Phnom Penh Hostel: The Billabong Hostel

Off from the main street we took a turn to a connecting alley where the hostel is nestled. I have five friends with me booked in an eight bed dorm room all paid for by us. We were kinda excited about this Phnom Penh hostel property because they have a pool and good reviews in Booking.com and Agoda.com. We were trying to manage our expectations though, so we don’t get a broken heart. Many sites try to pull the better reviews up on the ranks so that people see them first and sometimes can be rigged by the hotel them selves, but this time I think we hit jackpot and found the best Phnom Penh Hostel!

phnom penh hostel

Location

The Hostel is just walking distance from the Phnom Penh Central Market where you can explore a lot of Khmer products, food and souvenirs. If you are coming from Viet Nam via MekongExpress, you will be dropped off at the Orussey Market 500 meters away from the best Phnom Penh Hostel, The Billabong Hostel.

There are restaurants near by where you can dine out and drink with friends over good food at night. In the morning if you don’t fancy the hotel breakfast, you can roam around the area and find great street food that offers grilled port and chicken with rice.

phnom penh hostel

Rooms

I learned that the hostel was formerly branded as a hotel. Hence, they have enough private rooms and with the expansion of their brand to the hostel market they were able to add more rooms into their inventory. This could be the reason why it felt like I was staying in an upscale property during our stay. I mean the rooms are incredibly clean and sound proof!

The dorms have wide beds, enough space for your to roll over and over (LOL), and has nice support to the back giving you a good night sleep. Climate control inside the room (air conditioning) is also nice and cool the whole day so if you decide to have a lazy day you’d be tucked in a nice and cozy bed.

The Billabong Hostel also have the bathrooms inside the dorms so you don’t have to go out and travel back wet along a corridor. This is what my friends love the most about this hostel.

phnom penh hostel

Amenities

The pool, that is what got me the first time I saw this property. I looove pools! Specially when traveling around Southeast Asia where temperatures can sometimes be unforgiving. I had to manage my expectations at first because for the price that wee pay per head was unbelievable. I was hesitating thinking how can a property this good be so affordable! But I was wrong the property did proved to be what its reviews are saying that it is the best Phnom Penh hostel.

The pool was clean and clear without that strong smell of chlorine where  guests can just soak under the Sun by the pool and take a quick dip when it becomes a bit too hot.

phnom penh hostel

Next to the pool is the restaurant where you can order food and refillable coffee. Yep refillable, that one got my heart hahahaha! they have a good menu that offers light and heavy meals good for both westerners and Asian guests. If you are staying in a private room, breakfast actually is included in your room’s price.

Billabong Hostel also provides towels and padlocks for lockers ($10 deposit required) that are big enough to fit small luggage. I really appreciate that they provide these since it takes away the burden from me in packing up wet towels in my backpack.

The Verdict 

Even if we only stayed for one night, I would give The Billabong Hostel 5/5 rating. Value for money incredible and location is just perfect! Their staff speaks really good English and doesn’t need to be called for them to assist. My friends were so happy with the time we spent their even if it was a short while in the best Phnom Penh hostel. I just delighted to have discovered The Billabong Hostel. Now I don’t have to think of anywhere else to bring my guests whenever in Phnom Penh.

 

The Billabong Hostel 
No. 5 Street 158, Daun Penh, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
www.thebillabonghotel.com
Contact Info
+855 (0) 23 223 703
+855 (0) 92 229 306
info@thebillabonghotel.com
FB: @billabonghostelphnompenh

Tagaytay Hotel: Taal Vista Hotel

Over the last half a decade or so, development over the Tagaytay ridge has been aggressive.  Sometimes, leaving behind the atmosphere and nostalgic experience that Tagaytay use to be. But there are things that has thankfully there are places that seem to have stood still in time that you can always go back to and relieve the Tagaytay that you or parents knew on their younger years, the Taal Vista Hotel

 

 sweet welcome confectionery  

Built during the 1930’s president Quezon ordered Manila Hotel Company to buy a parcel of land from to be developed as a destination for rest and relaxation. By the 1939 construction of the Taal Vista Lodge commence and was soon completed and inaugurated by the same year. Today the same establishment is now known as the Taal Vista Hotel has retained much of its old world charm, bringing you back to the pristine Tagaytay that people knew about.

As I entered the lobby, I was warmly greeted by everyone at their front desk. The lobby was classy yet not that intimidating giving that homey feel like how it was at grandma’s place.

