I'm writing these reviews a little late - so apologies for that at the outset. We stayed at the Emerald Hostel in March 2011. We had quite a few problems finding the place initially - pretty much all our fault as we'd written the name down wrong! - however, it is a little bit out of the way, up an inconspicuous road. It takes around 15 - 20 minutes to walk to the West Lake, some of which is along a busy road. It wasn't a problem for us, but might be for other guests.
The best things about this hostel are the lovely staff (who were really, really helpful) and the great food. We had one of the best meals of our time in China here: try the tea-flavoured pork if it's on the menu. Both the rooms and the food are very cheap. However, there were quite a few problems, many of which arose mainly because it was so cold on the first night we stayed (seven degrees and rainy!). The heating was capricious and tricky to work and we had to ask the poor guy on the desk to come up several times to help us with it. For some reason we never managed to fathom, the door to the communal area (where food was served) was left open all evening so we had to eat dinner wrapped up in coats and jumpers and we were still cold! And there was a nasty smell in the bathroom but to be fair it's possible that we'd blocked the plumbing with loo paper, so that may well have been our fault.
Overall, this could be a really great place to stay; they just need to iron out a few of the glitches. I would recommend this place for summer trips; in winter, you might need to be a bit braver than us in piping up about shutting the door!
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