Bed Station: My New Favorite Hostel in Bangkok

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One of the many things I loved about Bangkok is the huge selection of hostels – not the dingy, cheap ones, but those that are more upscale but still affordable. I have been here three times, and every time, I end up falling in love with a new hostel. I have stayed at Lub D Siam, Lub D Silom, and The Yard before. For this trip, I chose Bed Station. From the moment I checked in, I knew one thing – this will be a great place. As it turned out, I was right!

 

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Checking in was a breeze, though I have to wait for a couple of hours since I was there early! The staff at the reception was very welcoming. What a good way to start my day! Upon entering the huge wooden door,  you will be greeted with a two story foyer. The first level is where you can find the reception, cafe, and bar. There’s another common area on the second level. The industrial chic interior will give you a positive first impression!

 

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The reception. Spot the big stuffed toy! 

 

I stayed in a 6-bed mixed dorm for four days. The bed was one of the nicest from the hostels I’ve been. What I loved the most is that they do not give you a blanket, but a comforter! Yes, a fluffy comforter and not a thin sheet for a blanket! Each bed comes with a privacy curtain, reading light, and electrical sockets. There are also large lockers. Each room has electronic key card access.

 

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My bed just before I had a nap after checking in.

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This is how the 6-bed mixed dorm looks like. 

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If you are particular about the cleanliness of the bathroom, you will love Bed Station. There is a toilet in every floor. The shower rooms, meanwhile, are on the fourth floor. No worries, they have an elevator! No need to use the stairs!

 

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Even the bathroom looks stylish! 

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The common area looks pretty cool too! On the second floor, there are bean bags, desktop computers, flat screen TV, and PS4. On the ground floor, there is a long table. This is where stories are shared and fun begins. It starts with a cup of coffee or a bottle of beer, a simple hello or a quick question asking where are you from. Before you know it, you have already made friends and you start planning what to do, which, more often than not, will include partying in Khao San.

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A good spot to socialize or just be on your own 

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The kitchen as seen from the second floor. Free breakfast is served from 6:30 am to 10:00 am. 

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Grab a book or leave one 

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Khao San – the hostel’s resident cat and everyone’s favorite! 

The location of Bed Station is another thing I loved. It is near Siam, the main shopping district of Bangkok. It is also a few steps away from the Ratchattewi BTS Sky Train station. A few steps from the hostel, there is a nearby 7-11.

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Cafe just a few steps from Bed Station

More than the design and the cleanliness of Bed Station, it is the people that made my stay more memorable. Rose and Farook, to be specific, are the best! With a bunch of other guests at the hostel, we went to Khao San twice. From picking up a tuktuk to making sure you will have a good time, the two were very attentive.

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Khao San with my hostelmates 

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In a city that is overflowing with choices for accommodation, I am glad I chose Bed Station. If you are visiting Bangkok any time soon, I highly recommend this place. For sure, you will have a good time!

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Kookoo’s Nest: Your Private Paradise in Negros Oriental

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If you happen to be in Dumaguete,  head a bit far from the city center. In about 90 minutes (bus and motorcycle ride), you will find a piece of paradise – Kookoo’s Nest.

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Going down the beach would take quite an effort! 

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Kookoo’s Nest is an intimate resort in Zamboanguita. There is nothing posh about the place, but it has a rustic charm that will surely leave you in awe. This tiny cove offers the perfect respite for those who are looking for a private getaway. Our group was the only one checked in during our visit. Except for some who would walk-in for a day tour, most of the time, we had the beach all for ourselves.

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The beach and the restaurant. Our cottage is on the right side 

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Perfect beach buddy! 

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My good friend, Rhum, being lazy! We learned about this place because of him! He also makes awesome beer and cider. If you are in Dumaguete, be on the lookout for Birdie Num Num craft beers. 

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Rhum playing with one of the owner’s dogs. 

