The view from where I’m staying in Sihanoukville, Cambodia.
I’m at a place called Backpacker’s Heaven.
At this stage, I kind of embarrassed to say that I’m staying in a place with such a name. I’m reporting for major international publications from Backpacker’s Heaven. It’s fucking ridiculous. But really, the metrics are all there: $5 per night, right by the port and logistics facilities I’m writing about.
The place is full of 20-something kids playing video games all day. Completely bewildering. Don’t they have Xboxes in Antwerp? Others sit there with their shirts off drinking beer. Don’t they have Heineken in Liverpool?
They probably look at me: don’t that have computers in Buffalo?
Anyway, I’m just here for the cheap bed.
The quality/ type of the places that I stay at has become almost irrelevant at this point. I used to travel cheap because I didn’t have any money, now I travel cheap because I can’t be bothered spending more money on something I won’t fully be using. When I say I’m renting a bed in a place that’s really where it begins and ends: I wake up at 5:30 AM, get out of the hotel as fast as possible, return at 10 PM and go right to sleep. I only sleep there, so what’s the point of spending more money?
Although I did spend a little time walking around this particular hostel. The place was, I have to say it, exceptional. It seemed to work on a very effective business strategy: lure customers in with cheap beds to a place that’s spacious, clean, and sure to entice good reviews, and then sell them everything they need at a slightly marked up price. It’s a business model based on netting a captive audience, and it works when it’s done well. To do it well the hostel has to actually be high quality — the quasi-moneyed clients they’re after are not going to stay there if the reviews are poor no matter how cheap — and the prices for food and drink have to be reasonable — if they’re too high the clients will just walk down the street to somewhere else. This place nailed both.
I was so impressed that I’m writing about it here — which is rare as I probably haven’t written any particular hotel since 2011.
I actually wouldn’t be surprised to see a “budget hotel” arise soon that uses the same business model as a budget airline. They will cost like a buck for a bunk and then charge for everything you need with a swipe card or something. Want to take a piss? That’s 25 cents. Want a sheet? That’s two dollars. Want to watch a movie? That’s 50 cents. Want to play Xbox? That’s 3 bucks. And then have an excessive array of vending machines and mechanisms to distribute everything so that they don’t even have to be staffed.
As far as Sihanoukville goes, it’s my kind of beach town. There’s the beach, stalls to eat and drink it, and that’s about it. If I was in a bout of rec travel and had nothing better to be doing I would probably stay for a month or so.
About the Author: VBJ
I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 90 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. VBJ has written 3657 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.
VBJ is currently in: Astoria, New York