Yimwhan Hostel & Cafe in Ayutthaya, Thailand is a new and chic hostel in the old capital city. Located in a quiet neighborhood just outside the old city, Yimwhan offers everything a traveler needs to feel comfortable in a new place. Their cafe and common room are great places to enjoy a coffee, or you can rent bicycles from their friendly staff and quickly find yourself among the ancient temples. If biking is not your thing then they will call you a tuk tuk and have you at the temples in minutes.
Their private rooms feature large comfy beds on trendy pallet supports. We loved the antique style light bulbs and old 80s televisions used as tables. Each room also has a safe for your valuables.
Yimwhan Hostel & Cafe also has mixed dorm and female dorm rooms. The dorms are simple, clean, and well lit, a great value for the price.
The highlight of Yimwhan Hostel & Cafe for us was the free breakfast. Going way above and beyond the normal free hostel breakfast, Yimwhan served eggs, sausage, toast, cereals, milk, juice, and coffee.
Yimwhan’s common room is a great place to relax after a long day of biking around the temples of Ayutthaya. They have comfy beanbag chairs and movies to watch to wind down. Check out our video below for a virtual tour around the hostel!
When we started using Couchsurfing in 2010, it was new and exciting and very few people knew about it. We used it all over the world, hosting almost 200 travelers and surfing in more than 10 different countries. We’ve had people take us out on their boat, buy us expensive dinners, show us secret hikes, teach us new games, drive us long distances to explore new areas… the list is never ending. The generosity shown to us through the Couchsurfing community was unbelievable and it restored my hope in humanity at a time when I really needed it. However, recently I’ve noticed the quality of my experiences decreasing, and I’m feeling like the good times are over. Here are my top 5 reasons Couchsurfing has lost it’s magic for me.
1 – People Using Couchsurfing Like Tinder:
Couchsurfing is NOT a way to find people to hook up with. Sure, it happens a lot, but if you come into it with that mindset you are missing the point. I’ve heard too many stories of male hosts that only host girls, or take their surfers out for a night on the town and then try to convince them to get in bed with them at the end of the night. This only makes things awkward and ruins the experience for everyone.
The new “Hangout” feature on the Couchsurfing app perpetuates this problem. Every time Carrie lists herself as “available” to hang out, she almost exclusively gets responses from local men. Coincidence? I think not. I repeat, Couchsurfing is NOT a dating site. People that use Couchsurfing like Tinder are the reason why the majority of Couchsurfers left are men or couples traveling together, and solo female travelers are quickly turned off. We did an experiment where Carrie listed herself as available to have coffee. Within minutes her inbox looked like this:
2 – Too Many Unused Accounts:
Way too many people are signing up for Couchsurfing and then never using their accounts. Now when you look for hosts in a new city, you have to scroll though sometimes hundreds of profiles with 0 references and a 0% response rate before stumbling upon someone who actually hosts people. These are the same people who are messaging every pretty face that pops up in the Hangout section, leeching off the system but never giving back.
3 – People Using It For Just a Free Bed:
I get requests almost every day to stay on my couch that are usually something along the lines of “Hey man, I’m poor – do you have a couch for me?”. Couchsurfing is supposed to be a sharing of cultures, experiences, and a way to make amazing friends in new places. If you don’t want to spend time with your hosts/surfers then just go to a hotel or hostel.
4 – People Labeling Themselves “Couchsurfers” But They Have Never Traveled
I have stopped going to Couchsurfing meetups. They used to be cool groups of local hosts mixed up with different weekly travelers. Now there are so many people who use it just to find drinking buddies or make friends. Many of these people fit into point “2” and don’t do anything for the community except go to meetups. People like this don’t contribute anything to the community, but instead just use it to make friends with the few real traveling surfers who are left. It’s like being in the Hell’s Angels but not owning a motorcycle. Go surf someones couch, or at least host a few, so you qualify for this group before you participate in the perks.
5 – The People In Charge Are Douchebags
The people who run the Couchsurfing organization are way too focused on growth and never think about whether they should grow. It’s become too mainstream, and mainstream people don’t make good Couchsurfers. Get over yourselves, Couchsurfing CEOs, and get back to your roots: free beds and cultural exchange for cool people through word-of-mouth referrals.