During our overnight stay, we booked the Kingfisher Cottage. I was advised that it is the best, so I did not hesitate in having it chosen. All cottages are made from native materials. The entire resort only has six cottages and this is the largest. It has one double bed and the loft has two single beds. It also has a spacious balcony, great for hanging out while enjoying the view of the beautiful Sulu Peninsula. There  is no A/C, but this should not be a problem since you will be surrounded with towering trees and lush greenery.  I love how the cottage comes with well-designed ropes and pulleys, making it easier to open or close the windows and blinds.

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Our unpretentious cottage is on the left side. No A/C, TV, fridge, or mini-bar. Loved everything about it! If you’re going to Kookoo’s Nest, make sure to book this cottage! 

Our bedroom. You can close the window at night, if preferred. 

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Our room as seen from the stairs leading to the loft 

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The loft

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Beautiful morning! 

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The balcony 

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Still from our balcony 

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Enjoying the chill life 

You won’t go hungry while you are in Kookoo’s Nest. The kitchen is the heart of the resort, which is staffed with people from the nearby local village. They have a decent selection on the menu. I suggest that you try their Nasi Goreng. I had it twice during our stay.

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Inside the restaurant 

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The view from the restaurant 

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Nasi Goreng – this was my favorite from the menu. 

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Grilled fish! Yum! 

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Burger topped with thick slices of cheese 

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Want beer? Don’t bother calling the waitress! Get one from the cooler outside the kitchen and update the list on the board! Each guest’s name will be listed and you have to list down any drink you will be having. Honesty system! Pretty convenient as well. 

They offer a variety of activities for those who would like to be active, such as snorkeling and kayaking. If you just want to relax, on the other hand, you can just lie on the beach and enjoy the peaceful surroundings.

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From the left-most end of the cove 

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Until next time, Kookoo’s Nest! 

Kookoo’s Nest is one of the best places I have seen. What it lacks in luxury, it makes up for in natural beauty and intimacy. This is a great choice if you want a laidback holiday! Heard a lot of good words about the owners, but unfortunately, they were on a vacation when we were there. Hope to meet them one day!

Coco Grove Beach Resort: The Best Place to Stay in the Magical Island of Siquijor

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Coco Grove Beach Resort

 

12nn. We were aboard a pump boat going to Siquijor from Dumaguete. I texted Coco Grove Beach Resort and asked if they have an available room. The response was quick. I was also swift in making the booking. Without second thoughts, I made the reservation and it was instantly settled.

 

Casa Coco’s entrance 

 

2pm. Just in time for check-in, we arrived at the resort. Having only two days to spend in Siquijor, we had a lot of plans for the afternoon. Initially, we wanted to book an inland tour and explore waterfalls and beaches. But, the moment we saw the resort, our plans immediately changed. We ended up just chilling out, drinking beer, and taking it slow.

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Outside our room at Coco Grove. We booked the cheapest. The spa and one of the pools in the resort are just a few steps away 

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Orange walls and blue seats are seen all throughout the resort 

Expect a lot of walking during your stay. This place is huge! They have 91 rooms, 3 swimming pools, and 3 restaurants.

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At Casa Coco, the newest part of the resort. Here, they have 30 rooms and 1 penthouse. They also have a Jacuzzi. This is the only part of the resort with Wi-Fi. 😦 

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One of the resort’s three pools. This is the one nearest our room

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Olympic-sized pool with bar. The deepest part is 10 feet. 

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The pool at Casa Coco. It’s shallow and has a Jacuzzi. 

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One of their restaurants. Loved their chicken curry! 

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One of the bars at Coco Grove. They have cheap beer! Even the ones from the mini-bar are cheap. 

 

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The beach was dirty. We didn;t even bother swimming! Probably because of the weather. Good thing they have three pools! 

Coco Grove offers a number of tours and activities, but typical of a hotel, their rates are more expensive compared to what you can find outside. We decided to hire a motorcycle to take us around. Regular rate is 1,000 for a day tour around the island. We were too lazy to go around, so we just checked out the Balete tree and Cambughay Falls.

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Cambughay Falls 

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Enjoy drinks at Baha Bar. Best to visit during sunset. It’s only about four kilometers away from Coco Grove. Some nights, they also have buffet dinners. 