After checking in, I was lead to my room passing through a corridor adorned with memories of the hotel’s colorful history. The secondary lobby opened up to a beautiful veranda, albeit filled with fog because of the weather.

Also Read Travel Guide: 1 Day Tagaytay Itinerary

 

The Food

My first night’s dinner was the Veranda restaurant. Their menu is collection of cuisines that are familiar from my travels around Southeast Asia and beyond. I asked about how much is a serving good for and was told that it was for one. However, I don’t eat much so I guess a couple can share the food that I ordered, hahaha! I indulged my self starting with the Chef’s salad which is a medley of crisp and fresh vegetables tossed in a special vinaigrette. I love the subtlety of the dressing allowing the fresh flavors of the salad become the dish’s feature.  My main dish was a Nasi Goreng. The Nasi’s flavor reminded me of the *insert Street Name* colorful food scene. The tenderly flavored beef seem to have just transported me back to Malaysia. It was everything I remember. Like they say always leave room for dessert. But no, I made room for dessert. The Brazo de Mercedes was just exquisite, it felt like they know how I wanted my food. The cake wasn’t too sweet just enough for you to appreciate heaven.

 Chef’s Salad

My last dinner was hosted by the hotel’s Taza restaurant. I was sat down in a table and was asked if wanted something to drink while waiting for my food. I asked if they have juices or tea (which they do) but I pushed a little further. See I rarely drink sodas and powdered drinks, so I asked i those were either house brewed ice tea or real fruit juices. Dinner started appropriately with some soup followed by some appetizers. The main star of the night’s dinner table was the Tomahawk Rib Eye. The meat was just heavenly to chew on and cooked to perfection. The juice from the steak was just so full of flavor.

After an entire full 8 course dinning experience, I spoke with the restaurant manager and learned that their meat are locally sourced to as far as Bukidnon for the best ingredients. Something that I feel needs to be commended in a world where everything is flooded by cheap imported goods.

The Room

 

The room booked for me was a premier room at the Lake View wing of the property. The sight of a gorgeous bed was a welcome site for me. Having traveled from the northern part of the metro all the way to the south was a challenge. But after all that hassle, the warm embrace of the comforter and the soft hugs of the bed made it all worth it.

The suite is well appointed with wood furnishing. But the true test for me in any good hotel is the bathroom, and I was not disappointed. The huge bathroom has separate showers and toilet and a good mirror between them. Water pressure was awesome, unlike some hotels where you just want to beg for more water to come out, Taal Vista’s water pressure was just right. The toilet is equipped with a bidet, that’s an extra point no need to touch you tushy.

 

I appreciate that the room smelled clean. I mean yes of course hotels should smell clean but do they most of the time? Though the Taal Vista Hotel was built in the 1930’s the management actually closed it down for a couple of years and had it renovated and restored to its original architecture during the early 2000’s. The furniture are all updated to a modern taste and yes it doesn’t smell mold like any other old hotels. The room also had a big TV that kept me entertained with cable programming. I don’t really watch TV but it helped a lot keep me updated since there was a storm that time and I couldn’t really walk outside of the property.

 

The View

This here deserves a separate insight. Probably the best thing about mornings in Taal Vista Hotel was waking up to an unbelievable view. You know that feeling when you watch movies where the character starts his or her day? They pour in their coffee and open up this huge glass panel door, walks right into their veranda and breathes in the cool crisp air while looking into that awesome view as they drink their coffee? That feeling! I couldn’t just get my self to close that window. My bed was near the huge glass doors and I just spent so much time lounging at the bed, working on my laptop and just giving that view a glimpse form time to time. It was all the motivation I needed to work that day.

The room has a veranda that could have been perfect to spend your afternoons at. If not for the strong winds and occasional rains I would have ordered my self a pot of brewed coffee and just admire that picturesque view.

 

 

The Taal Vista Hotel Property

If you have ever passed by Taal Vista Hotel’s area, you might have the notion that the property’s area is a bit small. Well that was my impression before, at least. However passed the main building and this hill (which was actually a wall) that separates areas of the property. I walked around and explored the property a bit further.