Things You Can Do To Be A Better Couchsurfer:
Don’t get me wrong, I still love Couchsurfing. Some of my favorite people I’ve ever met were friendships made through Couchsurfing and the experiences I’ve had were some of the best of my life. I just think that by spreading the word about the problems we can all create a better community that refocuses Couchsurfing on it’s original mission: encouraging travel and bringing people together in cultural exchange. I think we can still fix the community, we just have to be the positive change we want to see in the world.
– Host before you surf: Give back to the community from the start and get yourself some references. Having good references is the best way to ensure you get hosted when you travel.
– Stay active: When people message you, always message them back. Update your profile often and let people know what kind of person you are.
– Stop introducing Couchsurfing to your loser friends: Couchsurfing used to be a place that only the cool people knew about. Some people were not meant to be Couchsurfers and should just stay in hotels.
– Hang out with your surfers/hosts: Get to know the people you are sharing a house with. Go out and have some drinks, play games, tell cool stories of your travels.
– Send proper requests: Don’t just say “Hey I’m poor and need a couch to crash on”. Find similarities and only request people you think you will bond with.
– Read my profile before you message me: Find common interested and understand what you are getting into before you message me. My profile might say “Hey, I’m a nudist and don’t wear clothes in my home”. (This does really happen.). These are things that it’s nice to know before wasting peoples time requesting their couch.
– Say “yes” to new experiences: Don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone. You might learn something about yourself and find something amazing that you’ve been missing out on your whole life.
– Leave good references: When you have a nice time with people, write some nice words about them. This will help them get more hosts in the future. Spread the love!
– Bring beer or cook food for your host: It’s a nice touch to show up with a gift of sorts and it’s a great way to bond with new friends by cooking a meal together.
There have been several Couchsurfing competitors to come along, sites like WarmShowers.org and HospitalityClub.org, but they never gained the following or appeal of the original Couchsurfing. Even Airbnb (which came around after Couchsurfing) monetized the original idea. Maybe the good days are over, or maybe it’s just time for a new site to take the lead. I just can’t wait to find the magic of Couchsurfing again, however we can make that happen.
Have additional thoughts about this article? We’d love to hear your comments. Like this article about Couchsurfing? Check out our archives of travel stories, backpacking advice, and videos of our adventures around the world. Don’t forget to follow us on Instagram: @laaventuraproject.
We unknowingly arrived in Bangkok, Thailand at a strange time. Unbeknownst to us, it was the month of the King of Thailand’s funeral. The much loved King Rama IX had passed away a year before and the entire month of October was proclaimed to be a month of mourning, leading up to the five-day-long funeral starting on the 25th. For the past year the most socially appropriate color to wear was black, and October was the “month of black” where that’s all most people wore. Many entertainment events had been canceled, the clubs and bars were supposed to close early, and all celebrations were postponed including the world famous Ko Phangan Full Moon Party. Foreigners were still arriving in droves, disappointed at the lack of activities upon showing up.So we spent the month at work. Zach trying to find a job and Carrie helping out Yim Yam Hostel & Garden with marketing and events. Things were slow, but it was nice to have time to implement the volunteer program and the daily activities. We checked out a few temples and it was fun riding around on tuk tuks, motorized rickshaws that zip though traffic as the wind blows through your hair. We used an app called Tuk Tuk Hop (Check out our post about it) which is kinda like Uber for tuk tuks but you get unlimited rides for the day. The temples were very crowded and it was hot and humid so by afternoon we were completely exhausted. The Grand Palace was closed to foreigners with thousands of Thai people waiting in line to pay their last respects to their King. A giant Royal Crematorium had been built nearby, and was to be the site of much of the funeral proceedings.
All of the shops were selling colorful elephant pants (Carrie’s favorite) but we bought more black outfits. We wanted to blend in and be respectful. In Thai culture, respect is everything. From the warm smiles, to the wai (hands placed together at the heart), to the use of krup and ka (males and females respectively say these words at the end of every sentence to be polite) – no confrontation is the key to success. Every morning and evening the National Anthem of Thailand plays throughout the streets over invisible speakers and everyone hurrying to or from work stops and waits respectfully until the song finishes. The Anthem also plays before movies in the cinema, so everyone stands, not wanting to be the one out of line. The younger generations seemed to care a little less about the funeral but for the older Thai people, who had spent their entire lives under his reign, the King of Thailand’s funeral signified an enormous change. For better or worse, change is always scary, and the apprehension was thick in the air.
