Pillow Talk

We have gotten some questions about where we intend to stay during PigFish. For the most part, we intend to look for guesthouses or small hotels. No dorms and no shared bathrooms – we are too old for that nonsense. We might even try to rent an apartment or two. After Myanmar, the plan is to book in advance, although no more than a day or two ahead of time – neither of us really relish the idea of lugging a backpack around from guesthouse to guesthouse looking for a room. We will keep this page updated with details of where we stayed.

Thailand:

  • Bangkok: Sofitel So. We are huge fans of the Sofitel chain, have accumulated a fair number of points, and have platinum status with their frequent stay program (at least for this year!). Not surprisingly, we loved this hotel. Because of our status, we got to eat at their impressive breakfast buffet for free each day – the buffet was huge with pastries, eggs cooked to order, local fruit, rice, noodles, bacon (both streaky and back), cereal, meats, cheeses, ice cream, and about 6 different types of juice each day. Watermelon juice, yum. We also had access to the lounge, which meant free glasses of wine and appetizers each evening before dinner. The hotel is well located, across from a park and between a subway stop and a sky train stop. Our only criticism was the bathrooms – let’s just say they did not provide a whole lot of privacy. Would we recommend it? In a heartbeat.
  • Chiang Rai: Grandma Kaew’s. $21/night. This is a small guesthouse run by a Thai woman and a British man. It is well located, just a quick walk from the night market and numerous bars and restaurants. It is a basic hotel with a wet room for a bathroom. It was spotlessly clean. No English language channels on the tv, but we did find a channel that pretty much just played football (soccer). No breakfast included, but they did provide bread and bananas each day. Would we recommend it? In a heartbeat.

Myanmar: (note hotel prices in Myanmar are still quite high and quality is still quite low – we paid far more than we would have liked and got far less than we would have liked)

  • Mandalay: Tiger One Hotel. $40.50/night (breakfast included). Clean, friendly hotel. Located within walking distance (if you don’t mind a long walk) from several attractions and from numerous restaurants. Good breakfast buffet, which changed slightly each day, but which included both Western and Asian fare. Free use of bikes included (we didn’t use them so don’t know how good they were). Room was small (but very clean) and noisy (cleaning staff started early and what we think was a call to prayer from a local mosque woke us up very early).  As a bonus, we were able to watch a Chelsea match one night and a current episode of Scandal another. Would we recommend it? Now, yes, but we strongly suspect that the market will change quickly and new options may be better.
  • Bagan: Kaday Aung Hotel. $75.00/night (breakfast included). Located in New Bagan within an easy walk to several restaurants and several pagodas. We could have found a cheaper place, but we really wanted a pool in Bagan (and that was 100% the right choice) and this was about as cheap as we could find for a property with a pool. Outdoor space was quite nice – the pool was lovely (but freezing cold) and there were plenty of places around the hotel to sit and relax. The room was large and functional. But the bathroom was a disaster – frequently smelled like sewer and the shower alternated between either virtually no water pressure or plenty of pressure but alternating between scalding and freezing water. And, our room abutted either a monastery or school and we heard children chanting from 6 am until 10 pm every single day. Breakfast was included but about the only edible items were the eggs made to order, the toast and the watermelon. Would we recommend it? Not a chance.
  • Yangon: MK Hotel. $70/night (breakfast included). A bit out of the way, but still within walking distance of Sule pagoda, the markets, and Chinatown. Recently opened. Basic room, with a wet room for a bathroom (although there was a shower curtain which helped somewhat), but clean. Staff was friendly. Breakfast was the best we had in Myanmar. The typical eggs, pastries, fruits and a hot Asian dish each day – one day mohinga, another day a really good and unique chicken soup, another day shan noodles. But the best thing was the Internet – it was the best we had in Myanmar. Fast enough to load photos and Skype home. Would we recommend it? Yes (but see the caveat above for the Tiger One).

Cambodia:

