Hanoi Backpackers orignal

Throughout my nine months in Thailand I had the opportunity to travel to Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. Not to mention various parts of Thailand itself. I have stayed in many hotels, hostels and even guest houses. I want to take the time to talk about the good, the bad and the ugly.

The Good

Bunwin Hotel – Siem Reap, Cambodia

The Bunwin in Siem Reap is by far my favorite hotel. The small, removed boutique hotel has only ten rooms– allowing the service to shine. The room where I stayed was massive. When I walked in I actually thought there was a mistake and they had given me a suite. In reality, all the rooms are that size. I was solo that weekend. Safe to say the Bunwin would not be ideal for the party-goer. The serene and peaceful environment would be an ideal place for a couple, however.

The service was top-notch. Any question you had, they had an answer. There was a free tuk-tuk service that would take you to and from the city center. Every time you left the Bunwin, they gave you a little cellphone to carry along. Just so you could call if there were any questions. The hotel also offered a free airport pick up and drop off service. And the complimentary breakfast was delicious, as shown below.

Bunwin Hotel Breakfast

At one point a shrieking gecko had gotten into my room. As I stepped out for the day, I asked if they could remove it. And guess what– they did just that. Again, the service was impeccable.

The only downside was that the Bunwin was a bit removed from the downtown area. But in my mind it only added to the peaceful, quiet atmosphere. So it ended up being a plus for me.

Overall, I loved every minute of my stay there.

Price: Not for those on a budget.

Lub d – Bangkok (Silom Location)

Oh, Lub d. This was the first hostel I stayed at in Bangkok. While having two locations, I have only been to the Silom hostel. From the first stay, it was always enjoyable. Why fix something that isn’t broken, right? Nonetheless, I am sure the other Siam location is just as friendly and fabulous. This hostel offers a great environment for any traveler. Modern decor, clean facilities, laundry room, bar on the first level. The others staying at Lub d are always friendly. Yet the best thing about Lub d is the friendly staff. By the end of my time in Thailand, all the staff knew us by name.

Perhaps you are wondering why on earth I stayed at Lub d so often. It is because while teaching for six months I lived in Nakhon Sawan, about three hours outside Bangkok. Thus my friends and I would all congregate at Lub d over the weekends.

They boast dorm style rooms but also double and privates. Private rooms are the only that offer a private bathroom.

Another drawing factor, Lub d has free luggage storage for those who want to use Bangkok as their travel center point.  Bonus: the website is awesome! If you don’t know by now, I am a sucker for flawless webdesign.

Price: While you can find cheaper hostels in Bangkok, it won’t break the bank.

The Original Hanoi Backpackers – Hanoi, Vietnam

This hostel is part of the Vietnam Backpackers Group, which boasts three locations: two in Hanoi and one in Hue. In Hanoi we stayed at the original location. The other hostel, in the old quarter, is much larger. And arguably in a better location. Nonetheless I enjoyed the smaller feel at the original.

Bonuses: Delicious food. Cheap alcohol. Helpful staff. A nightly pub crawl.

Downsides: The room we stayed in (a four person) had an awkward smell. The bathroom was also located a floor below, which was kind of a pain if you had to get up in the middle of the night. Still, the friendly staff made up for it.

Price: Perfect for those on a budget.  

The Bad

Eastiny Bella Vista Hotel & Residence – Pattaya, Thailand

Pattaya is a famous (infamous?) beach town basically run by Russians. It is very close to Bangkok making it an easy weekend trip. Knowing the town’s reputation, we were not expecting some five star experience. But the wifi was not free (what!?!), the breakfast lacked and the rooms had ants. I feel like for the same price one could definitely find better accommodation in Pattaya.

It was definitely in a sketchy location. But then again maybe it’s hard to find otherwise in Pattaya. I have stayed in other not-so-great places in SEA, but reason this made my “bad list” is because from my room window I saw a huge, undressed man doing what you can only imagine (hint: he had some company)…. It was in a room across the way. I know the hotel has no control over this. But the sight was scarring. Several months down the road, I remember all too well. (I want to mention the incident occurred early in the day— not like I was using binoculars to secretly peer at neighbors late at night.)

So, yeah. That is why it has made my bad list.

Price: Low to middle ranged. 

A Little Bird Guesthouse 2 – Chiang Mai, Thailand

Let’s just say that by the time my friends and I left Chiang Mai we were all sick. There’s two “Little Bird” locations. One with AC, one without. We decided to “splurge” (not really…) on the one with AC. The AC actually made us sick by the end. The dorm rooms were each for ten people— a little too many people in my book. No free breakfast. Bathrooms mediocre.

One of the most unfortunate things is that the hostel does not have any late night staff. Meaning when my overnight bus arrived earlier than expected (6 AM rather than 8 AM) I had to wait outside the hostel for two hours. Easy to say not a good way to start off my trip to Chiang Mai.

Price: Super cheap. About 150 baht a night. (Approximately 8 USD.) 

The Ugly

Ansara – Vientiane, Laos

Oh, the Ansara. It was rated second highest for the city of Vientiane on Tripadvisor. Still, I knew it was in Laos. And I knew Laos is quite behind the rest of SEA in terms of development. So my hopes were not too high.

Yet from the moment I walked into the lobby I experienced terrible customer service. The woman working did not answer a single question I had.  Nor did she give me any information at all. Oh, she did give me a map… after I asked. I also had to ask when and where the complimentary breakfast was served. I thought that sort of information should be provided upon check-in–apparently not.

The hotel is made up of three separate buildings, all French-inspired. From the outside it is quite lovely. The hotel rooms themselves are alright. For the price, I anticipated more. The complimentary breakfast was nothing great. Actually, pretty bad.

The reason why this hotel is “ugly?” The gecko that died inside my AC. And they didn’t even change my room. I had to sleep in a room with a dying gecko, stuck inside the AC. It was ugly.

Price: One of the more pricey hotels I have visited in SEA. Not for those on a budget. 

Saigon Backpackers – Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

I have to admit that the website really does the place justice– (Props to them.) In reality, it is far from nice on the inside. It was very cramped. The worst was that the staff were cold. For starters, my friend and I had booked a private room online in advance. When we arrived, they somehow ran out and put us in a hostel dorm. Seeing the place was dirt cheap, what could we really expect?

But it got worse. The reason why Saigon Backpackers is on the “ugly” list is because my friend had her purse stolen right outside. Two guys came up, pushed her to the ground and ripped the bag from her very shoulder. That was bad enough. And then–the hostel staff were very unhelpful following. Not only did they give no advice, they gave no sympathy. I guess it happens all the time. Still, it was right outside the hostel. They should have at least helped report the incident.

In the end, I was very happy to get out of Saigon Backpackers.

Price: Very, very cheap. 


Image credit (1): Photo of lobby in the Original Hanoi Backpackers Hostel, courtesy of the Vietnam Backpackers Website

Image credit (2): Personal photo taken at the Bunwin Hotel, Siem Reap.