Sometimes when you read guide books it is useful to read between the lines.
As a solo traveller where I stay is essential - safe, clean, not lonely feeling and charming. My definition of charming: small artistic touches, internet access, nice people, finding the beauty in small things, a great view - stuff like that.
My first stop: Cinco Hormigas Rojas - great location as it is safe, close to the centre of the city, and charming. Perfect for a one night stay and the $30 US cash price was decent.
After a few nights however I started to feel hemmed in - the rooms were a little too dark, the artistic touches a bit dusty, the sheets verging on threadbare, and the breakfast.... a processed cheese slice on white bread with a thin piece of some sort of meat and some mustard in a plastic bag is not my idea of breakfast. The oreo cookies, the ripe banana and the juice box was good. The charming thank-you note lovely but I could live without the styrofoam box.
Mayra was lovely and she did book a tour for me so that my first day (January 1st) was off to a great start.
With at least 12 other places within a 5 to 10 minute walk you start to see what the options are compared to what you have. The price points all seemed to range from $22 - $40 per night which was what I was willing to pay.
It took a good 30 minutes for me to orientate myself in this area known as Barrio Amon - first off street signs are not common and it just feels topsy turvy (next time I think I will pack a compass!) Then I started to worry that I looked like such an out of place tourist (kahki pants, badly dressed, sandals, the day pack) and an easy target for thieves (okay time to stop being so paranoid)
I actually passed Kap's Place once - but the street just looked depressing for me to think that I was in the right area! Barred wires on all the fences, roll down steel doors everywhere, barren streets - it took a bit for me to see the lovely sign that said Kap's. And a few more minutes before I buzzed. They buzzed me in. And I decided right away I liked the place. You enter into a garage but there wasn't a car there - just a great tiled room, through another door that took you down a long brightly coloured corridor and into the front reception. The place felt roomy, airy, and lovely - and yes they had a room for $25.00 - they showed me a room for $30 which is the one I ended up taking.
The colours are green and blue, towels artfully folded on the bed, lots of light, my own private bathroom, this great glass door that they have painted with opaque paint to allow the light in and give privay and to boot - a hair dryer (not that I need one given that I have accepted the fact that my bangs will be hanging anywhere they want on this trip). It is a bit noisy in the morning but I am in a city of more than 1 million so that is okay.
Right outside my door is the reception, a roomy lounging area, a common kitchen with all the utensils and cooking applicances you might need. Plus the front desk people are lovely - one young lady has been studying harp for 7 years. They have lovely English. And they aren't interested in selling you a tour - fact it they made suggestions but that was all. How nice is that!