Friday, October 21, 2016

Full Year Recap: Accommodation

I’ve blogged about food and transport already, so accommodation is the obvious next installment.  Without further ado, this is all about the accommodation during my gap year.

Final Numbers:
- # of beds slept in:  134
- # of accommodations slept in:  146
- # of cities/places slept in:  122

The first two numbers do not include seats on planes or buses, but do include the train and the cargo ship because I had flat beds.  The third number (# of cities/places slept in) does not include any form of transport as I was going between two cities/places.  The number of distinct accommodations is higher than the number of beds because of my camping tours:  each campsite counts separately but my sleeping bag only counts as one.

Accommodation Types:
1.  Friends & family:  118 nights (29.3%)
  -  Friends:  77 nights (19.1%)
  -  Family:  41 nights (10.2%)
2.  Guesthouses:  68.5 nights (17.0%)
3.  Airbnb or similar:  57 nights (14.1%)
  -  Private:  38 nights (9.4%)
  -  Shared with host:  19 nights (4.7%)
4.  Hostels:  50.5 nights (12.5%)
5.  Camping:  38 nights (9.4%)
6.  Hotels:  37 nights (9.2%)
7.  In transit:  12 nights (3.0%)
  -  Airplane:  6 nights (1.5%)
  -  Bus:  2.5 nights (0.6%)
  -  Cargo ship:  2 nights (0.5%)
  -  Train:  1 night (0.2%)
  -  Airport:  0.5 nights (0.1%)
8.  Lodge/resort (terms used loosely):  11 nights (2.7%)
9.  Homestay (incl. casas particulares in Cuba):  10 nights (2.5%)
10.  Boat (not in transit):  1 night (0.2%)

- Private Bathroom: 283 nights (70.2%) – includes sharing a bathroom at a friend’s or family’s house
- Shared Bathroom:  99.5 nights (24.7%)
- Shared toilet w/ no shower:  16 nights (4.0%) – overnight trains and airplanes, Inca Trail, and the cargo ship
- No bathroom:  4.5 nights (1.1%) – overnight buses and some campsites

Longest Stays:
1.  Coral Springs, Florida, United States:  29 nights (my mother’s house)
2.  Santiago, Chile:  17 nights (I have a friend here)
3.  Tokyo, Japan:  14 nights (I have a friend here too)
4.  Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia:  9 nights (I was stuck here with food poisoning)
4.  London, England, United Kingdom:  9 nights (I have friends here)
4.  Bogota, Colombia:  9 nights (I was here for a wedding)

And now for some less listy lists. 

Best Campsite:
-  Drakensville ATKV (Drakensville, South Africa):  This made the top accommodation list for Q1 because of its clean bathrooms and massive indoor heated pool.  WIN.

Honourable mention:
-  Camping Tipanie Moana (Easter Island, Chile):  This “camping hostel” was a novel idea.  The staff were super helpful, the bathrooms were clean, the location was great, and the common areas were super social… even if I had terrible Spanish.

Best Hostel:
-  Mini Voyage Hostel (Hualien, Taiwan):  This place was super clean and fancy, and the staff were very nice and helpful.

Honourable mention:
-  Bob’s Bunk House (Johannesburg, South Africa):  The lady who runs the place is super sweet.  The place was clean, had a nice little pool, bottomless rooibos tea, and was conveniently located between the airport and the main tourist attractions.

Best Guesthouse:
-  Villa Mon Tresor (Rodrigues, Mauritius):  I think I’ve already raved about this place enough.  Marie Louise’s hospitality was unequalled anywhere along the way.  A++!

Honourable mentions:
-  Lina’s Tango Guesthouse (Buenos Aires, Argentina):  Great location, cute decor, and very helpful Colombian owner.
-  Golden Lotus (Luang Prabang, Laos):  The guy who runs the joint – “Bill” – was super attentive and totally adorable.  The breakfast was delicious and the location couldn’t be beat.
-  Hostal Monte Cristi (Managua, Nicaragua):  I wish I had booked a relax day at this cute little guesthouse in a nice gated neighbourhood of Managua right near the airport.

Best Other Accommodation Experiences:
-  Airbnb:  I used Airbnb in South Africa, Mauritius, United Arab Emirates, Vietnam, Cambodia, Japan, Colombia, and the United States.  It has proven amazing.  I am quite particular with hosts and have always had absolutely amazing experiences.  I highly recommend Airbnb to anyone travelling!

