Right now I’m looking into arranging a homestay in rural Bali. It got me thinking of some of the amazing (and not so amazing) places I’ve stayed over the years…
1. Primary Rainforest – Borneo
Three hours from civilization in a 4×4 lies Borneo Rainforest Lodge, a spectacular resort buried deep in the Danum Valley Conservation Area – 438 square kilometres of relatively undisturbed lowland dipterocarp forest in Sabah, Malaysia. Indulgent luxury, each room with its own outdoor hot tub looking out over canopies of green. Stay here and discover why monkeys make the the best alarm clocks. Just don’t forget your leech socks.
2. Tenderloin – San Francisco
I love San Francisco. It’s full of drugged-out hippy leftovers. It’s also full of lunatics – most of which live in the Tenderloin area of the city. I stayed four nights right bang in the centre of this piss-stained neighbourhood. No sights to see here – apart from roaming latino gangs, people lying face down in the gutter with their trousers round their ankles and hookers off their face on crack. It was an enjoyable experience.
3. A floating room on the River Kwai – Thailand
The following is an extract from a diary I kept during a world trip in 2007…
DAY 182 / Fri 14 Dec
KANCHANABURI / Floating Raves
Kanchanaburi’s a two-and-a-half hour train ride from Bangkok and I’m pretty excited about the trip. For some reason, after missing out on the Jungle Railway in Malaysia I’ve been itching to get on a rickety Asian train ever since – and the journey isn’t a let down. Yeah the train’s hardly luxurious, but the wooden seats are comfortable enough and there’s the best possible form of air-con available: an open window. The scenery becomes more and more rural the closer we get to Kanchanaburi and before we know it we’re being bundled off the train and into a sangthaeuw to take us to our guesthouse. We settle for a floating room right on the River Kwai: basically a box on stilts overhanging the river. It’s an odd feeling when the room vibrates (earthquake style) as boats pass by. However, boats aren’t the only things inhabiting the river; we’re surprised by the surreal sight of floating bars and restaurants being towed up the Kwai – each blasting their own form of generic samba music and karaoke-esque noise. Add to this the equally surreal sound of an open-air war movie being played nearby and there’s the worrying feeling that there may not be much sleep for us tonight…
4. Deer Farm – New Zealand
Of all the places I’ve stayed so far, this deer farm on the fringe of Lake Te Anau on the way to Milford Sound is up there with the best. Along with the most insane views ever, there was a huge converted barn to chill out in. Plus it was under a tenner a night. Dew in the mornings, sunshowers at sunset. Lovely.
5. Chunking Mansions – Hong Kong
Another diary entry, this one from 2008…
Chunking Mansions is notorious for being the worst place you can possibly stay in Hong Kong: a seventeen-floor death trap full of crackheads, weirdos and whores. Unfortunately, we only found this out on the plane on the way over. Ooops. But hey, we’d only booked in for one night – and surely it couldn’t be that bad, could it?
Situated just up the road from Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Armani emporiums, Chunking Mansions looks like a hooker at a Royal Banquet – completely out of place but curious none-the-less. As soon as you walk in the door you’re greeted by pimps selling their wares and the unmistakable smell of glue drifting throughout the whole building. Suffice to say, we could think of nicer places to be at 11.30pm (the time we arrived) but quickly set out to explore this maze of a place and find our ‘hotel’.
Our place was right up on the 13th floor. After queueing for the lift (one lift for the whole building) we got in and eventually found the reception of the shithole we were supposed to be staying in. The bastard had sold our room. Approaching midnight and with nowhere to stay, he eventually gave us a different room at an inflated price. The cheeky sod even made it out like he was doing us a favour. The room was as shit as the building itself but by this stage we were so exhausted we didn’t care.
First thing in the morning, we checked out and headed straight for the fire escape ‘cos we couldn’t be bothered waiting for the lift. Unsurprisingly it was locked; kinda sums the place up really.
What’s the best (or worst) place you’ve ever stayed?