Our search for accommodation for Sri Lanka started months earlier as for 2 weeks within our month in Sri Lanka we were going to travel with the 4 of us. Chris and Trudy, Lennart’s parents visited us around Christmas and New Year and we wanted to have extra nice accommodation and if possible family rooms to spend lots of time together. It also was the Christmas and New Year’s holiday and thus the very high season for Sri Lanka. Finding family rooms was a bit of a challenge as they usually were not advertised on the usual booking sites and so we searched for places we liked and hoped that they had rooms which could house us 4. As this turned into a bit of a family holiday, we searched for unique, special places with a higher budget than what we would usually stay for with the 2 of us.
Visions of sliding rice paper screens, tatami mats and creative use of limited space pops into mind when I think of a Japanese home. Obviously Japanese accommodation offers a huge variety of choices ranging from traditional homes to ultra modern hotels. Sticking within our price range we tried to combine clean comfortable hostels with occasional special treats of nights in a traditional Japanese home which costs more but was worth every yen.
After traveling for a couple of months and sleeping in basic accommodation with varying levels of comfort and hygiene, Japan was a lovely change in standard. Even the cheaper hostel chains which we stayed in were clean, comfortable and felt luxurious compared to the places we have stayed at before Japan.
Japan has been on my wish list since I was a child. Growing up in Bangkok is like having small bits of Japan fed to you. My favorite cartoons were Japanese, my favorite candy was Japanese and my love for sushi and everything made with green tea grew year by year. In Thailand, Japan is one of the top honeymoon destinations so finally we were visiting a ‘normal’ honeymoon destination.
However, as we are on a round the world trip, one of the things we take into consideration is our budget and Japan is rumored to be an expensive place to visit. Everyone’s question when they hear that Japan was one of our next destinations was how we were going to manage our budget as Japan is crazy expensive. On the other hand, other travelers who have actually visited Japan all agreed that Japan can also be done on a smaller budget. We did a lot of research online and found out that with some preparations and in our case some luck, we can stretch our yens in Japan.
Om niet enkel in grote neonverlichte steden rond te lopen en ook een andere kant van Japan te zien, zijn we een aantal dagen het platteland op gegaan. We hadden hiervoor Hattotji uitgekozen, en alleen het feit dat er geen treinrails doorheen loopt geeft al aan dat dit wel erg buiten de gebaande paden moet zijn. We vonden hier het Japanse plattelandsleven waar we op gehoopt hadden.
Met de trein reden we naar Yoshinaga. Vanaf het treinstation gaat er zes keer per dag een bus naar Hattotji. We hadden nog een uur voordat de bus van 13:00 vertrok en we lunchten bij het enige ‘restaurant’ in het dorp. De enige andere gasten waren allen boven de tachtig maar stonden snel hun plaats af toen wij binnen kwamen.
Arriving in China for the second time, we knew pretty much what we can expect from Chinese accommodation. However, this time round we were lucky to be able to combine less touristy places and cities with lots of cheaper hostels. Our first base was Kashgar, in the far west of China en route of the Silk Route. We stayed right in the midst of the Old Town in an atmospheric traditional home around a big courtyard. Rooms were basic but that wasn’t a problem as we were able to hang out in the courtyard or on the rooftop terrace. Next stop was Chengdu with so many good value hostels that it was difficult to make a choice.
In a country where tourism has not yet reached, finding a place to bunk down at night was not always easy. Our guidebook had already warned us that accommodation was not the best or easiest to find in our last Central Asian country. Creature comforts were not a part of Tajik accommodation and we experienced walking on ice paths just to get to our outhouse at night. Hot water (or any water at all) was a luxury which we thoroughly enjoyed when available.
Before we arrived in Uzbekistan, we met so many travelers raving about the quality of the Uzbek guesthouses and B&B’s but also complaining about how expensive they were. They were right on both accounts. In our 2 weeks in Uzbekistan, we were pleasantly surprised to stay in nice rooms which in most cases we even had our own bathroom and toilet which is quite special in Central Asia. Every morning we were treated with a scrumptious breakfast, naan, eggs, yoghurt, curd, pastries and fruit. We negotiated hard as the end of the tourist season is nearing, however, the average price per night was still quite high – $ 28.60 per night.
Most places we stayed at in Kyrgyzstan were homestays and offered a great insight in the everyday lives of the Kyrgyz. We became part of the family, sometimes ate together, shared the bathroom and found out how the houses look like from the inside. Sharing homes with the families or with other travelers became normal quite fast and staying in a home feels much more homely than in a formal hostel or guesthouse. As most accommodation were homestays, the prices were per person and often included breakfast. The average price per person per night was 420 som (EUR 6.30). These were our homes in Kyrgyzstan.
In a country where you can see and feel the nomadic way of life, gers, also called yurts are the preferred home for Mongolians. Easy to set up or break down, nothing is more flexible. In Ulaan Bataar, our hostel was in an old Soviet appartment block, which is also the common housing situation for most urban Mongolians. However, once we left the capital, most nights were spent at a family ger camp. At the end of each day after driving through this big empty country, these ger camps would always suddenly appear as everyone is allowed to set up their gers where ever they wish.
A nice hostel or guesthouse can make such a difference when you travel. As we are travelling low budget, accommodation is an expenditure we try to save on, however, it must be safe and clean. Accommodation in China was slightly higher priced than what we thought it would be, however, quality was also higher than in many other Asian countries. Nearly all our rooms had air conditioning (which was very welcomed as China had its hottest summer in six decades) and a private bathroom, even with hot water! Generally speaking, overall, we spent an average of 130 yuan/16 euros per night (per room). Of course cities were more expensive than smaller towns.