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.
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.
All in all, it took one week for us to find a home in Bangkok, but it was really tough going. Even the most organised and patient person in the world would find it difficult not to get frustrated and impatient with the process. Pictures and prices in adverts tend to be deceiving, there are language barriers and it can sometimes seem like there is nothing suitable at all.
Prices depend entirely on what your priorities are in a potential living space. Our main criteria were decent wifi (non negotiable for writing blog posts and keeping in touch with friends at home), a location within a five minute walk to any BTS station, a clean bathroom that wouldn’t also be home to cockroaches, a pool with space to sunbathe, and a hotplate and toaster to create some basic meals. All for about 15000 baht a month? Ambitious maybe…
We’d been told about couchsurfing by some fellow backpackers who couldn’t speak highly enough about it, couchsurfing being their favourite way to travel. For those of you haven’t heard of it before, it’s a concept whereby people let travellers stay for free in their home. These people are the hosts, and the person visiting is the surfer. It’s an amazing way to meet local people and experience a place beyond the travel guide – and of course it’s a great way to save money.
The couchsurfing community is full of like-minded travellers and generally those who surf will also offer to host people when back in their home country. It’s a way for people with limited funds to travel and experience the world. In some areas where people have little money and cannot travel out of their home country, they can host someone from another country and still have the experience of meeting people from different cultures, practise their language skills and learn about other places. Many hosts take part, however, to meet lifelong friends and to offer support to travellers.
We were pretty excited about our first couchsurfing experience and were unsure what to expect. We set up our profiles on couchsurfing.com and started searching for people in Koh Samui. We saw a host with loads of brilliant reviews and the most beautiful, glamorous home. As first-time couch surfers we had no reviews, and as there were two of us we were slightly more awkward to host. We also acknowledged that this couple were likely to get loads of requests from surfers on a daily basis, so when we sent our request we didn’t hold out much hope.
We could not believe it when we received a response asking if we were available the following weekend, as they’d be able to host us, and if the weather held up ‘we could go out on the boat’. Our only reservation was that it seemed too good to be true…
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.
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 →