Stumble Into Indonesia's Unseen Places
Submitted by viravira on 4 May 2014 • Opinion
That, on the picture, was our welcome card to our first AirBnB guest. We were so excited and nervous at the same time. We made sure everything was in place, the bed was made up, the water jug was full, and the travel guides were displayed in the shelf. We had the air conditioner fixed just the day before, hopefully it doesn’t leak again. Okay, let’s see what else.
“Do you think Sameer would prefer peanut butter or chocolate spread to go with his bread?” I phoned Diyan who was at work, as I was shopping at the supermarket across our place. “Or orange?”
“Um, well, I’d go for peanut butter and orange,” Diyan took a wild guess.
And I ended up buying all three of them.
* * *
Almost 11 p.m. we turned on the AC in the ‘guest room’ so it will be cool and nice when the guest enters the room. You know, like they do in the hotels. Several minutes later the bell rang. A big guy with Pakistani or Indian or maybe Arab look was at the door with his two black duffel bags. It’s him, our first AirBnB guest! Quite a lot of stuff to bring for only a weekend stay, I thought. But later on we found out that Sameer was just transiting in Jakarta before continuing the trip to Raja Ampat for diving.
We saw him to his room for the next 2 days and showed him the amenities he could use, like the drawers, towel and toiletries. He looked really tired, but before we left him alone we talked about the next day’s schedule, what time he was going to go out and whether we’re going to leave him the keys and such.
The next morning, Diyan and I had to go out for a financial gathering (it sounds so dull, I know) before there was any sign of Sameer being awake. We rely on our gut feeling whether to leave the apartment keys to strangers or not. And Sameer seemed to be a decent guy. So we left the keys and access card with an instruction that I drew and wrote on a piece of scrap paper. I left it on the dining table with the bread and jams. Later when we got home at night, we found the doors were locked properly. Relieved!
We didn’t have much face-to-face time because it was either he was out when we were home or vice versa. But when he was waiting for his friends to pick him up just before checking out, we squeezed in time for a quick fast-food dinner bought downstairs and a little chat. We exchanged stories on each of our jobs, where he’s been diving, how he spent last year’s Eid in Maldives, how we each decided to sign up on AirBnB, etc. Turns out, it was his first experience with AirBnB, too! I hope he was satisfied with it as much as we did. The bread and jams were left untouched, but that’s okay, they made yummy breakfast for us! Lol.
It’s been a dream for me to own and run simple and perhaps small accommodations. One with personal touch that adds value to the guests rather than just being a place to crash. I’ve had several stays at accommodations (not on AirBnB) with unforgettable experiences.
Phranakorn Nornlen, a boutique hotel in Bangkok, welcomed new guests with their names written on a chalkboard at the entrance. One of the owners even made a thank-you card for my friend Fenia and gave it to her upon checking out, with hand-drawn illustration. And there is no same room, each one with different design and the walls are hand-painted! One more thing that made me fall in love with this hotel, the arts & craft classes they provide for guests.
Baan Rub Aroon Guesthouse in Chiang Rai, the house that used to accommodate the owner’s family, still houses books and other personal belongings in the common areas. The owner of the house, a friendly lady who was perhaps in her early 50’s, was also the receptionist most of the time. She suggested us places to visit around Chiang Rai and arranged the transportation for us. The house is painted in mostly white, easily making me feel at home (the history of ‘white home’ goes back to my parents’ house). ☺
Tugu Hotels in Malang and Blitar. This line of luxury boutique hotel has a way to make us feel special. They always welcome guests with personalized cards upon checking in. They also have different designs in each room with antiques handpicked by the owner, and provide a history tour around the hotels because each room is unique and has a story!
Because we don’t have the resources to build a guesthouse, hostel or a boutique hotel just yet, the closest we can do to sort of learn to run an accommodation right now is by renting out one of our two bedrooms in the apartment that we live. So I joined AirBnB in December 2013.
We live in a 2-bedroom apartment in a business district – I guess you can call it that – in Jakarta. One bedroom is mainly for sleeping, which is the master bedroom. The other is mainly for working (our study), since I work at home and Diyan sometimes brings home his work. One bathroom is within the master bedroom and one is at the hallway across the study.
The one we’re listing on AirBnB is, guess what, the master bedroom! Though it’s tidier than the study on regular basis, we want to make sure that it’s clean and neat enough for our guest(s). So we have it cleaned before check-in day and we’ll be fine “living” in the study for 3 days max.
Sure there are safety risks in having ‘strangers’ in your home. That’s why we only accept guests who are verified members of AirBnB. We minimize the risks that way. Renting out extra spaces is simply our way of living efficiently and we get to meet more travelers, who we believe each has their unique and interesting story ☺
*As posted in my other travel blog Sapijalanjalan 🙂
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