For those that are curious, we have decided to make a page to show pictures and reviews of our accommodations on the trip. Might be helpful for anyone planning on going to any of the same locations. Our priorities in selecting the accommodations were cleanliness, convenience, and price. Click on a picture to browse through the slideshow manually.
Hotel Colonial (Puebla)
This was a hotel night we had in Mexico on our way out to the Pico de Orizaba trip. The location was about a block from the Zocalo in Puebla city, making it an extremely convenient location. As far as price, there was one cheaper option that we could have booked online, but the pictures on the hotel website didn’t even make it look good. This was the most economical of the acceptable lodgings. I loved the history behind the hotel (an old monastery), and the customer service was excellent. Our room was clean, large, and had a balcony along a pedestrian walkway that was very cute without making the room too noisy. The bed was a little firm, but not uncomfortable for sleep. The bathrooms were clean, but in addition to being slightly cramped, the drain for the shower didn’t work very well. There was a small electronic safe in the room for valuables, but the security of the hotel felt good. The greatest thing about the place was the rooftop terrace that gave a great panoramic view of Puebla. Free Wi-fi. Rooms are about $50-$70 per night. Overall, we give this place a 7/10, with points deducted on value. We’d probably go back.
Godzillas Hostel (Moscow)
Moscow is an expensive city. We decided to stay at Godzillas Hostel based the location and price. Reviewers had stated the location was clean, and they weren’t kidding. There was a lady cleaning the hostel basically all day! We opted for a double private room, but there are dormitories and single rooms available as well. The location was very convenient–5 minutes to Tsvetnoy Bulvar Metro station, 10 minutes walking distance to Pushkin Square, and about 20 minutes walking distance to the Red Square along Taverskaya Street. The room was a little small, but had a comfortable bed, an armoire, chair, night stand, and mirror. Unfortunately, no in room safe or lockable box. There was a shared bathroom facility (2 showers, 1 WC) for the floor, with 6 rooms total for our particular floor, so there was never a wait to use the bathrooms. The hostel has a kitchen with a stove, fridge, and dishes free for everyone to use (very convenient for making coffee to get started in the morning). There was also a TV/common room, 2 internet computers, 24 hour front desk, a luggage and security room, laundry room, and an in-house secure ATM. Laundry was 160 rubles for wash/dry per load, and you have to sign up on a schedule. Other than not having a private locker, the security was great. Rooms locked securely, and the front door was only accessible by either being buzzed in or having an electronic key (attached to room key). Free Wi-fi. Prices range between $15-$35 per person per night. Overall, we give this place a 9/10, and would definitely go back.
Hotel Pearl Palace (Jaipur)
Unless you are on a luxury spending budget ($700+/night), India is a tough place to find decent accommodations. After pouring through countless traveler blogs, hostel websites, trip advisor, and guide books I decided on the Pearl Palace. It is not directly in the center of town, but it has easy access to Sindhi Bus Camp and the Jaipur Railway station. After having spent a few days in Jaipur, I am thankful it is NOT in the city center. The hotel itself is clean, and the service is very friendly. Room availability ranges between singles, doubles, or family rooms (6-8 beds per room), and all can be had with standard, Fan, or A/C. We went for a double private bathroom with full AC. The AC was great, I never saw a single bug, and the room had great ventilation and lighting. The rooms and the hotel are decorated in a Hindi style, with beautiful marble flooring and fresh flowers everyday in the common areas. There is a common room with a library and two internet computers (with printing available). The rooftop of the hotel has a restaurant (owned and run by the wife of the hotel owner) with a very clean kitchen and food. I even ordered a sweet lassi without later health consequences! Laundry services are available as same day services for pennies per item. There is a lockable closet in the room. Wi-fi signal is pretty good and only 100 rs(~$2)/24 hours. Price ranges from 350 rs (~$8) to 1400 rs (~$31) per room per night. Overall, I’d score this place a 8 or 9/10 for value and cleanliness (For an India score, Id give it a 10/10). If I ever come back to Jaipur, I’d come back here.
