Asia’s Worst Hotel – C & T Lodge, Jagna, Philippines, 5th April 2011

I have been placed here, in a little port called Jagna on the island of Bohol, for this evening of drama and subtle torture.  I felt compelled by shock and glee to share a depraved place with you and also have an hour before my ferry leaves.  You can be sure, that it is not this bad, but last night, it was.  It was worse.

I realise that most of my blog things revolve around the mundane details of travel.  I hope you enjoy them and these italics.  Judging by the number of you, you are an elite bunch with refined taste.  Bless you all.     

A day spent like many others, on a steamy packed bus, stopping constantly and starting again, I smell the brakes.  Hot as hell.  I should say that I’ve spent 10 days of domestic bliss in a well-appointed flat on a paradise beach with lovely, sweet Jayne.  Cooking organic veggies and fresh, fresh fish in our own kitchen (serious novelty value appreciated here).  Swimming amongst techni-colour coral gardens and opting out of it all.  Only comfort and happiness remianed.  It was paradise.  Bliss.  It is fair to say that anything would pale in comparison, but this place is special.  C & T Lodge, Jagna.

Jagna is like every other port town in the world.  Seedier than inland places, men stagger around dribbling drunk, the sounds and smells of fish markets, ruffians on street corners and a general lack teeth in its peoples mouths.  Theres a large old church and rows of eateries selling the usual tepid Filipino stews.

The Arrival – Ran by the smiling and slightly odd Venus, who clucks and whistles as a rule, then asks me to fill in the register.  It turns out to be her address book and she fully expects me to write to her from England, I’ve made a friend in town already.  Venus would also like me to ‘give’ her my English friends.  Venus is different, 50-odd and 4ft on tip toes.  Detached but constantly giggling at something unapparent.  The room is her spare room or ‘Lodge’ if you will.  I’m tired, its 8pm (late here) and its for one night only.  I take it and am interested in chatting with Venus anyway.  Hopefully she’ll let me in on the joke.  This place was recommended at the port by the team of six smiling, model-like tourist representatives in the Bohol Tourist Office (Tourist offices in the Philippines are disinterested and generally appear peeved that you are asking for advise at what is called and ‘advise centre’.  If you are very lucky, you’ll get a map, otherwise you could pull up a chair and watch them re-apply makeup and file their talons).

The Room – A man stands on the landing violently coughing up mass, spitting it everywhere, splattering my leg in the process.  A smaller-than-Venus woman looks on with concern holding a small cup of water.  I’m not sure if it is cholera or the local coconut rum, either way, this man had a demented look in his peepers.  Perched above a dusty main road, in a concrete shape, this is home for one night.  Ash is piled high on the beside table in neat little pyramids of toxicity.  Reminding me of the Chocolate Hills that Bohol is famous for.  There are two glorified planks for beds.  Glorified meaning they have 4 legs each.  One is interestingly covered with half of a large plastic political poster.  ‘Vote Ortiz’ the tarpaulin states.  The pillows are two formerly shiny valentines pillows, heart shaped and now the darkened shade of Keith Richards lungs.  Interesting design touch, placed neatly at the head of the plank.  This is punk design.  Hopeless junky decor.  The other pillow is unnaturally heavy, with a pungent musty quality and mottled with dried spittle.  All furniture was seemingly built by a junior woodwork class who were given randomly shaped ply wood and rusty nails then told to express themselves.  The other bed has an ill-fitting damp foam shape placed somewhere in the middle, which I later sprawl over like an awkward starfish.   There are 8 plastic chairs, well marked by cigarette burns.  They impede movement with in the room.  Presumably here incase I decide to invite eight friends back to the pad, a housewarming party.

