On a quest to the Overstay (Hostel Review)
“The best hostel in the Universe – 5 stars” “Not what it seems on the website – 1 star” “Best vibes in Bangkok – 5 stars” “Not meant for everyone – 1 star””Stay here! – 5 stars” “Worst place I’ve ever stayed – 1 star” “Loved it – 5 stars” “Do not stay here – 1 star”….
In case you did not realise what I was doing here, I was citing titles and ratings of other people’s reviews, found on Tripadvisor. As any other hostel, “the Overstay” has some intermediate reviews, however, the vast majority either loves it or hates it and it is rather easy to see why.
Struggles on the road
When we came off the plane, my ankle was strangly swollen and painful. I never found out what caused this sudden inflammation, but I remember how I could hardly walk. Very unconvenient if you get off an airplane, exhausted of a long journey and it is your first day ever in big and overwhelming Bangkok. Luckily, friendly pharmacy staff at the airport could help me to get some anti-inflamatory medication that kicked in quickly. Such a relief that I would be able to walk during my holiday! After this quick pit-stop to get fixed up, we continued our way.
Thinking I had planned everthing relatively well, I realised I had not much of a clue on how to get to the hostel. Usually a map and asking around are really helpful, but even though all the people on the road were trying to help us (one girl even called up a friend to confirm she was giving the correct directions), many had no idea which street or area I was talking about. Being unfamiliar with the transport system in Bangkok, we ended up taking the metro from the airport first and than a skytrain to some station that the friendly girl at the metro station had adviced us. From here we thought it should be easy enough to follow the not so super-detailed maps in our Lonely Planet Guide. Orientating on “the bend in the river” seemed like a good-enough strategy that usually works. Not here. It was damp and warm, my foot was still throbbing and it turned out that the river had another bend a few kilometres further to the North that we should have been at. No wonder we could not find the correct street names or our hostel.
So far our walking adventure. It had taken us half a day to get nowhere really and when a hasty Tuk-Tuk almost ran us over whilst crossing the road we decided that this was the sign that we should get in. There we go, the start of our Asian adventure and my first ride in a Tuk-Tuk.
No Khao San Road?
The friendly Thai driving the Tuk-Tuk was rather surprised to find two non-European backpackers that looked very lost who were not going to Khao San Road. He checked this multiple times and then pretented to know the adress, of which we had no idea how to pronounce it, on me mobile phone. The two of us, me in particular, were very happy to finally be able to sit down, so we enjoyed a little bit of hot wind through our hair and let the tuk-tuk driver do his job. The drive took a while and at one point we stopped on a nearly-deserted parking lot…where our driver asked another Tuk-Tuk driver for directions. The same thing happened again. And again. However, with the directions of five more Tuk-Tuk drivers and almost an hour later and 300 Baht poorer, we arrived at our destination: The Overstay. A hostel located in a less touristy and not so fancy area, next to an unfinished skytrain viaduct and wrapped in electricity cables, because in Thailand nobody seems to bother to bury those ugly cables underground, as long as it is not in the fancy/rich part of town.
How to Hippie
The interior of the hostel can be called unique. The smell of cats and weed penetrating the nostrils while being greeted by a bar and walls full of graffiti as far as you could look. In the middle of the room there is a small area with a drumkit and three guitars, which all together might add up to six strings… A girl wearing a long dress, hair done up with a headband, helped us tend to our reservation, which apparently I had paid in advance (while I was sure I hadn’t). The girl was nice enough and showed us to the first floor, where some doors led to the hostel rooms, as usual. A little more unusual was that most of the doors in this building had names painted on them. These were the names of either long-term guests or staff, as this hostel turned out to be used as a home more often than as a regular hostel. More strage even was that the girl was just trying trying and opening some doors to see if the rooms were taken or not. We found one room free.
