Vang Vieng, Laos : Easy Go!

It was so good to be back in Vang Vieng, Laos.  I spent 12 nights in August 2012 in Easy Go Backpackers Hostel, few days before the tubing activity got shut down (re-open again) by Laos PDR government and all the bars along the river and also on the “party island” being torn down and torched.
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I am not gonna touch the tubing shut-down issue here as I already did.
Coming back to Vang Vieng in 2013, 2014 and the whole month of April in 2015, brought me straight to Easy Go Backpackers Hostel without thinking twice. They’ve improved a lot! Last year, they only have few rooms and few beds. This year, they extend it to bigger volume. Not only that; from self-made wood and bamboo beds with thin mattresses and mosquito nets full of holes everywhere, now they get a proper beds with better mattresses and good mosquito nets. Although they’ve improved in that area, they still maintain the chill, backpackers-friendly environment, Laotian-style. Bamboo walls, cross-legs common area with floor mattresses, dining table and chairs, coffee & tea and hot water. The pool table is still there next to the reception counter, wifi still working although not the best, toilet & bathroom still the same and lockers still there too. And for less than USD$3 a night, I am not complaining!
The best part of this hostel is the view from the common area – facing the mountains that lay just next the Nam Song (Song River). The panoramic view is just breath-taking especially in the morning and during sunset. It is just very beautiful.
Should you come to Vang Vieng, Laos PDR, I strongly recommend you to stay in Easy Go Backpackers Hostel which you can book via Hostelworld and Hostelbookers. If those website are too difficult for you, check on their facebook 🙂 Cheers!
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Note: Easy Go (with sister company Spicy Lao) recently open a brand new Easy Go branch in 4000 Islands (Don Det), Laos.
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Hanoi, Vietnam : Hanoi Celntral Backpackers Hoste

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Address (Hostel 1) :
Hanoi Central Backpackers Hostel 
No. 16 Ly Quoc Su Street
Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi
Vietnam
Address (Hostel 2) :
Hanoi Central Backpackers Hostel II
No. 11 Hang Manh Street
Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi
Vietnam
Address (Hostel 3) : *the biggest, newest*
Hanoi Central Backpackers Hostel Old Quarters
No. 16 Thanh Ha Street
Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi
Vietnam

 

Charge: USD$5 per night for 8-beds dorm room with free simple breakfast froom 7:00am-10:am (all 3 hostels) and free flow of local fresh beer (bia hoi) everynight during beer-o’clock hour 7:30pm-8.30pm. Also other offers like free shots, cocktails, etc. (hostel 1 & 3). Also, free pub crawling guided tour with special deals!
All 3 hostels also offers private rooms at good rate.
  • Free wi-fi in a room and free computer/internet usage in common area.
  • En-suite bathroom/toilet in every dormitory, with hot & cold shower.
  • 24 hours air-conditioning
  • Balcony (hostel 1 only)
  • Hair-dryer to borrow from the receptionist

 

  • Laundry service for 30,000VND per kilogram
  • Taxi service to the airport for USD$15 per taxi, not per person
  • Tour service to many places including Ha Long Bay, Sapa & Perfume Pagoda
  • Bus, train and flight booking service for domestic & international routes
  • Visa service for any other countries especially Laos, Cambodia, Thailand & China

 

Note: This is not paid neither free advertisement for Hanoi Central Backpackers Hostel chain. 