  • Phnom Penh: Hotel Zing. $28/night. Funky little hotel right near Central market. Hotel is new, but fairly poorly constructed. Room was entirely white with a few purple accents. Separate shower with plenty of hot water and plenty of water pressure. Towels were big and fluffy, bed was comfortable. That said, lots of standard items were missing: no hand soap by bathroom sink, no hand towels, no tissue, kettle for making hot water but no tea packets. Internet was horrible. Would we recommend it? Yes (if you don’t need internet), with the caveat that we think in about 6-12 months the place is going to go downhill fast unless there is a fair amount of maintenance performed.
  • Battambang: Emerald BB Hotel. $15/night. Unbelievable value for the money. Room was huge with plenty of storage space. Air conditioner kept the room nice and cold. Hotel was a bit off the beaten track, but only about a 10-minute walk to the heart of everything. Bathroom (wet room) was dark, but everything worked well. Internet was spotty, but worked most of the time (although we did have to bounce around multiple SSID’s). Would we recommend it? At that price?  Absolutely.
  • Battambang: Vimean Sovannaphoum. $43.09/night (breakfast included). We booked this hotel for the pool and the pool was lovely – warm enough that we could stay in it for extended time periods and well decorated. The room was likewise lovely with nice local furniture. The bathroom was a bit problematic in that the shower water got progressively warmer as we showered until it was scalding hot. Breakfast was not a buffet and the menu options were very small – for example, a baguette with jam.  Internet worked well.  Would we recommend it? Only if you want to splurge on the pool.
  • Phnom Penh: Blue Corner. $32.20/night (breakfast included). Very small room with absolutely no storage space for luggage. Breakfast was ok, but nothing special. Hotel is well located within an easy walk of the river and the pool was nice. Staff were friendly. Internet worked most of the time, but was occasionally slow.  Would we recommend it? Probably not, because the lack of any storage in the room was beyond annoying.
  • Kampot:  Kampot Manor.  $27.80/night (breakfast included).  Lovely little guesthouse with a very friendly and helpful Australian owner.  Breakfasts were big:  fruit, cereal, weird donut like things, yogurt, juice, Cambodian sweets, eggs, bacon and toast.  Rooms were extremely clean and comfortable.  Bathroom (wet room) worked well.  Only downside is it is a ways from town, but we had no problems with that.  And Lisa survived without a tv in the room.  Would we recommend it?  In a heartbeat.
  • Kep:  Le Kep Bungalows.  $35/night (breakfast included).  If we are being honest, there are quite a few places where this hotel could be improved — the bed was rock hard, the shower stall was constructed poorly so the floor never dried, the bathroom occasionally smelled, and the breakfasts were pretty miserable.  All that said, we loved this place.  It was well-located (walking distance to the crab market and Kep National Park), the staff were friendly, our bungalow had a front porch with a table and chairs, and the pool was the place to be.  We ended up extending our stay not once but twice.  Would we recommend it?  In a heartbeat.

