According to some The Overstay hostel in Bangkok is about the worst cheap hostel in the world.
The notorious six-floor brothel turned budget accommodation has an “artsy squat” ambience that tends to polarise guests.
From the seedy bar on the ground floor right up to the messy roof top chill out area every wall is covered in paintings, photography and graffiti of all styles, the accumulated result of years of unfettered artistic expression.
Some walls have intricately spray-painted tags one features a series blue elephants straight out of an LSD-inspired nightmare while the dorm has a series of arty blown up black and white photographs.
The toilets are, shall we say, not particularly well maintained. Some of the doors don’t lock, many of the tiles are broken, most of the cisterns are missing their lids and the mirror in one is a jagged shard balanced against a wall.
And despite the cleaner’s best efforts the whole place has a dim, filthy feel with a lingering stench of stale cigarette and weed smoke.
With prices ranging upwards from B50 ($1.66) to sleep on a couch in the bar, the guests range from standard backpacker types of all nationalities looking to save a few baht to long-termers who have settled into a nice little grimy rut.
A lot of them tend to be arty types who, because their lives don’t revolve around making money, don’t have much money to spend; artists, musicians, retired yakuza samurai and community gardeners.
Some love the place, others act like staying there was like a visit to Hell.
Here are just a few quotes from reviews on the hostel booking website HostelWorld (all sic):
“I know this is a very very cheap hostel, so you get what you pay for.. But it reminds me of a crack den.. Spray paint everywhere. All doors are broken. No locks. Broken beds. Broken toilets. Bad smell. How ever helpful manager. Only stayed 2 nights in the end.. You really don’t feel safe.”
“WORST hostel I have ever stayed at, AVOID! Don’t let the cheap price draw you in, its not worth it! Whole hostel looks like a crack den, unbelievable dirty. ”
“Do not stay herl repeate do not stay here.”
“The worst Hostel I ever seen…the bed was unusable, they put stones below the bed that it don’t brake. The matress was hard like stone. The door was broken. Lamps hang down from the top on their electric cabels…DON’T GO THERE!!!”
To be honest, I can see where they are coming from.
The Overstay is pretty dingy, a lot of the amenities are damaged or broken, the noise from the regular parties can make sleeping difficult and the beds are really, really uncomfortable.
So why, you might ask, have I spent the past two weeks staying here?
Thing is, I actually don’t mind living without some of the amenities that most people from developed countries consider essential. As a child of hippies I spent half my childhood living in shacks and lean-tos without hot running water and was about 12 years old the first time I lived in a place with a flushing toilet.
And most of my adult life I’ve had only a marginally better standard of accommodation in share houses.
The free WiFi is reasonably fast and works most of the time, so I have everything I could need to work.
The atmosphere is ridiculously laid back. The staff – all cruisey backpackers working for accommodation, booze and a few bucks a day – are super lovely. One made me a French toast sandwich with tomato, lettuce and cheese. Just coz.
If I want to socialise all I have to do is wander downstairs where a few people will be hanging out shooting the shit over a couple of beers at any time, day or night. And they tend to be pretty interesting people at that.
And, of course, it’s very cheap. While I’m trying to figure how I’m going to fund my continued travels around the world I want to spend as little money as possible. With the dorms at The Overstay only costing B100 ($3.30) a night and local street food only B30 ($A1) a meal I’ve been living on about B210 ($A7) a day.
I’ve stayed in places just as bad rundown and dirty – if not worse – with a whole let less character and atmosphere than The Overstay, and that counts for a lot.
What is the worst hostel you have stayed?