Don Khon is one of the Four Thousand Islands in southern Laos that’s connected to Don Det by a bridge. It is larger in size, offers more authentic Lao experience than Don Det and houses virtually all attractions that can be found on Si Phan Det (Four Thousand Islands). Given the above, then how is it that more people come to stay on Don Det than on Don Khon, you ask? The answer is simple – most of the people who stay at 4,000 Islands are backpackers. While Si Phan Det does get a fair share of day trippers, they are only brought in, taken to the most prominent attractions and taken away. Backpackers, on the other hand come and stay for a few days as daytrips are not only overpriced (as all pre-packaged tours tend to be), they also don’t offer the opportunity to really get to know the locals, their way of life, their culture, society, religion, or whatever else is of interest to them. And since most backpackers find good times and frugal accommodation more attractive than higher comfort and quiet nights, Don Det is where they to flock.
Don Khon Accommodation
Don Khon offers more upscale accommodation options than Don Det. While latter caters predominantly to backpackers who seek the best price, even if quality is lessened, the former delivers better built, cleaner rooms with en-suite bathrooms and air-conditioning (aka mid-range accommodation). This higher level of comfort comes at a higher price, but that’s the beauty of it. If you are willing to pay more for the privilege of having a more tranquil environment and a room that’s more than a few wooden planks and a bunk bed, then Don Khon could be the answer. If not, Don Det is just across the bridge.
The reason why Don Khon is perceived as the island offering more authentic Lao experience than Don Det is that Don Det is overrun by backpackers so everything about the island has been modified to take full (mostly financial) advantage of it. You are more likely to stumble across a foreigner on Don Det than a local even if you ride a bike off away from “the happening”. Restaurants and bars come to full bustle in the evening and through the night allowing the visitors to have a good time drinking cheap beer and smoking cheap pot. Don Khon is not like that.
The only time when Don Khon gets overrun with tourists is in the early afternoon when day trippers from Thailand and a nearby town of Pakse come to the island in hoards to see the waterfall and have a brief look at French colonial architecture. Outside of this madness, Don Khon is a very quiet, unrushed place that also spares the visitor of nightly party noise.
All accommodation on Don Khon is concentrated along the north coast of the island (the side facing Don Det).
Activities on Don Khon
Outside of partying and hanging out with other backpackers, there really isn’t that much to see and do on Don Det. However having Don Khon attached to it by a bridge expends the options vastly. Once you have taken a bike ride around Don Det, you have basically seen everything this island has to offer but then you go across the bridge (for which you have to pay 20,000 Kip on the Don Khon side) and a whole range of activities opens up.
You can find several French colonial buildings on Don Khon. Old French built school still serves as a school today, even though former hospital has been turned into a resort. The French port and the embankment can be oddly stumbled upon as you cycle around exploring what the island has to offer. Former light-gauge train track that used to traverse both islands is now just an endless path of big, sharp gravel that’s hard to walk and ride a bike on. If you come across a rocky road, turn around and take an alternate road. You’ll be glad you did. The road seems to go forever and is covered in bones shattering rocks all across.
The biggest attractions of Don Khon are the waterfalls. Li Phi Falls on the western side is easy to find and get to. Less visited, but noteworthy for being the largest cascade by volume of water in South East Asia, Somphamit Falls requires slightly tricky turn off the dirt road and across a suspended bridge to reach, and even though these cascades are vastly unspectacular, they are worth a visit never the less.
Rare and endangered fresh water Irrawady Dolphins can be found off the southern coast of Don Khon but may require luck to get to see some. It’s much easier to see them in Kratie, Cambodia (but also more expensive) but remember than these dolphins only surface for fraction of a second to breathe before they submerge for a few minutes again so capturing a decent picture is tricky and requires a great deal of patience (and hence money).
Even though Don Khon is larger than Don Det, no such services as post, police or hospital are available. These allegedly exist on Don Khong, the largest of the Four Thousand Islands but since I’ve never been there, I could not tell for sure. A few places offer internet on Don Khon but it is as expensive (400 Kip a minute) and as slow as on Don Det, hence not worth it (update you page before coming to Si Phan Det or leave it until after).
Further up from the “big waterfalls” is what is labelled by travel guide books (including Lonely Planet) to Laos as “a beach”. Signs bearing the same name were posted along the dirt road leading there but man… this is supposed to be a beach? It was a pile of hard to scale, huge shoulders scattered across the river bank. Who in the hell named it “a beach”?
Don Khon Development
Don Khon is experiencing same out of control development as Don Det. While I was cycling around, it seemed as though everybody was rebuilding their house to turn it into a guesthouse. The smell of tourism money is like a drug to locals now.
I enjoyed hanging out and partying with fellow backpackers on Don Det. However, if partying not your cup of tea, try Don Khon instead. Quality of accommodation is better and an overall “Lao” experience is definitely more authentic. You’ll get to see some real village life on Don Khon, something that virtually doesn’t exist on Don Det, an island which is nothing more than a backpacker milking cash cow these days.
During my three day visit to Don Det, I stayed at Sunset View Bungalow. I always check a few available accommodation options to compare what I’d be getting for my money and when it came to Don Det, Sunset View Bungalow seemed like the best of both world.
When you are on an island that’s not all that big, there is a limited number of things that you can do. But when it comes to night time activities, this number is further reduced significantly. The main reason why I opted for Sunset View Bungalow over everything else on Don Det was the atmosphere at the outdoor restaurant that’s within the ground.
Several cool looking people were chilling with a Beer Lao at the table, a guitar in their hands and trance music on the stereo. On top of that, an unmissable sign of good mood was in the air as skilfully rolled joints were being passed around.
