Repeat 10 times aloud: do not arrive in a new city at night. Every time, I swear it’ll be the last but it’s a little like swearing off the alcohol after a violent hangover. Even with the best of intentions, somehow both these promises get forgotten.

I recently decided to take advantage of a layover in Hong Kong by extending the stopover by a few days. I changed my flight, and thinking ahead, I even decided to book a hostel. With only a little bit of hassle finding my way through the airport and to the right bus, I found my stop and hauled myself off the bus – the big backpack on my back, the little one on the front, and a handbag as well.

Cursing the pairs of heels that I had never worn, I started off into the insanely humid Hong Kong night, both happy and smug about my hostel reservation.

Fifteen minutes later, I was not so thrilled. I was still wandering (or waddling, given the amount of junk strapped to my body) and completely lost. Getting crankier and sweatier by the minute, I finally found a cab driver who pointed me towards the correct building.

By this point, it was about midnight, and I desperately wanted a shower and bed. The man who answered the reception phone told me to wait for five minutes. When a woman finally showed up, she asked my name and gave her list a quick glance before telling me she had no reservation for me. No problem – I had a confirmation number written down, after all, I was prepared this time.

Well, let’s just say she wasn’t impressed by this, given that after she told me, she simply refused to look at, speak to, or in any way acknowledge me. Finally a man showed up and asked me when I had made the reservation.

“About 3 pm?” “Oh,” he said, in very good English, “well you can’t make a reservation that late, and then expect to have a bed here.” To me, that didn’t really make sense. I had the confirmation number didn’t that mean that I could expect exactly that? “Yeah, but you have to book before that, I don’t have dorm now, you want a single room?” Sure… for the dorm price.

Well, he was having none of that. Apparently, booking through a third party website, confirmation or not, means that it’s not really confirmed, therefore not his responsibility.

So here we are, it’s well after 1am, and I’m about to be chucked onto the streets of Hong Kong! (Sure, I could have paid double for a single room, but I was broke, and it was the principle.)

I was preparing to sleep in the hallway when he showed up with a Lonely Planet. Apparently the girl was going to come help me find another hostel. Yeah, that sounded like fun.

I told him to forget it. I’d go sort myself out. At which point he came up with an answer that could have solved my problem before it started. 

“I cannot give you a single for a dorm price, but I have a small store room downstairs.” Did it have a bed? “Of course, but it has lots of things inside, no aircon.” Like I cared about aircon or a stack of towels at that point. And how much? Free.

The room was no more than 10 by 10 feet with only a slit for a window. With a fan, a bed and the staff shower right outside my door, I had never been happier with any accommodation. So no harm arriving after dark after all!