Hotel Taj Plaza (Agra)
Let me start by saying that Agra is a dirty, tout ridden, stinkhole. The Taj Mahal is the only thing going for it. On the way to the hotel the taxi driver told us that since the only industry in Agra is tourism, that the people depend on us for their livelihood. That being said, I don’t understand why it can’t be a nicer place.
The “Hotel Taj Plaza” is located near the east gate of the Taj Mahal, just far enough away from the marble shops to be comfortable, but still close enough to be walking distance to the Taj. Like anywhere in India, the rooms available range from shared bathroom singles without AC to private rooms with bathrooms and AC—the big difference here is you get the option of having a view of the Taj Mahal from your room! Of course, we opted for a Taj view double room with AC and a private bathroom. The hotel itself is reasonably clean, though due to some renovations is a little dusty. The AC was fantastic and occasionally blew out some uncomfortably cold air. The bathroom was small, but had enough space to get everything done–and they even gave us a decent sized roll of toilet paper (yes, it’s an issue in India). While there wasn’t a lockable closet or box in the room, the bathroom itself was (weirdly) lockable, and we used it as our safe storage with good results. The front desk is friendly and generally pretty helpful with suggestions on, among many things, how much to pay auto rickshaws for rides around town. The room view is amazing. Watching the last of the bleeding sunset from our hotel room was a definite highlight of our stay in Agra.
There were a few things to complain about, though. 1) The water is really salty. No, I didn’t drink it, but when showering a little got on my lips and it was disgusting! It made for no sudsing action, and left my hair feeling like I had washed it in sea water. 2) The beds came with only fitted sheets. I don’t know why. When we asked for a second pair of sheets people looked at us like we were crazy. Luckily, I have my sleep sheet and used it here for comfort. 3) The water, though advertised at “hot,” is tepid at best. You have to ask for this tepid water 30 minutes ahead of time, too. Come to think of it, it probably isn’t much different than the room temperature water baked in the hot Agra sun. 4) we saw a few crickets sneak in under the door. I think the AC was uncomfortable for them, though, because as soon as we saw them, they would crawl back through the little door crack.
A pretty poor signal Wi-fi access is available at 55 Rs/hour, or 550 Rs for 24 hour access. Overall, I’d give this place a 5 or 6 out of 10 (Global score 4/10). Most of the points given due to the fantastic Taj view, and maybe a couple for the helpfulness of the staff. Prices range from $16 to $35 dollars per night depending on if you choose AC, fan, view or no view. If I EVER come back to Agra, I’d stay at the Oberoi Amarvillas next door. This town is so gross, that if you even need to spend a night here (totally not necessary) it is worth staying in a luxury hotel just to have a clean place to relax and rest comfortably.
Smyle Inn (New Delhi)
Delhi is a big place, and finding accommodations here is a little easier than in the other two places we went to in India. For this trip, we decided to stay in the “backpacker” area, mostly due to it’s central location and easy access to the delhi metro system. Smyle Inn is located in Paharganj, directly east of the New Delhi Rail station, and the Delhi Metro. It is also located a short walking distance to Rajiv Chowk, a nice little shopping area and another Metro stop.
For such a convenient location, there aren’t very many “clean” options. To be honest, I was a little nervous about this place when to locate it we had to walk down a small alley through public open air urinals! But, it was tucked away back far enough that it was a nice calm, quiet place. The rooms were also remarkably clean for where we were…cleaner than Agra, and almost as clean as Jaipur.
The room was small, and had a great working AC and a small flat screen TV. The bathroom was also clean, and had a nice little clothes line to hang our clothes dry. They do laundry at the hotel, but, we decided to hand wash our stuff while here. Unfortunately, there is no lock box in the room at all. Like most of India, they only give you a flat sheet, so bring your own sleep sheet or ask for a second sheet (we opted for our own sleep sheet). The water never gets hot, and at night will be cold! But, since India is so hot, it actually feels refreshing to bathe in cold crisp water.
