HOSTEL REVIEW: MANGOLO HOSTEL, SIEM REAP

If you’re looking for somewhere to stay near the centre of Siem Reap for less than three dollars a night, we found a hostel that’s a little bit different. With only a couple of very large rooms in a wooden hut with mattresses on the floor, staying at Mangolo felt more like a huge sleepover in a tree house than a budget hostel.

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The reception, bar and social area are all outside (bring insect repellant) and are friendly and welcoming. The manager organised a great tuk tuk driver to take us to see the sunrise over Angkor Wat, even though we only asked the evening before. The bar was an easy place to meet other travellers too. There are comfy hammocks and mats on the floor, creating loads of space to hang out, and the WiFi is strong throughout.

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THE DAMNOEN SADUAK FLOATING MARKET

We’ve been so lucky with visitors and as Tate checked in to head home, Lucy’s plane was landing. She was here for our last two weeks of officially living and working in Bangkok and so it was a chance to do loads of the touristy things we’d been meaning to do for ages. Top of the list was to visit a floating market. It wasn’t as good as we’d hoped, the dirty water not matching the postcards and being in a boat also meant that you couldn’t escape the hassling vendors. However, it was an experience and it was a definite novelty.

Here’s our ‘market rating’ below:

Bargains: 4/5
Refreshments: 5/5
Range of products: 2/5
Convenience: 1/5
Scenery: 3/5
Commercialisation (1 being very commericalised): 1/5
Overall opinion: 2/5

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BANGKOK AIRWAYS CINEMA

The Thais know how to do shopping malls and at the top of these skyscrapers, you’ll nearly always find a cinema to match the standard. You can see a film for just a couple of hundred baht, or alternatively go for for one of the more high-end options. Tate was visiting us from England, so we splashed out on two tickets to the fancy Bangkok Airways cinema, at the top of Siam Paragon.

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THE ST REGIS FREE FLOW

Now, to say that we have failed in our role as budget backpackers is a gross miscarriage of justice – we’ve slept with bedbugs, we’ve couchsurfed where possible, and we’ve frequently held our evening meal at the local supermarket feasting on every free sample available. Yet, last night, after reading of an offer in BK magazine, we ventured to the St Regis Hotel, specifically to their 12th floor Decanter restaurant…

Their ‘free flow’ evening offered unlimited red, white and rosé wine and some beautiful prosecco, along with an unending cheese board, bread basket and meat platter. In a country where all the cheese and wine is imported, at just 665 baht a head, this was a bargain (a small block of cheese costs about 200 baht and a bottle of average wine 500 baht).

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MR JONES’ ORPHANAGE

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Part Santa’s grotto, part rustic kitchen, Mr Jones’ Orphanage seems to encompass everything we loved from childhood – wooden toy trains, cold milk and of course chocolate upon chocolate with extra whipped cream! Based upon the idea of a child’s fantasy orphanage, this over-the-top dessert cafe is a whimsical and indulgent escape.

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CAFÉ KANTARY ICE CREAM PARLOUR, KHAO LAK

We stumbled accross Café Kantary ice cream parlour and bakery after a tasty Thai meal in Khao Lak. Purely for the good of the blog, we were forced to return the next day for photographic evidence, and of course had to try a variety of treats. Kantary have a few cafés across Thailand, so if you ever stroll by one, it’s worth dropping in.

Stylish on the outside, tasty on the inside...

Stylish on the outside, tasty on the inside…

drinks

Cookies’n’Cream Frappé & Strawberry Italian Soda

ice cream

Yoghurt & Blueberry Ice Cream

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HOSTEL REVIEW: PAK UP HOSTEL, KRABI

A friend back in Phi Phi had recommended a stay at Pak Up Hostel, raving about how good it was for just 270 baht a night (about £6). This meant that Pak Up was our first port of call when we reached Krabi. The building used to be a school and has now been cleverly converted – they’ve still kept up the educational theme though, by naming the bedrooms after school subjects, writing adverts and offers on blackboard signs, and by the numerous statues of children around the building.

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Pak Up’s a homely, modern and fun place to stay in central Krabi town. The reception is an open social space, with pay-by-the-minute computers and information about the local areas. Adventure tours and trips to neighbouring islands can be organised, but we chose to explore Krabi itself by renting two of the hostel’s bicycles, for 120 baht each for the day. The staff here are always available and so friendly, even lighting the candles on our friend’s birthday cake and organising all the hostellers in reception to sing to him! Continue reading

SINCERE GUEST HOUSE & RESTAURANT, KOH LANTA

Our final morning in Koh Lanta has arrived and Krabi is the next stop. We’re pretty sad to wave the island farewell as it’s refreshingly authentic compared to places like Phuket and Phi Phi. There are still hoards of tourists and resorts, but there’s more of a hippy vibe here that you can’t help but get on board with.

Surprisingly out of character, we were two hours early for our ferry to the mainland so we had the chance to briefly explore what Saladan had to offer. Firstly, by walking only 200 metres down the street, we were able to shave 130 baht off our boat ticket prices. That alone has just bought our tasty brunch 5 minutes round the corner from the pier.

Absolute haven amongst the island madness

An absolute chill-out haven

We browsed a few cafes but settled on Sincere Guest House & Restaurant. An indication that it’s a great place were the piles of flip flops outside, always a helpful clue… Continue reading

REVIEW: NAP PARK HOSTEL, BANGKOK

Between waving a snowy England goodbye, to stepping out into the wall of Bangkok heat, a not too blissful 21 hours had passed. Thankfully, we had pre-booked a hostel, could jump in a taxi, and head straight there. The only street we’d ever heard of was of course Khao San Road, so we’d opted for a hostel on the street parallel.

As we drew closer and closer to the centre on Bangkok on day one of our epic trip, we started to grow slightly nervous of what to expect… and even more so when we were told by our driver that we’d reached our street. There were market stalls everywhere, cars, scooters and nifty tuk tuks zooming about, and an array of distinct smells in the air – exciting yet daunting. And then… *cue angelic ray of light* beamed Nap Park Hostel. From the botanical pathway to the front door, to the enormous air-conditioned social area, it was cool, calm and, mostly crucially, clean.

The staff at reception were helpful and welcoming, whilst the dorm itself was spotless, modern and cleverly set out. We went for the basic 22 bed dorm and couldn’t believe how sleek it was; especially as it only cost 350 baht a night (about £7). Luxury dorms are available but the only differences we were aware of were dorm size and fewer beds per room.

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Our dorm was divided up so that there two bunk beds per section. At night thick mosquito blinds were pulled down around the bed, creating your own private compartment, complete with a personal light, mirror and plug socket.

Security wise, we felt that we and our belongings were completely safe. Continue reading