Uh oh, it’s the Megatrip Bracket!
While looking back on my trip, I noticed something interesting. It seems that from the time I arrived in Kuala Lumpur back in April until right now, I’ve slept in precisely 68 different places. The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament invites 68 teams. Coincidence? Well yeah, obviously, but I still can’t resist my nerdy urges.
Yup, that’s right, I’m putting together a massive tournament to determine the best place I laid my head over the last five months. I’m no stranger to this sort of geekery, so I’m pretty excited to put this little project together. I realize that this may take hours to put to organize and that nobody in the world may care if a fifth seeded hotel is upset by a 12 seed in the Southeast Region, but dammit I’m doing it anyway.
Before I get into it, let me explain my geography a bit. I’ve divided every spot that I’ve slept into four regions. For clarity, I didn’t use the traditional NCAA regions (East, South, Midwest, West) since there is obviously no “Midwest” in Asia. Instead, I went with the simpler Northwest, Northeast, Southwest, and Southeast, and these directions relate to my trip’s map. Bagan, Burma was my westernmost point; Siquijor, Philippines my easternmost; Melaka, Malaysia represents the southern extreme; and Hanoi is probably the northernmost place I slept. Bangkok is roughly in the center. All locations are generally regionalized this way with few exceptions. For example, the Northwest Region was a bit light, so I moved Penang into it based on the fact that it was the northwestern extreme of Malaysia on this trip. Bangkok, because of its central position in both geography and importance lies in more than one region.
I should also explain the math a bit as well. Once I regionalized my locations, I had 17 in each region. I seeded these locations based on the amount of time I spent there. Thus, a hotel that I stayed at for 5 nights would get a high seed such as a 1 or a 2, and an overnight bus that I spent 10 hours on would get a low seed, like a 16 or 17. Of course, there would be several hotels in a region where I spent, say, 2 nights, so I seeded them based on how early or late I checked in and out to the best of my recollection.
Finally, I should note that 17 “teams” per region requires a play-in game to get to an even 16 teams per region. The real NCAA Tournament uses a complicated algorithm based on at-large verses automatic-bid teams. Even I’m not nerdy enough to deal with that sort of thing, so I’ll just do a play-in matching the 16 and 17 seeds in each region.
In fact, to prevent this gimmick from lasting too many posts, I’ll do my “play-in” round right now.
16 – Bangkok – Clark (Philippines) Night Flight
17 – Quezon City (Philippines) Eurotel nap
Right away, we have an interesting dynamic. On a couple of occasions, I actually “lodged” in more than one place in a single night due to an early arriving bus or plane. In the Northeast Region, there is the added quirk that two such places from the very same night happen to be squaring off in the opening round. I had a late night flight out of Bangkok to Clark Airport in Angeles City and arrived at around 4 a.m. I caught a bus down to Quezon City in Metro Manila and happened upon the Eurotel at around 6 a.m. Because the nearby Taco Bell opened at 10 and the Eurotel had a four-hour rate, I checked in to catch a nap before hitting the Bell and other Manila highlights (just kidding, there are no other Manila highlights).
Result: 17 – Eurotel. It had a bed. No contest.
16. Huay Xai – Luang Prabang Bus (Laos)
17 Chiang Mai – Bangkok Bus
Yep, bus rides count too. The Chiang Mai-BKK bus was another that only counted for half a night as I checked into a hotel for a 4 hour nap when I got to town.
Result: 17 – CM-BKK. Both bus rides were horrible and uncomfortable as neither were outfitted as sleeper buses. The bus from Chiang Mai wins because it was a little more comfortable, and because some random Italian dude shared his “cigarette” with me at the rest stop.
16 – Sleeper Bus from Nha Trang to Hoi An (Vietnam)
17 – Sleeper Bus from Vientiane to Pakse (Laos)
Another battle of horrible night buses, although at least both of these were proper sleepers in which I could stretch out on.
Result: 16 – NT-HA. This bus was mighty uncomfortable, but at least I got my own tiny bed rather than having to share a slightly larger one with a fat Lao dude.
16 – Takua Pa (Thailand)
17 – My Friend’s Place Hostel, Bangkok
The 17 seed was the hostel that I stayed in when I arrived in Bangkok on the Chiang Mai bus. I slept there from around 5 a.m. until 9 a.m. on a bunk. It was the last dorm of the whole trip. I didn’t even use their locker, just passed out wearing all my valuables in my vest.
Result – 16 – Takua Pa. Takua Pa was almost certainly the worst night of the trip that I didn’t spend on a bus. My room was tiny, rustic, and filthy. At around 2 a.m., some couple started yelling at each other in Thai and didn’t stop until 4. I didn’t have real walls, the top 18 inches or so of the wall was made of chicken wire, so it sounded like they were in my room. So why did it win? Because this trip needed Takua Pa, and so does this tournament. I spent a lot of time complaining about how touristy every spot in Thailand was, but in Takua Pa I found out that a non-touristy provincial hub is a far worse place to be than a beach with too many farang.
Next up – the Northeast Region squares off. Laos! Vietnam! The Philippines! Thailand! International Waters! Should be up tomorrow.