Vietnam

  • Can Tho:  West Hotel.  $32.65/night (breakfast included).  Brand spanking new hotel right on the riverfront.  Soft (or as Lisa says, comfortable) bed (rare in this part of the world) and huge bathroom with more water pressure than we had in Chicago (at times, too much for the drain to keep up).  The bathroom wall was oddly made of glass, but there was a shade that could be drawn so you didn’t see into the bathroom from outside.  Good breakfasts with both Asian and Western food, including noodle soup and an omelet station.  Friendly staff.  Would we recommend it?  Yes, at least until the price goes up (and it will).
  • Saigon:  Sonnet Hotel.  $36.82/night (breakfast included).  A very good value for the money.  We struggled to find a decent place that wasn’t in the backpacker area and wasn’t outrageously expensive.  This hotel is in district 3 so you don’t have to deal with the hordes of tourists, but within an easy walk of pretty much anything you would want to see.  We found a nice local restaurant nearby as well as a coffee shop playing football.  Breakfast was decent, and the noodle soup was very good.  The bathroom was very small and, maybe to compensate, the shower wall was glass so one could look into the bathroom from the bed area.  There was a curtain, but it wasn’t opaque.  Would we recommend it?  Yes, but you can certainly get a cheaper room if you don’t mind being in the backpacker area.
  • Ham Tien: Xin Chao.  $28/night.  Nicely located across the street from the beach and from a very good local restaurant.  Staff was friendly.  Plenty of hot water and water pressure.  But, this was our second least favorite hotel so far.  There was no complimentary drinking water (first hotel in 2+ months without it), there was no fridge, there was no safe, the tv didn’t work (the only English channel that had both sound and picture was CNN; the rest had picture but no sound), the “shower” was just a hand held nozzle that could not be used as a shower because the hook was far too high and pointed the water straight out of the shower area, the shower curtain was moldy, and the towels were hard and crusty.  Plus, the pool wasn’t that great.  It looked nice, but it was in a garden so dead leaves were constantly raining down on us and the loungers were filthy.  Would we recommend it?  No. (With the caveat that the more expensive rooms may be nicer).
  • Ham Tien:  Mui Ne Hills Villa.  $35/night (including breakfast).  Loved, loved, loved this hotel.  There was nothing special about the room, but it was clean and functioned well.  The best part was the pool and the bar and the clientele.  The pool had plenty of loungers in both the sun and the shade, although we spent most of our time on some couch-like things under a thatch roof.  The view of the ocean was outstanding and there were staff available to grab drinks or food.  The hotel complex also includes Breeze bar, which is run by a Dutch guy and his staff of friendly, and funny, Vietnamese — including a guy that goes by the name of Hip Hop.  We gathered at the bar every night, along with people from all around the world, and had a blast.  Would we recommend it?  In a heartbeat.
  • Dalat:  Tulip 1 Hotel.  ~$25 night (we had two rates).  Reminded me of a room a grandma would live in, with fussy wallpaper and a still life hanging on the wall.  Not very clean.  Maid service was pretty much non-existent (although very loud starting at 6:30 am).  Our bed got made each day, but the maid didn’t replace soap, didn’t replace the soaking wet bathmat and didn’t wash used glasses.  The room was also incredibly damp – so damp laundry still wasn’t dry after two days.  All that said, we did extend our stay because it was well located and we were too lazy to walk around and look for something better.  Would we recommend it?  Most likely not.
  • Nha Trang:  Mhi Phi.  $26.22/night (including breakfast).  So…we booked this hotel for the pool.  And the pool sucked.  Small, very few loungers, no cushions on the loungers, etc.  That said, we ended up liking the hotel and decided the beach was far better than a pool anyway.  The staff were very friendly and helped us with our Vietnamese, the room was comfortable (although it really is stupid to decorate entirely in white) and the hotel was very well located.  Would we recommend it?  Maybe.  We didn’t really research places without pools and next time we would not worry about a pool when booking.
  • Quy Nhon:  Seagull Hotel.  $53.14/night (including breakfast).  Ugh.  This was a mistake.  We decided to splurge because Quy Nhon is not yet very touristy, there aren’t many options, and the reviews for this hotel were very good.  The hotel was clean and the staff were friendly, but this hotel so wasn’t worth this price.  We never used the pool, the room was no nicer than other rooms we have stayed at for far less money, and the bar was expensive.  Would we recommend it?  No.
  • Hoi An:  Villa Nova.  $30/night (including breakfast).  Cute little hotel, comfortable rooms, well located, friendly staff.  The place would be perfect except for two things:  the room got far too bright in the morning and the internet was miserable.  Would we recommend it?  Yes, if you don’t need to access the internet for work or to plan your next stop.
  • Da Nang:  Finger Hotel.  $29.32/night (including breakfast).  Awful, just awful.  We were initially given a room that was already occupied.  The room we ultimately were given had a malfunctioning door lock that beeped for a full 30 seconds each and every time the door was closed.  The hotel said they would send someone up to fix it, but never did.  As an added bonus, one of the lights would periodically turn itself on (and strobe) in the middle of the night.  The walls and ceiling were paper thin and there were screaming toddlers on both sides of us.  One day, the maid replaced our wet but otherwise clean towel with a dirty towel.  Someone had spilled something on the wall and it had never been cleaned up.  And there was soap scum from past guests on the bathroom counter.  We couldn’t wait to leave and our mood lifted the minute we got in the cab.  Would we recommend it?  Absolutely not.
  • Hanoi:  Hotel Charm Hanoi.  $35.78/night (including breakfast).  Best.  Hotel.  Ever.  We adored this hotel.  Brand new, spotlessly clean, charming staff, well-located, comfortable bed, hot shower and surprisingly quiet.  Juice and a fruit plate on arrival, another fruit plate in the room, and fresh flowers in the room.  The staff really made this place:  one day they walked me to a flower market and helped me buy flowers and when we had to transfer to a new hotel (because Charm was booked) they delivered our luggage to the new hotel free of charge (and didn’t even stick around for a tip).  I doubt anything will top this place at this price point.  Would we recommend it?  Yes, yes, a thousand times yes.
  • Hanoi.  Posh Hotel.  $32.64/night (including breakfast).  So we knew that any place we booked after Charm (short of the Sofitel) would be a disappointment and tried to keep that in mind here.  This place was fine, but nothing special.  Our “king” bed was actually two twins pushed together and the sheet wasn’t quite big enough.  The bathroom was pretty run down but functional.  The location was good.  We haven’t bothered to get up for breakfast.  The real problem is that we are pretty sure there were critters of some sort in the walls and ceiling.  Each night at bedtime we could hear them scampering around.  Thankfully, we didn’t see any in the room.  Would we recommend it?  Probably not, as we strongly suspect you can do better at the same price point.

Malaysia

  • Kuala LumpurLantern Hotel.  $29.55/night (including breakfast).  Completely overrated.  The public areas were quite nice — there was an internal sitting area and an outdoor patio overlooking Chinatown.  But the room was miserable.  It felt like a prison.  The walls were made of cement block.  The room was big enough for only the bed and about a foot and a half next to the bed to walk to the bathroom.  The bed was in an alcove and abutted three walls so I had to climb over Robert to get out of bed.  Plus, to top it off, we paid a couple dollars extra for a “balcony.”  The so-called “balcony” was just another room with wooden shutters and a single chair — the windows had no glass or screens so we kept it closed off the entire time with a sliding wooden door, rendering our room effectively windowless.  And yet the wooden door failed to block out any of the street noise so we didn’t get a single good night of sleep.  Would we recommend it?  No.
  • Georgetown.  Apollo Inn.  $37.77/night (including breakfast).  Well….it was better than our hotel in Kuala Lumpur.  The room was very small and the window (which we paid extra for) was small and up so high that even standing on the bed we couldn’t see outside.  And the “bathroom” had glass walls.  Seriously, glass walls.  That said, the room was very quiet, the bed was comfortable, the AC worked and the shower water was hot.  The breakfast each morning was more than sufficient (and they even had peanut butter).  Plus, they had free cookies available all day.  So, all in all, it wasn’t bad.  Would we recommend it?  Only as a last resort because we are now in a much, much nicer hotel in Georgetown for less money.
  • Georgetown.  Armenian Suite.  $36.21/night.  This was a great little hotel.  We had an internal room, but we have finally realized that those are sometimes better as they are darker and quieter.  The bed was super comfortable.  The room was spacious.  The bathroom was a wet room, but it was quite large and it dried very, very quickly.  The hotel is above a cafe that sells a dessert called “snow” – it is some type of flavored ice/ice cream type concoction which was quite good.  We likely would have extended our stay but for the fact that we had already booked ferry tickets.  Would we recommend it?  Absolutely.
  • Langkawi.  Salsa Resort.  $29.21/night.  There was nothing wrong with the interior of this hotel.  The room was large and comfortable.  But the staff were standoffish (at best) and the hotel was a long, not particularly safe walk to town.  And the breakfast was inedible.  Would we recommend it?  Only if everything else was full or if you rent a car or scooter and don’t mind driving everywhere.
  • Langkawi.  Cactus Inn.  ~$34/night (we paid two different rates because we booked some nights on-line and some nights directly with the hotel).  Cute little place.  Room was small but completely functional.  AC was powerful and wi-fi worked well enough to stream tv shows.  All of the rooms have a patio with outdoor seating.  We had monkey visitors, we saw a giant squirrel and there were a ton of birds that visited the area, including kingfishers and horn bills.  The staff were friendly, as were the resident cats and dog.  It is a bit of a walk to Centai beach, but there are plenty of stores, restaurants and bars around.  Would we recommend it?  Absolutely.

