Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Butuan City: Hotel Karaga or Luciana Inn

After the heavy lunch at Weegools (or should I say “heavy dessert”), I was not anymore sure of my north-south-east-west! I just knew I was in Butuan City and was confident a tricycle can take me to my “hotels”. Let’s explain that. I booked (by accident) on two separate places for this Butuan City visit – one was done by me calling Luciana Inn and the other by a friend calling a friend to get me a booking at Hotel Karaga! At Luciana Inn, my reserved room was a double at P800/day since their single rooms (P600) were not available. At Karaga Hotel, I was booked for a double room at P800/day since their single rooms (P700) were also fully booked.

When an empty tricycle approached, I hailed it and the manong driver (an elderly) was all smiles. I asked him which was farther from where I stood at Weegools, was it Hotel Karaga or Luciana Inn. He told me it was Luciana at city center but we could pass by Karaga since it was along the way. And we took off at what seemed to be another tour, this time among narrow residential streets. I was like going through a maze inside a metro manila village, but I liked looking at the houses, many of them big. Call it impatience but I thought that was a mighty long drive for a tricycle.

At Montilla Boulevard (a main thoroughfare) my trike driver could not even say anything yet and there I saw Hotel Karaga to our right. It is big and an imposing building in a busy commercial area. The driver pulled over and asked if I wanted to go in. I asked if this was already the center of town, he said no. I just looked at the lobby (indeed a normal hotel) but for some reason I opted to go for Luciana Inn. As we traveled, manong driver told me that Karaga Hotel is probably better than Luciana. And I said, okay I will remember that!

Comedy: when we arrived, manong driver said “this is Luciana Inn” and I exclaimed “maganda naman” but he retorted with a sarcastic smile saying “hindi yan, Almont Hotel yan, yun ang pasukan papuntang Luciana Inn” (not that, that’s Almont Hotel, over there is the entrance to Luciana Inn). Uh oh! Anyway I told him I will go up and check it out but if I don’t like it I will go back to Karaga. I asked how much I owed him and I was told “eight pesos”. I almost protested to demand that he double the amount hehe! Imagine that far a travel was just eight pesos?! I gave a P10 coin and did not ask for change.

Judging by the entrance, indeed Karaga must have been a better hotel. I was in front of a narrow entrance with a guard and what seemed to be a little cheapy kind of boutique for ladies’ wear. I asked where Luciana Inn was. The guard pointed me to the stairs. I thought “oh okay, the hotel is on second floor”, I was wrong! The second level is some kind of offices. So I proceeded to the next level, and there it was, the lobby of Luciana Inn. Alright, it is nothing grand like Karaga’s lobby but it is not a yucky place either. The lobby had that homey air of the usual provincial hotels I encounter everywhere. Whatever I was thinking, I opted to stay and proceeded with check-in.

Luciana Inn
Behind me (that’s fronting the desk) were 3 or 4 sets of lounge chairs made of native materials. Though not so big, it is cozy enough if you were waiting for anything and this is the Inn’s “lobby”. Adjacent to it (this time partially covered by an accordion door is the restaurant. Ah that one is big, though I was surprised there was no one there except three people (obviously a guard and two other employees) watching a noontime variety show! To the left of the empty restaurant, I could hear an activity where the speaker was like discussing some kind of a process. I asked and learned that the ‘department of trade’ was conducting training at one of the function rooms.

Oh the front desk! It is the nerve center of their operations, literally! This place is air conditioned – if they choose it to be! But this time there was none, though it was not hot. The little silver industrial fan on the floor was not even running – proof that the air was just fine. Behind the electric fan is a water dispenser and I wondered why it was there! I did not ask hehe, but I surmised that it was for the use of their restaurant customers, if any! Nearby are a wash sink and a paper-towel dispenser. I think that set-up is really for the sake of the restaurant and not for the lobby.

Have you seen a tiled front desk? Luciana Inn is it! The underside of the long desk is walled with some kind of a native fiber material (abaca?) and it looks beautiful. But the counter-top is a shiny kind of cream-colored floor tiles. Those flowery designs of green on black strip with a pink base are also ceramic tiles that many of us would use in our bath rooms! It was surprising to my untrained eyes hehe but just the same it looks real neat and serves the purpose! Hey, c’mon, I picked an idea or two! Should I opt to renovate, I will surely remember this place.

To the left of the front desk (if you’re facing it) will be a big chest freezer courtesy of Pepsi Cola & Co. and it houses the Inn’s supply of sodas and bottled water. You guessed it, no Coke in the house dudes! None, nada, nai, nil, waray, tidak-ada, awanen, aaaargh! I learned that “otherwise” the hotel won’t be accorded the honor of having that big chest freezer from Pepsi hehehe. Oh in this area are also the cabinets where their utensils are kept. There is of course the fridge and the doors to the comfort room! You move onwards and you are at the Inn’s kitchen!

I got my room key and a staff carried my backpack for me as we ascended to the next floor to find my room 303! Hmm, on entry, staff immediately dashed to turn the air conditioning on, gave me the remote control for the TV and left after wishing me to have a pleasant stay.

I liked the floor of this room. It is made of wooden strips, the way house floors were done in the 60’s or even earlier. Oh I had two beds instead of a queen size bed as agreed during my reservation. But I thought that was fine enough since each was a bed bigger than the usual single. This one I liked: the entire length of my room was all glass windows that I could open individually. Thus, when I had to smoke, I just pull the curtains aside, open as many windows as I thought necessary and I had a “windy” room! Oh, the comfort room sits right beside the entrance door and it does not have any kind of exhaust whatsoever! I like their hot and cold shower though, hot is really hot – even at the wash basin’s faucet.

The TV is about 20 inches and it sits on its own table constructed to fit its exact dimensions so there was no way for them to lay an ash tray other than on top of the box! There is a lone mono-bloc chair beside the TV and I couldn’t make out what it was for. Probably for a smoking person to sit inches from the television because the ashtray could only be placed on top of it?! Hehe, probably! Oh in between the beds is another chair not for anyone to sit since that is the throne of the dear telephone and telephone book! The walls are olden and made of thin plywood. Plus, every time I go out of the room, I couldn’t escape the “wind” from the comfort room exhaust fan of the next room. I thought that was annoying and may even be unsanitary!

My room’s air conditioner was not that old but I accidentally discovered an issue and I now realize, I forgot to tell the hotel staff about it. After my first bath, I laid the towel on that white monobloc chair so that it directly faced the air conditioner. With that, from experience, the towel would quickly become dry again. Then I snoozed about an hour. When I woke to start roaming the city, I found that my towel had a lot of black soot-looking lumps with hairy edges. Looked closer and I discovered they were flying off from the air conditioner’s vents. That was disgusting and probably unhealthy!

I had fun with the regulations posted at the back of the room’s door! Example: Pressing is “per arrangement with front desk”, but when I called to arrange for such a service, I was told there was none. But the room boy came to tell me he’ll just do it for me. When he came back with my clothes neatly pressed, he was all perspiring. There was no official charge but he’d be happy to receive P50. But that was 3 shirts and 2 walking shorts which I myself find quite a chore to iron. So I gave P100! Now on the topic about “VISITORS”, same sex is fine unannounced hehehe! Lastly, the exit diagram was obviously not for my room! Gosh!

I had issues, but until now I don’t know why I enjoyed my stay at Luciana Inn. Probably the friendliness of their staff? Probably!

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