Late Happy New Year to all folks, and a new entry to start the year! This festive season led to a spike in hostel prices such that I would narrow my sights on the only reasonable option: Meadows Hostel. It’s a hostel that I have had mellow expectations of, but had gradually became fond of throughout my week’s stay. For an average of $18 a night (including GST and taxes, booked via hotels.com), one might question a description of this establishment to be budget oriented.
To begin with, I was surely not greeted with a sensation of warmth as I marched upwards through the tight staircase, which spans four levels, or three if we exclude the ground floor encompassing only the entrance of the stairway. Compare any hostel in previous entries to the current and this would prove to be by far the least aesthetically grandeur welcome. Nonetheless, a sensation of cool air could be felt as I neared the entrance of the hostel reception, signalling a strongly facilitated air conditioning space within.
It was upon entry that I was reassured of said signals, along with visual cue of a very cleanly space. The above is a capture of my first peek into the interior reception on the second floor, which despite having sinks installed in an offensive line of sight from the counter, prove to already impress from a standpoint of low anticipation. Minimalistic and humble are two words that articulate my first impressions.
At the counter, I was greeted by a seated staff who would tend to my check in at all times with a smile. She explained the usual details pertaining to the operations of the hostel, such as the breakfast, check out and 24 hour reception before also mentioning a promotion. A promotion? That’s a first hearing in a hostel for myself. Essentially, one would earn a $10 voucher after giving a like and review on Facebook which can then be used to offset the price of a subsequent stay, or for a free cycle of laundry, or for a late checkout, or for one free drink. A great deal! And hardly a “shove into your face” sort of selfish promotion (looking at you, Sleepy Kiwi Wi-Fi).
Soon after, the receptionist collected the necessary beddings and led me through the showing procedure. As all interior spaces within Meadows, excluding the common stairwell, were no shoes zones, my shoes, prior to checking in, were already slotted along one of the many shoe racks neatly arranged along the walls. That said, even the shoes friendly ground was clear of any speckle of dirt, hence I was comfortable enough to leave my shoes behind while barefooted to follow the lady upwards towards my designated bedspace.
My room was located on the third storey, where upon entry a visually barebones living space would come to sight. When the lights were shut, natural light did a rather lackluster job to illuminate the space. It was a stark contrast from the bright reception counter I had just exited from, although the lights could always be switched on manually by guests to their preferences.
Things did take a short but sharp downwards turn when I was met with my allocated room. Unlike the simplistic and orderly nature of the lobby area, the already narrow passageway in the room was further chugged with the luggage bags of in house guests, entirely obstructing the bunk bed ladder up my allotted bed. The lady staff struggled herself to lay out my beddings above; soon after it was my turn to endure the spacial constraints for the next seven days.
Over the week, I would despise the tedious up and down maneuver on the ladder. In the picture above lies flatly a luggage case built with what felt to be a fragile plastic material. Somehow, the bane was on me to prevent myself from breaking the case each time I took my steps down from the ladder. It was a obstacle course testing my balance, endurance, and most frustratingly my patience; getting off the bed in the morning just got harder on a new level.
But why are such a numerous number of luggage bags cramming the walking space in the room in the first place? Are there not dedicated locker spaces for guests to fill? In fact, for a $10 deposit, one is entitled to a key accessing one of these built in wide sliding drawers. Sadly, my backpack proved a tad too thick to and my folded scooter too long to utilize this mechanism. In conjunction with a lack of floor space to even open the drawer half the time, this otherwise generous compartment was mostly left to waste.
Alas I’ve yet to get to the crux of this hostel. What makes the price of $18 a night such a “budget” deal? If you haven’t figured it out, it’s a full fledged capsule hostel, and my very first (the Bunc Hostel does not count)! These beds also happens to be the cheapest capsule deals you could find in Singapore, if I dare say so myself. Of course, you do get what you pay for, as it has been demonstrated with the elaborated scenarios above.