They serve a nice little breakfast at the rooftop lounge every morning from 8 am-11 am. It was small, but filling and most importantly–hygienic. The staff is pretty helpful, and generally pretty friendly. I actually liked this place. Overall, I’d probably come back. For India, this place gets a 7/10 (for a global score maybe 6/10) Wi fi is available for free, but they also have a nice little computer room with internet access. Prices range from $8-$15 per night, but they have recently opened a “deluxe” wing which has slightly higher prices.
VN Guest House (Kanchanaburi)
This was our first stop on arrival to Thailand. It is in a small tourist town called Kanchanaburi, and it is located on the River Kwai. This was a very relaxing town to be in, and I could totally see myself staying here for at least a week. I picked this place because it has a “raft house” on the actual river, and I wanted to stay on the raft with a view out to the river. This room was totally awesome, and staying on the raft house was more relaxing than you could imagine. The wake from boats would rock the house gently and give you a soothing rocking motion when lounging around in the room. Ac worked great, and it would get cold really fast!
There are also rooms in a concrete structure on solid ground available, and all come with the option to have hot or cold water, and AC or fan. The rooms are slightly worn down, but they are kept VERY clean. There is a lockable box in the room, and the room itself has a door lock as well as spot where you can lock it from the outside with a pad lock. For the river view room, the door to the river balcony also had a door lock as well as a pad lock. It felt very secure.
The lobby is also where the restaurant was, and the food here was pretty good at decent guest house prices (~60 baht per dish–~$2). They had next day laundry service, and the clothes came back smelling super clean and fresh (20 Baht per kilo~$0.81). Motorbike and bicycle rentals are available at this location, and the motor bikes come with helmet (Motorbike 250 baht for 24 hours~$8). Free Wi-fi. Staff was SUPER friendly, and they were OK with us staying a little past check out time without charging us. They do free pick ups from the bus or train station. Prices range from $8-$13 per night for double occupancy. I LOVED this place, and I would definitely go back. This scores a 9 or 10/10 for its charm and friendliness!
Sivarin Guest House (Bangkok)
Located walking distance from two water piers, and about a 10 minute walk to Khao San road, this is a great location to get to the main sites around Bangkok. The gueshouse is small, but very clean. Like anywhere else, you could select AC or not, but all rooms are shared bathroom with hot water. Not to worry, though, because the staff is ALWAYS cleaning, and the bathrooms (and lobby and rooms) are impeccable! The room comes 2 bottles of fresh water daily and a nice little fresh cooked breakfast served between 7 and 11 am.
The bed was VERY comfortable and the sheets were the crispest, whitest sheets I have seen on this trip so far! Towels are super luxurious, too! They do laundry here for 40 baht for kilo ($1.30) and deliver it to your room. There is a lock box in the room for valuables. A common fridge/freezer is available for use as well as a computer room with printer. Staff is very nice and always smiling. Wi fi is free.
We’d score this place a 8 or 9/10, and would come back here if coming back to Bangkok. Prices range from $18-$24 per room per night.
Prohm Roth Guesthouse (Siem Reap)
I LOVE Prohm Roth Guesthouse! It is located on an extension of Pub Street in the heart of Siem Reap. It is a Khmer owned family business with a super friendly owner named Meang. He basically employes his uncles, cousins, siblings, etc. and the entire staff is helpful and friendly–they treat you like a good family friend.
Like most lodging in SE Asia, you can get AC or fan rooms, single, double, triple, and even quad rooms, all with hot water for the private shower. They have a tour desk at the front and they hire friendly tuk-tuk drivers on staff to get you around town or that you can hire for the day. The guesthouse is clean and comfortable, and they give you a free bottle of water every day. Laundry is available at the guesthouse for $1.50/kilo with same day service. There is free Wi-fi with pretty good connection speeds in the guesthouse, but also one computer in the lobby. Bus/boat tickets are available at the front desk, and they arrange for bus pick up service for your departure day.
