Megatrip Bracket: Southwest Region
If you missed the explanation for how this tournament gimmick works, click here.
Today, I’m focusing on the Southwest 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.
This may be the toughest region of all, and I reckon that these hotels may be a bit more well known in the travel circuit. All but five of them have their own website or Facebook page, so I don’t have to link to myself as much here.
I don’t know the name of the place I stayed in Takua Pa. I took a picture of the sign, but couldn’t make out what it said. I wouldn’t recommend staying there anyway, nor anywhere in Takua Pa for that matter. The Rambuttri House was my home base for a couple of months, and a degree of my stuff stayed there the whole time. I stayed there thrice, and became friendly with the staff as well as the touts that worked out of the same building. No frills outside of aircon, but it was a decent place to base myself on Khao San Road.
Result – Rambuttri wins easily. Takua Pa could would have lost to any of my three night trains though, and maybe even to a night bus.
Being on the road makes it easy to meet fellow backpackers, but Ko Phi Phi is so touristy that it makes it hard to meet people, if that makes sense. Thus, I left a perfectly good fan-cooled private room in order to stay in a shared aircon dorm room for a higher price. I was that desperate to talk to people. For those purposes, Mr. Local did well, although I should add that it had a disgusting bathroom with a dead gecko in it at one point. Coconut Moon was relatively luxurious for this trip, as it offered aircon, wifi, an awesome bathroom, cable, a fridge, even an elevator. I went to Phuket to be a drunken asshole, and the Coconut Moon was a fine place to do so. I could drink beer in the afternoon while yelling at the Fox News on the TV before going out to hit the Bangla bar scene, which is exactly what I did when I wasn’t at the beach.
Result – Coconut Moon all the way here, in a relative rout for an 8-9 matchup.
I stayed in the Ponloue with Martin and Kris. It was a nice enough large room for $30 a night, $10 each, although from the reviews I’ve read since I imagine we could have paid less. Hotel quality in Siem Reap doesn’t matter so much though. Between an intense Angkor touring schedule and the bars at nearby Pub Street, we spent no time hanging at the hotel awake. Moonwalk, on the other hand, was a nicer place to laze around. It was right on the beach and they rented motorbikes, which was everything I wanted out of Ko Lanta.
Result: Classic 12-5 upset here.
Both of these places represent my first nights in these countries. The Sri Trang was nice, but I paid $15 a night for a fan-cooled room in a landlocked provincial town. Such a n00b mistake. The Reggae was also $15, but for a dorm. However, Reggae offers the best dorms I’ve ever seen, with walls on three sides and a curtain in front, the dorm bunks are basically capsules. Plus, the Reggae had a good restaurant, a nice rooftop bar, awesome showers, air conditioning, and wifi. At Masjid Jamek Station, it’s probably in the best location in Kuala Lumpur. Chinatown and Little India are 10 minute walks away, and the two subway lines lead most anywhere else in town of interest.
Result – Reggae, the starting point of this whole thing moves on to the next round.
The Pak-Up was similar to the Reggae properties. Rooftop hangout area, air-conditioned dorm rooms, awesome showers, and sparkling clean facilities. It’s in the heart of downtown Krabi and surrounded by bars and restaurants. The river is very close as well, providing easy access to boats to the beaches. The low prices and nice facilities entice people to stay awhile, a couple of people there had been staying for over a month. The White House was a Yangon hotel, which never bodes well. It had wifi, a rarity for budget lodging in Yangon, but it went off at midnight. It also had a decent location, and the cleaning ladies were constantly singing in Burmese, which was quite pleasant. The hotel had a curfew at 11 p.m., and a fellow guest told me he missed it once and they wouldn’t let him in so he had to sleep on the street. My room had one electrical outlet, so I had to choose between charging my iPad or running the fan overnight, and it was sweltering in there. Worst of all, my room was on a 9th floor walk-up.
Result – If I were to return to Krabi, I would definitely stay at Pak-Up again if I wanted to stay on the cheap. I did return to Yangon, and I never considered returning to the White House. Easy chalk win here.
Hmm, this one is a little tricky. Kang’s (or Daniel’s, I have no idea why it has two names) was a pretty solid joint. I had a private room with a twin bed and literally nothing else, and the hotel wifi didn’t reach the room. However, the open-air common area was fantastic, featuring several tables and lounge areas, all with plugs for charging electronics. Kang’s also boasted the best bar in the Cameron Highlands, though to be fair there is only one other bar in town that it competes with. The staff were nice enough, but weren’t the sort to go out of the way to help anyone. As I’ve said before, if I were to decide to write a book, Kang’s would be my first choice for where to do it because of its fine common area, cool weather, and wealth of nearby cheap Indian restaurants.
