I travelled 8 countries in 4 months, and these were the top 5 places I stayed and why. All had free wifi in the communal areas and in some of the dorms – always good to know! Some did food, some didn’t.
Mad Monkey – Siem Reap, Kampot, Koh Rong Samloem, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
This one will be a long description as there’s a lot to say…A reasonably priced party hostel, by all accounts, but one with good facilities ($8, or £5 per night and a swimming pool in the hostel!?), really friendly and cheekily fun staff (cleaning ladies who liked to sit on my bed and look at photos of my boyfriend, giggle and basically hide from their boss for a few minutes were a high point!) and pretty strong ethics. Large bunk beds with regularly cleaned sheets, a cupboard, a light and charge point for each bed made this place pretty high on my list, but it really is their ethics which puts it firmly at the top spot for me.
I won’t go into details, but as far as Cambodia is concerned, wages are not high, and staff are generally not treated all that well. I had it on good authority by staff (locals and Westerners) in both hostels I stayed and one of the founders (a Westerner) that they pay a good wage and give generous time off for their staff, be they Westerners or locals alike.
In addition to this,a project was set up to give Cambodia cleaner water, and the hostel staff work really hard with local communities, helping to fundraise and build wells of clean water for their people – which I really respected. They do this and more – go and have a read all about their values and explore some of what they get up to.
They have around 50 poor or terrible reviews on TripAdvisor for their Phnom Penh hostel, out of 1,000-odd. Not bad. Go and have a look for yourself.
2. Hotel Encounter Nepal – Kathmandhu, Nepal
A lovely, friendly place in the heart of Kathmandhu and reasonably priced too at 130 Nepali rupees (roughly £9) per night for a twin room, this hostel boasted a pleasant outdoor area where guests could gather around an outdoor wood-burner and chat into the small hours, during which point the staff would give up waiting for you to go to bed, and grab a drink, a chair and join you.
The best thing about this place was the staff – of course!
We took a day and night trip whilst we were there, and they stored all of our luggage and greeted us when we return with such lovely, warm and welcoming smiles. These guys just could not have been nicer, or more happy to help or advise. I hope they and their families and friends were not hurt during the recent earthquake.
Another strong TripAdvisor rating – gosee!
3. Suneta Hostel – Bangkok, Thailand
Situated just a couple of roads parallel to the famed Khao San road in Bangkok, the Suneta hostel (440 baht – approx. £9) almost felt like a home from home for me as I stayed there 3 separate times, each time I passed through Bangkok. As with Mad Monkey, these guys had good sized beds, individual light, charge point and shelf and a large locker, with regularly cleaned linen throughout your stay – you even got fresh towels every day!
Another place with extremely friendly staff who remembered me when I came back 2 months later within my trip, but the reason Suneta made my Top 5 is because it was perfectly situated, a 5 minute walk to the lights and party of Khao San and 3 minutes to the pleasant foodie heaven of Rambuttri road, you are in the heart of the city but without having to be hearing the loud, beating heard of the city at all hours!
You can have the option of a bunk with sliding doors, making a ‘pod’ of sorts, very good for blocking out the noise. Though of course, this was more expensive than the normal bunk, which I stayed in.
Check them out on TripAdvisor, for they too have pretty strong ratings…
4. Common Grounds – Pai, Thailand
Now this was another party hostel, though with a different vibe. Owned and ran by 2 Floridian brothers and a local Thai lass, Common Grounds was a haven for backpackers who liked a more ‘chilled’ vibe.
Set amongst the beautiful scenery in the peaceful town of Pai in Northern Thailand, Common Grounds (200 baht – £4) was the kind of place that people would come to stay for 3 days, and end up there for 3 weeks. I was one of these, originally planning to stay for 2 days and head to Laos, I got ‘lost in Pai’ and ended up staying there for 8 – 9 days, chilling out, maxing, relaxing all cool…shooting some b-ball outside of the…ok maybe not!
The facilities weren’t quite as great as those I’ve mentioned previously, but I’ve had far worse, they were clean and comfortable enough – I’d recommend to definitely pay a little extra for an air com dorm though (these don’t come as standard as in most of the other hostels in this list).
Best thing about Common Grounds? The chillout vibe. Anyone could chat to anyone and get along, the owners, local friendly dogs and staff would all hang out with the guests and it was pretty great.
By now you know it’s coming – here’s the TripAdvisor
5. Bunc@radius – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
And finally we come to number 5. The lovely Bunc. Well, myself and my travel buddy arrived in Kuala Lumpur late at night on what we realised pretty quickly was the Chinese New Year, and headed straight for – you guessed it – Chinatown. There was method in this madness, as this was the backpacker area, but we hadn’t realised we were to feel like Mary and Joseph – there was no room at any inn anywhere! Tip – if you go anywhere in Asia (particularly a Chinatown) on Chinese New Year. Book your damn accommodation first!
So we arrived after a nightmare few days in Sri Lanka and a nightmare long travel, and Bunc let us stay! One night, was all they said they could do (though we ended up staying for 5 nights in the end I think), for 35 Ringitt (roughly £7 each), and we gladly ran in and flopped on the ridiculously comfy mattresses. Another clean, large, lockered, light and plus socket combo – the best thing, by far about Bunc was the bathroom.
Oh that bathroom. I genuinely don’t think I’ve had a better shower since! A massive showerhead with some pretty impressive power behind it, a huge shower cubicle and two dispensers (shampoo and body wash) meant you really were CLEAN after a shower, and you didn’t even have to use your own stuff! A massive film star like area (vanity against the wall and large mirror) meant you could really get ready, and use the free hair dryer too! Such a treat!
By far the cleanest and nicest turned-out hostel I stayed in, I would thoroughly recommend Bunc to anyone looking for a comfy few nights and a great shower!
Not many reviews on TripAdvisor though – maybe I’ll add to that…!
So there you have it. My top 5. What about you? Have you been to these areas and/or even stayed at any of these places? Where would YOUR Top 5 be?