Hostels in Australia, Dili, and Bali

More reviews from ho(s)tels on my journey in Australia, Timor-Leste, and Bali in May/June 2014. As before, where I remembered to write a review for the booking site I used (usually Hostelworld), I’ve included that at the start, including overall rating the site calculated.

Yes I’m going to put that explanation on all of my hostel review posts …

1) The Pirates Backpackers, Fremantle, Australia
Date stayed: 29 May 2014
Length of stay: 3 Nights

“Very much a party hostel, with really friendly staff and a lively atmosphere (too lively at times; I ended up one night in a room with very drunk NZers, tho they were soon evicted). Large screen for films, free popcorn on film nights. Only downside is it doesn’t have Wi-Fi but it’s not quite inside Fremantle’s citywide free Wi-Fi area.” (86%) – Hostelworld review.

Now then.

That the hostel is a party hostel in and of itself didn’t myther me, despite my introvert tendencies –in any case I knew it would be before I booked. The main problem with its party-party mentality is that on arrival in Fremantle I was feeling quite low and angsty, and having so many extroverts around me was much more draining than it usually would be, especially when I didn’t feel comfortable breaking in to their cliques. This was heightened by my wandering around Fremantle and not feeling I was ‘clicking’ with the place – it felt to me like a small out-of-season holiday resort.

Outside Fremantle Hostel
Entranceway to the hostel. The Internet Is A Lie. 🙂

It was quite an extensive hostel, with what felt like a lot of rooms, all of a reasonable size without being Baltic-large. There was a pretty sizeable lounge with a large screen, while many of the dorms overlooked an outdoor dining & relaxation area. From my dorm you could still just about hear any loud parties taking place in the lounge below, but the bed was comfortable enough to prevent sleepless nights. The inside of the hostel was decorated in a quirky and lively manner – again highlighting the correlation between backpackers and street-art.

Inside Fremantle Hostel
The quirky wall-art inside the hostel. This was on the main wall – it continued up the stairs.

The down-side for the introverted me was the lack of Wi-Fi. There were two logical reasons why – firstly Fremantle has free city-wide Wi-Fi anyway, and secondly the hostel felt that backpackers would have more fun and enjoy their stay more if they were forced to talk to each other without distractions; they want the evenings to be social and allow people to come together and chat. What this meant however was that I spent a couple of hours each evening sitting on a bench in the dark, near the seafront, because the city-wide Wi-Fi zone didn’t extend as far as the hostel … Again though, had I been in a less mentally-negative space at the time, it wouldn’t have mattered so much.

Inside Fremantle Hostel
The outside social seating area. There was more of it to the left.

My time in the hostel was also notable by being the only time I’ve ever known anyone to be thrown out. Basically, three New Zealanders checked into my dorm one night and had ‘disappeared’ by the morning. Two of them were pretty drunk before they even made it into the dorm in the first place, and by the time they went to bed they just literally crashed onto the beds and fell asleep.
At 4am.
Having roamed around the hostel not remembering their keycode to get into the dorm room, banging on the door to be let in, and then giving up and jumping through the window. All the while shouting and talking very loudly, disturbing pretty much everyone in the hostel. They also gave the impression they may have been into more illicit substances.
Looks like even ‘Party’ Hostels have their limits.

2) Backpacker Oz, Adelaide, Australia
Date stayed: 3 June 2014
Length of stay: 3 Nights

“Probably the most comfortable hostel beds I’ve slept on (and I hate upper bunks!). Large sociable hostel without being ‘party party’ – very friendly and helpful staff, nice bar and pool table, felt like a safe and good location. Don’t think I can fault it at all.” (100%) – Hostelworld review.

This was almost the same situation as Fremantle, but reversed, in that my views on the hostel were affected by the fact that mentally I was in a much better place, and I found the town to be relaxed and charming, so my feelings about the hostel were possibly overly positive.

The main social area was a large room on the street – unlike many hostels, here you pretty much walk off the street straight into the lounge – that at one end had a bar and the other a TV with a small DVD collection (including, disturbingly, the film ‘Hostel’). In between were a number of comfy sofas, a large table, and a pool table. Just off the lounge was a huge (canteen-style) kitchen, with a laundry room just a bit further down the corridor.

