Megatrip Bracket: Northwest Region
If you missed the explanation for how this tournament gimmick works, click here.
Today, I’m focusing on the Northwest Region. 16 places I slept on this trip will do battle in a single-elimination bracket tournament, and the winner will move on to the Final Four. Whenever possible, I will include a link to the hotel website. If the hotel does not have a website, then I will just link to the pertinent page of this blog rather than to a third party consolidator like agoda or tripadvisor.
1 – ET Hotel – Mandalay, Myanmar
17 – Bus from Chiang Mai to Bangkok
The ET was my home for five nights, and it was about as deluxe as budget accommodation came in Burma. At 18 dollars a night, it wasn’t exactly cheap compared to most places on this trip, but my room was air conditioned and had a hot shower. It also had cable TV, but to change the channel required going down to the front desk to request a new channel on the main TV, so I never bothered. It also had lightning-fast wifi by Burmese standards, but that was still super slow. The bus was a bus.
Results – ET easily wins by boasting a bed.
Jon and Dana are friends of mine from my Korea days, and their Bangkok apartment is huge compared to any I ever saw in Seoul. Hell, their guest room was probably bigger than my last Seoul apartment. Amazingly, this was the only time I ever crashed with friends on this whole trip. Chockdee was a little Rasta joint in downtown Chiang Rai. For under seven dollars, I had a pretty cool room with a balcony, although the bathroom was down the hall.
Results – Let’s face it, Jon and Dana’s was probably the nicest place I stayed on the whole trip and could probably win this whole thing. That said, comparing a couple’s proper apartment to a bunch of budget guesthouses isn’t really fair, especially since the average reader of this blog couldn’t stay there. Therefore, I’m advancing Chockdee.
The Happy House cost around seven bucks a night and offered en suite, wifi, and a fan in a town that isn’t blazingly hot. I liked the bar as well, local guys hung out there, an interesting change over the usual hostel bar. The Okinawa is in Yangon, the worst hotel city I’ve ever seen. Midrange business joints that would cost $30 in Bangkok cost $70 in Yangon, and dumps that probably couldn’t fetch $5 a night on Khao San Road demand $15 or more in Yangon.
Result – No 12-5 upset here, Happy House wins walking away.
A tough intra-country battle. The Winner offered the best value of any place I stayed in Burma. I had en-suite, aircon, and tasty breakfast for around $11 a night, plus it had a great location for touring Bagan by bicycle. The monastery was a monastery, and sleeping in an active Buddhist monastery in Myanmar qualifies for once-in-a-lifetime sort of status.
Result – the Winner wins. Creature comforts beat out unique opportunity. Whatever, I’m old.
The non-air conditioned, wifi-less Nanda Wunn place was like staying at the Ritz coming off the trek. I had a group of friends while I stayed there as well in my fellow trekkers, and we threw a pretty awesome hotel party. The night train to Chiang Mai was my first train ride of the trip, and it was also the most fun, as I hung out in the bar car until it closed with a bunch of partying Thai grad students.
Result – this night train probably could have won a round in the Northeast Region, but the overall scene in Nyaungshwe was just too fun. I had planned to stay one night but ended up staying three.
These are two highly ranked joints. Reggae is a new expansion of the successful Kuala Lumpur franchise, and Tony’s is a long-time standalone in Ayutthaya. I would stay at either of them again if I were in town. Reggae felt more social, but then again I went out of my way to be social there, whereas in Tony’s I pretty much kept to myself as well as I could.
Result – Reggae wins this battle of stalwarts, mainly because it had a better restaurant.
I arrived at the Golden Lily at 2 a.m. and spent a night and a half there before setting off on a two day trek. Since there isn’t much to do in Kalaw, I spent most of my day there hanging out on the Golden Lily patio. I checked into the Mango when I arrived in Chiang Mai, but only stayed one night because other people had reserved my room for the following night. I didn’t spend a lot of time there awake since there’s a lot to do in Chiang Mai. Both rooms were quite good values.
Result – I’ll give the nod to the Lilly, just because I liked their Indian style breakfast.
2 – Malak House – Chiang Mai
15 – Yangon to Kalaw bus
Spoiler alert: if I were to go so far as to come up with scores for these matches, this would be the biggest blowout on the board. I liked the Mango Hotel and would have stayed there longer if space were available, but in retrospect I’m glad it was sold out. I loved Malak House. Loved it. I had a fan cooled room with a cold shower, but it was five bucks a night, had wifi, and was quite cozy. There was a cool bar on the roof, indoor motorcycle parking, and the location was unbeatable. The lady who ran it is named Honey, and she is probably the nicest lady in Thailand. I was lucky to get a room, because it was sold out for the rest of my stay. The hotel didn’t have a restaurant, but the Hut Cafe around the corner was lovely, and run by maybe the second-nicest lady in Thailand. As for the bus trip – it was horrible. Extremely uncomfortable and arduous. It was over 12 hours long, and for most of the trip the TV blared horrible Burmese pop videos. This was probably the worst bus ride of the whole trip.
Result – Guess.
1 – ET
9 – Chockdee
Result – The top seed falls early. This is quite a referendum on Burmese budget lodging. A middle-of-the-road place like Chockdee takes out one of the better places I stayed in Myanmar.
5 – Happy House
4 – Winner
Result – Winner wins, as it may well be the best budget spot in all of Burma. Plenty of travelers recommended it to me before I got to Bagan, and I did the same after I left.
3 – Nanda Wunn
6 – Reggae Hostel
Result – The Nanda was nice, but the Reggae group is the class of hostels in Malaysia. Reggae moves on.
7 – Golden Lily
2 – Malak House
Result – Malak keeps rolling here.
9 – Chockdee
4 – Winner
Result – Winner keeps winning.
6 – Reggae
2 – Malak
The Reggae’s run ends here in the regional semis, setting up the inevitable battle.
Regional Finals !1!
4 – Winner
2 – Malak
This is a tough one. I really loved both of these places. Both offered great value, prime locations, and amazing staff. In a way, they are both winners. In another, more accurate way, the Malak House will represent the Northwest Region in the Final Four.
Things will really get interesting in the loaded Southeast Region tomorrow!