Southeast Asia Wanders

Your guide to travelling, living and working in Southeast Asia

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6 Warning Signs That a Hostel May be Dodgy

Ah hostels—the staple accommodation for backpackers traveling on a budget in Southeast Asia. Cheap and sociable, hostels are a great way to pinch those pennies and meet new people on the road. However, not all hostels are created equal. We’ve all heard the horror stories about dodgy hostels with noisy roomies, grubby toilets, and less than ideal locations. Fortunately, there are some key warning signs that you can look out for before you book that will alert you to the fact that a hostel may be less than ideal.


PS- Most of these tips are true for homestays, guest houses and hotels as well.



1. Visible Rubbish


This should be a no-brainer. If you can see rubbish outside the hostel, in the reception area or even in photos of the hostel online, there’s a pretty good chance that you’re in for a disgusting stay. Think about it—if the owners or staff can’t be bothered to pick up litter in the common areas, how much attention do you think they’re going to pay to bed sheets, bathrooms and the kitchen? Common sense says to steer clear of dirty hostels.


2. Surly Staff


Part of what makes for the best hostel experiences are the staff, as these are the people who should be making you feel at home and helping you out with your basic needs and/or info about your destination. If the staff are rude, grouchy, or non-existent when you walk in, you can be sure that they won’t be going out of their way to make your stay a pleasant one. Trust your instincts. If you get a bad vibe from the staff or any of the other guests, just remember that they’re the ones with the keys to your room. You have seen the movie Hostel right?


3. Location, Location, Location


Sure, you may save money by staying at a hostel that is way out of town or in a down and out neighborhood. However, the reality is that you might actually end up spending more on transportation into town, food delivery, overpriced drinks, etc. Plus, is it really worth staying in a sketchy and potentially dangerous neighborhood just to save a few bucks?


4. Security


Again, another obvious thing to look for, but something that many people overlook. A good hostel should have lockers for you to store your stuff so that you don’t have to drag it around all day, secure locks on the bathroom stalls and shower doors, and a system in place where there are people on staff to make sure that outside people cannot enter the guest rooms or locker areas. Take the time to do a bit of research to save yourself a major loss later.


5. Curfew


Ok, so having a curfew may seem like a good idea and one that is geared towards safety and comfort, but do you really want to end up out on the street just because you weren’t watching the time or got stuck in a traffic jam or wanted to hang out for that extra little bit? In addition, a curfew may be a good sign that the staff won’t be around late in the evening. If that’s the case, who will be overseeing security or on hand in case of an emergency?


6. Bars/Restaurants on Site


Again, this may seem like a good idea at first. I mean who doesn’t want easy food and drinks right at their doorstep? However, keep in mind that restaurants and especially bars often play loud music, can get quite busy and may stay open until late in the evening. If you’re a light sleeper and need your Z’s, you may want to consider a hostel within walking distance, but completely separate from the dining and drinking venues.

The Most Bizarre, Unusual and Intriguing Hotels in Southeast Asia

Sometimes it seems as if all hotels are made the same. You know the feeling—you walk into your room, throw your stuff down, look around and realize that you could be anywhere. Bangkok, Hong Kong, even Ohio for that matter. Which is a shame, because if you know where to look, Southeast Asia is full of interesting, unique and artistic hotels that are so much more than just a place to rest your head. Why stay in a cookie cutter hotel chain when you can stay in one of these fabulously unconventional hotels and villas?


Hang Nga Guesthouse AKA Crazy House

Crazy House Dalat, Vietnam

Walking into the Hang Nga Guesthouse is like entering into some sort of bizarre dream, where Gaudi meets Alice in Wonderland, with a splash of Swiss Family Robinson and Salvador Dali thrown in. This spectacular array of wood, wire, glass and concrete buildings features imaginative ladders shaped as tree roots, mysterious cubby holes, towering treehouses with jagged peaks, and even an bizarre Indonesian/Swiss style chalet. Add to this spiderweb patterned windows, wooden kangaroos, bears and giraffes, and an explosion of tropical foliage and flowers just for good measure, and you’ve got a feast for the eyes. The architect and owner, Ms. Hang Viet Nga was trained in architecture in Moscow, and considers her Dalat guesthouse to be a masterpiece of curved lines that fuse nature and people. While the locals might think the guesthouse is a tad on the crazy side, tourists from around the world flock here to see this fantastic fusion of architectural styles and imaginative whimsy.

Dalat, Vietnam




The Imperial Boathouse Hotel

Imperial Boathouse Koh Samui

Originally real rice Thai barges that used to ply the Chao Praya River and the open seas, these 34 wooden boats have been renovated into unique luxury suites. Each suite offers a breezy outdoor wooden deck, a spacious living room inside, sky-lit bathrooms, and a master suite below deck. Following the nautical theme, even the pools here are shaped like boats. As an added bonus, the Imperial Boathouse Hotel is surrounded by lush tropical gardens and just steps away from the gorgeous Choeng Mon Beach on Koh Samui.

Koh Samui, Thailand



Elephant Safari Park Lodge

elephant safari park lodge imageMany people who travel to Southeast Asia make a point to see some elephants on their holiday, but how many people do you know who actually stay in the midst of these beautiful creatures? The Elephant Safari Park Lodge is set in the middle of the Elephant Safari Park in Taro, Bali, and it offers guests an up close and personal experience with the 30 rare Sumatran elephants that roam the grounds. Eat breakfast while overlooking the forest and the elephant trails in the Mammoth’s Head Bar, have your own private elephant chauffeur pick you up at your room for a day of trekking with your elephant guide and bathing, feeding and petting the elephants. End your day with a spa treatment and a four-course dinner before retiring to your luxurious safari lodge room.

Taro, Bali, Indonesia



 4 Rivers Floating Lodge

4 Rivers Lodge
Far from the well-traveled backpacker trail of Cambodia, Koh Kong is an intoxicating mix of pristine rainforest, deep blue rivers, and untouched mountain ranges. Intrepid travelers can make the trip up the Tatai River to the 4 Rivers Floating Lodge, an environmentally friendly collection of luxury tents, floating on a platform along the river. Each tent features a private sun deck with views of the river in front and the Cardamom Mountains behind, as well as plush double and twin beds, flat screen televisions, Wi-Fi and mini-bars. But with so much nature and serenity outside, the chances that you’ll use these modern amenities is slim, as you’ll be much too preoccupied swimming, canoeing, trekking, and enjoying the spectacular sunsets from your deck.

Tatai, Koh Kong, Cambodia




Wanderlust Singapore
Once a 1920s schoolhouse, this experimental boutique hotel is the result of a collaboration between four of Singapore’s award-winning design agencies. Each agency was given free reign over one level of the Wanderlust hotel, creating rooms that are funky, modern and unique. Take for example, the Eccentricity Floor by :phunk Studio, with its colorful neon lights, rainbow hallway and vibrant mosaic-tiled jacuzzi; or the Creature Comforts floor by fFurious, which makes use of friendly monsters, spaceship sculptures and twinkling star lights. Even the communal area and bar is cutting-edge, with walls painted in abstract patterns, shag rugs and futuristic furniture.

Little India, Singapore



Do you know of any other unique or eccentric hotels, guesthouses or villas in Southeast Asia? If so, feel free to comment below.