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Guess Who’s Back, Back Again!

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Myanmar and Bangkok 2016

 

Finally! After more than a year of hiatus, I am back! I’ve had my fair share of travel since my last post, and sadly, I have no time to write about each of them. As much as I would like to share and document those trips, I am too lazy to write about them! As a welcome back post, I am sharing some photos from my recent trip in Myanmar and Bangkok. By recent, I meant last June! These are just mostly pictures. Will be in Dumaguete soon, and I guess that is when I will start making more time to write about my adventures!

Yangon, Bagan, and Mandalay, Myanmar

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Having just recently opened for tourism, Myamnar is a treasure waiting to be discovered, a diamond in the rough. It is slowly attracting more and more tourists, so I suggest that you visit it while the crowd isn’t as dense as what you can find in neighboring countries.

Yangon was our first stop. It’s chaotic! If you can book a flight direct to Mandalay and skip the capital, it would be better. But if you want to spend a day or two here, there are some beautiful pagodas that you can visit. If you are looking for the best hostel in Yangon, I suggest that you take a look at Scott @31st street.

 

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Inside our hostel in Yangon, Scott @ 31st Street

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Color and chaos

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Looking for the best restaurant in Yangon? Look for 999 Shan Noodle House. It’s just near Sule Pagoda

 

Bagan is my favorite part of our recent holiday in Myanmar. It is literally a city of thousand pagodas. Catch the sunrise and sunset. Rent an e-bike, it is the cheapest way to go around. There are no taxis and buses, so you either have to rent a bike or a car. Most hotels will have bike rentals.

 

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One of the many pagodas you will find in Bagan

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Shortly after sunrise

 

Mandalay is not to be missed as well. We only had two days here. We had the tri-city tour and my favorite was Inwa. You have to ride a boat to cross the river and a horse carriage to go around. It is definitely one of the highlights of our Myanmar trip.

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We traveled as a group fo four all over Myanmar. Three of them went to Kuala Lumpur after while I continued my holiday in Bangkok.

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 One of my favorite spots. Somewhere in the ancient city of Inwa.

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Still in Inwa

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Super comfortable bus ride from Mandalay to Yangon, even if it took ten hours

Bangkok, Thailand

I spent a week on my own in Bangkok. My first visit was two years ao, and it was love at first sight. Its cosmopolitan vibe is a complete contrast from the rustic charm of Myanmar. During this trip, I did not visit any temple, museum, or any of the usual tourist attractions. Instead, I decided to take it slow – eat, drink, sleep, repeat! Haha. I was at the hostel most of the time, either sleeping or hanging out in the common area. For sunset, I would normally be in a rooftop bar. At night, I was drinking some more, mostly at Khao San or discovering new places.

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The Yard Hostel. This is where I stayed during my first three days in Bangkok. So much to love about this place!

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On my last three days in Bangkok, I stayed at Lub d Siam. I stayed here two years ago. It is just right next to  train station and walking distance to some of the best shopping malls in the city.

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Bangkok is never complete without visiting its rooftop bars. This one’s at Above 11 in Fraser Suites.

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Awesome toilet! Pee while enjoying a spectacular city view!

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Happy hour at Octave, Marriott

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At Sofitel, they have unlimited BBQ and beer on Sundays, inclusive of pool use.

 

That’s it friends! I know it wasn’t informative! Sorry! Will be back on track after my Dumaguete trip. Will try to make a better post! Cheers!

 

 

Bantayan Island, Cebu: Exploring One of Cebu’s Hidden Gems

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After welcoming 2015 in Siem Reap, Cambodia, I had something exciting to look forward to – my first time in Bantayan Island, or anywhere in Cebu. While I am not a fan of bus rides, I can endure as long as there is a promise of a rewarding experience at the end of the trip. In El Nido, for instance, I had a 5-hour bus ride from the airport to the town proper. I did this already twice and did not mind the length of the trip because I know my destination is going to be worth it. The same also holds true in the case of Bantayan. From the Mactan International Airport in Cebu, we had to to go to North Bus Terminal and rode a bus bound to Hagnayan Port (170 pesos) for 3 hours and a ferry (170 pesos + 10 pesos terminal fee) going to the island for an hour. Including the waiting time, it took us more than 5 hours before we have finally arrived.