Thailand (visit 2):

  • Koh Lipe.  The Reef Hotel.  $43.59/night.  It seemed to us that all the hotels on Koh Lipe were overpriced, and this one was no exception.  The front desk staff was not the friendliest, the bed was the most uncomfortable one we have had on our trip, and soundproofing was minimal.  And the dogs that hung out there woke us up each and every night barking.  That said, the sheets and towels were clean and the hotel was conveniently located between the two primary beaches.  Would we recommend it?  Not likely, but in a pinch it will do.
  • Ao Nang.  Miti Resort.  $23.90/night.  So, this place had amazing reviews and the primary criticism seemed to be the distance to the beach.  Well, the distance to the beach is no problem — a 20 minute walk down a street riddled with shops and restaurants.  But we have no idea why the reviews are so good.  We have two more nights here and are already looking for our next hotel.  The room is dirty — something disgusting all over one wall, toilet seat had to be cleaned before I would use it, sheets and towels with disgusting stains.  Wi-fi is intermittent.  Pool is very small with no umbrellas for shade.  Low water pressure in the bathroom.  Can’t wait to leave.  Would we recommend it?  No.
  • Ao Nang.  Ao Nang Beach Resort.  $26.79/night (including breakfast).  We were upgraded to a mini suite and really liked our room.  It was comfortable (extra pillows, yeah!) and everything worked well.  It is right smack dab in the middle of the beach.  Lots of people would like that, although we got a bit annoyed at the constant hawkers trying to get us into their restaurants — we preferred staying a bit away from the beach.  The only problem with this hotel is that a band plays in the restaurant every night.  The band is loud and the bands we heard weren’t very good.  Our room was about as far away from the band as possible, and we could still hear them crystal clear.  I suspect in the rooms right above the band that you couldn’t even hear yourself think.  Would we recommend it?  Only if they turn down the volume of the band or you can confirm a room far away from the band.
  • Ao Nang.  Ibis Styles.  $41.34/night (including breakfast).  So, after bouncing around Ao Nang a bit we decided to splurge on the Ibis, particularly given my foot injury.  It was worth every penny.  The room was clean and comfortable (albeit small), the wi-fi was wicked fast, the pool was nice, and the staff was friendly.  The staff helped me find a good doctor and even asked several days later whether everything was ok.  Would we recommend it?  In a heartbeat.

Singapore:

  • Sofitel So.  Prices in Singapore are through the roof — we saw dorm beds going for $50.  So, we picked this stay to splurge and went all out by staying at the Sofitel So (using points for two of the three nights).  This particular Sofitel wasn’t up to typical Sofitel standards but it was still the height of luxury for us after 5 months on the road.  Would we recommend it?  Probably not.  There is no lounge, the bar was out of the first two wines I ordered, and the hot water was hit or miss.  I suspect for the price paid we could have gotten quite a bit better.

Sri Lanka:

  • Negombo.  Marine Tourist Guest House.  $31.05/night.  I really wanted to like this place, but I didn’t.  The room was huge, but pretty run down.  The AC worked well, but it was insanely loud.  And the hotel is a bit far away from most of the restaurants.  The drying rack in the room was actually a very nice touch that we appreciated.  Would we recommend it?  Probably not, but it likely isn’t your worst option either.
  • Dambulla.  CLN Guest House.  $24.30/night.  Such a disappointment.  Room was fairly dirty and full of all kinds of bugs (although thankfully no bed bugs even though there were plenty of bugs in the bed).  Robert woke up two mornings with huge bug bites on his forehead.  Bathroom had three huge spiders.  That said, it was well-located for taking the bus on day trips and we ultimately did extend our stay by one night rather than deal with the hassle of moving.  Would we recommend it?  No.
  • Kandy.  256 Rest House.  $23.00/night.  This place is a real find.  Well-located with an easy walk of the lake and the Temple of the Tooth.  Room is clean and huge.  Staff are very friendly and the bake shop downstairs serves a great and very cheap lunch (and a fantastic chocolate donut).  Internet is a bit hit or miss, working well sometimes but not others.  Would we recommend it?  Absolutely.
  • Ella.  Ella Okreechi Cottages.  $27.90/night.  Nice place set on the hillside with nice views and a great balcony.  Very friendly owners.  Room was clean, but full of bugs because the bathroom windows did not have screens and were kept open and because there were openings between the walls and the ceiling (although the fireflies at night were a nice treat).  The real problem in Ella is the stray dogs.  They bark all night long.  And then, in the morning, some kind of music is blared through loudspeakers.  So, although we liked the hotel, we got very little sleep.  Would we recommend it?  Yes, in spite of the noise.
  • Tissa.  Lakeview Cottages.  $19.84/night.  Just lovely.  Hotel is out of town and set on a lake.  Lots of wildlife around.  The room was clean and comfortable.  Staff were friendly and organized a good safari at what we thought was a fair price.  Welcome drink on arrival, free breakfast before safari, and cool drink after safari.  Unfortunately, the food at their restaurant was some of the worse we have had in Sri Lanka.  And, the wi-fi was pretty much non-existent.  Would we recommend it?  Absolutely, but come prepared with snacks and knowing you will be out of touch for your short stay.
  • Marissa.  Sanovin.  $26/night (including breakfast).  This is a hard one.  The place is only half done and looks a bit like a hovel from the outside.  There was no wastebasket in the room.  And, the water heater for the shower had to be plugged in outside the bathroom, which meant there was a cord preventing us from closing the bathroom door.  But the guys that run the place were amazingly friendly.  And the room was clean and (for Sri Lanka) relatively bug free.  And the AC worked very well.  And it was very convenient to the beach and right next door to a coffee shop.  Would we recommend it?  Yes, but wait until the construction is over.
  • Unawatuna.  Black Beauty.  $31.62/night.  Beautiful grounds, lovely gardens, a nice little pool, friendly staff, and the friendliest yellow lab.  Close to the beach and to town.  But, the wi-fi was virtually unusuable.  And the power went out.  And the bed didn’t have a cover sheet or blanket; instead it had a sleep sack for one (thankfully, there were two beds so we each had a sleep sack).  And the pillows stunk.  Would we recommend it?  It pains us to say this, but probably not.
  • Bentota.  The Residence.  $45/night.  This was a splurge, but it was luxury (for the most part).  We had a mini apartment with a living room, kitchenette and bedroom.  The pool and grounds were lovely.  The wi-fi worked well when it worked.  Unfortunately, there were far too many bugs.  Would we recommend it?  If you go to Bentota, but we don’t recommend going to Bentota.

South Africa:

  • Benoni.  Sleep Eezy Cottages.  Don’t remember the price.  We loved everything about this place except the location — it is out by the airport in a residential neighborhood.  The hosts were amazing and a treasure chest of information.  Rooms were comfortable and included a fridge and a microwave.  Would we recommend it?  Absolutely, if you need a place to stay before or after a flight.
  • Greater Kruger.  Tshukudu Private Game Reserve.  Price unknown as included in the larger safari price.  A great introduction to safari.  Rooms were basic, but had everything we needed.  Plus, there was a watering hole right outside our rooms and we got to see a giraffe and other animals from our front porch.  Included meals were basic, but sufficient.  Would we recommend it?  Yes, because the game viewing was amazing.
  • Greater Kruger.  Nyeleti camp in Klaserie Game Reserve.  Price unknown as included in the larger safari price.  Pure luxury.  Rooms were beyond comfortable, with a huge soaking tub and dual sinks.  Our safari company had booked a chef to cook for us, and her cooking was out of this world.  An antelope of some sort came for a drink from our swimming pool one night and we heard an elephant nearby another.  Tracker and guide were friendly and got us some amazing experiences with the animals.  Would we recommend it?  100% yes.
  • Cape Town.  Protea Fire and Ice. ~$117/night (including breakfast).  It was ok.  Room was decently comfortable and breakfast was good.  However, the staff at the hotel were unfriendly and uninterested in doing their jobs.  Indeed, the only positive interaction with any staff member was in the bar (fitting, I know).  Would we recommend it?  Hmmmm…maybe…depends on what else is available and at what price point.
  • Stellenbosch.  Fynbos Villa Guest House.  $50.50/night (including breakfast).  Cute little place.  Well located.  Friendly staff.  Decent breakfast.  Room was cold though.  Would we recommend it?  Yes.
  • Mossel Bay.  Bay Lodge.  $64.07/night (including breakfast).  This place would be amazing in the summer, as it is right on the ocean.  Sadly, we were there in winter.  It was still a very comfortable stay.  Would we recommend it?  Yes.
  • Knysna.  Bridgewater B&B.  $55.31/night (including breakfast).  Another great South African B&B.  Well-located with friendly hosts and a very good breakfast.  The place would be amazing in the summer.  Would we recommend it?  Yes.
  • Franschhoek.  Le Balloon Rouge Guest House.  $61.51/night (including breakfast).  Once the heat turned on, we loved this place.  Very comfortable, with a huge bathroom.  Breakfast was a highlight, with amazing croissants.  Would we recommend it?  Absolutely!
  • Cape Town.  iKhaya Lodge.  $56.78/night (including breakfast).  This was a miss.  The room was fine (nothing special).  But the staff were a real let down.  We arrived 45 minutes before breakfast was supposed to be over to find the staff clearing it away because “most” of the guests had eaten.  And, nobody notified us of the electrical outage that occurred the morning of our departure, even though it was a planned outage.  Would we recommend it?  Unlikely.