The Gym

I’m not a fitness freak, but I do try to get some exercise. I just don’t want to gain those pounds again (#paranoid) and it was a good thing that Taal Vista Hotel has gym with ample equipment that you can use to burn those extra fat. Though it was raining and foggy outside, I appreciate that they air conditioning was still on. See when you burn more fats when you work out in a cold environment. This is because your body uses more energy to heat up your self and perform its functions. Now that’s one good fitness tip for you 😉

The Pool

I’m not quite sure if the pool is heated or not, but i tried to take a dip on that gloomy day and the water was just perfect. I admit that I am quite squeamish with cold pools, but the water was just fine! It is also notable that the pool is hidden from plain sight from the public areas. Remember that hill looking wall? This is what was behind it. The pool also has an on duty life guard so kids are safe, still of course don’t leave minors unattended.

Sky Ranch

If you are staying in Taal Vista Hotel, you can also gain special access to the Sky Ranch theme park. The hotel has a special access to the theme park so there is no need to go out and walk on road side. This is also great since your room is easily accessible from the park. May also ask for a special rate for the park.

My Goodbyes

 

 

On my last day just before I check out of the property, I asked for a cup of coffee. It was a good cup. The bitterness just strikes my palate at the right spots with notes of rubbery goodness. Everything that I am looking for in cup of coffee while I gaze at the incredible view of the Taal Volcano one last time. The Taal Vista doesn’t just offer a room for everyone. It offers an opportunity to travel back in time and feel how it was back in the days when the ridge was uncrowded through its wide open spaces facing the lake.

If you have just one day and couldn’t stay, I’d say give the spot a few hours, buy a cup of coffee and just stare at the amazing view of the Taal Lake. Slow down a bit and feel the beauty of life at Taal Vista Hotel. 

Travel Guide: How To Go To Vietnam From Cambodia (Border Cross)

Being part of the main land Southeast Asia, Vietnam is one of the usual stops for backpackers. So aside from taking the plane to the country, to save money most travelers actually cross borders via land. If you are wondering how to go to Vietnam from Cambodia via land, you’d be surprised that it’s relatively easy. Let’s check on some things first.

VISA Requirements

If you are a non ASEAN citizen you might want to check Viet Nam’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs if you are needing to secure a visa prior to your arrival. You will also notice when you buy your bus ticket that the staff will ask you some questions. This is to determine if you are aware of your visa situation and that you have secured one if necessary.

On the other hand, if you are an ASEAN citizen, all that you’ll be needing is your passport. ASEAN citizens with passports issued by member countries  are currently afforded visa-free entry into Viet Nam for a period of 21 to 30 days.

How To Go To Vietnam From Cambodia (Border Cross)

check on google maps here

How To Go To Vietnam From Cambodia (Border Cross)

screen cap from google maps

The Journey To Viet Nam

As you buy your ticket, the staff will actually ask you if you have ever been to Viet Nam. I think this is their soft probing if you are aware of the things that you need to know on how to go to Vietnam from Cambodia. They will also inform you if you need a visa, ergo they will not sell you tickets if you don’t have.

Say, you have your tickets already and its time to board the bus. Before the bus leaves, the steward will collect all passports to double check if you have the right documentation. As soon as you arrive at the Cambodian border, all passports will be redistributed. You will have to get off of the bus and line up for your passports to be stamped out.

After everyone has been stamped out and have boarded back on the bus, you will be taken to the Duty Free shop for dinner. Yeah, It’s a bit over priced but the food isn’t that bad and you have no other choice. After about an hour everyone jumped backed in the bus heading to the Viet Nam side of the border.

On the Vietnam side of the border, the bus steward will be the one to process your passports for you. You will actually be asked to bypass the immigration officers booth after handing you back your passport. As you exit the processing center, an immigration officer will then check your passports one at a time. This is to make sure that everyone was processed accordingly.

Your bus will be waiting at the exit of the processing center. Once everyone is back on the bus you’d be on your way to Ho Chi Minh city! There’s one difference that should be noted between the Cambodian and Vietnam border processing. As you exit, the Cambodian border center will just as yourself to step off the bus without your belongings. On the other hand, the Vietnam border will ask you to unload everything and have everything scanned. I guess the later’s immigration process is a lot stricter since you are entering their country.

Your journey ends at the Pham Ngu Lao street where everyone gets off. If you have not booked a room just yet, you are almost guaranteed to find one along the alleys of Pham Ngu Lao.

hopefully this gives you a good idea of what bus company to take and some insight on How To Go To Vietnam From Cambodia.

Fare: $14 (as of 11/29/2016)

 

If you have any questions, suggestion or inputs please do let us know on the comments section!