This is why I found myself impressed relative to my expectations, for they were indeed rock bottom up till this point. I mean, how could anyone ever deny having two pillows instead of one? To call this a pleasant surprise is a big understatement. Together with the fluffies, we would prepare ourselves for a week’s worth of snuggling and loving. As an added bonus (and a huge one for some), towels were provided free of charge, eliminating the standard hostel procedure of paid towel rental, although that does come with a risk of $20 if one should lose the property.
And we’re back at night! As a capsule virgin, I appreciated the walls that segmented each bed space such that not only was my own privacy upkept, but any forms of illuminations within my own capsule would barely, if at all, interfere with that of others. I felt liberated to turn on my private light at any given time of the day, or night in this circumstance as the room was pitch black. Said walls were, unfortunately, made of poor quality, and would emit a hollow wooden sound upon even the slightest impact. Aggravating what would’ve been a lesser issue was the miniscule width of the bed frame which left me little to no room to roll around as I rested my body, lest I knocked my body against the walls to the rude awakening of my neighbor.
The next morning, I awoke to your usual palette of a hostels’ typical, except we’ve got some eggs in the house! But what to do with them was of another dilemma. Sure, I’ve learnt the art of microwaved scrambled eggs and the like, but to my ultimate dismay, it seems Meadows might have had their own share of messy incidents in their history to warrant a regulation as on display below (just a speculation).
Which was quite the teaser, mind you, as one would be tempted by the presence of salt in their list of powdered food items. In a state of undeserved confusion, I would admittedly neglect the first meal over the course of the weekends; I had merely treated myself to peanut butter smeared on a pair of white bread on one occasion, although they do serve alternatives such as apple jam and margarine. Big mistake, as was revealed as I chanced upon an elaborate conversation with a staff whom I presume to be the manager of this hostel.
Apparently I had totally blew my hide as an undercover spy with my excessive and obnoxious photo snapping of toilet bowls, and it seemed he was close to gifting me a form of monetary bribe *ahem* concession to tilt my perception of his establishment towards a better light. Of course, I immediately thought of it unnecessary when he uttered the words “eggs” and “hard boiled” in one sentence together. All along, I fell blind to the treasure laid out right in front of me… But I find solace knowing I was not the only one, for if otherwise there wouldn’t be those dozens of leftover eggs in the late mornings. Perhaps more should be done to lift said blindness amongst aplenty?
As a consequence of my willful disinterest past the weekends, I ate a second pie full of regretful as I was led to an awareness of additional breakfast offerings on none other than said weekends! One might be unimpressed with mere cereal, milk and orange juice being thrown into the mix under the guise of being “bonuses”, but it correlates to the hostel’s ability to retain cheap accommodation fees with the reduced cost, as reflected through (my) daily rates; the weekdays alone would meet the average of $16.95 a night, whereas weekends were priced at $19.40.
Being a small hostel did not bar Meadows from an excellent management of crowd control (see Bunc Hostel crowd management). I was also unaware of a secondary location to which an identical array of sweets and savories would be served for the same period. Once again, the manager was kind enough of inform me of my ignorance. Diagonally across the reception desk lies a tiny outdoor corner, conveniently situated to quell the morning grumbles of folk living in rooms on the second floor. To this, I do acknowledge I never dug too deep into the operations of said reception floor, because I never needed to.
As is the nature of budget hostels, a majority of Meadows’ clients seem polar opposites from what you and I may come to expect of the backpacker’s imagery. I could probably list the numerical of my encounters with western caucasian guests in totality under one hand for it almost seems my housemates were exclusively Indians, residing here either for their studies or to work. It’s not that it was uncommon to witness their usage of these desktops stationed only under the living quarters of the third storey, but a good sum of them would own a personal laptop anyways. Most travellers here simply do not demand a comprehensive lobby (unlike myself), hence the baseline functionality of both storeys, from water dispensers to all day air conditioning, sufficed to spare the toil of vertical movement between said storeys.
