Lodging: Hotel Gul Palas (Urfa)

Gul Palas is located in a narrow street lined with dim rooms full of men, eating or playing some sort of game. The manager's office and lounge are separate from the rooms.

After coming from Syria, I still held the image of warmth and hospitality in my mind. This image was quickly shattered. The creepy old man inside the office leered at me after notifying the manager. The young manager arrived in a bad mood, barked at me in Turkish with the attitude, "what the hell do you want?" Didn't he want my business?

The rooms are next door, up a long, narrow flight of stairs. The creepy old man pointed out the lovely squat toilets, and the shower room featuring a hose. He yelled at me for a while, but maybe he wasn't, it's hard to tell with Turkish. I have no idea what his job was, but he skeeved me.

The room itself is pleasant and large, with high ceilings, air-conditioning, and Turkish TV. There was some kind of long American Idol-type/belly dancing contest on late at night, very entertaining. The air-conditioning stopped working my second night, and since it was too high up to investigate and I was too chicken to alert the manager, I never got it fixed.

Squat toilets in general are not particularly pleasant. The ones at this hotel felt worse... possibly just the overall feel of the hotel. Also, going to the bathroom felt like an ordeal—I would peek out, quickly lock my door, RUN to the toilet and RUN back, genuinely uneasy. Luckily, there was a sink in my room. The shower felt dirty, and of course it's a bit inconvenient to have to hold the hose while washing. At least it was separate from the squat toilets.

Several times the creepy old man appeared at my door, yelling about something. Perhaps he was asking, "how was your day?" but it sounded so harsh. The final time I yelled back. I ALWAYS kept the door locked from the inside.

When I met the owner of Harran and Nemrut Tours, he clucked disapprovingly at my choice of hotels. He professed shock that I found a room in Urfa for 10YTL ($7.50 circa June 2005), extremely low for private rooms in most parts of Turkey. He then told me it was "not a family place," which in Syria was code for "brothel." I began wondering about all the men in the vicinity of the hotel and its weird vibe.

But late my second night an actual family did appear, complete with small children and kittens. And when I checked out, the manager finally attempted a stiff smile and said, "thank you" in English.

I can't give this hotel a high rating because I was pretty uncomfortable there, but my guidebook claimed it was the "best of the rock-bottom cheapies." That worried me about the other options. Since it was conveniently-located and some of the issues were probably in my head, I wouldn't necessarily vote against it.

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Southern Turkey: On and Off the Beaten Path

All photos & text © Nancy Chuang 2012