Where we rested our heads

Hotel Round-up

We slept in 58 different beds on our five month trip. Sometimes we slept on mats, other times we slept on the most luxorious beds in the world. We slept in huts, guesthouses, with local Vietnamese families, on trains and planes, in hostel dorms, in five star resorts, friends’ houses, and even in treehouses 150 meters off the ground.

We took pictures of the places we stayed so you can see what the more mundane part of our backpacking experience was like. Without further ado I give you Robin and Tim’s “Best of Southeast Asia Accomodation” awards.

Most Expensive
Nomads Queenstown Queenstown, New Zealand
Pricetag: 110NZ (90US at the time – bad exchange)

Nomads is an upscale hostel. If you didn’t think such a thing could exist, think again. Hostels in New Zealand are the way to go. The private rooms are like a hotel room within the hostel. We had a flatscreen TV and balcony. There is a huge lounge that is always filled with people and it’s location couldn’t have been more perfect. It was worth the splurge.

Cheapest Room
Some hotel we followed a guy to when we got off the longboat in Pakbeng, Laos
Pricetag: 50,000Kip ($5.50US)
There were six of us looking for a room. We were also climbing up a steap pile of rocks and trying to claim our backpacks in the chaos that ensues on arrival. In a probably unwise decision in retrospect, Caitlin and I followed a local to check out the rooms while the four men waited for the bags. It turned out fine and the rooms, were um, sleepable, but there was ashady back staircase leading from right outside Caitlin’s room – so they ended up moving to another hotel. Tim and I discovered that even though we had hot water it only switched between scolding hot or freezing cold. It should go without saying, but I did not shower that night.

Most creative accommodation
Chai-Niz Village in Pai, Thailand
Price tag: 300 Baht ($10 US)
While Pai has all kinds of strange places to sleep, from tents on the river to large commune huts that overlook the town, we found the Chai-neeze VillageChai-Niz Villagehand-made each year from local bamboo. They’re simple 10 by 10 rooms that you feel like you might fall through with a comfy matress on the floor and an outside balcony. The bathrooms are in the common area. When the rainy season hits they let the huts get carried off in the river, and rebuild again the next year.

Worst Room
Friendly Guesthouse in Huay Xai, Laos
Price tag: 10000 Kip ($11 US)

It should have been a bad sign when the woman limped up three floors of stairs dragging her bad leg behind her like Lurch, and then had trouble matching the number on the doors with the numbers on the keys (in all fairness Laos doesn’t use arabic numbers), but with all the chaos of finding an empty room that matched her keys we forgot to check the bed. I’m pretty sure someone thought the boxspring was a matress. I think the floor would have been more comfortable. Also, to add insult to injury, our German friend recommended a different guesthouse after we returned from our two night tree house escapade, and for the exact same price we slept on the coziest mattress of the entire trip (Westin mattress excluded naturally).

Best Views
Paganakan Dii Sepilok, Borno, Malaysia
Price Tag: 150RM (50 US)
Photos of Paganakan Dii Tropical Retreat, Sandakan

While a little out of our normal price range, this place was worth it. The open air lodge had the feel of being in the jungle of Borneo, but with the luxury and cleanliness of a 5-star resort. The best part was showering with a view of rainforest.
P.S. the mosquito nets are totally necessary.

Best Hospitality
Sam So Guesthouse Siem Reap, Cambodia
Price Tag: $14 US -Our long-term rate: $12US (we paid in US not Riel)

We really can’t say enough about Sam So and Teri. The husband and wife team were amazing. They had bright smiles for us everytime we saw them during our two week stay. Sam So woke up at 4:30am with us one morning and sat with us while we had coffee(which they specially prepared for us) and told us stories about his family during the Khmer Rouge. Sam So speaks German, Italian, and English fluently and always seemed to have one of his two children perched contently on hip lap. We have never felt so welcomed and taken care of anywhere, nor have we ever met a couple that had such warm hearts.

Best Atmosphere
Shiraleas Backpacker Resort Koh Pha Ngan, Thailand
Price tag: 500 baht ($18US) for the fan/cold water bungalows

Tim and I felt like family at Shiraleas. The owner, Richie, spent just as much time having drinks with us and giving us insider tips on the island as he spent behind the bar. We loved the tab system that allowed us to order anything at anytime and leave our cash somewhere else. Shiraleas is a 3 minute walk from the beach and the bar is always crowded with a great mix of Shiralea’s guests, dive bums, and other locals. With Hammocks and cushions to chill out on, and the best beach (haad Yao) on the island, footsteps away, Shiraleas was the kind of place where days could have turned into weeks, and for some it did.

