(The front entrance of the hotel in Praia, Cape Verde – Image Source: Amoma)
We had a scheduled 69 days stay in Cape Verde for project implementation, so it was crucial that we nailed the accommodations right from the start.
It’s crucial because as in the past projects, we can expect stressful & long working hours – so we will always be looking forward towards to a cosy warm bed, a clean room and a minimum room service. Usually, for long term working days, we will arrange for an apartment so that we have a common room & kitchen but renting a house or apartment for a short period in Cape Verde was not feasible. Further of the expected long working hours, it will be tiring if we expect to come back & clean up the apartment as well.
When it comes to looking for accommodation for a big project team, the other thing we want to avoid is the need to share a room (or worst share a bed). The reason is more of respect than convenience – because we trust that each of the team members needs their private space. We also don’t want any of the peace in the night to be disturbed by loud, scary snores.
So after several discussions & “research” on the best place for the team to stay, it was decided to pick Hotel Santa Maria located at the Plateau. It is a 3-star hotel but the room was big enough for long term stay. The shops, restaurants and tourist spots were all nearby. And if we walked further, we can reach the beach. The distance between the hotel and the working place is just 10 minutes drive. Praia is a small city so most places are within short driving distance.
The room that I got had a good Queen sized bed which was clean and not too soft. The pillows, however, were too soft for comfort so often I sleep without any pillows. The room had plenty of space to keep my items and with a table & a chair at the end; it was just nice for me to be working on work assignments on the weekend (the air conditioner unit was just above this table so it was cold enough for the laptop). Nothing was perfect anyway.
First, every room (I think most rooms) has a rocking chair. Well if you have watched enough James Wan’s movies, having a rocking chair in a room where you are sleeping alone is certainly not a good idea. In fact, on the very first night, I could not sleep and I had an eye on the rocking chair, expecting it to start rocking on its own at 3.07 am. On some nights, I even moved the rocking chair towards the end of the room where it is not visible from my bed. Subsequently, I placed my clothes on the rocking chair so it, in the end, became harmless.
Another problem with the room was the lack of electricity socket points – there was one in the bathroom and another near the table (and this too was connected to the minibar). For a modern working man on the field, this was rather ridiculous. At first, because the hotel did not provide a solution for this, I used to charge my power bank using the available socket in the bathroom.
And I only do this when it was time to go to sleep – so the drained out power bank will be fully charged after 7 – 8 hours of charging. I then use this power bank to charge my phone and in office, I will do a quick charging of the power bank. This went on for the first week and after an almost daily complaint, the issue prolonged as the staff at the front office spoke very little/broken English to properly understand us.
Eventually, we got our client to lodge the complaint on behalf of us in Portuguese and the hotel then took action. We each got a power extension cord that we can add another 3 power sockets and this resolved our problem on the spot.
The language issue is also a pain in the neck when we have a burned out lights in our rooms or when something is not working – we had to take photos of the faulty items and it will take days to be fixed. The phone in my room was disconnected – I noticed the cable had come out loose – I told the hotel staff a few times but until I left, this was not fixed.
We had been pre-warned that internet services in the hotel suck and you can get the best coverage at the receptionist area. The coverage in the room, however, was quite bad – especially in my room where the best wi-fi coverage is when I am standing next to the door. And once again, we had to complain to the hotel management and another week passed before the hotel provided a password for another wi-fi that they had for their staff.
This wi-fi was not stable but it was enough to check for emails and instant messages on our smartphones – only when the wi-fi transmitters are working. In the last 2 weeks, before we flew back to Malaysia, some of the wi-fi transmitters were not working and there was no internet in our rooms. And yet the transmitters at the receptionist area were working fine – we suspected the staff had intentionally disabled the transmitters near our rooms.
The bathroom was way too small too – once you stand in, you can’t move freely. Hot water in the morning was a problem but that was nothing when in some weeks, we even did not have running water unless you wake up very early. Over time, I managed to plan out a schedule – since breakfast starts at 7.30 am, I will get up by 6 am – do a bit of yoga and then take shower before the rest of guests takes their showers.
The hotel has a small restaurant that serves complimentary breakfast in the morning (the menu is nothing to shout about) – once peak, there is not enough place during breakfast. Breakfast supposes to start at 7.30 am but even after 7.30 am, staff still not ready with the food – the guests will be waiting whilst the hotel staff busy running around to set up the food and drinks.
And there are times, the place will fill up and hotel guests will be standing for others to finish. Some of them will simply take the breakfast on some plates and go and have their breakfast at the porch where there are a few tables and chairs.
In the morning, when they open the windows, there will be a swarm of flies at this restaurant. I noticed after visiting several restaurants – no one in Cape Verde took the trouble of installing a pest control lights (the one that gives away that mesmerizing blue light). Soon there will be flies on the cake, glasses, plates, scrambled eggs, etc so much so, we had to close our food & cutleries with tissue papers.
Finding maggots on a papaya one day and a small cockroach in the cereal containers – we complained to the restaurant manager hoping that they will buck up on cleanliness and pest control. But the reaction was rather disappointing – the lady simply smiled and did nothing.
There are days when I opt from not going down for breakfast – knowing that the menu will be the same, there was nothing of change to look forward.
However for lunch & dinner – since we can order our food from a long list of option on the menu, we don’t mind having our meals in this restaurant. Further, we noticed that there are fewer flies around during at night and because it is our own hotel restaurant, they can still accept orders late to cook even after other restaurants within the hotel vicinity closed for the day. Further, they have a good bar (on weekends with live music) and a very good & smooth-talking bartender who will talk you over to buy a drink for the night even though you don’t plan to have any alcohols.
Laundry services were provided but you need to put your dirty clothes in a blue that the hotel provided and you need to put the bag on the floor right in front of the entrance. You miss this spot and the hotel staff will not take your dirty clothes for washing. Sometimes the guys will cut to the chase and pass the bag directly to the hotel receptionist. One problem however persisted – there is no laundry checklist provided when we send our dirty laundry so we need to take note of our clothes that were sent for laundry (me even photographing it).
We are only given a list to be signed when we get back the washed clothes – the list is kept by the hotel receptionist but the washed clothes already sent to our rooms so there is no way to verify the list with the actual clothes we received. We in fact had lost count when our clothes were sent to the wrong rooms – the only blessing was that it was sent to other team members and not strangers – so we communicated each other to get back our clothes.
To be continued in Part 6…