Sunset View Bungalow Price
As I was told by the French fellow who was in charge of showing new comers the premises, a bungalow at the Sunset View cost 30,000 Lao Kip (about $3,60 US) per night. There were bungalows and guesthouse rooms for as little as 25,000 Kip per night on Don Det, but none of these appeared to have had the atmosphere of Sunset View Bungalow. Even though slightly above average priced, Sunset View Bungalow was the hangout spot so that’s where I decided to stay.
Cheap Accommodation in Laos?
In a rundown of my experiences in Laos, I mentioned that Laos is a surprisingly expensive country to travel through. Yet the very first accommodation I scored cost less than $5 per night so how is that expensive, right? While I do admit 30,000 Kip per night for a private place is not expensive by any stretch of imagination, one needs to put things into a perspective and compare it to the type of accommodation this amount of money would land you in similar countries.
The bungalow I got was about a foot on each side larger than the bed inside. There was not enough space to even turn around, never mind safely storing a backpack. Aside from a wooden bunk bed with a simulated mattress and a pillow, there was only a stained mosquito net with holes in it hanging over it.
Truly partisan style bathroom and a shower were outside to be shared by dozens of others. Bungalows also had a porch with hammock but given the size of that porch, one had to tiptoe around to not fall off on the way inside. Small opening on one of the walls served as a window which when opened, offered the room slightly larger appearance.
Sunset View Bungalow was a backpacker’s paradise. Nothing much to complain about because it was truly cheap, however when compared to what I was getting in Cambodia for $3, this was still slightly pricey and a clear introduction to how expensive Laos is going to be.
More Luxurious Accommodation at Sunset View Bungalow
Aside from the 30,000 Kip bungalows described above, Sunset View also offered slightly more comfortable huts for 50,000 Kip per night (about $6 US). These were a bit more spacious, had more spacious verandas with hammocks for two people and an en suite bathroom. I’ve never tried one of those, I was just shown and opted for a less expensive, true backpacker accommodation.
Sunsets at Sunset View Bungalow
If you catch a cloudless day while on Don Det and are into all that romantic stuff, then you’re gonna like the view of sunsets from Sunset View Bungalow. Located on the north-west corner of Don Det, Sunset View Bungalow offers spectacular sunset views though most of the bungalows don’t face that way. You can enjoy the view from the restaurant, though.
The downside is that because of tin roofs, it gets pretty hot inside a bungalow in the afternoon. East side of the island peak where all the guesthouses are faces the same issue in the early morning hours when rising sun turns the rooms into a steaming sauna.
What I Liked Sunset View Bungalow
After personally checking out most other places offering accommodation on Don Det I maintain that Sunset View Bungalow is the best option. There are not many places in Laos where you can stay a night for less than $5 so if you make it on Don Det, enjoy the one place where it’s possible. You’ll get what you pay for, but at least what you pay is not much. Laos is otherwise surprisingly expensive (compared to most other countries in South East Asia) and even though Sunset View Bungalow seem to be the opposite, when compared what you’d get for this type of money in comparable countries, it’s definitely not cheap.
Hanging out and chilling with other backpackers is the best part of Sunset View Bungalow and as such, is unrivalled anywhere on Don Det, or entire 4,000 Islands for that matter. I would wholeheartedly recommend every backpacker coming to Don Det to check this place out.
Don Det is a small island and everything is concentrated in the same area. While staying at Sunset View Bungalow, you’re never too far away from anything, however that could be said about any other accommodation on the island. Other places just seem a bit too formal so if leisurely talk with other travelers, former strangers but now friends is not alien to you, then Sunset View Bungalow is the place to be. Grab a bottle of cold BeerLao and have yourself good time while on Don Det.
What I Didn’t Like About Sunset View Bungalow
I can’t say there was anything I really didn’t like about Sunset View Bungalow. It’s a cheap (for Laos) place with great atmosphere, fun management, cold beer and that stuff I shouldn’t talk openly about. Shared bathroom and shower are a bit grotty and lower priced bungalows are a bit squishy, but Sunset View Bungalow is not about fancy accommodation. It’s about having a good time and enjoying yourself with all your worries left behind. If it’s upscale accommodation you seek, check out Don Khong or Don Khon islands instead.
There are a few other things that could be brought up in the “didn’t like” section, but they are not specific to Sunset View Bungalow, but rather apply to whole island (or whole area). While there is little motorized traffic on any of the 4,000 islands, making them reasonably quiet, fisherman boats make way more noise than any motorcycle and start running around like there’s no tomorrow before sun dawn. Most accommodations on Don Det consist of wooden rooms that are as far from being sound proof as they get. Those few non air tight wooden planks that serve as walls will let all of the noise from the outside right in so if you stayed out drinking beer with other backpackers till 2am and get awakened at 5am by loud fishing boats the noise of which never seems to fade into distance, you won’t be too amazed. That would take place no matter where on Don Det you decide to stay.
Also, being an isolated island (not so isolated anymore, but still), many things on Don Det are expensive because they have to be brought in from the mainland, but the most expensive thing of all is internet. At the time of my visit, there were three internet cafes on Don Det, each charging an unholy 400 Kip per minute. Translated into English, this is a $3 for an hour on line. I have been on far more isolated islands since, I have been in the middle of the jungle, but have yet to come to a place where internet would be this expensive. You best update that page before coming over and leave next update until you have gotten elsewhere or prepare to shell out some heavy bucks for the privilege of surfing the net. As if Laos as a country was not expensive enough, Don Det takes it to a whole new level. Compared to much of mainland, beer is also expensive here (11,000 Kip for a bottle of BeerLao compared to 8,000 for the same in Pakse), however budget restaurants offer food for prices comparable to the rest of Laos.