Hue, Vietnam : The Royal City & Banh Beo

When so many backpackers told me 1 night gonna be enough in Hue, I spent 3 nights there and I pretty much understand why they not really into Hue – because they are young drunkard backpackers who travel half the world just to drink and get drunk, get lucky with local or another backpacker. Most of them told me “Hue is beautiful bla bla bla but yeah, 1 night is enough, nothing much there. No party. Boring…” But, nah… I like Hue. In fact, I love Hue the moment I stepped my foot there.
In Hue, I stayed in Hue Backpackers Hostel, the chain hostel of very popular Vietnam Backpacker Hostels. I stayed in 6-beds dormitory on the 1st floor, right above the reception, common area and the bar.
I remember back in (on the way to) Da Lat, Hannah told me that Bánh Bèo is originally from Hue. So the moment after I put my backpack in my room and I came to the reception counter and ask the receptionist on Bánh Bèo. She was so surprise because normally people ask her about tours, buses and such but I am the first person asking her about Bánh Bèo. LOL! So, she took a map, and direct me to the local Bánh Bèo place which is just less-than-5-minutes walk from the hostel. I was so happy! And it was so cheap as this restaurant is very old, no one speaks English (they have 6 items menu in English on the wall which you just need to point out what would you like to have), very “Vietnamese” rather than cosy stylish with for-tourists ambiance. You know what I mean?
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For a tray of 15s Bánh Bèo, it only cost 25,000 VND. That is like what? USD$1.20? They also have another type of foods that also base on the Bánh Bèo batter which I couldn’t remember the name. All items cost only 12,000 VND each except for Bánh Bèo. Cheap and yummy! I kept coming back to them every day!
Since I am also very careful with the money that I have, I never really get around that much. On my 1st night in Hue, I didn’t really go anywhere. I just hang out with my new dorm mates – 3 young English guys – and went out for dinner with them in a restaurant about 100m from our hostel. Went to bed pretty early too.
All 4 of us woke up pretty early for breakfast as 3 of them left for Hoi An early in the morning and I gonna do some touring. For 200,000VND (USD$10), Mr. Hai, a motorcycle tour operator, brought me on back of his nice motorcycle around Hue for good 4 hours. He brought me to places like few pagodas, a local village, a hill where located bunkers during Vietnam-America war that facing the river, tombs and of course Citadel. I took lots of pictures, too! One of it exactly the same like John Joyce’s (my travel buddy back in Siem Reap & Thailand last year). We laugh at it.
2nd night, I just walked down the street by the river to the night market. Looking at people eating, drinking, haggling and all. It was a fun view.
On my 3rd day, nothing much. Just walk around the town. Took a cyclo in the afternoon to the Dong Ba market and well, guess what, I got harassed by the shoes/slippers vendor lady! I really wanna get myself a flip-flops but I am on budget so I ask her if she have anything cheap? She keep pointing at so-called expensive ones. Not only she tried to rip me off at point blank but worst, she has no size for me. I’m wearing size 45-46 and the biggest she has is 43. Of course I don’t wanna buy smaller flip-flops or sandals. Then she went all nuts, screaming, cursing and swearing at me. I just left and after few steps, I turned around and shouted back at her “you fucking stupid moron Vietnamese. Next time you wanna rip people off, at least make sure you have the thing that they want! Bloody hell motherfucker!”. And then one young boy hold my arm tightly and brought me away and he asked me to calm down. He brought me to another stall which finally I’d get a traditional beautiful bamboo flip-flops for only 60,000VND.
At night I went to a simple Japanese restaurant called “Japanese Restaurant”. The food was pretty alright although the restaurant doesn’t really have that normal or typical Japanese ambiance/vibe. Since it was raining, I call it a night early, again.
4th day, nothing much. Just walk on the other side of the town. Came back for my Bánh Bèo fix right before lunch time. And getting ready to continue my motorbike journey to the north. Gotta be in Hanoi soon!

Hoi An, Vietnam : A Quick One Night

Arrived in the morning from the most uncomfortable ride in a sleeper bus from Nha Trang to Hoi An. It was hell-ish 11 hours ride. Even valium not able to make me sleep! Arghhh!!!
Alert! Alert! Do NOT take your bus trip from this travel company – ASIA SMILE TOURS – their bus is SHIT! Not only it was really bad, they also took passengers from the street side and “forced” them to sleep on the floor. Oh my…
So yeah, arrive in the morning in Hoi An. Checked-in into the famous Sun Flower Hotel. I was kindda confused when I arrive at this hotel because the “scenery” look like a hospital. Too many injured youngsters in the lobby. Either waiting to check in or waiting for a bus to next destination. Some look really in pain, some look painfully drunk. *facepalm* The lobby was really super busy. Backpacks everywhere! Messy I must say. And the staffs, dang, they are fierce!
Anyway, this is the only hotel that provide dormitories. And the only hostel that I ever been that served buffet breakfast. I mean a proper buffet breakfast!!! Hell yeah!
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Yeah, it was a quick visit to this town. I didn’t even make my way to it’s famous Old Town area. But at least I went to the beach. It was a good, nice beach but I made a mistake to come to the beach for sunset because that was the time when all the Asian people that afraid of getting dark came out and play. LOL!
At night, I wet to Sun Shine Cafe as suggested by Jack & Tom that I shared room with when I was in Nha Trang. They served good food and 3,000VND bia hoi – buy 2 free 1. Hahaha! Awesome. I also would like to suggest this cafe to whoever that going to Hoi An. The cafe located at 46 Tran Cao Van Street. Please say HI to the server girl (owner’s daughter) and their lovely dog – Mickey.