The farang (foreigners) were still coming, and were surprised when they arrived. They wore their elephant pants and walked down the street drinking Chang beer. They asked which club was best for late night, not understanding the midnight liquor cutoff. Of course some places were still open late, but they payed steeply for this luxury whenever the local police force came through for their nightly kickbacks. Many people showed up at Ko Phangan, ready to rage all night for the Full Moon Party and many holidays were ruined or relocated to Cambodia. We tried to explain to our hostel guests about the local customs such as not staring at the King’s photos and never putting your foot on money if you drop it on the ground (because his face is on all the currency). We suggested to travelers to wear black and at least try to be respectful.
The King of Thailand’s Funeral took over the television for nearly a month. First they played a documentary on repeat showcasing the King’s successes, then the entire five day funeral was broadcast all day on every station. Besides the black clothes and decorations, the city of Bangkok was covered in marigold flowers, because the color yellow was the official color of the King’s birthday. The marigolds filled up empty spaces like seas of yellow, contrasting with the masses of black. Life would return to normal, but only after the King could be laid to rest. The funeral involved dancing, marching, orchestras, and dignitaries from across the world attended. All businesses closed, even 7 Eleven which never closes, for the day of the cremation. Restaurants gave away free food to passers by and all the Thai people came together in a show of community that was extremely humbling.
I remember a farmer in Chiang Mai who had invited us into his home to share some fruit. After cutting the delicious passionfruit, he cleared us a spot on the table. He moved his photo of the King to the other end, making sure it was straight and centered. “We are sad our King is gone,” he said in Thai with a tear in his eye. After the King of Thailand’s funeral it was socially appropriate to mourn for one more week. Soon the clubs started to reopen, red dresses were pulled out of storage, and the giant billboard LCD screens changed from a picture of King Rama IX to 7-Eleven advertisements. The shopping malls changed to upbeat music, and the Kings symphony, which had played on the metro and restarted at every stop, was also replaced with advertising. The general mood of depression started to subside and laughter crept back into the streets. The King of Thailand’s funeral was a long and tedious process, but we were glad to have witnessed it. We saw real sadness in the people, and it really changed my opinion of the King. He accomplished great things in his reign and the programs he started were well liked by many. Thailand will miss King Rama, but life must go on.
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Backpacking Malaysia is great for easy Asia travel. Easier than South America, easier than Thailand. We traveled the length of the Malaysian peninsula from Malacca to Penang, Kuala Lumpur (KL) to the Perhentian Islands through the Cameron Highlands. The people are friendly, welcoming, and excited to have you in their country. The buses are clean with organized stations and the roads are smooth with minimal traffic, especially in the countryside. The highlight of backpacking Malaysia was the food. From Malay to Chinese to Indian, the cuisine is an amazing fusion of different cultures, living together in relative harmony. Low food costs are easy for every budget traveler and in Malaysia you can get a full meal starting at $1.50 for a vegetarian banana leaf lunch. Even though the government just added a tourist tax to all hotel rooms, Malaysia still has good deals for travelers on a budget. We stayed in some of the nicest and most fun hostels of our lives, and our 15 days in the peninsula didn’t scratch the surface of what the country has to offer.
Pick a Route:
Picking a backpacking route though Malaysia is easy. For a two week trip we would recommend starting in Singapore and working your way north from Malacca to KL, Cameron Highlands, Perhentian Islands, then back across to Georgetown, Penang. If you have three weeks we would suggest adding Taman Negara National Park and Langkawi Island. These are both trips along the standard backpacker trail, great for your first time in Malaysia. Since Malaysia has much fewer tourists than Thailand, you will run into the same friendly faces as you go. There was one lady on our trip that we ran into in at three different places on our adventure. Of course there are many other parts of Malaysia worth exploring, mainly the jungles of Borneo where things are more wild. On a four week trip we would suggest spending a week there getting off the tourist path.