The seclusion of Bantayan is perhaps its biggest selling point. The long stretch of the beach that is not crowded with tourists offers the perfect retreat for anyone who is in search of utter privacy. While they have limited restaurants in the area, almost every place we visited offered an unforgettable culinary delight. There are no bars playing loud party music, but we loved every night spent drinking beer and listening to reggae music. The beach itself isn’t swimmable, at least during the time of our visit. Nonetheless, it was compensated with a visit to the nearby island and an entire day of an inland tour.

Anika Island Resort

Bantayan Island, Cebu

We booked a single villa room at Anika Island Resort from January 8 – 11 and paid only 2,200 pesos per night. I find the rate quite cheap, considering the ambiance at the resort. While the sand is fine, it was disappointing that the beach is quite dirty during the time of our visit. The room, set in a container van, is quite small but does not fall short in terms of the comfort it provides. Our room also has a private veranda. While the resort has its own restaurant, we personally felt it is not at par with what you will find around the area. Apart from being overpriced, there is nothing really special about their food. Anika also has its own beachfront area, which is the perfect place to chill under the heat of the sun, with a beer, of course!

Our room for 4 days

Our room for 4 days

It was windy during our visit. Unfortunately, teh beach by the hotel where we stayed was like this.

It was windy during our visit. Unfortunately, the beach by the hotel where we stayed was like this.

Eating and Drinking

Bantayan is no place for fancy, five-star hotel dinners and sunset cocktails. However, this does not mean you cannot have a gastronomic adventure while in the island. During our 4-day vacation, were able to sample some of their best culinary delights, from mouthwatering pizza to the best pork sinigang we have tasted. The nightlife is quite laidback, mostly spent listening to reggae music or having intimate conversations by the bar. While this is no place to get drunk and wild, it offers a perfect stress-free nightlife you might just not experience somewhere else. Lost all pics from where we had dinner and drinks. Best places to check out include Bavarian Beer Garden, HR Native Restaurant, CouCou Bar and Restaurant, and of course, Blue Ice Bar and Restaurant.

Virgin Island

Because it was windy during our trip, we were not able to swim at the beach in front of Anika. It was also kind of dirty that time. Good thing we visited Virgin Island, which is about 45 minutes away from the resort. We rented a boat for 800 pesos and paid 500 pesos for entrance good for two. We did not bring lunch because we were advised there is food in the island. However, it turned out they have nothing but fish, which can be only fried and does not look fresh. It will never be enough to get your stomach filled, especially if to plan to stay longer. Good thing they sell beer! If you are planning to include this in your Bantayan itinerary, be sure to bring lunch or at least pack sandwiches.

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Inland Tour

Bantayan Island is composed of three municipalities – Bantayan, Madridejos, and Sta. Fe. The island is relatively small and one whole day is more than enough for a tour. The best way to get around is to rent a motorcycle, which was what we did. We paid 700 pesos for the whole day and spent the day visiting caves, surrounding beaches, a church, the public market, and a nature farm.

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Snapshots: Boracay and La Union

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Boracay

If there is one place I won’t mind visiting again and again, without a doubt, it would be Boracay. A lot may hate Boracay because of being over-crowded, but for me, I have nothing but love for this party island. This is already my eight time here and if someone asks me to be back anytime, granted that I have money, without blinking an eye, I would eagerly plan my return.

* Stayed at Zuzuni, an intimate 13-room beachfront hotel. Excellent service, good food from their in-house restaurant.

* First time to have visited Spider House, which instantly became a favorite.

* In my many visits in Boracay, this is the time I have seen the island at its most beautiful. Clean and not too crowded. No algal bloom during our trip (Jan 31 – Feb 2).