One more time – expensive internet and loud boats buzzing around since early morning are the reality of an entire 4,000 Island area. That’s something you would be exposed to whether you decide to stay at Sunset View Bungalow or somewhere else. Don Det is a wonderful place full of friendly people and should not be missed out by any traveller passing through the area. Kick back a few BeerLao and enjoy the real laid back lifestyle, whether at Sunset View Bungalow or somewhere else on Don Det.
Accommodation is usually one of the biggest tickets budget traveller has to pick up day after day so its cost vastly determines daily budget one needs to work with when visiting that particular country. Compared to much of South East Asia, true budget accommodation options are not only limited in Laos, they also end up being more expensive which increases your daily spendings yet you end up staying in rooms of significantly lower standards than in neighboring countries.
On an overall scale, traveling through Laos is far more expensive than traveling through Cambodia, Vietnam or Thailand. Not taking into account small, but pricey SE Asian countries of Singapore and Brunei, Malaysia is the only country in the region that’s comparably costly for a traveler on a budget. While budget accommodation in Malaysia is on average 10% to 20% more expensive than in Laos, Malaysia offers additional money savers for money tight travelers with its plentiful camp sites and dormitories.
If prior to visiting Laos you had already gone through Cambodia, Indonesia or Thailand, then you have probably tasted the pleasures of having a decent, clean, bed bugs free room with its own ensuite bathroom with hot shower for up to $5 a night. You may have also enjoyed a spacious room with a king sized bed, air conditioning, fridge, safe, large screen TV and a nice view for up to $10 a night – which would also include daily room service. But after coming to Laos, your $10 will buy you a measly, uncomfortable bed in a tight room without a window that doesn’t even have enough space for you to turn, nevermind to store your backpack, with questionably clean, shared bathroom containing an overused squatting toilet bowl, a broken shower outlet and a slew of mosquitoes all over its mouldy walls.
It’s hard to get used to paying so much more money than you had paid before but get so incomparably less, but that’s the way it is in Laos. I don’t suppose it had always been like that but as the number of tourists visiting the country kept growing, so did the prices for tourism related goods and services but the delivery of quality seems to have gotten stuck.
If you’re like me and started traveling around the world in circa 2009, then you have missed out on the golden age of tourism. Nowadays, no matter how remote and unmentioned a place you get to is, there will be thousands of blog posts about it all over the internet from the travelers who had visited it long before you. And… nowadays, even seemingly poor countries like Laos, after experiencing tourism boom, had adjusted their prices so cost of travelling is out of proportion to the country’s gross domestic product. Too bad this increase did not go hand in hand with increase of quality.
The only place in Laos where reasonably cheap accommodation can still be had is Don Det of Four Thousand Islands, in south Laos, near the border with Cambodia. Bamboo room costs as little as 25,000 Kip (about $3 US – based on 2010 conversion rates) per night and represents the cheapest accommodation in the country.
Once you have left 4,000 Islands, the mainland will welcome you with room prices typically starting at 60,000 Kip (roughly $7.50 US) for which you will get a pretty run down room with small, hard bed, no windows hence strong smell of mould, shared bathroom with cold shower somewhere within the complex and a rattling fan with grate so dirty, you’ll think it’s been used in a car shop since the 60’s.
To get a room $7,50 US equivalent would get you in Cambodia, you would have to shell out 80,000 to 100,000 Kip per night (roughly $10 to $12). I went through many less traveled areas of Laos yet Don Det was the only place where I was able to find a private room (aka not dorm) for an equivalent of $5 or less per night. And that was in off season when guesthouses and hotels were struggling to get bookings. What it would have been like in high season when rooms sell out quickly I dare not imagine. By South East Asian standards, accommodation in Laos is very expensive but lack quality you would get in other countries where rooms usually cost less.
Traveling in and exploring Laos was an uplifting and rewarding experience. However, being a backpacker and a traveler on a budget, I was shocked by how expensive Laos is compared to the neighboring countries. I expected exact opposite – Laos is generally deemed to be one of the poorer countries in South East Asia which usually means that traveling through there should be comparably cheaper. It doesn’t happen to be the case. Visiting Laos ends up being far more expensive than visiting Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia or many other countries of the region.
On my travels so far, I have stuck with cheap, backpacker accommodation options, traveled using local bus or train transport and explored destinations reached on foot instead of using taxis (or tuk tuks) but after arriving in Laos, I had to significantly lower my standards of living yet it still ended up costing more. Gone were the days of having a room with attached bathroom. Gone were the days of having a room with a window facing outside so the air in the room doesn’t make me gag. Yet even though I significantly lowered my standards of living, gone were the days when my total expenses, including accommodation, food, water and transportation stayed at a level not exceeding $10 per day. While still cheap by western standards, compared to similar countries of the South East Asian region, Laos was shockingly expensive.
In a nutshell, if you’re a backpacker visiting Laos, expect to either have to pay more for what you are used to getting in other countries, or lower your standards if you wish to keep the expenses in line with those you previously had. I’ve covered the cost of traveling in Laos in separate articles, each targeting a particular topic:
After Two Dragons, Prohm Roth Guesthouse was the second guesthouse I have stayed in during my long term stay in Siem Reap, Cambodia. I have chosen Prohm Roth Guesthouse due to its absolutely phenomenal location within Siem Reap town, closeness to Preah Prom Rath Temple, great prices and friendly, responsive nature of Meang who takes care of email enquiries. Unlike Two Dragons, Prohm Roth Guesthouse is Khmer owned and run, meaning that by staying there I would be directly supporting local people. This comes with its own advantages and disadvantages, however there is no other guesthouse in Siem Reap where I would have stayed more times than in Prohm Roth. Let me go through what I liked and disliked about Prohm Roth Guesthouse in more detail. This is my personal review of this accommodation option in the most touristy town of Cambodia.