Worst night sleep
Tie: Vietnamese night bus/ Old Firestation Hostle in Fremantle, Australia
Price tag: Nightbus roughly 20US for an 8 hr ride/$60AU Private double

You can refer back my Australia post for the reasons why we only slept between the hours of 3am and 8am during our five nights on the West Coast of Australia. The night bus was a unique experience though. We would have avoided it entirely if it weren’t for the Tet holiday causing all the trains to be booked. The night bus mixes locals and travelers and then goes out of it’s way to do bizarre things, most likely so travelers can try and “one up” each other on their experience. I have heard of people sharing buses with chickens, taking 55 hours to get someplace that should have taken 12, and even a bad mishap where a Brit we met had a knife pulled on him when he suggested to the Vietnamese driver that he would like less bags of rice under his seat so he could lie down properly.

The way these buses are set up is that there are two levels (like bunks). Choose carefully. The second level is closer to the speakers blaring Vietnamese music or Variety shows (the newer buses had TVs to our horror). Also when the lights are flicked on two inches from your eyes for no apparent reason, any hopes of sleep will be fleetingly replaced with anger. The lower level is more ideal, unless of course you find that the bus crew has decided to use the empty isle space to store bags of bread, or fish, or let a person sleep in the isle directly beside you. It’s truly an interesting gamble. The first night bus we took stopped constantly to pick up said supplies. The second time we took the night bus it never stopped at all, which was wonderful, until I realized there was no bathroom on-board. Then I waited, and waited, until we stopped on the side of the road again. We were in front of residencial houses. Now I won’t go into detail about what happened next but only say that I was not the only woman who had been crossing her legs, and also that I don’t think the Vietnamese family whose house we were outside of appreciated our presence behind their tree very much. As it turned out, our reason for stopping was because of a flat tire. If we ever go to Vietnam again, we’re booking flights between each and every destination.

Place we’ll definitely come back to
Nhi Trung Hotel Hoi An, Vietnam
Price Tag: 480,000 Dong($24US)

While $24 is considered overpriced for Vietnam, this hotel had everything from a beautiful balcony to a full breakfast included. The hotel was on the border of the old town and so it was quiet and still easy to walk everywhere in town. Hoi An felt like the most perfect little town to us, and this pleasant hotel certainly added to the appeal.

Best Value
The Wild Orchid Chiang Mai, Thailand
Price tag: 300 baht ($10US)

$10 was cheap even by Thailand standards. We had stayed in another guesthouse on our first visit to Chiang Mai and it had been more than twice as expensive. The Wild Orchid had an incredibly friendly staff, cozy rooms, and was in the area of town that boosted of the most nightlife, yet thankfully not so close that you heard it when you were tucked in your room. We were a little lazy during our stay (a long two-day trek earlier in Pai had drained us) and we spent a lot of hours holed up in our room there, most of them watching the crime channel (the only channel in English besides the news and HBO). If I lived in Thailand and could understand English I would be thinking there are a lot of murderers in America, what a dangerous country it must be.

Our Favorite Hotel
Indaprastha Homestay in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia
Price tag: 20,000 Indonesian Rupees after some negotiation ($22US)

Maybe it was just that we didn’t expect such a serene room at the end of a winding alley, or just that the koi pond at the edge of our deck was so completely mesmerizing, but our stay in Ubud was like one of those odd dreams where everything is completely strange and foreign and yet everything about being there still seems absolutely right. If all of our experiences were anything like the one in Bali I think we would still be in Asia now, soaking up the novelty of having complete language barriers with our hosts and still being able to laugh with them and being treated like royalty.

I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move. ~Robert Louis Stevenson


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Tim the hedgehog
    Jul 26, 2011 @ 19:32:44

    Awesome! We’re looking forward to checking out your guys’ recommendations. We love taking photos of the rooms we stay in too. It’s always fun to document the layout of a room so you can remember it all better when you get home. (Which, of course, means we have photos of hundreds of toilets around the world too. LOL!)

    We also wanted to pop over to your blog to say how great it was to meet last night. And our fingers are crossed that we’ll get to hang out together again at another meet-up soon!


  2. Elise @ Positive World Travel
    Oct 08, 2011 @ 00:20:24

    We stayed at Paganakin Dii as well when we were in Borneo! We loved it too!


  3. Trackback: Travel FAQ « On The Banana Pancake Trail

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