If you are someone expecting clear white sheets in your bedroom, the Overstay is not the place to be. The sheets looked like someone had taken the leftovers out of their little brother’s room and used them on the beds. They were non-matching and had once been colourful, but washing too often had ruined that. Nevertheless, they were probably clean. We were left alone to unpack our stuff, find a place to charge our phones (2 out of 6 sockets actually worked!) and admire the window, which had no actual glass in it, but was just a rectangular hole in the wall with iron bars in front of it. They should be enough to keep burglars out and for the room door we got a little pad lock. All in all I might sound a little negative here and perhaps in the first moments I was, later on it turned out that I was just overwhelmed by so many new inputs that I had never seen before. The room was not like a regular hostel room most of us know, but it was a private double, sufficient to spent a few nights and perfect for what we paid for it. As we got to know some more guests and the hostel staff, the place became fantastic. It is a little world in itself. Everybody is allowed to spread their creativity by means of artworks on the walls or playing some music downstairs or on the rooftop chill area! The hostel bar was a place that attracted not only guests, but also expats living in the area, perfect for great drunk nights and exchanging life stories.
The toilets had no toilet paper, nor were you allowed to flush your own paper wipes down the toilet. This is a normal thing in Asia, as the pipelines cannot handle so much toiletpaper. An alternative method is the appropriately named “bum gun” – a watergun-like object that you aim at your ass instead of wiping it. Sounds legit. At least is saves you from a blocked toilet and probably some trees. The kitchen allowed vegetarian cooking only, but had no freezer or fridge wasting energy… or to store your groceries in. One of the easier methods to get some food was to take three steps out of the door and find yourself in the middle of the wonderworld of Street Food. To prevent this post from getting too long and side-tracked I will go into more detail about that in a later post. But in order to take away any fears, when you’re in Thailand you can be sure to find tasty food without leaving the street you’re on, wherever you may be. And as long as that wherever is not in a touristy area, a full dinner will cost you less than a Mars-bar in your hometown.
Home to cats and artists
As mentioned before, “the Overstay” does not attract the stereotype backpacker. People that don’t research their opportunities in depth and can only afford a hostel will end up in tourist-lane Khao San Road. More about that in a later post too. The street is the backpacker gathering of Bangkok and if you are trying to find a trace of authentique Thai culture, don’t search for it there. One of the many great things about the Overstay is that is nót there and therefore attracts a different kind of creatures: people that seem to live on the road forever, expats, long-term travelers that have stayed in Bangkok months longer than they had originally planned, artists, hippies and us. Oh. And cats. About 20 of them.
The smell of cats had welcomed us when we first entered the building, but who would have thought that we would find a kitten literally around every corner. The first one I found scared me, as it lay in a weird position and was rather thin, so I thought it was dead. My brain was working on full power to stress out about why we had paid to stay in a place that had dead kittens lying around and wondering if this wasn’t the right time to leave, just when the black piece of fur suddenly rose from the dead and walked away after checking us out and miauwing once. Pfew. No dead cats. Such a relief. A lot of alive cats though, so in case of fear or allergy, this hostel is not the place for you.
Apart from cats, I really liked the diversity of the people in the hostel. Some of them could be classified as rather strange, but very creative philosophical human beings. These were the guests that would spend all day with a bucket of paint and a collection of pencils working on a piece of art on the walls. Why? Because you can! All the art in this hostel is created by artists who stayed there and you can just be one of them. I have no hidden talents as a painter and thought it would be a waste to fill part of the wall with stick-men, so I declined the opportunity to have my “talent” immortalised on the walls of a hippie hostel in Bangkok, but the fact that travellers can leave their signature in a place like that is really cool. Some of the long-term guests were extermely talentend and perhaps the acces to paint and a “canvas” was what kept them in one place for so long, togehter of course with the great atmosphere.
Late night fun
Speaking of atmosphere, we get to nights at the Overstay. The bar stays open for as long as there are people interested in buying drinks, while the bartender seems just as happy to be there as the guests, because everyone chills out with each other. It is one of those places where the person that has night shift does not seem to be really at work, but just happens to be on the other side of the bar. People can always be found at the bar and some never seem to leave it. One day we had two Thai policemen who came in and stayed to drink the night away. I’m not sure if they were actually on duty or just finished, but how often do you have a beer with a Thai policemen in uniform after all?
All Summed Up
The Overstay is fantastic if you are
– not allergic to cats
– not too fussy about hygiene
– an artist
– a cat
– a bit unusual
– sick of Khao San Road
– looking for a home rather than a hostel
Even though I am not an artist, when in Bangkok, I would definetly choose the Overstay again. It is a place where I met great people and made great memories. It is the perfect combination of homeliness and freedom and very possibly one of the cheapest rooms in Bangkok. Stay away from the bar on your first night though. You need some rest to sleep off that jetlag!