Chill & cheap getaways : Relax in Southeast Asia on a shoestring!

Swimming pool at Kosta Hostel in Seminyak, Bali, Indonesia, photo by Ivan Kralj

It is not a great secret that Southeast Asia is one of the most affordable exotic world destinations modern traveler can visit. Still, browsing through the resorts offer can bring some pessimism into your dreams of a paradise getaway; it is true, even in cheap countries, one can be easily thunderstruck with the prices of the luxury relaxation in the offer.

Well, chill out! Pipeaway is bringing you the list of some of the most chilled out places in Southeast Asia! Technically somewhere between the hostels and the guesthouses, these properties promise you can leave your worries behind, close your eyes, take a deep breath and completely immerse in the chill attitude!

Bungalow on water with a dock, at Man'Groove Guesthouse in Kampot, Cambodia, photo by Ivan Kralj
The new bungalows at Man’Groove Guesthouse will be reachable only by canoe!
1. Man’Groove Guesthouse, Cambodia
Price per night : 4 Euros

Situated in the fisherman village close to Kampot, the riverside town in Southern Cambodia, famous for growing Durian (so much, in fact, that they even raised the gigantic monument in the shape of this fruit at the local roundabout), Man’Groove is a relaxed guesthouse by the road heading East of the town. The place name is the wordplay with the mangrove trees growing over the local brackish water and the groovy atmosphere this guesthouse provides to its visitors.

The 33-year old Singaporean pilot Trevor Seah built this place three years ago when many were laughing at his vision; guesthouse out of the town will never work, they were saying. Today, this dreamer has another Man’Groove – in the nearby Kep. But that one is more for drinkers, he says. Man’Groove Kampot is better in attracting smokers.

Bungalow on water at Man'Groove Guesthouse in Kampot, Cambodia, photo by Ivan Kralj
Man’Groove Guesthouse – where the first neighbours are fishermen and 300 ducks
Ducks instead of the alarm clock

Eight simple rooms on stilts (equipped with basic furniture, such as a large mosquito-net protected bed or chairs on the small balcony) overlook the waters where fishermen repair boats in the morning, and one is awakened by nature – Man’Groove owns 300 ducks, all female! They produce 240 eggs a day that you can taste already at breakfast! Three-eggs omelette with cheese, tomato, ham and sausage will set you back three dollars!

Personally, I enjoyed the thick pancakes with ice cream and Nutella, but one can get them in particular space flavor as well. The menu also offers space French toast, space milk shake, space coffee/tea, or even space Khmer chicken curry (priced 6 dollars, it is the most expensive dish on the menu, but also the one that will quickly and efficiently bring you to the chill zone). The restaurant offers more classic burgers, sandwiches and typical Asian dishes, for those who are not willing to experiment. Four times a month, you can fish for your own meal and get the catch baked in the restaurant!



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One can enjoy eating the dinner in front of the cinema screen; every evening Man’Groove prepares movie nights where visitors can enjoy some real treasures saved on the hard disk with one terabyte of films. The chilled atmosphere can also be enjoyed on the boat which takes the visitors on the sunset cruise – in this secret hideout one can swim with the plankton or enjoy fireflies if the season is right (November-December). The plan is to build the floating market and the bungalows that will be accessible by canoe only. Slowly the small “crap islands“ are being transformed into oases of chill.

Man'Groove Guesthouse boat taking visitors for the sunset cruise, in Kampot, Cambodia, photo by Ivan Kralj
There are 420 reasons to choose Man’Groove Guesthouse; the boat that takes you to fireflies safari or sunset hunt is just one!

Man’Groove’s roots go deep, the plans are big. They include local community it provides the jobs for. Some forty people are employed on this project alone! Some are busy fishing, some taking care of the pigs or ducks. In the low season, the employees are sent to the school, for further education. The owner even plans to launch a local school, giving back to the community of which he, as an expat, became a part.

TIP: Man'Groove guests can borrow the guesthouse bicycles for free! Use them to get to the nearby caves or the Secret Lake with a picnic area. Rent a motorbike for 5 dollars to visit the stunning Bokor Mountain with waterfalls and abandoned French colonial buildings. Entry to the area protected as the National Park (but at the same time rapidly overdeveloping due to the casino) is 0,50 dollars. Visit before it's all gone!

 

Island Life Hostel graffiti on the wall and huts, on Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam, photo by Ivan Kralj
Life on Phu Quoc Island – only basics! What else does one need?
2. Island Life Hostel, Vietnam
Price per night : 5 Euros

Situated 25 minutes ride away from Duong Dong, the touristic center of the island, but only 10 minutes walk away from the touristically underestimated Ong Lang Beach, Island Life Hostel is a perfect base if you want to explore this slice of tropical heaven, without wealthy Europeans and Americans breathing down your neck. Vietnamese island of Phu Quoc often gets to the world lists of paradise islands (that is the reason why I have chosen it as the final destination for my deceased Vietnamese walking stick). But paradises should not be overcrowded, so choosing to stay in the Northern part of the island’s West coast, instead of being closer to the more exploited Sao Beach, Khem Beach or Long Beach in the South, might be a smart choice!