But I have to meet the entry’s mandated assholery quota of today, so here goes: there’s not much in the realm of plug sockets to go about here. What you see in the two images above is all you get, hence I was always incentivized to seat myself across and facing the red sofa to the proximity of the only wall hosting the power source to my laptop. Even so, the lobby has a sole coffee table, the underwhelming size of which struggles over the widths of two laptops. A one seater peach sofa chair leaned right next to the red, and to stretch a shared usage of said table amongst all seats was a physical impossibility.
And not the b… I mean flies! Despite high standards in overall hostel cleanliness, these freaks of nature never failed to plague my everyday lobby sessions. Their favorite hotspot happened to be on the very surface where my laptop would sit tightly upon. I mean of all places imaginable, the pests have dictated the empty white surface void of anything interesting to be their best pal? C’mon…
There’s not much to go about in terms of the vibes, as much as the pictures do tell, lest one uses the power of imagination. The scene of a setting sun over the lobby’s dishwashing sink windows somehow inspired me to the description of said vibe: it’s like living in an unfurnished city apartment of a couch potato friend and his parents. Yet under this context, there’s a tad of immersion as one may come to appreciate throughout the course of an extended stay. On one of my nights, I returned “home” past 11pm to the scene of an old lady tuned to the news on television, not long before a housemate hastily took to ironing his work attire. A cliche representation of the hustle and bustle of a working family and their elderly, don’t you think?
They took the ugliest aspect of the second floor and replicated it on the third. It’s hardly disheartening, considering there’s nothing beautiful left to savor anyways (quota met). Functionally however, Meadows delivered consistently even when stacked against the busiest of nights. Never did I once queue to access any of the three serviceable sinks, or four if we include the dishwashing sink. I don’t remember staring at any accumulation of grime or dirt around the flange, a testament to a successful housekeeping routine.
I’m happy to report that said housekeeping routine extended graciously towards all havens of daily and nightly rituals: the toilets. Both the second and third storeys mirror one another, each with two and two flush toilets and shower rooms respectively. While not quite the spectacle, the enclosed closets achieves a level of privacy akin to that of what we would find in that of Bed and Dreams, yet in a much more spacious dimensions. Exhaust fans expulsed the stillness of air within these hardy walls, rendering any potential of repulsive odors obsolete.
It reflects upon a puzzling state when one breathes a sigh of relief in the presence of a shower rack, but you’d be surprised by the many times in my patronage of hostels where a question like “so where do I put my shampoo?” begets in the shower rooms. The hostel also arms said rooms with a convenient six hooked clothing rack because why not? On the downside, I did find the temperature of even the highest water heater settings to be rather underwhelming on occasion, and some nights I was just as stripped of warmth as the spaces were of any ambience.
To an otherwise excellent catering of the nasty business, I had full confidence towards the thorough maintenance of aforementioned facilities throughout my stay. Such convictions were heavily instilled under the insurance of help signs such as in the above picture, to which I never seized an opportunity to abuse in recognition of the always persisting top notched conditions. I’d add brownie points for the reassurance and the peace of mind it brought.
Considering the proximity of Meadows from some very bustling hotspots, I much observed a relative peace on Hamilton road, which is sandwiched between an alluring combination of old hardware shops and hippy cafes disguising themselves as the former. For instance, I could never guess at a glance that a store entrance “Chye Seng Huat Hardware” would so convincingly conceal a contemporary coffee-oriented cafe. Lunch time crowds would yet typically reside within these private establishments more so than on the public infrastructure, and only a moderate traffic and Broadway Food Court represents the immediately visible activity from Hamilton.
Of course, being situated within a series of Jalan Besar hostels, food and beverages is far from a cafe’s conquest. The hawker styled Cheng Mun Chee Kee Pig Organ Soup is one of favorite, if not my favorite stall to have a delectable meal in this region, and it helps that their doors remain open past midnight, catering to night owls like myself having their dinners at ridiculous hours. Even in conversations with backpackers, Cheng Mun Chee Kee sits comfortably in my list of must trys.