Honourable mentions:
-  Tambopata Lodge (Puerto Maldonado, Peru):  This lodge was great – no air conditioning but the windows were just screens so a lovely breeze came into our room and we could hear the sounds of the rainforest.  Our guide there was also fantastic and there were a few discoveries just walking around the actual grounds!
-  MS Mauritius Trochetia:  This was the cargo ship that I took for 2 nights and 1 day from Mauritius to Rodrigues.  It wasn’t glamorous – it was about what I expected from a cargo ship.  The food was a bit meh, no other passengers spoke English, and I got seasick.  BUT – it was the same price as the quick flight, included two nights of accommodation and five meals, and everyone was really friendly even if they couldn’t talk to me.  The main reason this is on this list is because I took a frickin’ cargo ship.  How awesome is that?!?!

Worst Other Accommodation Experiences:
-  I won’t ever use Expedia (or an Expedia owned company) again.  I had problems on flight bookings and accommodation bookings and getting it fixed was a complete hassle.  Expedia overcharged me for one night of accommodation but blamed it on the guesthouse.  I took a game of ping pong to sort it out.  Also, the cargo ship schedule changed at the last minute so I had to fix my return flight.  It was just so much cheaper and easier to cancel the whole thing and start from scratch than it was to deal with Expedia and pay their fee to change it.  It didn’t make any sense.

Dishonourable mentions:
-  Silvermoon Beach & Jungle Resort (Koh Phangan, Thailand):  Here is an excerpt from my Tripadvisor and reviews:  The road down to the resort is terrifying - it's not car-worthy and it's steep and slippery even when it's dry and you're wearing hiking shoes - forget trying it in the rain. I slipped and slid/skid down the hill twice. The staff were a bit too nonchalant about this. They also didn't take out our trash at all or even check to ensure we had new toilet paper - we had to ask when we ran out.  The food from the restaurant was pretty mediocre and overpriced for the island (the exception being the family dinners).  They staff were nice, but they seemed to forget that they had paying customers - they were just a bit too relaxed.
-  La Posada del Tope (Liberia, Costa Rica):  Here is another excerpt from my online reviews:  The furniture looks like it came off the back of a garbage truck. There were holes in my sheets and in the mosquito net - I woke up with a bunch of bug bites. The staff didn't show me where the bathrooms were. When I found it, the toilet seat had a weird texture on it (maybe paint?) The walls were thin and didn't go all the way to the ceiling so I could hear everything coming from neighbouring rooms. The staff also gave me misinformation about the bus schedule for the next day.

Best Bathroom Experiences:
-  Japan and Taiwan:  many of the toilets here will wash your bum and some even will blow dry it for you.  Luxury.

Worst Bathroom Experiences:
Now, to be fair, all of the three campsites below were nice EXCEPT for the bathrooms.

- Aba Huab Camp (Twyfelfontein, Namibia):  I understand that I went camping, not glamping.  Some of the campsites didn’t have any bathrooms, which is totally fine – they were advertised that way and I could plan ahead with respect to my meals so that I wouldn’t need to dig myself a hole to do my business.  But if a campsite says they have bathrooms, I expect bathrooms – not windowless rooms with no working lights, and with walls all painted black to make it even darker.  I also expect an actual seat on the toilet.  Little things.
-  Sugarloaf St. Lucia (St. Lucia, South Africa):  Another bathroom culprit here.  Yes, there were big bathroom blocks, but they mostly didn’t have any running water.  Good luck with the flush.
-  Campo Duro Eco Lodge (Isabela Island, Galapagos, Ecuador):  The actual campsite was lovely, but the bathrooms, particularly the showers, were FILLED with giant spiders.  It was the quickest, most terrifying shower of my life.

Next time I’ll be talking about museums and other attractions from around the world.  There are only a few more blogs of the gap year left.  What will I blog about after that???  Maybe I’ll just post pictures of kittens.  Or ice cream.  Probably ice cream.

Here are two maps relating to accommodation.  Woo!  Map 1 is countries where I’ve used Airbnb.  Map 2 is countries where I’ve gone camping or used Couchsurfing.  Click to enlarge.

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