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La Union 

Since I am not a surfer, and I have no plans of learning how to surf, I had no intentions of visiting La Union. When friends I met from Malasimbo Music and Arts Festival planned a trip in this surfing haven, I had hesitations at first. Nonetheless, after our 4-day visit, I ended up loving its chill ambiance. For non-surfers like me, you can enjoy La Union just by sitting on the shore, drinking a bottle of beer, and enjoying conversations with good friends.

* For this trip (Feb 5 – 8), we stayed at Fatwave Surf Resortand Hacienda Peter. Both were very cheap, so do not expect anything good, except the fact that, well, it is cheap.

* Do not forget to try the burger at Fatwave. I had it three time during our 4-day trip.

* Hang out at Flotsam and Jetsam. The pizza is not to be missed!

* Eat at Gefseis, a nice Greek restaurant just along the main road.

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Siem Reap, Cambodia: Welcoming 2015 in the Kingdom of Wonder

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Three weeks before the end of 2014, I found myself struggling looking for the cheapest flight possible to Bangkok. Unfortunately, airfare proved to be too expensive, which convinced me to look for an alternate destination instead. I checked other possible options and I ended up booking for a flight to Siem Reap.

Cambodia, specifically Siem Reap, does not excite me prior to this trip. The idea of visiting the temples, although cultural, is not my cup of tea. I had friends, however, who recently went to Siem Reap for a holiday and told me how nice the place is, which is the only thing that convinced me to give it a shot. I was actually stoked with the idea of visiting a country for the first time to welcome a new year on my own even if I have a vague idea on what to expect during the entire trip. While there are hesitations at first, I ended up loving Siem Reap, wishing I could stay longer and making me eager to return.

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Welcome to Siem Reap, Cambodia!

Mad Monkey Hostel

Traveling on a budget and on my own, I have to ditch the idea of staying in a fancy hotel. Instead, a more practical choice is to stay in a hostel since it is way cheaper and it presents an excellent opportunity to meet other people. After a thorough online research and being confronted with heaps of alternatives, I ended up choosing Mad Monkey. I booked for one bed in a 6-bed dorm from December 30 to January 5 for only $8 per night. Such a steal! I have stayed in several hostels in the past and Mad Monkey easily made it on the top of my list.

Six-Bed Mixed Dorm and Art-Filled Walls at Mad Monkey

One of the many things I liked about Mad Monkey is their pool at the ground level. While I did not swim in the pool during my entire stay, most of the time, I was lounging on one of their blue bean bags while talking to other guests. Everyone was friendly and it was never hard to strike a good conversation. As soon as I wake up each morning, I grab a beer from the bar and stay on the poolside. What a good way to start your day!

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Mad Monkey Pool. Perfect place to chill and have a beer.

If the pool gets too crowded, you can head to the second floor where they have the sundeck lounge. Here, they have three massive sunbeds and a good view of the pool.

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Mad Monkey Sundeck

The Top Banana Beach Bar is another highlight of the hostel. This is where I often kick start the night. Beer for a dollar? Yes, they have it here! You have to take off your shoes as you enter since the floor is made of real sand to complete the beach vibe. They have different activities every night, such as beer pong tournament, sunset barbecue party, and keg party. At some nights, they also have free shots every hour!

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Day or night, chilling at Top Banana is one thing I look forward to.

One thing you should not miss is the grenade challenge. Once you have completed the grenade ($4), you get the put the name of the country on the board by the bar. Of course, I did it for the Philippines before I left! The bar closes strictly at 12mn. When the bell starts ringing, the shouts “Everyone head to Pub Street!”. This is where we all make our way to Pub Street, Siem Reap’s main party hub, like a marching band.

Mad Monkey is not only a party hostel, but also a socially responsible one. And no, it is not the kind of responsible that they will take care of you when you are drunk after a night of partying (though I think they will do that as they care for their guests). The hostel supports the building of water wells in rural Cambodia. Aside from that, they also have various efforts to support education of children, such as building libraries. Upon making a reservation form the hostel’s booking site, you can make donations to their different projects for as little as a dollar.