Enjoy the Food:
The food in Malaysia is easy and good for any backpacker’s budget. The most we “cooked” for ourselves in Malaysia was to peel a banana, maybe once. The local markets are great places to pig out economically. Check out the laksa, poh piah, mee koring, and nasi kandar. Western style restaurants are there, but they are the most expensive and generally not as exciting as the local flavors. Every city has a Chinese neighborhood and an Indian neighborhood. Little India was always our favorite spot to eat, great for vegetarians and meat eaters alike! For one meal I had seven different curries and spent a total of less than $3. For these reasons, Malaysia was my all time favorite country to eat in!
Stay in a Hostel:
Backpackers will love Malaysia for the hostels which are cheap and easy to book online. Sometimes they do fill up, especially in the busy season, so we suggest booking in advance. They range in price and quality and there is a new 10 Ringgit tourist tax for every room. Our favorites were the Lemongrass on Long Beach in the Perhentians, and Frame Guesthouse in Georgetown, Penang. Prices range from $10 per night for a dorm bed, $15 for a beach bungalow, or $18 for private room with A/C.
Speak With the Locals:
Backpacking Malaysia is easier than other parts of Asia because most people can speak or at least understand English. A majority of the signs are also in English and Malay, so you will never have a hard time finding your way around. Malay also using the English characters so it’s easy to pick up a little bit along the way which always makes the locals appreciate you more. Knowing few words like terima kasih (thank you) can get you a lot of respect points and make you look a little better than the average traveler.
When looking for easier Asia travel, backpacking Malaysia should be at the top of your list. With top notch people, food, nature and adventure, and hostels, never ending aventuras await you in this tropical paradise!
Like this post about backpacking Malaysia for easy Asia travel? Check out our archives for never ending travel advice, reviews, and many stories of adventure in Malaysia!
Tuk Tuk Hop – A great way to explore Bangkok’s temples! Bangkok is an enormous city and its public transportation systems aren’t the easiest to figure out for travelers. It seems every destination requires a different and sometimes confusing combination of Skytrain, bus, ferry boat, taxi, tuk tuk, Metro, etc. Some of the most historic and famous destinations in Bangkok aren’t anywhere close to the BTS Skytrain or Metro lines. What’s a budget-conscious traveler to do?
Enter Tuk Tuk Hop! Tuk Tuk Hop is a new mobile app which is kind of like Uber for tuk tuks in the historic old city area of Bangkok. Users pay a flat fee for unlimited tuk tuk rides from 8:30am-6pm. The service area includes 23 available drop-off/pick-up locations at points of interest. Basically, you get to create your own tour by picking and choosing where you want to go in what order and not having to walk the long, sweaty kilometers in between destinations! Just download the free app, pay, and enjoy personalized service by certified TukTukHop drivers! If you don’t have a Thai data plan on your phone, TukTuk Hop will even rent you a WiFi device for the day.
Here’s a short video explaining #TukTukHop!
For our Tuk Tuk Hop tour, we started by getting ourselves to Wat Arun then Wat Pho using the BTS to Saphan Taksin then the Chao Phraya river-crossing ferry boat. Wat Pho is home to the world’s largest reclining Buddha! It was truly impressive.
From Wat Pho, we ordered our first tuk tuk ride to the Grand Palace! It was great not having to negotiate for an overpriced taxi. We just waited at the point marked on our app for our certified TukTuk Hop driver. He knew exactly how to go to avoid some of the traffic around the Grand Palace (“Sanam Luang”) and get us where we wanted to be. Around the palace, we got to witness the massive crowds of mourners there to honor the late King Rama IX. What a special time to be in Bangkok!
After walking through two temples and around the Grand Palace we were starving so it was time to chow! We had heard that there were a lot of good restaurants around The Giant Swing, which was another Tuk Tuk Hop stop, so we ordered another ride and jumped in! Riding in tuk tuks and feeling the breeze as you dodge traffic is definitely the most fun way to get around the busy Bangkok streets!
