Yap Seow Choong

Yap loves design, travel and everything beautiful in life. He writes for various media about travel and design and has published works, including Wander Bhutan and Myanmar Odyssey. Formerly publisher of Lonely Planet (China Office), Yap is now Chief Content Officer of Youpu Apps, a Beijing based travel app company.


12 2017 | Issue 24

Amsterdam is the city type that I favour. Delicate and exquisite. Without too much walking, the canal can be met. People riding the bicycles slowly shuttle back and forth in the narrow street. The tolerance of this city could be well illustrated through being able to commute or handle affairs by bike. In the blossoming spring, the locals always organise small gathering. When driving the boat, they play music, have barbecue, drink alcohols and play with each other, etc. The whole city is immersed into a pleasant atmosphere. With sparkling spring water, the river reflects the three or four-story-high old houses by the riverside. These slim and unassuming houses are in the fairy tale style. In old times, the tax revenue was depended on the elevation of the house. Thus, the house was built narrow and deep. 

When travelling in Amsterdam which advocates design and beauty, I chose to stay one night at the Hans Brinker Budget Hostel deliberately which claims to be the worst hostel in the world to experience how terrible it is. This psychology, to figure out how terrible things are, could be also found in those people who love lousy movie. We advocate the beauty, but at the same time, we neglect that beauty could be more valuable only because of the existence of the ugly. Accompanied by the mess, neat could be highlighted and the ecology could be more adverse. 

The hostel was located in a stylish block of the canal. The old houses were decorated magnificently which makes it more desirable for people to visit. Stepping into the hostel, a large section of attractive words were written on the reception place, which decided the style of this hostel. “Neat people need to pay attention. You are making the world too clean. Thus your immune system is getting worse. We need to be in touch with the dust to strengthen our resistibility to against germs.” Hans Brinker Budget Hostel is proud of their stains and various germs. As long as staying for one night, your immune system will be naturally strengthened. Visit before it’s too late. 

Actually, the hostel lobby was considered to be clean and neat. The receptionist was quite attentive. When checking in, she smiled and apologised: “Our wireless network was ineffective.” But you were not able to be angry with her as you have already known that it is the worst youth hostel in the world. Poor service should be the norm. I knew that such treatment is not on purpose, I just had a bad luck. 

Hostel booking websites are packed with mixed reviews. In fact, when facing the negative review, the manager could ignore it and be confident to say that customers were warned before. A lengthy disclaimer on their website reads: “Those wishing to stay at the Hans Brinker Budget Hostel, Amsterdam, do so at their own risk and will not hold the hostel liable for food poisoning, mental breakdowns, terminal illness, radiation poisoning, certain diseases associated with the 18th century like plague, etc.” 

The hallways stretching from reception to guest rooms were covered with various creative posters. All of them were related to the topic of “we live in the worst hostel in the world”. Humorous words and pictures are amusing. For example, same person, who checks in with an energetic-looking, becomes haggard when he checks out; a poster of magnified and ferocious flea with an advertising slogan: improve your immune system; a naked man dry himself off with curtains (implied that no towel provided) with the slogan says “Accidentally Eco-Friendly”. 

I have stayed in quite a few nice hotels before. But the pictures of them are always different from what I experienced. I even felt being cheated sometimes. This hostel tells people in advance how bad it is. Such honest self-deprecation also reaches the effect of widely advertising as many media give positive reports on it. 

To promote the products with nothing special is a challenge for creators. The creator of this hostel adapt the method of reverse thinking. This method is different from the traditional way like characteristics-digging and praising in advertisement, which enables more people to notice and remember. Such creative marketing method stimulates customers’ interests and achieves the effect of promotion. Anti-advertising method lower the expectation of the customers, however, because of this, it receives the sincere praise from the customers: “It is not that terrible as what it said.” As a result, it is said that this hostel with almost 130 beds is always full.