What can’t you do without?

What do you find the most useful website when you are travelling? During our ten and a half months away, I used TripAdvisor extensively. It was invaluable in helping us select places to stay, and as a result there are only a few places we wished we hadn’t stayed in. To repay the help we got from it, I have committed to writing TripAdvisor reviews of all the places we stayed in Asia. So far, I’m up to about number 50!

The most comfortable bed of the Asian leg of our trip goes to the BelAire Bangkok
The most comfortable bed of the Asian leg of our trip goes to the BelAire Bangkok

Staying in numerous guest houses, bed and breakfasts, hotels, pubs, hostels, homestays, bungalows and people’s homes, made me realise what’s important to me when selecting accommodation. I’m not a very fussy traveller. The only essentials for me are a reasonably clean room, a comfy bed, a shower, an overhead fan and relatively fast wifi … but I managed without all of those things at some time during the trip. Some of our accommodation, especially when we went off the beaten track, was very basic. For example, in the Knuckles National Park in Sri Lanka we camped overnight in a tent on top of a boat on a lake, and on a hike in Pou Hin Poun National Park in Laos we stayed at a homestay that just provided a mattress on the floor with a mozzie net around it. The toilets at both places were some distance away and there was no shower.

2015-02-03 08.35.132015-02-25 07.38.04

We rarely stayed in expensive places or really cheap places so the following observations are based on middle of the road establishments. I found that it was often the little things that made a difference to our stay, such as:

Who needs electricity with views from the verandah like this?
Who needs electricity with views from the verandah like this?

Air conditioning – often an overhead fan was adequate, but by the end of our trip it was getting very hot and sticky in Asia and a good air conditioner was very welcome.One of the last places we stayed was a bungalow on Koh Rong Samloem, off the south coast of Cambodia. It only

Our room at Freedom Bungalows on Koh Rong Samloem
Our room at Freedom Bungalows on Koh Rong Samloem

had an overhead fan, and even this was not available all the time as the electricity was only on from about 6pm to 3am plus a couple of hours at lunch time. Yet we managed … and this island was one of my favourite places of the trip.

The triple beds sans top sheets at Victoria's Guest House, Kalkudah. Note also the power point half way up the wall!
The triple beds sans top sheets at Victoria’s Guest House, Kalkudah. Note also the power point half way up the wall!

Bedding – a top sheet plus a blanket or duvet allows you to combine the bed clothes to suit the temperature. Most places provided this, although we stayed in one place in Sri Lanka which only provided a bottom sheet! By the time we realised the absence of other bedding it was 10pm and our hosts were in bed. Luckily, we were in a triple room so we used a bottom sheet off one of the other beds to put over us.

Power points – most places had at least one power point but sometimes they were half way up the wall so it was difficult to charge phones, ipads and computers.

Adequate lighting / bedside lights – I usually only get time to read once I am in bed and I discovered on this trip, how much I miss bedside lights if they’re not there. Bedside lights are usually provided in Europe, but there was a distinct lack of them in Asia. In addition, the lighting in bedrooms is often dim in Asian countries. Maybe this is a ploy to ensure you don’t spend much time in the room other than when you are sleeping!

Desk and chair – I used my computer regularly while travelling and a good desk and chair were always a real find!

The rooftop pool at Okay Boutique Hotel, Phnom Penh
The rooftop pool at Okay Boutique Hotel, Phnom Penh

Bath tub and pool – these were very rare in the places we stayed, but whenever they were provided I made sure I treated myself to a long hot bath or a swim in the pool.

Soft towels and toiletries – big, fluffy towels feel luxurious but often the towels provided in the places we stayed were small and thin. I guess you have to stay in high end accommodation to get that kind of luxury! Same for toiletries … the only thing that was always provided was soap, and this was sometimes liquid soap.

2014-12-07 23.02.40Water and glasses– this is a nice touch and cheap to implement, but a surprising number of establishments didn’t provide these. Free bottled water was particularly welcome in the countries where you can’t drink the tap water.

What are the things you can’t manage without and the things that make a difference to your experience when travelling?

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