United Kingdom:

  • Beckington, England.  Woolpack Inn.  $93.28/night (including breakfast).  Adorable little place.  Comfortable room right above a pub.  Clean and quiet.  In a small little village between Stonehenge and Bath.  Friendly people and a horse even went trotting by in the morning.  Plus, breakfast (including chocolate croissants) was amazing.  The only downside (other than the price) is that the wi-fi only worked in the pub.  Would we recommend it?  Absolutely.
  • Cardiff, Wales.  Ibis.  $94.53/night.  A budget hotel chain.  Room was fine.  Nothing special, but fine.  Hotel was conveniently located and wi-fi was fast and strong.  Would we recommend it?  If it is one of the cheaper options when you book, as it was when we booked.
  • Llandudno, Wales. Headlands Hotel.  $115.55/night (including breakfast).  We found this place completely by accident, as there was a mix-up with our other booking and we arrived in town without a place to stay.  It was quite nice.  On top of a hill, with beautiful views.  A cute bar to hang at in the evening.  And, a very good breakfast.  Unfortunately, wi-fi was very slow during peak periods.  Would we recommend it?  Absolutely (but be prepared to have the owner talk your ear off).
  • Edinburgh.  Ibis Hotel Centre South Bridge.  ~$190/night but we used points.  Very well located if you want to be right in the heart of the tourist district, as it was literally two blocks from the Royal Mile and a very easy walk to the castle.  Typical Ibis hotel — a budget hotel (I gagged a bit when I wrote that given the price) that meets your needs but doesn’t do much more.  Unfortunately, our toilet didn’t want to flush and we had to play with it repeatedly.  Also, parking was VERY expensive if you have a car.  Wi-fi was strong and fast.  Great caramels in the lobby.  Would we recommend it?  Sure, if you are using points.
  • Inverness.  Mercure Hotel.  ~$200/night (including breakfast) but we used points.  Nice location right in the heart of Inverness.  But that is where the positives end.  The plumbing is old, very old, and the pipes made a horrible (and loud) noise each and every time the toilet flushed.  Water pressure in the shower was also low.  Sea gulls squawked outside our window ALL NIGHT LONG so we did not sleep well.  And, our window was absolutely covered in sea gull poo.  Yuck.  Breakfast was decent, but there was absolutely no variety — exactly the same things were served each and every day.  Would we recommend it?  No.
  • Glasgow.  Holiday Inn Express City Center-Theaterland.  Price (including breakfast) unknown because we used points and didn’t keep a record.  Great location in the theater district.  Perfectly acceptable budget hotel.  We were actually a bit impressed and expected much less than we got.  Bathroom was a bit weird, with a single door that could be used to close up the entire bathroom or just the bathroom stall.  Breakfast was very, very, basic with canned fruit.  Would we recommend it?  If the price is right.
  • London.  Sofitel at Heathrow.  $235.07 (including breakfast and lounge access).  A great airport hotel.  Very convenient to Heathrow and very comfortable.  Would we recommend it?  Absolutely.

United States:

  • Chicago. Aloft City Center.  Price unknown because we used points.  We were very pleasantly surprised by this hotel.  The room was huge and very quiet.  The hotel is nicely located within easy walking distance to the loop, the lake and multiple el lines.  Would we recommend it?  Yes.

Belize:

  • San Pedro.  Mata Rocks.  $111.19 (including breakfast).  Very cute little hotel.  Pool is small, but adequate.  We did not get up in time for breakfast so can’t comment on that.  Unfortunately, this hotel has been hit hard by the seaweed problem hitting all of Belize and it is quite smelly at the moment with a virtually unusable beach.  (They were constantly trying to clean things up, but it is a never-ending battle).  Would we recommend it?  Only if the seaweed problem subsides and if you have the budget for a room nicer than the basic one we stayed in.
  • San Pedro.  The Yacht Club.  $118.99.  We loved this place.  We had a small kitchenette with a hot plate and fridge.  But even better, we had a nice patio where we could sit outside and see the pool and the ocean (and all the ocean birds fishing for their meals).  Our room was clean, wi-fi worked well, and air conditioning worked well.  Plus, we couldn’t smell the seaweed at this hotel.  Would we recommend it?  Yes.

