Now this is a story all about how my life got flip-turned upside down… just kidding. But it is a story about my worst Airbnb experience to date (and hopefully ever).
This misadventure takes place in Bali, where I was travelling with three of my best friends. We had extensive planning sessions before we left trying to choose hotels and Airbnbs and organise all our activities. These planning evenings consisted of snacks, wine and a lot of Nat and I planning whilst Alex and Ellie looked at ridiculous treehouse hotels and jungle buggy excursions. For our stay in Ubud – the beautiful rainforest town in the centre of Bali – we chose an Airbnb with a private pool, open plan dining area and two separate huts, each with its own queen-sized bed and rainforest shower. To top it all off, there would be staff there to cook us breakfast every day, score!
Alex and I arrived a few days before the others and stayed on the coast in Seminyak before being picked up by a friend of the owner and taken to the Airbnb – a two-hour drive through the usual chaotic Bali traffic. Arriving mid-afternoon, we were excited to relax next to our private pool and take in the beauty of the jungle.
On arrival, we were blown away. It really was beautiful. The huts were positively picturesque and the beds looked huge and comfy. There was even a patio overlooking a waterfall. The first downside, however, came a just a few minutes after arrival when we were told we couldn’t use the pool due to cleaning. The guy said it would be done by tomorrow though so no biggie, we’d still get plenty of use out of it. It had a weird green tint, so we weren’t exactly thrilled about using it in its current state anyway. Regardless, we had a nice enough afternoon just relaxing and reading, though we did feel a little strange being watched by our house-help, who apparently just sat there all day in case we needed him – not exactly as advertised. When he left later in the afternoon he worryingly told us that we shouldn’t lock the front gate when we went to bed, so that he could come in the morning to cook us breakfast. Slightly creepy you may say? We thought so too.
Around six o’clock we started to get ready for dinner and I headed into our room to shower. After five minutes of fiddling with the controls, I realised that there was no hot water. I powered through, but Alex wasn’t into the idea of having a cold shower so she decided to go and take a look in the other hut to see if that one was any better. This, my friends, is where our tale of terror begins. I was sitting on the patio, smoking a cigarette and enjoying the dusky glow of the sky when I heard a scream and Alex came running out of the hut along the stepping stone path towards me. She had a look of horror on her face like she’d seen a ghost. Ghosts in the Balinese rainforest? No. But rats? Yes. Three of them to be precise. In the bathroom.
She had walked into the hut and turned the bathroom light on, only to be greeted by three sets of eyes staring back at her. As soon as the light came on they quickly scurried away, though neither of us knew where they had come from or whether they’d be back. Traumatised, we quickly got dressed for dinner and were picked up by my friend Mus, who immediately became privy to the situation we’d found ourselves in. I can’t quite remember how the discussion went down, but no way in hell were we staying there for five days. We reasoned that we’d have to put up with the place for one night, but based on the lack of hot water, the door-locking policy and of course, the rats, I messaged our Airbnb host and Airbnb themselves, stating that we wanted a refund for our stay and that we would be leaving.
I’d like to be able to say that we got over our fears and had an enjoyable evening in our little hut before moving on, but unfortunately that was definitely not the case. After dinner, Mus dropped us back to the Airbnb, which if I haven’t mentioned yet was a way out of the main town, down some pitch black, slightly scary roads. Now that it was fully dark there were all sorts of animals noises coming from the jungle on either side of us that just added to the unnerving atmosphere of our accommodation and made us want to be there even less.
We got a message from the host saying that there shouldn’t be any pests because they’d had an exterminator in recently (so you’ve got a pre-existing rat problem then, thanks for letting us know hun) and from Airbnb saying that we would be refunded for the entirety of our stay, though at this point we felt like they should be paying us for our trouble.
Mus left after an hour or so and we realised we just needed to suck it up, get through the night and get out of there as quickly as we could the next morning. We’d already booked accommodation for the following night – a little homestay in town that I’d stayed in on my last trip – so we just needed to push through. After getting ready for bed we settled in for what we knew was going to be a long night. We turned the lights off and got under the covers, inside the relative safety of our mosquito net (they protect against rats too, right?). I had my head down on the pillow for all of five minutes when Alex grabbed my hand and whispered to me. There was a noise. We lay frozen for what seemed like hours, listening intently for what we both really hoped we wouldn’t hear. Scuffling.
The huts weren’t fully enclosed and had a gap on the top of the wall where the roof ran downwards. We were never able to confirm it, but we’re pretty sure the rats were running along the top of the wall. The one we could hear the most, however, was definitely on the floor somewhere in the vicinity of our bags, i.e., far too close for comfort. We started to panic…maybe loud noises would scare them off? Queue weird screeching noises from both of us (mostly me). This didn’t seem to be enough, so I thought maybe music would do the trick. I opened Spotify and turned on the first thing I found, which happened to be the opening track of The Greatest Showman. You know that loud intro bit with the banging drums? I can never listen to it in the same way again. With the addition of show tunes to the situation, it was as comical as it was frightening.
After a lot of lying there discussing what to do coupled with intermittent screaming, I braved the climb out of bed to turn the light on. We were offski. I got on my phone and quickly booked a night at the place I’d made reservations for earlier, though since it was currently 2am we didn’t have much of a guarantee that there would be anyone there to welcome us. Regardless, we haphazardly threw everything in our bags and ordered an Uber.
Given the night we were having, naturally, the Uber couldn’t be normal either. When he arrived the driver demanded we pay him 100,000IDR rather than the 10,000IDR that the app had quoted, but at roughly £5 I honestly didn’t care and just said yes. Plus, we were outside of the town with no one around, so I didn’t feel like we were in a position to argue with him. The driver’s weird vibe and the general heebie-jeebies I had from the whole evening meant that I didn’t fully relax until we were safely back in the centre of town and close to our homestay.
Finally back in civilisation, we were dropped at the end of the very long, very dark alleyway which lead to our homestay. With our phone torches at the ready, we dragged ourselves and our bags down into pitch blackness, hoping that someone would answer the door on our arrival. No such luck. We knocked on the door more than a few times and waited, but no one came. Not entirely sure what to do with ourselves, we struggled back down to the main road, me with my backpack and Alex with her suitcase.
Right opposite the alley was a very expensive looking hotel. We looked at each other and the decision was made. In we went. The security guard looked a little weirdly at us when we asked if we could have a room for the night, but he radioed someone who promptly came and took our bags. The hotel was a far cry from our rat-infested huts, we realised as we walked along a tree-lined pathway littered with fairy lights and crossed a stream to get to the reception desk. It wasn’t long before we were being welcomed into our room, which was nothing short of incredible. We were ecstatic, to say the least. It was fully kitted out, including complementary sun hats to use by the pool, and topped off with free massages and afternoon tea at the hotel spa the next day.
The only thing left was to call the others and fill them in on our journey from rat-discovery to 5* hotel. At that moment they were in Dubai airport waiting for their connecting flight to Bali and found our traumatic evening pretty hysterical. Lying down on that ginormous hotel bed, knowing that the rest of my night was to be 100% rat-free was possibly one of the happiest moments of my life. I can’t say that I ever want to try and sleep whilst listening to rats scurrying around ever again, but the story that came from it is definitely one for the ‘mems bank’, as Alex would say. That night will forever more be known as one thing and one thing only. Ratgate.