Prohm Roth Guesthouse Review – First Impressions
Prohm Roth Guesthouse is a nice looking and newly built building that stands out like a sore thumb among the slums of surrounding huts. The main advantage of this is the fact that nothing obstructs the windows of rooms that are rented out so your room will be bright and happy, unlike it was at Two Dragons where rooms are dark and gloomy because within a meter of each window there is another building that obstructs all natural light from entering the room. Being a new building, interior is very cozy and nicely decorated which again was a major step up from cold, unwelcoming insides of Two Dragons.
The main reason why I opted for Two Dragons as my first guesthouse in Siem Reap was amazing responsiveness of Gordon, the owner who’s a native speaker of English which made communication smooth and to the point. Meang, one of two owners of Prohm Roth Guesthouse was the second most responsive guesthouse representative and the most responsive out of native Cambodians. Just as was the case with Gordon of Two Dragons, Meang addressed all questions in his responses and never opted for cut and paste replies. Both Gordon of Two Dragons and Meang of Prohm Roth Guesthouse deserve props for amazing pre-sale support and responsiveness. However, coming from the Western world, I must admit that I found responses from Meang really cute. Asian people may sound over the top when trying to earn your business, but take a look at a sample of how I was being addressed in emails sent to me and tell me if that’s not the cutest way to try to earn your business:
Dearest Sir Mark,
How are you doing? It’s such a great joy to read your message! I pray and hope that you are doing great, so thus your wonderful family!
How could you possibly not want to stay with someone who addresses you like this… Unfortunately, when it comes to most Khmer owned guesthouses in Siem Reap, an option to enquire by email either doesn’t exist or responses are way too slow and don’t address your questions. This makes such guesthouses unusable by first time visitors to Cambodia who would like to have everything arranged before they leave their home country. Luckily guesthouses such as Two Dragons or Prohm Roth do exist so one can easily make all arrangements from abroad utilizing internet communication tools.
The Room Review
September is the peak of rainy season in Cambodia which means it’s not particularly the high season month so room availability is oftentimes unlimited. I had several options varying from room with just a fan, through room with a fan and hot water all the way to the finest room in all of Prohm Roth Guesthouse – the one overlooking the Preah Prom Rath Temple. This was the most expensive room and had both air conditioning and hot water.
I asked about possibility of preferential pricing should I stay at the guesthouse for an extended period of time and was offered reasonable discount with each of the options. Upon my move to Prohm Roth Guesthouse, the best room was taken, but the couple occupying it was leaving the following day. So I’ve made arrangements that I would stay in another room for the night but once the best room becomes available, I would move there.
My first room was only equipped with a ceiling fan, but had hot water so it was one of the mid grade ones. Not having air conditioning in this heat was pretty tough. Especially since I’ve only been in Siem Reap for a week which wasn’t long enough to get used to such high temperatures and near 100% humidity (because of all the rain). Luckily, I got moved to the nicely spacious and air conditioning equipped room the following day and totally loved it.
The room had large windows on two walls making for a very bright atmosphere. It was a breath of fresh air after a week in super gloomy room at Two Dragons. It had two beds, some basic furniture, small TV set and a very uncomfortable chair I haven’t used at all, but it served well as a hanger for my sweaty t-shirts that got drenched after each visit outdoors.
The view from those large windows was the best thing about the room – overlooking the Preah Prom Rath temple gave the room a very high end feel. The only thing I could complain about was slight moldy smell coming from the built in closet (the smaller room I stayed in for one night had the same moldy smell coming from its closet as well) and there was an open hole in the washroom wall which had a fan in it to draw the air from the outside into the washroom which unfortunately was large enough to allow mosquitoes to safely fly into the room even if the fan was turned on. No matter how hard I tried, there were always dozens of blood hungry mosquitoes, the vectors of malaria and dengue fever in the room. The room was otherwise fantastic.
Prohm Roth Guesthouse Prices
Per night rates for twin rooms with just a fan start at $10. Same size twin room but with air conditioning costs $13 per night, whereas large double room with view of the temple costs $18 per night. I have enquired about per week and per month prices and was quoted $40 per week for a twin toom with a fan and $60 per week for a twin room with air con. Monthly quotes were at $170 and $260 respectively. Those quotes did not include the double room with view of the temple, because I was initially only looking for the least expensive accommodation possible. My thinking has changed once I have seen the big room.
I really liked the large room so when I was told it was gonna be available the following day, I have immediately asked to have it reserved for me. I was offered a rate of $75 per week for that room and ended up staying for 2 weeks. I think Meang and his partner were happy after I was leaving because the interest in Prohm Roth Guesthouse kept growing on a daily basis and their finest room was taken at a very attractive (for me, not them) rate.
Agreement was an agreement, though so Meang and his partner honored the quote they have provided me with and I have used Prohm Roth Guesthouse on each of my subsequent returns to Siem Reap. I had very few complaints about this guesthouse but the location as well as everything else I could think of was so great, I was not interested in trying out other guesthouses.
Unfortunately, unlike Two Dragons, it is not possible to pay for your stay at Prohm Roth Guesthouse with a credit card.