The sky blue walls look like Jackson Pollock has gone to town with beige excrement.  Suspicious browns, merge with chocolate shades, occasionally a splat of red interrupts the earthy tones, punctuated by mounds of dark chewing gum.  It was once possibly used as a livestock urinal.  But this, for many reasons, seems improbable.  Mosquito nets line the upper wall, improving the acoustic of the street sounds.  They are plugged by ripped bin bags and growing an ample covering of grey fur.  One side of the window is covered by an old cardboard egg box, the egg farm feel the need to proclaim that ‘Jesus is my shepherd’.  The Philippines is full of these non sensical biblical references, everywhere (‘Ask and thee shall receive’ et al).   Wires hang from the walls and ceiling, like elaborate mobiles or Airfix models.  The light switch and redundant fan switch swing over-head.  There is a fizz and crackle (hopefully no pops) to all electrics in Venus’s place.  The lightbulb hangs low, caged by old cobwebs.  Projecting eery shapes on the walls.  A gothic touch.  I ask Venus for a blanket, with inevitable consequence.  It’s a fascinating thing.  When touched your skin creeps, like a gentle electic charge.  Its the miny bugs you see.  Jumping all over your skin.  Having a carnival on your flesh.  It has the ambience of a room you’d wake up in after being taken hostage by the Taliban in Kabul, circa 1981.  Or after being imprisoned for life in downtown Guatemala City.

The Shared Toilet – A room of particular interest, the squeamish should maybe give this section a miss.  The toilet is alive!  I swear I saw it swerve slightly earlier.  It’s an incredible sight.  Never cleaned.  Never.  For an instance.  Cleaned.  In God knows how many years.  In someones little house.  Its crawling with filth and has no water in it.  No water.  Its more of a pile of matter than a distinguishable bathroom appliance.  Its main function, a hole in the floor.  Emitting the sort of odour that prompts an immediate question from your belly ‘please let me empty myself.  Now.’  Your nose spasms in shock and awe.  What sweet, sweet decay.  What incredible fetid potency.  Rotten animal meets old vomit.  The air seems thick with disease, germ warfare attacking every pore simultaneously.  Filth invasion, on a cellular level.  I can only pray for a quick resolution to my piss and please, please, no splash back.  It looks like a serial killers toilet, in a cellar, somewhere in upstate Georgia.  This toilet is evil!  After the livestock releaved themselves on my bedroom walls, they appear to have freshened up in the shower, after a long day wallowing in farmyard waste.  The shower is full of what looks like very good fertilizer for the garden.  The thought of washing here seems rather futile.  Like bathing in Ebola.

The Sleep – The karaoke bar next door, well actually a coin operated street side machine drones and yelps.  ‘Air Supply’ on repeat, ‘Im all out of love……..’.  The Philippines is the land of the karaoke and the power ballad.  Hopeless romantics.  That is if romance was created in the ’80’s by Dutch songwriters with tight perms and even tighter white leather trousers and the sentiments of love were expressed through inane lyrics.  One guy has the vocal style of a strangulated Damn Edna Everidge, to Bon Jovi.  Just as I was drifting off to a fitful nights rest, the power was cut.  The crooners groan, I groan and for the first time this evening, there is a form of harmony.  My scum covered fan splutters to a quivering death.  Little help that it was.  The air is thick with a damp warmth that cloaks you in a constant trickling sweat and abject uncomfort.  The family living below screech and wail throughout the evening, having some sort of feral tag-team wrestling match.  Kids cry.  Somebody seems to drop a bowling ball on the floorboards outside my door hourly.  The spitting man next door snores and hacks away like a brute and seems to rise regularly and run, full tilt into the thin plywood wall separating us.  All I need now was a troupe of tap dancing rats to perform on my face and I’ll be ready for bed.    I lay down my big scarf, head on a rolled up fleece and project love and peace to my microscopic insect bed mates.  The wall above my head reads ‘Rolly Boro 4 ever’ and I sleep like a baby, intermittently, with industrial ear plugs rammed into my ears.

Getting out of Dodge – In the morning Venus offers me a coffee with a lovely smile.  I decline.  I pay my $5 bill.  Cheap, like Napalm or Gola shoes.  You get what you pay for, sometimes.  Ive never seen the like outside of downtown Varanasi.  I jump in a motor bike with a side car and am whisked off to the port.  The Philippines does have poor accomodation as a rule, but today I head to Camiguin on a boat.  To a form of tropical paradise.  Living on the beach, eating sardines from tins and coconuts from, coconuts.  It ain’t all bad.  But sometimes, you are made to suffer.

Why do I do this to myself?  I love it.  Love it all.  The filth and the fury.  Which is just as well really.  This is it people of fairer climes and Travelodges.  This is really living.

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