Nicaragu

  • Granada.  Casa Silas B&B.  $52.65 (including breakfast).  This place was a real find.  The owners served an amazing breakfast each morning.  The French toast was delicious.  The owners were also fantastic at providing recommendations of things to do and places to eat.  The room was very comfortable (although the shower was a bit less than ideal), the wi-fi was speedy, and the air conditioning worked well.  The three house dogs made our stay.  Would we recommend it?  In a heartbeat.
  • Leon.  Hotel San Juan del Sur.  ~$45/night.  Bleh.  This place was just ok.  The room was small and vaguely prison-like.  Very few amenities — no hand towels, no bath mat, no shampoo, no fridge, no free water.  Wi-fi only worked in pool area.  Room was borderline clean, but certainly far from spotless.  Staff wasn’t particularly friendly and one pretended to not speak English although Robert caught the guy watching Jerky Boys.  Resident cat is too skinny and there are signs forbidding guests from feeding it.  That said, when we decided to extend our stay we couldn’t find any place that looked better at the same price point.  Would we recommend it?  Grudgingly.  Keep your fingers crossed that something better has become available.
  • San Juan del Sur.  Hotel Victoriano.  $115.83/night (including breakfast).  This was a splurge for Robert’s birthday.  It was OK, but we don’t think it was worth the price.  Room was clean and comfortable.  Wi-fi worked well.  Breakfast was good.  However, there was nothing special about the place and the staff were very disinterested.  Would we recommend it?  Probably not, but if you don’t mind paying that price there is nothing wrong with it.  (Edited to add:  we actually stayed here a second time at a slightly lower rate when we needed some time in Playa del Sur to figure out how to get to Costa Rica as nearly everything else was sold out for Independence Day).
  • San Juan del Sur (actually, Playa Maderas).  Casa Maderas.  $39.00.  This place has so much potential.  It is a shame the potential isn’t realized.  The pool is one of the best we have experienced.  It is large, with a ton of seating.  And the views of the countryside are quite nice.  However, the room was fairly dirty and there were a ton of bugs in the room (including at least one scorpion and some kind of bugs that showed up in the shower every time we turned it on).  Plus, the mosquito netting wasn’t big enough for the bed.  And, they jammed two beds into a very small room which meant there was no airflow on one side of each bed — which is important when there is no AC.  The final straw?  The restaurant at the hotel was abysmal and nothing else was an easy walk away.  Would we recommend it?  Most likely not.  We saved some money, but we were SO ready to check out.
  • San Juan del Sur.  Hotel Posada Bahia Azul.  $45.00/night (including breakfast).  This was a quick stopover before taking a morning ferry to Ometepe and we didn’t get to try the breakfast.  Room was relatively clean (sheets, towels and bathroom was clean; walls were filthy) and quiet.  AC worked decently well.  Wi-fi worked, but not consistently and not good enough to make a Skype call.  Located right on the edge of town.  Friendly staff, although they don’t speak any English.  Would we recommend it?  Sure, if you can’t find anything cheaper there was nothing wrong with it.
  • Playa Santa Domingo.  Xalli. $91.26/night (including breakfast).  We loved it here.  The hotel is right on the lake and it is very, very quiet around the hotel.  The room was clean and large, AC worked well, and wi-fi worked decently (and well at the restaurant).  Resident dog was adorable.  The hotel menu was limited, but the meals were delicious.  A perfect place, but only if you are willing to rent a scooter or pay through the nose for a cab and get out and explore.  Would we recommend it?  Absolutely.
  • Moyogalpa.  Hefziba B&B.  $47.67/night (including breakfast).  A very comfortable B&B.  Room was large and nicely decorated.  Hotel is an easy walk to town.  Wi-fi was spotty, but generally good enough to get emails.  Staff was friendly.  Courtyard was really nice with comfortable seating.  The only down-side besides the spotty wi-fi was that the water pressure was really low.  Would we recommend it?  Yes.

Costa Rica:

  • Liberia.  Best Western El Sitio.  $70/night (including breakfast).  Probably the nicest Best Western we have ever stayed in.  It even had two pools and a crocodile pond.  Wi-fi worked well, shower was hot, and the breakfast buffet was filling.  Would we recommend it?  If you absolutely have to spend a night in Liberia, absolutely.
  • Santa Elena.  Pension Santa Elena.  $42/night (including breakfast).  Room was stark.  We literally had nothing but a bed and a nightstand connected to the bed on one side.  And there was no soundproofing.  Breakfast was a joke — either a single taco or two slices of toast along with a small piece of watermelon and (some days) a small piece of banana.  That said, the staff was beyond friendly, the shower was hot, the wi-fi was fast, and the hotel was well situated.  Would we recommend it?  Probably, if you are looking for a cheap room.
  • La Fortuna. Hotel Tangara. ~$44/night (including breakfast).  This place was a real find.  It is brand new and very clean.  Wifi worked well.  Showers were hot.  And, it even had AC!  The hosts were very friendly and cooked up a delicious breakfast each morning.  It is a bit out of town (about 1km), but there is a sidewalk and it is a safe walk.  Would we recommend it?  Absolutely.
  • Cahuita.  Cabines Nirvana.  ~41/night.  Another nice hotel.  Great pool and great patio for lounging.  Plus, we saw a sloth hanging out in a tree at the hotel and enjoyed playing fetch from the pool with the resident dog.  A bit out of town and there is no sidewalk most of the way, but the road is not busy so it was fine.  The one downside of this place is there was no AC, and a couple of nights it was really, really hot in our room.  Would we recommend it?  Yes, if you can stand the heat.
  • Puerto Viejo.  Be My Guest.  $39.25/night.  This was a small little place with only four rooms.  It was about a 30 minute walk to the main town, but there were several groceries, bars and restaurants along the way.  The room didn’t have air conditioning, but we didn’t need it.  We made great use of the small kitchenette in our room and cooked nearly all of our meals in the room.  Guests have free use of the beach at a local resort.  Would we recommend it?  Yes, if you don’t mind being a ways out of town.