Prohm Roth Guesthouse Location Review
Perhaps the best thing about Prohm Roth Guesthouse was its location. Placed directly on a Pub Street extension, it took less than a minute on foot to get to the heart of all happening in Siem Reap. It was also just across the street from Wat Preah Prom Rath where I was teaching English so it took me less than a minute to get to the classroom making it even more convenient. Angkor Trade Center – one of main shopping malls in Siem Reap was also only minutes away.
Best of all, though – Prohm Roth Guesthouse is only around the corner from Pokambor Avenue, the road which leads all the way to Angkor Archaeological Park which was on my to-do-next list so strategically, this guesthouse is located very well.
Unfortunately, the slums surrounding the guesthouse are not very pretty. Piles of garbage nobody ever cleans make for nasty environment and the fact that the street is not illuminated makes for a bit dodgy walks home. It only takes a minute to get to the guesthouse from Pub Street, however it’s a minute through a very dark street inhabited by people living in sketchy looking huts with no electricity. I’ve never had a problem, but it was still rather scary. If someone was to get mugged in that street, there would be no helping them.
Prohm Roth Guesthouse Staff Review
All of the staff at Prohm Roth Guesthouse are always very positive and very friendly making you feel better about your day no matter how shitty it may have been. They were always smiling and always seemed happy to see everyone. At times it felt a bit uncomfortable because you would expect to see everyone pissed off at least at some point of time, but I grew to really appreciate their smiles and positive attitude.
As it was with Two Dragons, Prohm Roth Guesthouse also promises to deliver a bottle of water to their patrons every day. However, unlike at Two Dragons, their bottle of water was handed to you by someone who would be at the desk when you get back to the guesthouse after a day out in the scorching sun. Unfortunately, more often than not nobody would get a chance to get you one so you end up without a bottle of water you should be getting. At Two dragons, you would find your bottle in your room after your room has been done. It would never be otherwise. Whereas at Prohm Roth Guesthouse it would only depend on who is at the reception desk and whether they are busy at the time.
It was the same with daily room service. Prohm Roth Guesthouse promises to offer daily room service, but room has not been attended to every day, only some days. Again, this would not have happened at Two Dragons. When it comes to daily bottle of water and daily room service, Two Dragons Guesthouse excels and gets 10 out of 10 points. Prohm Roth Guesthouse lacks in this regard quite a bit.
Prohm Roth Guesthouse Free Internet Review
Just as was the case with Two Dragons, Prohm Roth Guesthouse offered free wireless internet to its guests and as was the case with Two Dragons, the owners of Prohm Roth cheaped out on it. It is free and can be used for emergencies, but good luck trying to load a simple website. Dial Up access would fly by the speed of the internet available at Prohm Roth Guesthouse. It is there, but it’s literally as though there was none. You can’t get anything done when internet is this slow. You will spend hours trying to load up one email message until you can’t do it anymore and end up going to the Temple Club or Khmer Family Restaurant the owners of which (same owner for both) didn’t cheap out so their free WiFi signal makes your internet fly.
Prohm Roth Guesthouse Website
I don’t know who designed their website, but Prohm Roth Guesthouse has hands down the shittiest website on the entire internet. It’s atrociously horrible. And if stupid animations, awful mouse pointer and nauseous graphic were not bad enough, once you click through to the main content, music starts playing pretty loud with no option provided to mute it. I can think of nothing they could do to their website to make it any more heinous than it is right now. Take a look for yourself at:
Non Smoking Rooms (smokers can smoke in the hallway sitting area)
Excellent Location Close To Everything That’s Important in Siem Reap
Friendly and Welcoming Staff
Cash Only for Payments (No Credit Cards)
Daily Water and Daily Room Service Remain a Promise, Not Reality
Moldy Smell in Built-In Closets
Although it’s certainly not perfect and has its downsides, Prohm Roth remains the best guesthouse I have stayed in in Siem Reap. Each time I left the town and came back, I headed straight for Prohm Roth Guesthouse and never regretted the decision. Reliable, honest and friendly management is one of the finest to deal with and prices are reasonable. It’s a great value for money and perhaps the best location in Siem Reap given the price. Unless something unpredictable happens, I will be sending Meang an email to secure myself a room at Prohm Roth Guesthouse each time I’m gonna head back to Siem Reap. Prohm Roth Guesthouse is my guesthouse of choice. Thumbs up!
This is my personal review of Two Dragons guesthouse in Siem Reap, Cambodia. It reflects my personal impressions and experiences after staying in Two Dragons for a week. All the positives and negatives, all the pluses and minuses in this review are presented without bias and without misleading.
Why I Chose Two Dragons Guesthouse
Prior to leaving for Cambodia I have contacted several guesthouses, homestays and low scale hotels in Siem Reap about their availability and pricing. I specifically wanted to know which establishments offer special pricing for long term stay (both week long and month long) since I was planning on staying in Cambodia for a while. In my email enquiry I have mentioned that I was interested in a single bed room with en suite shower (preferably with hot water).
In addition I also wanted to know if the establishment offers free pick up from Siam Reap airport, whether wireless internet is included in price and whether they had laundry facility on site that’s available to guests.
Two Dragons was the fastest to respond. Before I was done contacting all of the guesthouses I wanted to contact, I had a reply from Gordon – owner and manager of Two Dragons Guesthouse. That was a big positive and this first impression made major impact. I have not heard from most other guesthouses till following morning. There were a few that took several days to respond – I did not deal with those at all.