Inside Adelaide Hostel
The main social space in the hostel. The TV and one of the dorms is behind me.

Inside Adelaide Hostel
The kitchen inside the hostel – plenty of room for several backpackers to prepare food.

My dorm was upstairs, past some more wall-art, and felt larger than it probably was. As mentioned earlier, the bed I was in was one of the most comfortable hostel beds I’d stayed in to date. The staff were very friendly, helpful, and ‘encouraging’ without being ‘in your face’; despite the bar and pool table being the centre of social life (on my first night we got free potato salad & bbq meat, then they organised a pool tournament), it never felt at all like a ‘party’ hostel, but rather a very casual friendly one with an opt-in vibe.

Inside Adelaide Hostel
Part of my dorm. It’s all very light-coloured and ‘airy’.

Obviously I didn’t win the pool tournament …

3) East Timor Backpackers, Dili, Timor-Leste
Date stayed: 18 June 2014
Length of stay: 4 Nights

“Well this was quite an odd experience. Initial impressions were that it was very run down and was I even in the right place. Fan ineffective, air-con not on as standard, Wi-Fi regularly down and slow when it’s up. But that’s just symptomatic of Dili. Outdoor social area very pleasant, just try to avoid being struck on the head by a falling water-apple from the tree in the centre of the yard. Friendly staff, location not quite central (not that Dili has a ‘centre’), but convenient for both some cheap local warungs to the west, and the no.10 mikrolet that goes to the airport.” (not rated).

Outside Dili Hostel
The unassuming frontage of the hostel, complete with mikrolet.

The taxi I caught from the airport seemed to take forever to get here; it certainly didn’t feel like it was this far on a map, and when I finally arrived at what just seemed like a wall with a dodgy driveway-like gate in it, I did wonder if I was really in the right place or not. It took me about half an hour to check-in, although that might have been because I arrived relatively early in the day and they weren’t necessarily expecting me to arrive quite then.

My first impressions of the place were that it seemed quite ‘slapdash’ and ‘casual’ compared with other places I’ve stayed, but it must be remembered Timor-Leste wasn’t really even on the backpacker trail yet, so nothing was going to be up to usual standards. The longer I stayed and got used to it, the more I felt comfortable with its charms. Somewhat embarrassingly, I suffered in a room without air-con on the first night only to discover that, when I said it wasn’t working, they asked me if I’d switched it on … they turn it off when no-one’s in the room and I’d thought it was just broken. 😀

Inside Dili Hostel
The bar and entranceway to the hostel. It’s not a big bar but the courtyard itself has lots of seating.

Apart from an inside TV room, there was a courtyard area with undercover tables (some scattered around the edge, but the main one under a tin roof near the bar), the bar/reception area, some fans, a couple of electric points, and a tree. This tree deserved a special note – it may have been the most dangerous thing I found in the city. It was what we seem to call a ‘water-apple’ tree, and was very good at dropping said water-apples onto the ground beneath; either falling straight and just missing someone sitting/walking through, or bouncing first off the tin roof, causing a bang not unlike that of a gun.

Inside Dili Hostel
That tree on the left of the picture is the lethal tree in question.

The dorm itself was quite big (9 beds) and pretty basic; as it turned out both the air-con and ceiling fan were relatively ineffectual so it wasn’t a terribly comfortable stay for that reason. Aside from the dorm there appeared to be several more private 2-4 bed rooms off the courtyard There was a very small kitchen area, but to be honest in a place like this, going down the road to one of the local food stalls was barely breaking the bank – USD$2 would get you a decent meal – so you’d only cook for yourself if you were really on a budget. Or bored with Nasi Goreng, one imagines.

Inside Dili Hostel
My dorm – my bed was the bottom bunk under the air-con. Which was theoretically a great spot.

The bar also has a TV in it, on which during my stay they were showing the Football World Cup, but due to time differences, few people staying would have watched the matches live – one imagines in other circumstances the outdoor social area would be buzzing. It’s overall nice enough, but I’d imagine if Dili becomes more of a backpacker hangout, they may need to do some work to keep up.

They do have Wi-Fi, which was amongst the slowest and least stable connections I’ve known.