Cultural Booze Cruise

Mad Monkey offers tons of activities for you to try during your stay. Whether you want to go solo or as a group, be off-the-beaten pth or do what all the touristy stuff, be laid-back or be adventurous, they have something for everyone. One that I tried is the Cultural Booze Cruise. The cruise is cultural basically because you get to meet other people from different cultures, which is a perfect way of turning strangers into friends. Even if you are not staying at Mad Monkey, you can be part of the tour. This is a top rated activity to try in Siem Reap and one that should not be missed. For only $25, you get to have unlimited beer and shots from 2pm to 7pm, which is the entire duration of the tour.

The crazy bunch from the booze cruise

The crazy bunch from the booze cruise

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Before 2pm, the group assembled at the poolside bar of Mad Monkey and rode a tuktuk. There were four of us in one tuktuk. We started heading to the boat station, which is about 10 kilometers. Never mind the dust, we are all enjoying a good beer anyway! We boarded our boat, start cruising through the lake, which happens to be the largest freshwater lake in South Asia, and dropped by a crocodile farm.

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After feeding the crocodiles, we boarded the boat again and stopped in one area where you can go swim. This is where more fun starts to happen. We began formally introducing ourselves and played a game called My Pussy. They learned I was Filipino and asked me to sing as they believe Filipinos are good singers. Guess what, I did not sing!  When the booze cruise ended, we all headed to Top Banana to continue drinking and waited until 12mn to welcome the new year! Happy 2015!!!

Angkor Archaeological Park

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If you read travel guides to Siem Reap, The Angkor Archaeological Park, specifically the Angkor Wat, is going to be the most suggested part of your itinerary. In fact, it would be a crime not to visit the park during your holiday! It is going to be the most touristy stuff you can do in Siem Reap, but it is all worth it. During this trip, even Beyonce and Jay-Z visited the temples during my trip!

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Scenic road to the temples

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Angkor Wat – The most touristy place in Siem Reap

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Ta Prohm – Recognized by many as the movie set of Angelina Jolie’s Tomb Raider

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Angkor Thom – The temple of smiling faces

One thing that I loved about Angkor is how scenic the drive is going to the temples. The trees lined up and the roadside will surely give you a treat, even if the trip is going to be dusty. I bought a one-day pass for $20 and did a small tour of the three temples. From the hostel, I rented a tuktuk to take me around the temples for $15. You will have complete control of how you manage your time. In my case, I just snapped a couple of shots and headed to the next one.

Eating and Drinking at Pub Street

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Visiting Siem Reap will not be complete without checking out Pub Street, which, as the name implies, is a stretch of pubs. There are small alleyways as well leading to quieter but equally good places to eat and drink. This is where I was during the New Year countdown after pre-gaming at Top Banana. There are no grandiose fireworks here nor headliner DJs. Still, the street is packed with a joyful crowd to welcome 2015.

Siem Reap is famous for their Happy Pizza. I had one almost everyday.

Siem Reap is famous for their Happy Pizza. I had one almost everyday.

Most of the nights, during this trip, I was hanging out at Temple and Angkor Wat?, which are just fronting each other. Both have loud party music drawing a mixed crowd of tourists and locals. I also checked out Miss Wong, an intimate bar with vintage Shanghai interiors. I was eating mostly happy pizzas from different places. If you are looking for fancier dining options, do not forget to try Little Italy and Molly Malones. Pub Street is teeming with restaurants and bars. It is hard to run out of options, regardless of your budget.

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After my six-day solo trip to Cambodia, I was eager for one thing – to be back. As soon as I left, I was already thinking of my return. For sure, I will be staying at Mad Monkey again. I have nothing but good memories, especially of the nice people I met. Siem Reap is so intimate because it is small, which makes you see the same people every day. Siem Reap is also very cheap. In fact, I only spent $320 for 6 days, including room, food, tours, and countless beers, but excluding airfare. It could still be cheaper if you opt to party less, but that is going to kill the fun! Unlike other common holiday destinations, Siem Reap, for me, is unpretentious. Looking forward to having such an awesome experience again!