was compacted together such that slicing the spherical forms revealed its rich density. The rice was also less oily than the ordinary offering, although that did trade in for a milder aroma.
The chili was quite a lackluster; its majority watery base made for an unsatisfactory stir and uneven spread of taste. This was my first time having a chicken rice balls meal, so I could be easily disproved on this conjecture, but one way I came to rationalize on the characteristic of the chili sauce was that a thicker base poured from the upper surface of an untampered rice ball might not penetrate deep into the bottom of the mould.
I did enjoy the tender chicken pieces, laid above a dark colored sauce (I think it’s of soy base…) coating the plate’s lower surface. Perhaps I do have a taste for the salty, as was the enriching herbal soup that would otherwise possess a healthy semblance. These additional dishes made up fairly for its weaker rice component in the aroma department, but I have to confess there was something inexplicably gratifying about munching on those balls.
So I followed up the next afternoon with a $5 course, with several swappings in ingredients I shall not attempt to identify outside of char siew because I’m hopeless just like that. Speaking of char siew, I would have loved to praise on its unapologetic softness (and fattiness), for it not having gone overboard; the char siew was of jelly quality. I was also irked by the bone filled meat serving (I think it’s still chicken), which to my dismay was of poorer texture.
Even with this chewy little addition to the soup, which substantiated to a laudable proportional upsizing from my first of the two lunch visits, I would heartily recommend the cheaper $4 item on the menu to save your money and go for quality should you ever consider stopping over.
So what did I do during most of my time in the Bunc Hostel, when I wasn’t outside, eating, bathing or sleeping? Remember how nice that table installation was in the room at my bedside? I was just thinking I could have a nice internet session on my laptop while I sandwiched myself in between irresistible pillows and a blanket of luxury… Nope! Never happened for the whole week! The Bunc performed the ultimate cockblock with its utterly incorrigible and unusable Wi-Fi (especially in the room!), so forget about functioning like a normal human being while you’re here and be an eye bag sagging owl like me.
Due to waves of lobby mobs that persisted throughout the waking hours, traffic on the guest Wi-Fi would only subside once the coast was clear. The above picture was of an 11pm scene, where inside three of the six lobby desktop computers were still swarmed with these data stealing minions, not including the other leeches stubbornly awake in proximity (including myself). Strangely, these desktop computer had no trouble surfing irregardless of the hordes. Maybe all six of them were connected to the staff dedicated network, although I saw a pretty consistent relationship between their rigorous usages and my inability to access the Wi-Fi… or maybe it’s confirmation bias on my part.
On one of my mornings, I pondered on the possibility that the “gardens” might have a stronger receptivity, though lingering outside in and of itself had significant prices to be paid. Beyond the heat, it was surprisingly sparse of electrical sockets to be had; there was no measure by which I could plug my charging cable from where the laptop in this picture was. Anyways it was a dud; the Wi-Fi connectivity got even less reliable. I therefore conclude that the Bunc only grants its Wi-Fi from 2am-7am (I’m not kidding).
In light of such misery, the hostel did facilitate two fancy vending machines, to which one sold vitamin water. It also blasted twin powerhouses of air conditioning from the ceiling above the breakfast table zone, hence I was perpetually desperate for a warmth most pleasurably to be had from this red machine. For $0.70 per night, I entitled myself to a hot chocolate companion to lead me through those freezing times.
Sleeping hours were the most conducive durations to engage in socially awkward behaviour, such as taking photos of the trash bin. In all seriousness, I’ve never seen recycling bins from hostels anywhere else from here, and for practical reasons. As expected, the bins barely received much mileage; most of the rubbish still went into the dump. If not for the abundance of space, I bet this might-as-well-be-a-decoration corner would’ve been scrapped by the establishment for better use (*hint* better positioned lobby sockets *hint*).
For reasons that by now should be apparent, I felt I was on a getaway when I was out of my hostel rather than when I was in. On this evening, I was out nearby for my third chicken rice meal of the week, and with a friend! This was a nostalgic move on my account; in my earlier days, I would occasionally patronize this store for its location and affordability.