After impressive first impression from Two Dragons Guesthouse and elimination of most other guesthouses because of cut and paste responses or not answering any or all of my questions, I was left with three of my favorites. The reason I eventually opted for Two Dragons was that it was owned by an expat, a westerner who’s lived in Cambodia for many years plus I liked the approach Gordon is taking on his website – he’s addressing right audiences in the right way. He’s not too formal and says it the way backpackers would want to hear it. According to Two Dragons official website – twodragons-asia.com, they do not B.S. and provide truthful information based on what is best for the tourist, not on who offers them the biggest kickback.
On their website, Two Dragons management also claims that they have English speaking, reliable Tuk Tuk drivers who unlike many other Tuk Tuk drivers in Cambodia, can be trusted. All this information was presented in a very inviting way setting Two Dragons safely apart from competition. Given that a tourist is most vulnerable during initial hours of his/her stay and subsequently rather lost and confused for the following few days, staying at Two Dragons seemed like the best starting point.
Two Dragons Review – First Impressions
So far so good. I re-contacted Gordon two days prior to leaving Canada to make sure everything is in place and driver will be waiting for me when I arrive in Siem Reap. As before, the response was prompt and affirming, leaving no doubt that Two Dragons has reservations taken care of with no room for mishaps. This feeling of everything being in place made it all easier on me, since I knew my arrival in Cambodia will be proceeded by more than 24 hours on the airplanes and at the airports and by the time I get to Cambodia all work out and tired, it will be late night there. I’d be an easy prey for vulture like scam artists who operate at international airports of third world countries.
As promised, driver waited for me at Siem Reap airport, delivered me to the guesthouse without hassle and guesthouse staff took care of the rest. I got the room and was left alone to get some sleep after long flight. The very beginnings during which a tourist is most vulnerable were taken care of wholesomely by Two Dragons. There were no screw ups in the beginning while I was extremely cranky and in desperate need of some sleep.
The Room Review
I was given the room #15. Something is telling me that this is the shittiest room in entire Two Dragons guesthouse. During the day, when girls who work at the guesthouse clean other rooms and doors are open, I could see inside that each other room was nicer than mine. Maybe I arrived when this one was the only one available, and while I don’t have any major issues with the room, I’d say that anyone looking to stay in Two Dragons who is not dead tired when they arrive, asks the staff to show them each of the available rooms and choose one they like the best prior to unpacking.
The room I was in was small in size, but that’s all you need. It had two beds on each side of the wall, small coffee table, tiny little TV set on a stand, nice looking imitation wardrobe made of bamboo, a chair made of bamboo, a ceiling fan and an air-conditioning unit (all rooms at Two Dragons are air conditioned). The room also had en suite washroom with sink, heated shower and toilet bowl.
Two Dragons proudly claim that their room are the cleanest in Siem Reap (or something like that). I have never had any issues with non cleanliness so even if that may be an exaggerate statement, you won’t be seeing chunks of dust under your bed or spider webs on the ceiling. First night I slept on one of the beds that stank, so I spent the rest of my stay on second bed in the room which was better.
I have never watched TV. I don’t watch TV at home and as a matter of fact, I have not been on the tube, other than by watching my DVDs in years. Two Dragons website claims that they have over 80 international channels that you can watch. It’s quite possible, though the TV set in my room was no bigger than 14 inches, which is really tiny.
Two Dragons Bullshitting of Patrons
While Two Dragons do offer daily room cleaning services (not all guesthouses do), which is a positive thing, I didn’t like the fact that they pull the same trick at their patrons as many other similar establishments. To bullshit you into not getting your towel changed daily, Two Dragons will pull the well approved trick about being environmentally friendly at you. This is the most jokeable and most cynical part of their business. On one hand they claim that at Two Dragons they strive to protect the environment and as such they would ask you not to request having the towel changed daily, yet on another you won’t find anything about Two Dragons that would back up the statement that they do care about the environment. If they really cared, they would use eco friendly (energy saving) bulbs everywhere throughout their establishment. If they cared they would not be giving bottled water to each of their patrons, instead they would provide a dispenser of sorts. If they cared about the environment, they would use bio degradable cleaning solutions. But they don’t. At Two Dragons they just want to save up on each customer so they make you feel guilty about the environment while true intention is to spend as little on you as possible. That’s all. I hate bullshitters.
Two Dragons Staff Review
All staff members I have had an encounter with during my week long stay at Two Dragons were extremely nice and friendly. Room cleaning is done while you are gone and is done properly. I have always found my bed done up, sheets were probably changed a few times during my stay, garbage was emptied daily, fresh bottle of drinking water left in the room every day and my personal stuff never seemed touched. I left my money and IDs on the table while I was gone and always found it there.
There is allegedly a safe available for use by the guests, but there was some major headache attached to using it so I never did. I thought of shoving my extra money in it, but I didn’t have any pouch to put it in so I’d have to hand them a pile of bills which seemed less tricky than burying it in the bag among dirty laundry.
Two Dragons Restaurant Review
I have only eaten in the restaurant here once. The reason – overpriced. Food was OK. It was nothing spectacular, but not bad either. However it was way more expensive than other restaurants hence not worth it. There were several restaurants nearby – literally just seconds away where I would go to eat. I’d pay half the money and get twice the food. It just didn’t make any sense eating at Two Dragons.
The restaurant is also located by the entrance to the guesthouse so when a new guest comes, you get to listen to a lot of commotion while you’re trying to eat. As a guest, you are however provided with complimentary tea and coffee that you can help yourself on the upper floor where the guest rooms are, right outside small balcony. I don’t drink coffee so I can’t comment on that, but the tea was Lipton Yellow Tea in separate bags that you dip in hot water from a dispenser. It was provided for free, so no complaints and I did help myself on a couple of occasions.
