Seattle is called the Emerald City because it has a vast number of evergreen trees that remain green and beautiful all year long.
Hotel rooms in Seattle are very expensive. The moderately priced ones start around $200 per night. Since Theresa and I have experienced many albuergues in Spain, we were curious about American hostels and thought this might be a good time to test the waters. Green Tortoise is promoted as ‘Seattle’s Best Hostel’ and was close to Pike Place Market.
We opted for the HI Seattle Hostel in Chinatown because it seemed to be a quieter area and we could get a private room with bath for about $145/night. They also offered less expensive options like a room with a shared bath and also dormitory rooms with several bunk beds.
We were somewhat apprehensive about staying in Chinatown. When friends and family heard we were staying there, they warned us that it could be dangerous, ‘don’t stay out after dark’, etc. We found it to be anything but dangerous. It was a warm and friendly neighborhood. The housing buildings looked new and modern. Streets are wide, clean and well maintained. Restaurants, tea shops, a dumpling house, bakeries, chicken and Korean hot dogs could be found a footsteps from our door.
On the block past our hotel was Hing Hay Park which translates into Celebrate Happiness Public Park. Built in the 1970s it features principles of feng shui and is a popular spot for martial arts practitioners, quiet morning meditation, a meeting place for local families and the center of many festivals and celebrations.
When we checked-into the HI Seattle Hostel, I was delighted to find that it has an elevator. Hauling my almost 50-lb suitcase up a flight of stairs would be devastating. We were greeted by Jessie, a delightful receptionist who checked us in. She provided the necessary details about our stay and how everything worked. It was easy to tell that she loved this building and the neighborhood. She said she has been a local resident for about 14 years and had nothing but praise for the neighborhood.
The hostel featured a couple community rooms, a kitchen and a laundry room. Breakfast is included and offered between 7 and 9 am. Guests choose from coffee, fresh oranges, bananas, granola bars, instant oatmeal and cereal.
The HI Seattle Hostel is an older building and our room was basic, functional and immaculate. The bunk bed had a double bed on the bottom, a single on top. The memory foam mattress was comfortable.
Each bed had four electrical outlets a fan and a light. Very comfortable. A desk, a couple chairs and open closet shelving rounded out the room. Nothing fancy about the bathroom which had a tub and shower. Towels and soap included.
Our room’s window faced King Street. On Saturday morning we heard a lot of talking and activity across the street in a parking lot. There is a super big Asian market a block away and we thought maybe these people were going there to shop. However it appeared to be clusters of young adults, mostly men dispersed throughout the lot. They didn’t seem to be going anywhere and there was a lot of loud cars and vroom vroom action. Eventually I found a few friendly-looking faces and inquired about why they were there.
It was a car meet-up. They gather in this parking lot once a month on Saturday mornings to be social and show off cars and see what’s new. I was told they intentionally meet at this lot to support the shops and restaurants in the neighborhood.
The Hop-On Hop-Off bus is a great option if you have limited time for sight seeing. This one hits all of the essential Seattle must-see sights.
One lap around on the Hop-On Hop-Off took about an hour-and-a-half. Back in Chinatown, we needed a lunch break. We picked up Korean corn dogs, mango milk bubble tea for me and a strawberry smoothie for Theresa. We retreated to the Hostel kitchen-dining room.
After our lunch break, we walked over to the Uwajimaya market and Kinokuniya book store. This place is fairly new, super large and offers a massive variety of groceries, liquor, cookware, novelties in addition to a food court with many authentic and interesting choices.
At the Kinokuniya book store, I found the perfect gift for my squirrelly 10-year-old nephew Graham. It’s a Squirrel in Underpants car air freshener. I can’t wait to see whose car he hangs this in — mom Alisa’s car? Tony or Ellak’s, Grandma Susan would love to drive around with a Squirrel air freshener. Or perhaps he’ll hang it in his room.
We walked back to our King Street hostel block and decided it had been a long enough day and it was time for a beer. On the corner next to the Chinatown gate is Joe’s Bar & Grill. Not many customers when we entered but it soon filled.
Hunger set in and we wandered down the block. There were a dozen or so restaurants to choose from but somehow we narrowed it down to the Shanghai Garden. The quiet, calm and peaceful ambiance was appreciated as was the attentive service. Being adventurous, we tried two dishes that were new to us.
This happy surprise-filled day was so much fun but it wore us out. We were tucked into our bunk beds by 8:30 pm (10:30 pm Minnesota time). It was an unplanned but full day of adventure. Looking forward to whatever Seattle has to offer tomorrow.