For those confused by the Giant Swing, we learned that it was formerly used in an old Hindu religious ceremony where men would have a swinging competition symbolizing “swinging their way into heaven.” The ceremony was stopped in 1935 after several people died! Now the huge swing structure serves as a landmark in Bangkok and there are many great Thai restaurants nearby. We found some vegetarian noodle soup from a small shophouse to satisfy our hunger and enjoyed seeing lots of shops selling golden Buddhas and Hindu relics for temples— so cool!
After our late lunch we didn’t have too much time left, so we decided to grab our tuk tuk and hit up one more temple — Wat Benchamabophit, “The Marble Temple.” This amazing place is made completely of Italian marble and it is stunning!
You can go to way more places than this using Tuk Tuk Hop if you start early enough! We recommend starting right at 8:30am so that you can use the service all day and really get your money’s worth. It’s such a fantastic way to experience all the most famous historic sites in Bangkok without spending all your time and energy walking! Tuk Tuk Hop is also offering 10% off their normal price AND free umbrella rental for the rest of 2017!
We weren’t compensated in any way to write this post. We just really enjoyed the experience!
After a wonderful time in Penang, Malaysia we bought a van ride to Krabi, Thailand for Thai climb time! For 60 Ringgit each we were speeding across the bridge from Penang back into mainland Malaysia before dawn. The van trips are cheaper and faster than the bus, and they take you across the border which is convenient. You can charter the vans at most hotels and hostels. The border crossing was quick and easy. We got a visa stamp for 30 days on arrival and no one asked for our onward ticket. About onward tickets: every country officially requires them but they are rarely asked for. The only time they generally ask is when you check in for an international flight, but when you cross into a country by land they rarely ask. Our new trick is to screen shot an old flight itinerary and simply change the date on Photoshop to sometime within the visa requirements.
Our van stopped at Hat Yai, the first city in southern Thailand. We had to change vans there so had a break to get some Thai Baht (33 Baht = $1USD) out of an ATM and grab a few snacks. Hat Yai is generally not the best city for tourists, so we didn’t plan to linger. We’ve heard its very popular for Malaysians who like to party and enjoy the lax prostitution laws. Not really our scene though.
A little after 1pm we rolled into the Krabi main bus terminal excited for the next day’s Thai climb time. From there we got a “sŏng tăew“, a cheap pickup truck shared taxi where you sit in the covered truck bed on benches along the side. It’s a fun and cheap way to get around, charging about 1/3 of the regular taxi price. We got our first views of the amazing cliffs that we came here to see, green tops dropping sharply into the ocean and rivers. We got off at Khong Kha Pier where longtail boats depart for Railay Beach whenever six people are ready to go. It costs 150 Baht per person and took about 45 minutes to get out to the beach.
Once on the boat we of course had to stop for gas, then after the gas run the boat wouldn’t start and we almost got stuck drifting under a pier for a moment. But eventually the old longtail boat started and we were on our way, spilling black smoke into the air and speeding very inefficiently in the direction of more cliffs and some very ominous looking storm clouds.
The views were out of this world, it reminded me of something but I didn’t find out til later that this was the site of filming for “Dr. No”, one of my favorite James Bond films! Within moments of arriving it started to downpour. We hurried down the floating pier, passing many Russians on holiday with their rolling suitcases and high heels, trying hilariously not to slip and fall straight into the ocean. After waiting for a bit at the first shelter we found, we walked down the beach walk to a stairway which led to our guesthouse. Rapala Rock Wood Resort had cheap bungalows, no frills but everything we needed. Little shacks with palm roofs and mosquito nets and fans are what makes us happy. As soon as we had set our stuff down the sky cleared and it was a beautiful afternoon.
Being super hungry, we set off on what was suppose to be a short walk to Mama’s Chicken. It turned out to be quite an adventure since it was on the other side of a little jungle. We first went to the west side beach (Railay is a peninsula with two sides, sunrise and sunset) then we hiked up though a little muddy trail, over some rocks, and onto Tonsai Beach. The overhanging rocks here we impressive but we were on a mission for food. At the other end of this beach we found the small road to nowhere that led past some sleepy guesthouses and a few dark climbing shops. All the way around on the other side we found Mama’s, a super rustic open-air restaurant. We got some pad thai and fruit shakes and filled our empty bellies.