Two Dragons Location Review
Location of Two Dragons completely blows. It’s too far away from anything interesting in Siem Reap, but most of all it’s on an unpaved road so during rainy season, you get to plough through mud to get to and from the guesthouse. It truly sucked because I bought a bicycle to move around and most of town was fine – at worst a little puddle here and there. But the alley leading to Two Dragons was always covered in mud.
One of the things Gordon points out all the time is that he will offer a no B.S. advice to his guests and will tell them what is worth checking out, what is not, where to go to do this, where to go to get that – and all of it with interests of the visitor in mind, not his own. It sounds nice on paper, but is it really so?
I had two questions of Gordon after I first met him – I wanted to know about renting or buying a bicycle and I wanted to know about buying a SIM card for my GSM cell phone. In both cases I got advice that didn’t fit the description of giving advice that most beneficial to the guest.
First I wanted to know how much their bike rentals were and where I should go if I decided to buy one instead of renting. I was told they rent bikes out for $2 per day. Most guesthouses rent bikes out for $1 but was not my concern. Gordon is the boss, he can set his prices any way he wants. Some of his guests ate in Two Dragons restaurant, I didn’t see the point and went to the one around the corner where meals are half the price and you get a three course meal with desert for less than one dish at Two Dragons. If people are fine paying for Two Dragons food, it’s their own business. And the same goes for bicycles and laundry service. Gordon charges $2 per day for bike rental and $2 to wash 1 kg of laundry. Shed right next to Two Dragons does 1kg of laundry for $1 and two sheds down you can rent a bicycle for $1 per day. I would take this 30 second walk just on principle, however many people are fine paying Two Dragon’s prices and that’s their own business.
After answering my question about how much they were renting bikes for, Gordon mentioned that I could buy a bike instead of renting form them if I wanted to stay for a while and ride while I’m here. He gave me valuable advice that cheapo bikes sell for $30, better ones for $50, however there are no quality mountain bikes available for sale in Cambodia. Only pieces of junk from China and overused second hand rejects form Japan. But whether I was going to buy or rent, I would still end up riding the same piece of junk, so it would make no difference. That’s what I was told and 80% of it was true which is a decent ratio for free advice.
The following day I wanted to go take a look at what bikes are available for sale, so I asked Gordon where the stores were. He insisted that I take a Tuk Tuk ride there. I told him I was fine walking as I like walking, it allows me to see the town and besides – I’ve been walking everywhere so fat and given Two Dragon’s location, I had opposite ends of town covered so wherever bike stores could be, I could definitely do it. However Gordon insisted that I take Tuk Tuk because it’s too far.
I really didn’t see where possibly it could be that I could not walk there, but eventually I broke down and agreed to taking Tuk Tuk. Needless to say – it was not far at all, which made it look as though despite what he claims, Gordon truly wants to get some business to his Tuk Tuk drivers for carrying his sign on the back of their trailers and for being his on call drivers. So this all blabber about only advising tourists what is best for them is questionable. He does give you advice, but it always involves taking one of his drivers to go there and do that. Afterall, expecting that there would be a business owner who would not think of kick backs when giving advice to a tourist who is looking to spend money on something is foolish.
My second question on Gordon was where to go to buy a SIM card for my phone. Again, I was told that tourists can buy a tourist SIM card which is only valid for a week and costs $12. To stay true to his intentions to hook his Tuk Tuk drivers with earnings (or maybe he keeps part of their net earnings – which would explain why he is so strung for everyone going everywhere and doing everything via his “approved” Tuk Tuk drivers), he added that a better option is to ask one of the Tuk Tuk drivers to buy me a regular SIM card, put it under their name and give them few extra bucks for doing that for me.
Good thing was I didn’t let him get me a Tuk Tuk driver to take care of it for me, like it was with the bicycle fiasco. This time around I said I was gonna think if I want a SIM card at all and went to do my own research myself. As it turns out, you can buy regular SIM card without problems. I bought one for $3 which comes with $4 worth of within network calls (charged at $.06 a minute) and $2 worth of cross country calls (charged at $.09 per minute). These minutes must be used within a month or else they expire and the card must be recharged within following two months or else the number expires. You do not need a Tuk Tuk driver to get yourself a SIM card for a GSM phone in Cambodia. And this is the first cell phone company I enquired with (Metfone). There are 9 of them in the country. Once again, I was forced to doubt real intentions behind Gordon’s vehement attempts to make sure he hooks up his Tuk Tuk drivers with income. The claims that at Two Dragons they don’t B.S. and don’t advice anything for kick backs are truly questionable.
Two Dragons Free Internet Review
This was my biggest pet peeve of all. Given the nature of my work, it is absolutely essential for me to have internet access. Two Dragons comes with a promise of free WiFi wireless internet. The only catch is, that it sucks like no other. Most of the time the internet doesn’t work. It’s either completely down or not down, but nothing loads and times out. On an important day I was trying to submit one article to a website. I started at 7pm and by midnight it was still not sent. I had to put it off till the following day and even that took a good chunk out of my day just to submit one silly article. WiFi internet you get at Two Dragons is simply awful. If you regularly update your website or need to keep up with friends on line and choose to stay at Two Dragons… oh boy! You’re in for an unpleasant surprise. Even as I’m writing this review, I can see that WiFi is again down and there is no knowing when it comes back up. It’s the most frustrating feeling ever. I spoke with several people who stay in other guesthouses, none have this type of issues with internet.
I did not come to Cambodia expecting to get high speed internet similar to what we have in Canada. But internet that doesn’t work at all is B.S. – as owner of Two Dragons would say. This alone would be a good enough reason on its own for me to seek different accommodation arrangements.
