Good night, sleep tight…

Oldie But No Goodie
When I first checked into Red Dragon Hostel on Jalan Sultan in Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown district something didn’t feel right. I had spent a good week and a half in a very basic but acceptable room when I was here last but now it seems as though management has let things go. The shared bathrooms are no longer kept up and the rooms are beginning to fall apart. The common area now has free WiFi and an extra television but this wasn’t enough to keep me loyal. If bathrooms are shared, then cleanliness is paramount to just about everything else.

Checkout Time
I checked out the following morning, disappointed that I couldn’t rekindle the experience from four years ago. Chinatown is jam-packed with guest houses and mid-ranged hotels so I figured it wouldn’t be too difficult to find something. My first choice was a new guest house that just popped up called Monkey Inn that is apparently spotless and sufficient. This was full for the day. My second stop was a backpacker’s staple in the area named straightforwardly enough, Backpackers Travellers Inn. I checked out a room here and it wasn’t much of a step up from my original choice.

Grocer’s Inn
Just one building down from Backpackers Inn was a rundown colonial Malaysian building with a sign pointing down a back alley. I figured I’d give it a shot so I walked in and was met by friendly staff offering a room on the second floor with a/c, Free WiFi and a shared bathroom for 45RM ($15) The room was very simple but there was natural light coming in and the bathrooms were very clean, so I took it. There was also a really cool rooftop lounge that overlooked Chinatown as well as a decent view of the KL Tower in the background. I was settled in and paid for two nights right from the start then spent the afternoon and evening near the Petronas Towers waiting for nightfall so I could take some photos.

The Warning Signs
I returned early but spent some time on the rooftop uploading photos and writing. I finally retired to my bedroom where I watched some shows and surfed the net before coming up with the genius idea that would be the beginning of two rather sleepless nights. I decided to look up reviews on the hotel I was currently staying at, just for the fun of it. I hadn’t read about it in any guidebook so I knew nothing about it previously. What harm could be done?

Subject of from the first six reviews:

Review #1: DISGUSTING! BED BUGS!
Review #2: Yep, People weren’t lying about the bed bugs.
Review #3: Bed bugs are still out in force
Review #4: Bed bugs and bad staff!
Review #5: BED BUGS BED BUGS BED BUGS
Review #6 Bedbugs and used condoms

Review’s 1-6, all about bed bugs. I immediately started to itch. I’ve spend a good amount of time overseas and never encountered bed bugs and the grim reality that I may have found myself in the bed bug motel settled in. I wasn’t sure what to do so I started reading about bed bugs in more detail. Everything I read made the situation worse. For travelers, bed bugs can be a curse. Not only do they bite, which is not the biggest problem, but once you are infested they generally hitch rides and follow you until you completely exterminate them. There are stories of backpackers bringing them home with them from travel and infesting their homes. It seems like NYC recently had a big problem with them. I studied some pictures of them so I would know what to look for. I figured, since I hadn’t seen any yet there was no reason to panic so I cracked open a small bottle of whiskey I had purchased, took a few gulps from it and wrapped myself up in my clothes. Complete with socks tucked into my pants, long sleeve shirt and a buff around my neck.

I didn’t sleep well the first night because of the research I had just done on bed bugs. I ended up taking a nap later in the day and then went out to meet a Malaysian girl from Couch Surfing who took me to a really nice Malay restaurant outside of the city center. We spent several hours chatting and she dropped me off back at Grocer’s Inn.

Second Night
It was a nice evening that I wish stayed that way but I decided to grab a couple of beers from the grocery store below and listen to some music on my laptop in my room. From the corner of my eye I catch a small black dot coming up from the side of the bed onto my sheets. I did a double-take like in TV shows. I literally let out a sigh and said, UGH. It was immediately apparent what it was. A rather large, red bed bug. The red color is important to note because red means it already has blood inside it since they are transparent. And, since humans are the only source of blood for bed bugs, it was clear that I was probably already a victim of this one.

I did some more research on the possibilities of there being only one bed bug and not having an infestation. I made the decision to get my head lamp out and make a full inspection of my mattress, pillow and headboard. It came out clean. I couldn’t find anymore. I was ready to do the same thing I did the first night and just suck it up with some whiskey to take the edge off. I’m not incredibly afraid of bugs, spiders bother me but in general if I can’t see bugs I’m OK with it. The prospect of a bed bug infestation was what made this difficult.

Just as I was about to lay down I saw a really tiny dot zig zagging up the wall next to my bed. It was a baby. Moments later, another one crawling near my pillow. Three bed bugs now. At what point does someone just say, enough is enough? This was my point! I immediately started packing up my bag. It was already 2:30am and I threw everything in my pack and headed out the door. I gave the receptionist my key and didn’t tell him why I was leaving. A lot of the reviews I read about Grocer’s Inn were from 2005 and before so I figured I’d give it a chance. It is obviously though, that management doesn’t care about the bed bug problems if they are still persisting in 2011. Why even bother telling them?

I went back to my original hostel, Red Dragon, but they were full for the night, as are most budget places at 2:30 in the morning. I went down to a mid-ranged hotel and checked in for the night. It was significantly more expensive but offered a nice hot steamy shower for me to take to get over the itchiness from bed bug sightings. I only spent one night in the hotel and checked out in the morning in search of another bed. My two main goals for today was to find a cheap but nice room with a clean bed and then do all of my laundry in case some bugs ended up in my clothes.

Etika Inn
In a fortunate turn of events, I didn’t have to look too far. Right next door to Grocer’s Inn was a much newer looking building with a glass door leading up a clean staircase to a guest house called Etika’s Inn. It was obviously recently open as the tiling was brand new and the walls spotless. I asked to see a room and the bed was immaculate. The bathroom was tiny with the shower directly over the toilet but it was private. I found my home. I booked the first night only and settled in. I haven’t moved my bag anywhere near my bed yet. All of my clothes have been washed except what I had on yesterday, which I’ll do tomorrow while I wear another outfit. When I take my next shower I need to leave my bag in there afterwards so that the steam fills it up and hopefully kills any bed bugs that may have tried hitching a ride. There is no evidence that I have been infested but there is no use in taking any risks. Tonight I will not let the bed bugs bite!

Lalibela

I have just arrived in Lalibela. I can’t type much because internet connection is ridiculously expensive here. I just wanted to update that I am safe and have arrived. I will be taking a very long 2 day bus journey south back to Addis Ababa on Monday. I am not looking forward to it. I have come down with a soar throat, it was very cold last night. I also have seem to sleep in a bed last night that had some bed bugs because I have bites all over my feet.

Time to go eat some lunch and check out Lalibela.