Retro Review – Bell Tower Youth Hostel, Xi’an, China

Hey all and welcome to another ‘Retro Review’ looking back at a memorable stay at some place I stayed at back in the day. And today I’m going back to my time in Xi’an, China, a place I really liked and is one of my favourite cities in said country. I mean, I haven’t visited a lot of China to be completely honest, but alongside Yangshuo and the surrounding area, Xi’an was one of my favourite destinations. It is the spot to stay in a visit to the Army of the Terracotta Warriors, but on top of that it’s also a great city with a huge wall around it which I bicycled around (on top of the wall!). What other highlights? Well, temples, fountains, some rather amusing signs that didn’t quite nail English, and this bell tower.

And this bell tower, near the wall, has a couple of places to stay facing it on different sides. One is the Bell Tower Hotel, which is a fairly fancy hotel to one side. And sort of diagonally opposite, across the square with the bell tower in the middle is the Bell Tower Youth Hostel, a Hostelling International listed hostel which is in a big building containing both dorm rooms and private rooms for the visitor.

The cost back in 2011 for my room – a single which included a bathroom, TV and fridge, was 150 Yuan, which is around $30AUD, or maybe $23USD. Today it’s more expensive I think, looking online that’s around the price for a bed in a dorm room. But I have to say, for a single to get it for the sort of price is really good value. And my room was on the corner opposite the bell tower which was nice. It was a long building and reception I remember as being at the other end of the hostel, a long way from my room. And it was pretty pokey too.

However, as you will see, I didn’t end up rating it very highly. And the reason was mostly noise and it wasn’t very clean. But it was an experience and looking back over what I wrote about it I was surprised to find it rated so low. Because what I remember was basically a 2 star possibly more hotel room for a very good price in a great location. (In 2011 I wasn’t using location as a ratings filter, but I have included it for the purposes of this review)

It was a place that was aimed at the younger crowd – well, it calls itself a ‘Youth Hostel’ so I suppose it would but a lot of youth hostels around the world actually can be all right for those who are not 25 and under. I was 35 at the time I think, so I was out of the core demographic but I can imagine the place is not what you find in Aussie hostels for examples with options for families, great cooking facilities and kitchens and the like.

There are a number of common areas there, and at least when I was there they were a bit like rooms in student share houses, with cheap furniture and writing all over the walls and a distinct smell of cigarettes which was pretty common through the entire hostel if I’m too be honest. And there was a bar/restaurant downstairs where I did a lot of my diary writing and grabbed a couple of meals that was certainly not for those who can’t stand cigarette smoked. Actually the main memory I have seems to be of cigarette smoke!

And a lot of young locals hung out at the bar. And there was a lot of domestic travellers staying at the hostel, when I would walk down the long corridors the dorm rooms were open and there was a lot of washing hanging out to dry. And everyone was young pretty much. What can I say? And there’s nothing wrong with that.

The building itself was certainly oldish. I would say predating Communism in China, but I’m only guessing. In some ways it was like a giant squatters residence, although in fairness that makes it sound like some sort of dangerous den and it wasn’t that. It seemed to be filled with groups of people travelling or perhaps living there, but there wasn’t a sense of connectedness between people staying there and people outside their immediate circle, like what often happens in hostels. The place I stayed in Shanghai actually was great as people chatted and hung out in the communal spaces and you met people from China and all over there.

And the noise from down the corridor and also from the square and outside in particular was an issue – the windows didn’t seem to create much of a sound barrier (and they were I think big) and I think this was my biggest issue with the place. Despite not really liking the place, if I had a chance I wouldn’t mind staying again to shoot a little vlog about it because it really had character and something unique about it.

Andy’s Ratings:

Location: 3.5/5

Value for Money: 4/5

Service/Friendliness: 2.5/5

Cleanliness: 1.5/5

Noise: 1.5/5

Total: 13/25 [52/100]

Thanks as always, May the Journey Never End!

4 thoughts on “Retro Review – Bell Tower Youth Hostel, Xi’an, China

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