Internet is yet another reason to believe that despite what they claim, the Two Dragons management does B.S. their patrons. In a booklet provided in guestrooms, it is stated that there is not enough bandwidth allocated for Cambodia hence internet is often slow and unreliable. This fact is used to force people into limited use of the internet, restricting it to email checking and no videos, no webmail chatting or anything similar. The guests are reminded that they will be cut off should they burn any more bandwidth than what the management of Two Dragons likes.
I can imagine that this scare mongering works well given what Siem Reap is all about – most tourists to make it here only stay for a day or two and spend them exploring Angkor Wat temples. If it were not for Angkor Wat, Siem Reap would be nothing with no tourists making it here. Still, since tourists come here with particular purpose and leave once this purpose is fulfilled, they will have little chance experiencing real Cambodia and what it has to offer. And if such tourist chooses to stay at Two Dragons, they will believe what they are told. Most tourists who stayed at Two Dragons have probably left Cambodia believing internet truly is slow and unreliable and there’s little bandwidth for this country so checking YouTube videos or chatting over Skype with webcam feature on will kill entire system. But after you have explored real Cambodia for a bit and tear yourself away from Two Dragon B.S., you will get to see that it’s nothing like it’s presented to you there.
You can go for nice supper at Khmer Family Restaurant on Pub Street, Siem Reap – WiFi internet is provided to their patrons for free. It’s fast, reliable, always works and always flies. You have no problem playing video, no problem engaging in any internet activity you are used to and no one will mind, because they simply did not cheap out on crappy internet they provide to their clients.
You will get exactly the same at Temple Club. Lightning fast internet with no restrictions. Another awesome option is to go to the Common Ground Cafe where internet is also fast and reliable. All you need to do is to order a drink with them, and get a password for security enabled wireless internet. And you’re on. You can come any day, any time of day and it will always fly, and no restrictions will be imposed upon you. Two Dragons simply like to B.S. their client with lots of B.S. and unfortunately, since most clients don’t stay in Siem Reap for too long, this B.S. goes unnoticed.
Few Random Negatives
There is this buzzing noise that seems to be omnipresent throughout most of Two Dragons. It sounds as if there was a big transformer somewhere within the walls that makes buzzing noise and while most of the day it’s negligable, it was awfully loud on my second night at this guesthouse. It was deafening. I was working on the computer, trying to get something submitted on the internet, but connection here is ridiculous and this noise was just buzzing and buzzing until my head felt like it was going to explode. I was trying to locate it, but it seemed like it’s spread throughout the building. I walked out on the hallway and it was there too. It was everywhere. Since it was past midnight and everyone was asleep, I didn’t know what to do about it, so I just suffered through it. It eased down the following days again, even though it was still remotely present.
The drain in my bathroom did not drain very well. bathroom is extremely small and houses both toilet, sink and shower. You basically spray all over the toilet bowl as you take shower and need to move the toilet paper out in order not to get it wet during showering so you can use it afterwards. The excess water from showering didn’t drain very well so as you are taking your shower, the level keeps rising with hair and soap dirt floating in it.
Two Dragons Review – Conclusion
Discount for Long Term Stay Possible
Responsive with Pre Sale Enquiries (very strong positive)
Rooms have Air-conditioning and En Suite Washrooms
Non Smoking Rooms (smokers can smoke on the balcony)
Clean Rooms Attended to Daily
Daily Free Bottle of Water
Credit Card Payments Possible
More Expensive than Equally Good or Better Guesthouses
Too Much B.S. Pretending to be Help (worst kind of B.S. – very strong negative)
As far as rooms themselves are concerned, I think Two Dragons would satisfy most visitors to Siem Reap. Everything else is a downer. The owner doesn’t care about repeat customers and will do anything to rip you off as much as humanly possible on your first stay. Most visitors to Siem Reap will not pay Cambodia another visit so he’s fine with ripping you off. If you’re a smart traveller and find out how things work for yourself, without asking Gordon for advice, you will avoid getting ripped off. If you make a vital mistake and do ask for advice, you will be taken advantage of. You could just ask a simple question, Gordon will immediately get one of the girls who work at Two Dragons to call a Tuk Tuk driver claiming you need him for everything you do and even though you insist on not calling, the girl will already be on the phone making arrangements in a language you don’t understand, ultimately forcing you to feel obliged to accept the arrangements made. One former American lawyer, a 61 year old expat who now lives in Phnom Penh had a misfortune of staying at Two Dragons and Gordon made such forcible arrangements for him which resulted in the guy overpaying $20 for a taxi ride.
Even though rooms are clean and attended to daily, I would not recommend Two Dragons to anyone. Value for money is not quite there – you can find better and less expensive accommodation that’s also at much more attractive location so Two Dragons really make little sense. But the owner is the main problem. The only way to not get ripped off is to never ask for anything and never use any of their services other than accommodation. You will feel like you are not welcomed, you will feel like they consider you an unworthy guest (that’s the way I felt, because I went to eat at restaurants that were not overpriced and have not fallen for any of Gordon’s rip off attempts) so while every other guest will be talked to and greeted nicely, you will be either ignored or just dealt with quickly. But it will save you from getting ripped off.
Despite this unspoken tension, I kept to my promise and remained at Two Dragon guesthouse for a week. As soon as my time was up, I darted off and will not consider ever staying there again. In addition – the more people I meet who stayed there, the more stories of having been ripped off come up. As the time went by, I stayed at over a dozen of guesthouses, some as cheap as $3 a night, yet Two Dragons still ranks as the worst place I have stayed at in Cambodia.