Mosquito-net protected beds in Island Life Hostel dormitory, on Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam, photo by Ivan Kralj
Beds in Island Life Hostel dormitories come with a mosquito net

Featuring two mixed 5-bed dormitory rooms and two double rooms, with the shared use of nature-style bathroom, Island Life promotes the strong community spirit. Not only for the fact that fans in the rooms are not always working properly, making the stay inside these natural-material stalls often unbearable, not only for the fact that wifi and electricity often break down, moving one away from the contemporary electrical appliances, Island Life is one of the most social hostels of Southeast Asia I have visited. Spontaneously organized barbecues for the guests or night swimming and chill around the bonfire at the beach are just some of those special moments where the guest stops feeling to be a part of a trading relationship, and the friendship starts.



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The community of trust

The overnight stay price includes the breakfast (scrambled eggs with onion), but the staff working in the hostel might offer you to join the lunch for free if the meal they cooked for themselves could easily feed more people – that is not something one can experience everywhere. Also, the hostel promotes a strong sense of trust. The bar is self-serving, with a notebook where one writes down what he/she drank, and pays for it at the check-out. Even if remote to the town (which means you will miss the buzz of evenings filled with the noise of Thai ice cream rolls making at every corner), you can easily find good quality and affordable street food operators nearby.

Human steps in the sand at Ong Lang Beach, on Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam, photo by Ivan Kralj
Ong Lang Beach is one of those sandy paradises every exotic holiday should consist of!

Beautiful Ong Lang Beach is a sandy bed you will want to lay around all day long. Not being overpopulated with tourists, it offers you the opportunity to find your own corner of the paradise, with nobody in sight (this means heaven for nudists as well!). The water is shallow, warm and pleasant for swimming daytime or nighttime. Watching harmless crabs digging holes and walking over beach before sunset is a fun and relaxing activity.

TIP: When landing at Phu Quoc Airport, choose Phu Quoc taxi company, one of the most affordable ones. Together with the toll, the ride to the hostel will cost you about 250.000 Dongs (less than 10 Euros). If you are lucky like I was, you will get an extremely thrilled female taxi driver who will be humming with the radio music the whole ride! With sand on the floor of the car, this was already the sign that I have successfully escaped much stressful traffic conditions of bustling Ho Chi Minh City! What a relief!

 

Swinging chair, surf boards and bicycles at Kosta Hostel, Seminyak, Bali, Indonesia, photo by Ivan Kralj
Kosta Hostel aims at people interested in active holidays – Bali is known surfing destination, but nobody will blame you if you only explore it with a bike!
3. Kosta Hostel, Indonesia
Price per night : 10 Euros

So, you want to post your pictures on Instagram, bragging about your Bali holidays, while laying by the swimming pool and sipping on that passion fruit mojito? You don’t have to be rich to explore such lifestyle! For the price of some of the cheapest European hostels here you can get to sleep in the 4-bed air-conditioned dormitory, with private bathroom! Kosta Hostel is a recently opened establishment in the center of Seminyak and provides neatly designed and functional home aimed at adventurous nomads, especially surfers, as it is being owned and operated by them too.

Bird-eye view on the swimming pool at Kosta Hostel in Seminyak, Bali, Indonesia, photo by Ivan Kralj
Who says that only pricey resorts on Bali come with a swimming pool?

This urban lodge consists of two floors of rooms overlooking the small but charming swimming pool, providing that essential feeling of chilled Bali experience. The outside area offers the rest in the loungers, on the large sunbed or in the sedative swinging chairs. The whole property is recycled from the old Balinese houses, which, in combination with bright turquoise signature color, gives it the appealing retro colonial chic look!



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Breakfast = parfait!

Rooms come with comfortable beds equipped with three pillows (!) and night lamps that have adjustable light! Two electricity sockets are placed next to each bed (which is sometimes more than five stars resorts on the island offer!), and they are adapted to UK/Oz visitors as well! The internet functions impeccably, as well as the AC, which are the necessary requirements if, oh Lord, you need to work while being here.

Strawberry parfait at Kosta Hostel, in Seminyak, Bali, Indonesia, photo by Ivan Kralj
Strawberry parfait at Kosta Hostel – a parfait way to start a day!

There is an onsite cafe/restaurant called The Good Mantra, offering hot and cold, alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, from matcha-banana smoothies to Argentinian wine. The food menu includes various salads, sides, sandwiches, burgers, and desserts. I only had the chance to try one breakfast. And even if strawberry parfait (vanilla marinated organic strawberries with whipped cream and granola) was just parfait (as French would say), the other options, such as the toasted bagel with smoked salmon, cream cheese spread, red onion and capers, also sounded delicious.

TIP: Bali airport is just 20 minutes away from Kosta Hostel. However, it is one of those airports where the taxi drivers are incredibly annoying, to the level you feel find ill at ease! However, if you use alternative transport such as Grab (https://invite.grab.co/ivan91589) or Uber (https://www.uber.com/invite/ivank2765ue), by registering via links in the brackets you will get both discounted rides and no hassle with the competitive and more expensive taxi drivers! Try it out!

Disclosure: My stay at some of the establishments mentioned in this text was complimentary, but all opinions are my own.
Also, this post contains affiliate links, which means if you click on them and make a purchase, Pipeaway might make a small commission, with no additional cost to you. Thank you for supporting our work!
Ivan Kralj

Editor

Award-winning journalist and editor from Croatia

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