After eating we continued up the path which lead through the jungle and back to Railay, a much faster way. We went around town to a few climbing shops and rented a rope and gear from one of them for 1200 Baht for a day. That was about half the price of the guided tours and we were confident that we could do it on our own. Before bed I had a beer at the bar near our bungalow. The bartenders were super friendly and made me feel very welcome. I learned how to say “thank you” in Thai (“korp kun krup!”) and was pumped about my first glimpses into the famous Thai hospitality.
Thai climb time! In the morning it rained and I was having some stomach issues, so we didn’t get out to climb as soon as we wanted to. When we did get to a climbing spot everything there was a little above our level then we got frustrated and had a fight. Not gonna pretend everything is always perfect between us on this blog! We are human after all! I was so excited about climbing that I got crazy and ended up slipping in the mud and pacing around in a rage. The rains were coming in again now so we had to go back to our bungalow. Oh, the frustrations. I eventually calmed my crazy self and we went back out and found a few routes on the 1,2,3 Wall and Muay Thai Wall.
It was important to find walls with the new Thaitainium Project bolts, as the original steel bolts have become unsafe by the constant exposure to salty air. All these challenges added up and it wasn’t until the end of the day that we each got to climb a few routes, and then we got tired so quickly from being out of shape! I think it was a success in the end, but it was definitely character building. We had a few sends and it felt good to get back on the rocks. The adrenaline made me feel alive again and we couldn’t wait to come back for more. In December WE WILL BE BACK!!!
Here’s a kind-of-lame video of us being kind-of-lame at climbing. Next time we go to Railay we hope to be stronger and have a DRONE to make an awesome video for you all!
If you are climbing in Thailand or anywhere else, Mountain Project is the best online resource for climbers. Enjoy hearing about Thai climb time in Railay Beach? Find more climb stories from California and Arizona in our archives!
Hostel Holidays are the best holidays. You meet friends from all over the world and share a special time together. It’s an incredible opportunity for travelers to learn about new holidays they don’t celebrate at home. Sharing holidays is an important part of cultural exchange. It creates a bond between the traveler and the local that becomes the base of friendship. Having activities like these are what makes great hostels great.
Take Thanksgiving for instance– it’s a great hostel holiday. It’s so much fun to cook a huge feast of all your childhood favorites and show the other backpackers what they’ve been missing out on their whole lives. This year we are planning a food and wine buffet at Yim Yam Hostel & Garden in Bangkok. Mashed potatoes are of course the most important part, with lots of butter and salt.
While Carrie was working at a hostel on Christmas in San Diego they would have a special free breakfast buffet with champagne mimosas, then do the “present ball” game with dollar store gifts! You could also do a white elephant gift exchange, creating mayhem by swapping and stealing each others presents. It always turns into a bunch of laughing and merry hooting and hollering. Getting some free drinks into your customers is a good way to start the holiday off right! This is why hostel holidays are the best!
As a local, it’s nice to keep travelers up to date on the upcoming holidays – especially if it involves stores closing or transportation headaches. One of our craziest holiday experiences while traveling was when we were in Morocco for Eid al Fitr. Eid is the biggest holiday of the year for Muslim families. Signifying the end of the Ramadan fasting period, Eid is the yearly giant feast. Most families will purchase a sheep which is slaughtered on the morning of the feast. The week before the feast it’s a sight to behold with sheep being shuffled around all over the city. There were sheep on the backs of motorbikes, parking lots turned into temporary “sheep parking”, and sheep just about everywhere. We walked into the apartment complex where we were CouchSurfing. Our host sniffed the air like “What’s that smell?” and tried to open the basement door. “Sheep parking in the basement!“, he realized. We called it the sheep genocide. The festival impacted where in Morocco we could travel as the bus tickets were almost all purchased by locals in advance. We ended up having to change most of our trip but since we’re flexible we still had fun.
You should also create events for your guests around the holidays. If there is a Christmas parade in town, take them to go see it! Free food for a Buddhist vegetarian festival? Make signs and organize a tour there! Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more tips on hostel activities and how you can make your hostel holidays great!