I was never actually a huge fan of the pig organ soup dish in my youth, and until today I would likewise demonstrate hesitance when approaching said dish of a new origin. That said, I have let my guard down with this store as it attests to deliver quality taste every time. The general fear surrounding a dish like this revolves around “that stink” or “yucky spare parts”. Along with my strong contentions against the organs kidney and liver, such concerns with distastefulness were absent here. For this night, I ordered my usual big bowl of soup with a pairing of rice, amounting to a justified $6.60.
The service provided here is characteristically stereotypical of Chinese eateries, but this night I had merely took a seat at my designated table seconds before the food was ready to serve. Some customers have commented about sharing the above bowl for one between two, highlighting the benevolence of the portioning. I tend to smear about four fifths of the above chili into the rice bowl, shortly then spilling the remainder into the soup for that warm spicy tinge. That ain’t enough of course; I follow it up with a massive downpour of pepper into the broth, and a good stir. Either way, the flavorful soup is the definition of life’s greatest pleasures!
Given the variety of ingredients, one is bound to have a preference of a selected few. The balance of all ingredients satiates my tastebuds, but if I had to pick, the lean meat, belly, preserved vegetables and especially tofu would tackle all my right spots. There’s just something about the mellow taste of the tofu that gives way for the superb aroma of the soup to shine. In fact, that could be said for all the listed meat items, each featuring varying degrees of chewiness to savor. In midst of all that richness, each bite of preserved vegetables acts to equalize what may alternatively come off as overwhelming.
I suspect it’s one of those dishes that would never find a universal appeal, although I feel deeply compelled to tilt more minds in its favor, just as it did significantly to myself. I do still think that the kidney and liver organs are abhorrent disasters in and off themselves, but in this context I never shyed to appreciate them for what they offered: a complement to the overall experience. If you hate the pig organ soup dish with a grudge just like I did, I urge to give Cheng Mun Chee Kee a chance if you haven’t already.
But back to the topic of Meadows itself. At the start of this post, I had briefly mentioned the four levels to which the hostel encompasses, but have since provided no further details regarding the state of the top level. It was in fact much earlier in my stay that curiosity brought me to the rooftop terrace. At a glance, the green carpeting was a refreshing burst of color from the white and bland interiors of the lower floors. Yet it seems there’s a disturbing trend of voidness in the functionality of hostel open rooftops, as one can trace back at Bed and Dreams.
Prior woes have been completely mirrored from said hostel, with an upsetting lack of plug sockets to be found anywhere. Okay, but maybe one could just light a cigarette here? Nope! The space has been deliberately labelled as a non-smoking zone, rendering little to no utility and naught of reason to ever visit the fourth storey a second time. In summary, a space does not become functional simply by putting tables and chairs in it. But let’s end this entry on a brighter note.
Breakfast take 2! On the morning of check out, I sought a change of environment from the cold atmosphere of the third level to consume my first meal of the day, and the last in Meadows. Perhaps it was an oversight from the management on the previous days, but along with all previously available items, here I noted an additional choice of pineapple jam: not my cup of tea. Nevertheless I succumbed to an irresistible craving for the sweet, opting for four slices of toast bountifully coated in blueberry jam (that’s my own store bought milk by the way).
Also, my egg is more beautiful today.
And it’s time to go again. All in all, Meadows Hostel hosts clean and well maintained beds and facilities while selling them at the lowest price possible in relative to premium prices paid for the privacy of capsule beds. Much more could be said about the great staff, who were always in a good mood while at work and to please. For example, the staff at the counter as I was checked out was kind enough to assist me in informally scheduling a future date when I could return to engage in more obnoxious photo snappings of the interiors, just for this blog! Furthermore, the management had also offered to set up their weekend breakfast package for one weekday to my benefit, but I’d have to be absolutely shameless to accept such a one sided deal.
I, too, regret to have lost track of the several upcoming promotions in their plans over the next couple of months to which I was granted a listen over. Let’s just say the word “free” propped up once or twice. For a team so eager to win our hearts, I truly wish them all the best for the year 2017 and beyond! The check in timing is after 2pm.
7A Hamilton Road
Cheng Mun Chee Kee Pig Organ Soup
24 Foch Road