4) Bamboo Paradise, Padang Bai, Indonesia
Date stayed: 22 June 2014
Length of stay: 2 Nights

“Run by Ayesha, a very helpful, chatty, and possibly mad Belgian. Lovely atmosphere, welcoming air-con, spacious dorm room with sizeable ensuite bathroom, just outside the centre of the village so quite quiet (the tannoys from arriving ferries isn’t offensive). Close to beach but along a steep stony barefoot-unfriendly trackway. Only intended to stay 1 night; sad I had to leave after 2 as it was full.” (100%) – Hostelworld review

The hostel was a little way up a gravel track that eventually skirted around a hill and dropped to a remote beach. It felt ‘a long way out’ of the town centre but that’s because Padang Bai is so small – the distance to the main road was probably no more than 200m. It was also the opposite direction from the main road to most of the cafés and bars, but was close to where the ferries to Lombok sailed from. Despite this you barely noticed them – the occasional short horn blast wasn’t disturbing. Just past the hostel was another steep stony path that led down to a nearer small beach that still felt nicely isolated.

Inside First Bali Hostel
Looking from the entrance towards the social area. The dorms are on the right.

Overall the hostel wasn’t that big. The gate from the road opened into a wide front garden area. At the end of it was a covered, raised, patio area with a couple of tables and comfy seats, which acted as the social area. The dorms were on the side of the garden; mine was 4-bed with an en-suite shower room which was really useful in the hot climate. There didn’t seem to be a kitchen – or rather, there was a kitchen off the patio but it seemed to be used only by the owners and staff. That said, they did cook food for you on request, and anyway in Indonesia eating out is cheap. The Wi-Fi was quick and reliable, another plus point.

Inside First Bali Hostel
The centre of the social area; it doesn’t look very big but it’s not a big hostel so it fits. You can see more seating with comfy cushions in the background.

Inside First Bali Hostel
A very spacious 4-bed dorm, with shower room behind the wall. Restful and cooling.

The staff were lovely and helpful; especially Ayesha, who was able to arrange anything at a moment’s notice and give advice about things to do. She was also very approachable and ‘inclusive’, again without being over-attentive, so it felt easy to relax (even more than Bali does in general) – and she was the one who ensured that both me and another backpacker (Inken, form Germany) were able to find another hotel when hers was fully booked after two nights.

I wasn’t even intending to stay that long in Bali as a whole, but this hostel made me change my mind, and I was even a little sad to have to leave.

5) Topi Inn, Padang Bai, Indonesia
Date stayed: 24 June 2014
Length of stay: 2 Nights

(no summary, no rating)

750m from the ferry port in the opposite direction, near the end of the promenade, lay the Topi Inn. It was much more of a restaurant/café than a ho(s)tel, but it had room and that’s all that mattered. In fact, this place will always have a place in my heart as it was the first time I’d ever slept outside under a mosquito net. The “dorm” was actually nothing more than a series of mattresses laid out on the balcony over the dining area, each with separate nets. It was, however, very refreshing and much cooler than being in a room, despite the air-con or fan; indeed I spoke with a couple of travellers in one of the rooms, and they said it was very cramped and hot inside them.

Inside Second Bali Hostel
The balcony, with mattresses and nets. I suppose it counts as a dorm. Lunch was more expensive!

The Inn overlooked the sea; it was right on the seafront with pretty much only the road and a couple of stalls in the way. There wasn’t much of a beach at this point – indeed the town itself was much more of a port and fishing town than a resort – but just being so close to the shoreline was very restful. It was also surrounded by palm trees; the nearest I’d get to a traditional ‘tropical paradise’.

Inside Second Bali Hostel
Hidden by trees, but this is the view from the balcony – that’s how close the shore was.

The road continued past the Inn to a temple; from here it was a short uphill trek to a much larger temple and then down to a much larger beach with food stalls and other itinerant merchants. During my stay there there was a religious festival and the whole area was crowded and lively.

Obviously there was no self-catering kitchen, and if I’m being honest I felt the restaurant’s food was a little overpriced for the town, even though it was nice and tasty, but it did do a nice selection of breakfast and was definitely convenient (!). There was a shared bathroom – natural stone, clean, quirky, but a little ‘dark’.

Inside Second Bali Hostel
Downstairs; this was the dining area. I do like the colour scheme, even if it’s a bit … ‘hippie’.

Satellite Wi-Fi on offer was wonky, and seemed to work best only in the mornings.

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