HIGH-RANKED HOSTEL IN AFFORDABLE RATE
Knowing that capsule hotels in Kyoto are more expensive than those in Tokyo, I decided to stay in The Lower East Nine Hostel. If I could save about $50 for 2 nights compared to capsule hotels (in Kyoto), why not?
I tried my best to control our budget on where to save and splurge. I’d rather splurge (affordably) for a mountain view hotel like Mizuno Hotel in Mt. Fuji for the next trip.
Moreover, The Lower East Nine Hostel was (and still is) rated 9.3 out of 10. It was said on Booking.com that it’s in a good location close to the station, best price in Kyoto, clean and tidy, staffs are friendly and speak good English. Hell yes, the latter is rather hard to find!
For a $65 room per night, those reviews sounded perfect. Minor complaints, such as small beds, crowded, noisy and small lockers were something I didn’t sweat that much. It’s a backpacker’s type of accommodation, not a 4 or 5 star hotel, so what do you expect? I assume that I would get about the same experience as staying in a capsule hotel.
The female dorm was fully booked, unfortunately. The only choice left was a mixed dorm with 8 bunk beds, which was a bit out of my comfort zone, but I think it should be okay. I mean, there wouldn’t be a gang rape or something, right?
THE COOLEST LOBBY EVER!
Situated a stone’s throw away from Kujo Station, one stop from Kyoto Station, the 2-storey building hostel façade looked impressively clean and modern with its pure white wall and large windows. Unless there’s a “hostel” word, it would be like a hip cafe bar.
The lobby was actually a cafe and bar that belongs to the hostel. The idea of combining a reception, a bar and a cashier was brilliant, as it saves a lot space and employees. You won’t think it’s a lobby unless someone tells you so.
The modern and minimalist interior somehow reminds me of a show unit in IKEA stores and I loved it! It was a cozy place to chill out, accompanied with soothing lounge music and modern jazz instrumental played all day long.
I noticed there were quite a lot of customers, who were not hostel guests, came only for a cup of coffee and free Wi-Fi.
In fact, only customers are allowed to seat at the lounge. Hostel guests bringing their own food, aka who don’t purchase anything, are “shifted” to the dining room and kitchen upstairs.
Initially wanted to have a hot chocolate, I finally ordered matcha latte (powdered green tea latte), as suggested by the barista, just to experience the lounge in my last day of stay.
Forget about the idea of overpriced, crappy and touristy taste of hotel food and drinks for a while. The rates at The Lower East Nine Cafe & Bar were relatively reasonable. My matcha latte cost me ¥350 ($3). The green tea taste was pretty strong, toned down with fresh milk and a little bit of sugar to elevate the bittersweet flavour of the concoction. It was the kind of bittersweet that I loved so much.
SPACIOUS KITCHEN AND DINING ROOM
Having collected our access card and sandals, we were amazed by the spacious kitchen and dining room on the first floor with complete facilities, from kitchen utensils, microwave, toaster, fridge, water boiler, cutlery until dinnerware. There were lot of seats available, including coffee table with huge sofas. My favourite spot was the one by window, facing the outside world.
No question about the cleanliness of all the facilities and the Wi-Fi connection. They were perfect!
ROOM FACILITIES: A ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENTS
We were glad that the rooms, toilets and bathrooms were as clean as the rest of the facilities. And washing machines were available, too.
Nonetheless, we started to feel why we missed our capsule hotel in Tokyo so much (I’ll discuss about this in the future post) after staying for 2 nights. Here’s why:
- NO LUGGAGE STORAGE IN ROOMS
It’s a contradiction that there was no luggage storage on the first floor, where all the rooms were located. The luggage storage at the lobby downstairs is the only official place to put it.
It’s still possible to put your luggage inside the room; either under the bed, on the corner of the room, or lean it on the wall. Unless there’s a space left, you can put it in the alley as well. Therefore, I never advice anyone to bring a large suitcase if you stay in this hostel.
I was so lucky that I only had a backpack during my stay.
Remember, the hostel had no elevator as it was only a two-storey-building.
- LOCKERS TOO SMALL
The lockers outside the room were too small, as their maximum capacity was only for handbags and 2 pairs of shoes. There was one larger locker next to the small ones, but it was occupied. Even so, the large locker didn’t fit for bigger suitcases.
Actually, the solution for this issue is just around the corner. Converting about one-fourth of the dining room into a luggage storage totally ends the misery. I think the room is way too big just for a dining room that some of its space can be altered for other purposes.
- NO SHOE LOCKERS
Shoes were allowed to be kept inside the room. There was no designated area to keep them apart to maintain the floor cleanliness. Some guests put them under the bed, along with suitcases.
Indeed, there were lockers outside, but there was no house rules defining what they stand for. So, everybody can have their own way of using them. We used lockers to put our shoes.
At a glance, it seems like a piece of cake. Nevertheless, it may create discomfort for certain people. For instance, my friend, who occupied the lower deck, couldn’t sleep well because of someone’s shoe odour.
Again, I was lucky because I slept on the upper deck and a bag of muffin was next to me. I smelled the yummy strawberry muffin during the night instead of shoe odour!
- DOOR SLAMS EASILY AND LOUD
The sound of closing door was pretty loud, unless somebody holds it with his or her body before it finally slams. Noises outside the room could also be heard easily. Footsteps, chattering crowds, pouring water, you name it.
Lucky me. I’m not very sensitive to noise and I brought spare earplugs, too.
- LIMITED AMOUNT OF BATHROOMS
They should provide more bathrooms, so there’s no need to be in line for long just to cleanse yourself. In my experience, they were busy at midnight and empty after 9 am (because either a lot of guests already checked out or began to explore the city).
A GREAT HOSTEL FOR WHOM?
Although I can adapt easily with new places, I don’t sweat small stuffs that don’t affect me much (I mean, look at the price!), The Lower East Nine Hostel is not my ideal place to stay.
I’m not saying that it’s a bad hostel, as it is clean, has well-provided basic amenities, great location and all staffs are helpful and speak English well.
However, I personally would probably come back just for lounging, not for an overnight stay. Apparently, high rating and positive testimonials don’t always fit all. As they don’t fit me this time.
If you have a real backpacker’s soul, a strictly budget-oriented traveller who completely ready to face all the consequences, have been staying in much worse places before, not sensitive to noise, smell and cramped spaces, and travel light, this hostel is the right place for you.
And what you can do after reading my review, aka complaints, is just ignore them and have a pleasant stay.