Panama.

  • Bocas Town.  Hotel Posada Isla Chica.  ~$39/night.  This place was a real mixed bag.  It included AC and hot water.  The sheets and towels were clean.  It was well located.  However, it is very, very run-down.  So run down that water dripped into our shower when the people upstairs took a shower.  Disgusting.  Would we recommend it?  No.
  • Boquete.  Hotel Reboquet.  $40/night (including breakfast).  This place was a dream.  Very clean, fast wi-fi, and well-located.  Room was modern with a huge king bed.  And the shower was one of the best showers ever with plenty of hot water and plenty of water pressure.  Would we recommend it?  Absolutely.
  • Panama City.  Novotel.  $68.71/night.  Panama City hotels were pretty expensive, so we decided to stay at an Accor property so at least we would accumulate points.  This was a good decision on our part.  Our room was huge and kept spotlessly clean.  The hotel was well-located and an easy walk to both the metro and numerous restaurants and stores.  Wi-fi was fast.  Would we recommend it?  Yes, if it is in line with prices of other comparable places.

Colombia:

  • Cartagena.  Ibis.  $47/night (including breakfast).  Typical Ibis hotel — at least with Ibis you pretty much know exactly what you are going to get.  Clean, but nothing special.  Unfortunately, this hotel was not well-located and there wasn’t much around it.  That said, it was only a 30 minute walk to the old city.  Plus, the windows were so filthy we could hardly see out.  Would we recommend it?  Probably not, because of the location.  But, it was cheaper than comparable hotels while we were there.
  • Medellin.  Ibis.  ~$33/night.  Another typical Ibis hotel.  Not in the heart of the tourist neighborhood, but an easy walk there and an easy walk to two subway stops.  Plenty of restaurants around and a grocery about a block away.  Would we recommend it?  Yes, if you don’t mind walking.
  • Bogota.  Ibis.  $42/night.  Do you see a theme developing here?  Again, a typical Ibis hotel.  Just like in Medellin, it was not in the heart of the tourist district, but it was an easy walk to many of the main attractions (including the gold museum) and there were plenty of shops and restaurants around.  The one downside is that the room did not have heat and it got pretty cold at times.  Would we recommend it?  Yes.
  • Bogota.  Sofitel.  Let’s not talk about the price.  It was a splurge.  And worth every penny.  Staff friendliness was over the top.  Room was huge with a couch that could easily sit four people, along with a desk and two chairs.  (Seriously, before this trip, I never realized how luxurious it was to have a chair in the room).  Well located in the heart of Zona T, which reminded us of being in the U.S. but seemed to have more upscale locals than tourists.  Would we recommend it?  In a heartbeat.

Hong Kong and Macau:

  • Hong Kong.  Ibis Central.  $125.47/night.  One step up from the standard Ibis (and it should be at that price point) — we even got facial tissue.  Staff were friendly, internet worked well, nicely located within an easy walk of Metro stops and the ferry.  Would we recommend it?  Yes, if it is one the cheaper places you can find, as it was when we visited.
  • Macau.  Sofitel.  $146/night (including breakfast, tea, and happy hour).  This place was heaven.  The room was huge.  The staff fell over themselves to ensure we were happy.  The pools looks nice (although it was too cold to use them).  Because of our status, we had free breakfast, tea and happy hour and the food was very good.  The location is close to the old part of town, but not close to the newer casinos like the Venetian.  Would we recommend it?  In a heartbeat.  (Note it is also very reasonably priced compared to the other Macau hotels).

Thailand (visit three)

  • Phuket.  Ibis Kata Beach.  $41.87.night.  Typical Ibis but with a very nice pool.  Easy walk to beach, bars and restaurants.  Pancakes and fried ice cream right out the front door.  Staff was friendly.  Only downside was the internet did not work well in our room.  Would we recommend it?  Yes.
  • Koh Lanta.  Soontreeya Resort.  $88.11/night (including breakfast).  Room is clean, internet works well, and the place has a nice pool.  It is horribly overpriced, but it seems like everything on Lanta is.  Would we recommend it?  If the price point justifies it.
  • Ao Nang.  Ibis.  See comments above.  Wi-fi was not quite as good this time, but we are not sure why.
  • Bangkok.  Sofitel So.  See comments above.

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