Ringo’s is a fine hostel as well. The owner, Harold, is a great guy who offers travel advice without a financial incentive, and also took a group of us to a local night market that we would have never known about otherwise. Ringo’s has free coffee and a nice roof deck, and my dorm bunk was the cheapest one I had in Malaysia. That said, I’m not sure that I would stay there again, just because sleeping in my fan-cooled dorm bed was absolutely brutal. In fact, after staying here, I swore off fan-cooled dorms for the rest of the trip. In some ways, I may have been a little tougher early in my trip – now I would never think of staying somewhere as brutally hot as Melaka without aircon.
Result – in a squeaker, Kang’s takes this one. If Harold from Ringo’s were the proprietor of Kang’s, it probably would have been a one seed as I could have gotten stuck there for weeks.
The Southwest really shows some strength here. I stayed at the Harmony for three nights, yet it only got a 7 seed. This here is a battle of fan-cooled cheapies, each under $10 a night. At 300 baht, the Harmony is probably the cheapest place in Ko Phi Phi that isn’t awful. One of the world’s most beautiful beaches was a five minute walk away, so I didn’t spend much time in the room. I didn’t spend a lot of time in the Chi Cha either, although its wifi was incredible compared my first Phnom Penh abode. The Chi Cha was right by the river, and within easy walking distance of a zillion bars and restaurants. Since Phnom Penh may quietly be the best bar and restaurant town in Southeast Asia not named “Bangkok,” this was a very good thing.
Result – I guess I should use the “would I return” test. If I were to ever return to either town, I would hope to have a larger budget than I did on this trip, in which case I would opt for somewhere better in either case. However, all things being equal, I would be much more likely to stay at the Chi Cha again than the Harmony House.
Tommy’s has a lot of room styles, and I stayed in the cheapest one my first couple of nights. I upgraded to a slightly better room later, still fan cooled, but this time with a view, a breeze, and better wifi. Ko Tao is no place to hang out indoors though, so I wasn’t in the room much. The lady who ran the place was extremely nice, and went out of her way to help me out. I stayed at the Da Som two nights, so it’s amazing that it only garnered a 15 seed. The Da Som was a relatively expensive business-style hotel, and I only stayed there because I was a bit marooned. That said, when I stayed there, I had just spent 5 nights in a fan-cooled bungalow, 4 nights in a dorm, a night on a plane, 6 nights at a buddy’s place in Korea, and a month at another buddy’s place in America, so it was nice to have my own full-service space for the first time in weeks.
Result – Tommy’s. Ko Tao was my favorite place in the month I spent on Thai islands.
1 – Rambuttri
9 – Coconut Moon
Result – This matchup is a real contrast in styles. Rambuttri House lived up to their tagline, and was very much my home away from home for some time. Coconut Moon was a bit nicer and pricier than my usual fare, and was more like a vacation from my vacation. The latter was certainly the nicer hotel, but I feel like I could have walked into any hotel on the block and gotten a similar room for a similar price. Tough call goes to the high seed.
12 – Moonwalk
4 – Reggae
Result – wow, no easy calls in this region. I’m going with the Reggae, and for the exact same reasons I chose the Rambuttri in the last round.
3 – Pak-Up
6 – Kang’s
Result – This is another tough matchup. I stayed in both places four nights. Pak-Up is one of the better dorms I’ve stayed in, but I’ll choose Kang’s simply because I didn’t have to stay in a dorm there.
10 – Chi Cha
2 – Tommy’s
Result – The only relatively easy choice here, Tommy’s advances.
1 – Rambuttri
4 – Reggae
Result – brutal. These places cost the same, although I had a private room at the Bangkok facility and a (semi-private) dorm in KL. The Reggae Mansion is where I started this trip, and I really couldn’t have ended up at a better first place. The Rambuttri was a great mid-trip place, good for taking care day-to-day business like calling back home, shopping on Khao San Road, and sorting out visas and plane tickets. I’ll have to go with the upset here though, mainly because the Reggae was more social, and it was great to meet cool people right at the start.
6 – Kang’s
2 – Tommy’s
Result – Ko Tao was the only place where I seriously flirted with the idea of renting a room for a month, which I would have done at one of Tommy’s nicer rooms. Kang’s clearly has long term potential as well. Staff will be the tiebreaker here, which means Tommy’s moves on.
4 – Reggae Mansion
2 – Tommy’s Resort
Result – The Reggae is basically the perfect big-city hostel. Tommy’s is a well-located and well-priced hotel near the ocean, but the in-room facilities are pretty spartan. I’ve already chosen them both, then deleted the deciding sentence. There is a reasonable chance I will return to both Kuala Lumpur and Ko Tao at some point, KL since it’s such a big regional hub and Tao because it was my favorite Thai island. If I end up in KL again, I will absolutely stay at the Reggae unless I’m staying somewhere swish. If I return to Ko Tao, I would consider staying somewhere on the other side of the island to try something new. Thus, Reggae moves on to the Final Four.