I really felt comfortable here, and I can’t say enough about how much I liked the staff. I would most definitely come back here. For value, location, and friendly staff I give this place a 10/10. Prices range from $8-$25. For a double room with AC it is a mere $13!
The Pavilion (Phnom Penh)
The Pavilion in Phnom Penh is a hotel in an old french colonial building, previously used by Khmer Royalty. It is now a luxurious boutique hotel, with a cool, jazzy, trendy feel. It is a short walk from the Royal Palace, making it very convenient to get around town. Front desk staff is very friendly and helpful. They give you a list of average tuk-tuk prices for various distances around town.
The rooms are beautiful and very comfortable, making it tempting to sleep in! Breakfast is served at the hotel for all guests and the highlights are the fresh passion fruit juice and french bread.
There are two computers for use available in the lobby and free Wi-fi access on the grounds of the hotel. Excellent internet speed here. Laundry is available from the hotel, though at highly inflated prices! Fortunately, there is a nice laundry place right outside the hotel where you can get your clothes washed for $2/kilo. Room rates are between $40 and $90 per night. I’d book a stay here again. Prices seem high for Cambodia, but I can actually see how the money goes into maintaining the grounds of the hotel. This place scores an 8 or 9/10.
Long Guest House (Ho Chi Minh City)
Located in a small back alley in the backpacker district of Ho Chi Minh City is Long Guest House. Rather than your typical backpacker style place, this is a home stay. The mother of the house teaches English and enjoys having foreign guests to keep up her own skills. What I loved about this place in particular is that the Home Stay Mother (Mrs. Long) really takes care of you! She tells you how to avoid all manner of scams that abound in the big city, gives advice on which tour groups to join, and even gives you estimates of fair prices to try to haggle your way down to! She cooks a mean breakfast, and can give advice on where to go for meals throughout the day (for places that don’t rip off tourists) if you tell her what you plan for the day. There are only two rooms in the house, so if you plan on staying here, book early.
If you arrive by bus, you need only walk to get here. In fact, if you are anywhere near the Ben Than Market, just walk here because it is close by! Mrs. Long will set up any other transportation for you if you ask, which will do you better than going at it on your own. Not that you will need to do so, because the tour buses (if you plan to use them) depart steps from her place on De Tham Street, buses to Cambodia or other parts of Vietnam depart down the ally from her home on Pham Ngu Lao Street, and most major places to visit in HCMC are walking distance to this area.
Wi Fi is free here, as is breakfast. Rooms include a private bathroom, and linens, towels, lock box, and refrigerator. The place is kept very clean, with the room being cleaned every day. Laundry is available from her for rates comparable to whatever else you can find else where–just give it to Mrs. Long in the morning and she will have it back to you by the evening. Room rates are $9 USD per person per night. I would definitely stay here again. 10/10 for all the hospitality, security, and value.
Guilin Riverside Hostel (Guilin)
This was our first stop in China, and we arrived late in the night after a delay in our flight. As promised, though, the Airport pick up was still waiting for us from the Hostel to drive us. Because we had called to let them know that the flight was delayed, a nice lady water for us to check us into the hostel. Perhaps due to the room we booked or due to the lateness of our arrival we were given a room in the “old” building, so it was next door to the building where we checked in. The room was clean and spacious, with a private bathroom and shower.
