At 14 cents a night, the price was right.
I was traveling overland by bus through Afghanistan along the now-closed Hippie Highway from Europe to India. As a journalist on a 12-month unpaid leave in 1972, my budget was tight. I stayed in cheap hotels. In a year's travels, this one, in Kabul, was the cheapest.
At that kind of place -- I've long forgotten its name since I doubted I would ever return, or even recommend it to friends -- what you lose in amenities you make up in atmosphere.
My companions for a few days were two British students I met at the border when they saved me from a con job -- one they had fallen for. They grabbed my arms and pulled me our little van bus while the con men clutched at my legs to keep me from leaving.
We arrived in Kabul at dusk after a long ride through the summer desert from Kandahal, at times perched on top of the bus with the spare tire, luggage and an overflow crowd of Afghani villagers. We could dream of air-conditioned rooms, a long shower and cool drinks. But not for 14 cents.
An old man whose job was to watch for Western travelers met our bus and persuaded us to follow him a couple of blocks through Kabul's dusty streets to the hotel. It was a small, one-story structure surrounding a courtyard onto which the dozen or so rooms opened. Entrance to the hotel was through the courtyard gate.
The owner, who spoke just enough English, and his two teen-aged sons welcomed us effusively but apologetically. They were full up. Pakistanis on a holiday had escaped the heat of their country for the relative coolness of Kabul's altitude.
But he could set up three cots in the courtyard, and, besides, one of the communal bathrooms did have a Western toilet and a cold-water shower. We accepted.
For three nights we slept under Kabul's stars on wood-frame cots strung with rope netting. The gates locked at night kept us, we felt, reasonably secure.
One amenity we did get was room service. The owner set up a small table under a tree near the cots. For breakfast, he brought us a boiled egg, rice, bread and tea. For dinner, the same.
One evening the Pakistanis, many of whom had stopped at our cots to talk -- and, I think, gape -- built a campfire in the courtyard, singing and telling stories into the night. You don't get that in a Best Western.