Since then, Sing Ho Hainan Chicken Rice has hiked its asking fee by a dollar for a regular plate of chicken rice, tallying up to a hefty $4, considering its pitifully meagre quantity. My, was my companion furious over how unwilling he was to separate money from his wallet to experience such a bummer! As of writing this paragraph, he texted me to “write as bad as you can”.
Not following through with his advice, I really didn’t think of it as that much of a negative experience as it was more a reminder not to make decisions based upon nostalgic impulses. Not unlike how I remembered, oiliness was taken rather terribly to an extreme at this outlet, which went uncompensated with its immemorable taste. Immemorable summarizes the general motif of all its constituents, from the chicken itself, to the sauces and the soup. Ironic, considering how I made my way here based on fond memories. Nevertheless, $4 is as cheap as it gets around that side of town.
But how was I to burn a hole in my wallet for the quota of today’s entry without unnecessarily involving the spiking of our sugar levels? The nextdoor Density Frozen Custard got itself some tricks up its sleeves to appease my unhappy companion, and one surefire method was of a peaceful and quiet ambience, away from the fuss and buzz… Just up his alley. This was the highlight of our night, as trailing an acquaintance’s recommendation.
For $12 (not such a big hole after all), we shared a pair of frozen custards, flavored from left to right a black sesame and vanilla scoop. Dribbled with stripes of hot fudge sauce and sugar stacked over an underlying waffle, you’d have no soul to say no to this beautiful work of art! The waffle was actually of a top notched grade, and as my acquaintance would put it, it was of a crusty exterior yet softer inner side. Having built an already sturdy foundation, the creamy ice creams further spawned a devastating combo; even in melting, liquid cream flowed to fill the recesses on the surface of the waffle, allowing us to savor each and every bite in ecstasy.
We made quick work of our final treat, that’s for certain.
Over the past days, I caught myself frequently strolling through this alleyway on my way to my destinations, as if it was a daily routine. Nearing the day of checking out, I found an appreciation for the stacking of near and distant buildings, subtly manufacturing a maze like construction of the environment. The iconic Sim Lim Square logo is visible from this angle when the sky goes dark, hence in this manner the perspective felt almost choreographed. Getting back on track, I couldn’t complete another Little India hostel entry without an ode to the renowned Tekka Centre!
It was about 2:30pm, to which I did not anticipate any fresh produce shops to remain open for business. Dearly spoilt for choice, I settled myself on Allauddin’s Briyani, whose reputation precedes itself. Laboring under the brand were two stalls approximately across each other, and I was promptly referred to the correct sector by an assistant for my requested order. This was the best service by an Indian establishment in my recent months, and within seconds logistics went straight out the door.
I knew my hunger troubles were over at a glance; just look at that sizing! $5 for potentially two thirds a day’s worth of stomach reassurance is more than I could ask for. Its drawbacks, however, became exceedingly obvious as a result, for its primarily composition was indeed of its colored rice, which by itself was nothing to write home about. Naturally, curry did its wonders to mask the flaw. The supplementary in-bowl curry had a greater tinge of potato-ness compared to the one already mixed into the grain, so there’s a little variation to the addictive spice. Last but not least, the accompanying mutton (there’s also a choice chicken or lamb) and vegetables tied all loose ends, and I walked out of Tekka Centre a happy kid.
Up till this point, I suppose I had given insufficient credit to members of the Bunc Hostel, who diligently grind through behind the scenes to offer its services 24 hours a day. Unlike most hostels and their blatantly false claims, the Bunc was the one and only keeping true to their overnight desk duties, and there was always one personnel present for inquiries, or even to check out at the oddest hours.
But no, I shall not deliberately bring this entry to a closure on a farce of artificial positivity. From the get go, the Bunc Hostel and its ample space was latent with opportunities, possibilities and solutions that were ultimately laid to waste. Much of its appeal struck style over substance, as was with the exemplary decor above. Such was its approach, luring swarms of unwary travellers into its living quarters with nay a plan to manage for a quality experience per guest. I cannot recommend to book a bed here until the overcrowding and Wi-Fi problems are addressed. For your information, the check in timing is after 3pm (be prepared to queue up if you do come early).
15 Upper Weld Road
Hainan Chicken Rice Ball
3 Dickson Road
Sing Ho Hainan Chicken Rice
270 Middle Road
Density Frozen Custard
4 Short Sreet
665 Buffalo Road, #01-229