Nha Trang, Vietnam : Little Russia

After spend 12 days in Ho Chi Minh City @ Saigon, Dalat and few other suburbs, finally I made a move to another city – a beach city – Nha Trang.
Check-in in a very nice hostel – Mojzo Inn – just about 2 minutes walk from the main streets full of cafe and restaurants and just 5 minutes walk to the beach area. Had 2 amazing room mates – Jack and Tom. Nice young English guys, even an old English teacher in Hoi An second that.
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I didn’t spend much time under the sun or on the beach this time around as my skin was burning and blistered all over my arms, back and legs. Was really ugly skin conditions. It was from the motorbike trip to/from Da Lat and had it on my last 2 days in Saigon and worsen in Nha Trang. Tsk…
But yeah, Nha Trang has it own charms. I like the vibe there although too many Russians and also everything in Russians and Vietnamese instead of English and Vietnamese. The beach is beautiful and clear. The park nearby is really pretty. And the town itself pretty much relax and not too busy like in Saigon.
I will probably come back to Nha Trang. Someday, somehow.

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia : Metropolitan City With A Soul

Kuala Lumpur’s very own Petronas Twin Tower or known as KLCC with the locals is a significant trademark of Malaysia. RM64 (student price) – not complaining. Might sound pretty expensive but for the view and the experience to be on the sky bridge at 41st floor and the view point at 86th floor, it worth the price. I mean, come on, it is not you gonna go up there everyday unless you work there, right? Well, go, if you have a chance to go. A must-visit place if you come to Kuala Lumpur or your visit to Malaysia will be incomplete no matter how many pictures you take below/outside the twin towers.

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I stayed in Serendipity Backpackers that situated in the middle of Golden Triangle – Changkat Bukit Bintang – where all the bustling nightlife comes alive when sunset down. RM20 (without breakfast) in a 8-10 beds dormitory room. Pretty OK; with a/c, shared bathrooms/toilets with hot/cold shower. I like the common area where most of the backpackers who stays there hangout chit-chatting, online, watching movies and some just nap!
I also love Travel Hub Guesthouse situated in Chinatown @ Petaling Street. RM22 for a/c dorm, inclusive breakfast. Quite spacious compare to Serenity Backpackers. All beds comes with own power socket and reading lamp. The wifi much better here, too. The fact it is in Chinatown, it is pretty much easy excess to everywhere as the LRT and bus station is nearby.
Batu Caves is a must-visit place if you come to Kuala Lumpur. It is a sacred place for Indians/Hindus. It gonna take a little bit of hard work as you gotta climb up 272 stairs to reach the top.
The rest, ask me. Too many to write about Kuala Lumpur! It is a metropolitan city with soul!

Phuket, Thailand : Beach Bums

Me and Cori met again in Phuket after Krabi. She was at Phi Phi Island before.
We stay together at Pineapple Guesthouse @ Karon Beach area. I used to stay there back in 2009 if I am not mistaken. Quality, cleanliness, environment… still the same like before even the price too! I paid 150THB per night. It was considered low season or else the so-called normal price is 180-200THB. It is the price for 12 beds dormitory (fan) with 2 attached shared bathrooms/toilets. Also there are fridge inside the dorm to keep our food/drinks.
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We rented a motorbike for 170THB per day (24hours) and moved around from one beach to another – Patong, Karon, Kata, Nai Harn, Rawai…
And I would say Karon Beach is the best beach among all especially when it almost sunset when people no longer jam-packed the area. Back in 2009, Rawai was really really beautiful, clean and the water were so clear. But not anymore. Development took places… people become greedy of money. Sad.
Ahhh… but one thing that managed to make me happy. I got my Swedish meatballs fix again! Twice in Phuket 🙂 One nearby our hostel at Karon. One is somewhere on the way from Nai Harn to Rawai. Awww yeah!