The breakfast and tours they have are both a little overpriced, but since this hostel is a bit of a walk from the backpacker area in Guilin, then you either have to get to another youth hostel to book a more reasonably priced tour (like to the Longji Rice Terraces–they pick you up at this hostel either way you book, so don’t even worry about booking else where), and go out for breakfast, which I completely recommend. The lady at the desk will tell you where to find some good Guilin Noodles if you ask her, and will even site down special requests to give to the restaurant staff if you need. Wi-fi was available for free, and reliable, which is actually quite a rarity in China. They have laundry facilities available here, but you have to do laundry on your own. The only thing I don’t like is that they constantly try to sell you tours, even when you ask for directions to get somewhere on your own. Like, there is no reason to book a tour to the Reed Flute Caves or Elephant Trunk Hill, since you can get there easily by bus (or walking for ETH)–but you’ll have to look up bus numbers and stops online. So rather than paying I don’t know, 300 RMB, you’ll pay 6RMB for the bus plus admission to get there on your own. That was annoying, but what can you say? For that, I rate this place a 6 or 7 /10. The place is fine, I just didn’t like that they weren’t that forthcoming with information.
Grand Mercure (Xidan, Beijing)
If you think these accommodations are a bit extravagant and out of line with the other places we have on this blog then I would totally agree with that assessment, and I will offer two good reasons for going out of our norm and staying here. (1) We originally had booked at another smaller place called Red Lantern House, which was a traditional style Hutong type accommodation in the XiCheng district. But, when we arrived, we were annoyed by several things including: Spitting (I know, I know, if you’re in China you just have to get used to it) out front, being walked to another building several blocks down from the main place but that if we wanted to take advantage of the breakfast we were promised we would have to walk back to the Main House to get it. Also, the online booking had promised WiFi in all rooms, but when we got there, the Wi Fi was only in common areas. The linens were the dingiest I had ever seen and the bathroom had a window that opened out to the public. So, for that, I kindly went back to the main room, and told them I would not pay the balance on my room, and that I felt they had misled me and I would not stay the 7 nights there. They assured me I wouldn’t find a place to stay and that I was making a big mistake, so I walked out of there pissed. (2) It was our 9 year wedding anniversary, and after being pissed off by the Red Lantern House, we just wanted to spoil ourselves. Hence, The Grand Mercure.
What can you say about a 4* place other than it met our expectations as far as comfort goes. Clean, GREAT A/C, overpriced laundry, delicious breakfast, and some helpful staff. I say some because the room we signed into as a counter arrival was supposed to include free internet, but for some reason, we were charged for it–and when we went to dispute it, the staff all of a sudden forgot how to speak english, and we ended up having to wait for a helpful person to come a clear things up. Another good thing about this place is that you can actually get a damn Taxi here, which is a completely ridiculous thing to have to mention, since you may or may not know that getting a Taxi in Beijing is next to impossible–let alone getting one that will use their meter. Overall, this place turned out to be a prickly Oasis in the shithole known as Beijing. Look up rates online since they fluctuate frequently.
Yanggakdo Hotel (Pyongyang, DPRK)
The somewhat creepy tourist hotel on an island in the middle of Pyongyang City. Creepy because it is almost like a time capsule back to what I imagine the 1960′s or 1970′s to look like. O.K., O.K., not just that. While it is probably true that there are people watching you at ALL times, I can not confirm or deny. All I can say is that on an unexpected return to our room at an unusual hour, we caught a glimpse into the room next to ours, which was not a hotel room at all, but rather some kind of mission control with computers and monitors and men wearing headsets. Interestingly, we were also the only guests on that floor. When we had a malfunction with our room safe, we asked if it could get fixed. They told us the safe couldn’t be fixed and that all the rooms in the hotel were booked up—funny, it wasn’t empty, but there certainly not enough people to make the hotel seem bustling and booked up, you know? Well, whatever. We stayed, this being the Deomcratic People’s Republic of Korea and all. The views were splendid, and the room was quaint with fresh boiled water in our room daily. I quite liked that you could bowl and play Karaoke in the basement. And, if you were feeling spendy, you could go down to the Chinese owned and operated Casino in the “other” basement.
There are like 7 restaurants and a revolving restaurant in this hotel, but I think all the food comes from the same kitchen. There are a few small shops, and even a phone/communications desk where you can pay for access to the rest of the world–either by email, phone, or mail. And, guys, If you want, you can even get a genuine Korean outfit custom made here (look for the signs in the lobby for how to find the tailors office).
I actually liked it here–in a strange, culture shock kind of way.
Chongchon Hotel (Mt. Myohyang, DPRK)
To get to one of the seven Sacred mountains of Korea, you must either stay here, or pay another 100 Euros to stay at a place down the road. So, we stayed here. The place is nice enough, with nice views from the balcony. There is even a small gift shop in the lobby and they serve you dinner and breakfast in the dining room. The food might be exactly the same as from the Yanggakdo hotel, but the beer is definitely different. One thing I did not like about this place was that it smelled like cloves. Not clove cigarettes, but like clove oil. It was so distinct and it brought back memories of relatives using clove oil as a homeopathic remedy for toothaches. Well, obvious the association wasn’t a comfortable one. The only other thing was that in the middle of the evening a group of men walked into our locked room!! I don’t know if they were maintenance staff or guests mistakenly given our key, but, it freaked us out a bit. Needless to say, the clove oil and intruders did not make for a comfortable night.
Minsok Folk Hotel (Kaesong, DPRK)
This place was A-Freaking-MAZING! Just like the Yanggakdo, it was a time capsule, but, rather than some uneasy 60′s-70′s capsule, it took us back farther to a more quaint and realizing time—I don’t know, 1800′s. The hotel was BEAUTIFUL with stunning wood carved and mother of pearl decorated furniture. The grounds were absolutely beautiful and picturesque. No electricity (safe for a light for a few hours in the evening)–so we had to ask for our camera battery to be charged at the hotel bar–we were, afterall, going to the DMZ the next day. I would highly recommend staying here if going to the DPRK, since it is the real thing, and not some contrived replica.
Holiday Inn Express (Dongzhimen, Beijing)
We booked here after our return from the DPRK, since we saw that this place was nearby to the booking office and convenient to a subway stop. The room rates were quite reasonable and included a decent breakfast. The room also had WiFi and LAN access internet for FREE!! Laundry facilities were available for doing your own laundry. I did not like that you could NOT get a Taxi here. And apparently the front desk couldn’t do anything about it. Annoying. On a plus side, when we booked a try to Xi’an, we asked the hotel if they could hold our luggage so we could take a small overnight bag with us to and then come back and stay the night before our flight home and they said yes. I LOVED that!! Over all, I think this place is pretty much a better bargain and value than the Grand Mercure, and just as comfortable. One thing it has that was a million times better was that they had a dock for the iPod so you could relax to your tunes in the room .
Seven Sages Youth Hostel (Xian)
This hostel is a short walk away from the train station in Xi’an. If you arrive by plane, all you have to do is take an airport bus to the train station and walk from there. The rooms were clean, and the AC was great. Wi-Fi was unavailable from the rooms (normally) but since we got a room right next to the public areas, the Wi-Fi bled into our rooms a bit. I did not like that there were no lock boxes in the room, and that the “lock boxes” at the front desk were shabbily constructed wooden boxes (made of flimsy boards!). Staff was nice enough, but, like other places in China, reluctant to give directions for places to go on your own, preferring instead to sell you on their own overpriced tour group. Be rest assured, though, that you can actually go to all the sites of interest in Xian using public transportation or your own feet. Just look it up elsewhere online. They even tried to tell us that getting to the airport was not possible unless I booked from their driver. But, I just walked back to the place we were dropped off, hopped on the same bus we had used to get there and was magically taken back to the airport. I don’t know if laundry is available here, because I basically had 2 overnights here with a small overnight bag. OH, and one last thing before I forget, keep the drain closed when you aren’t showering, otherwise you can smell the sewage from your fellow backpackers (not good).