12 Reasons to Stay at the Maneerote Hotel

I find myself unable to explain properly my fascination with today’s customary hotel selection and decision process that is based solely on on-line traveler reviews. Unquestionably it has improved immensely the travel experience for most of us, as all it takes is a glance at the number of stars and the first half-dozen reviews to get a pretty good idea of an abode. One-and-a-half stars and quotes like “rat-infested,” “dingy,” “I’ve slept in better toilets,” and “popular with the Hells Angels crowd,” and that guesthouse’s Internet revenues will plummet precipitously like the Chinese stock market. Likewise, endless oozing, glowing reviews such as, “amazing value,” “close to all the major attractions,” and, “Roger the waiter couldn’t have been friendlier,” compels one to confirm the booking.

So it was with an ongoing keen sense of interest when I recently wanted to book a hotel for myself and my first-cousin-once-removed in Surin, Thailand, for a one-night stopover on a roadtrip from Laos to Cambodia. One singular lonely property, the Maneerote, popped up on the main online search sites, which teased me with an abundance of hotel filtering options. At first glance the reviews for this solitary hotel in North East Thailand seemed favorable and the rooms cost $12. My initial reaction was to keep searching, as it was surely some form of youth hostel at that price. But alas, nothing else showed as available during my extensive three-minute twenty-five-keystroke research undertaking. So I booked two rooms at the Maneerote at $12 a piece. I could’ve shared with the first-cousin-once-removed, but he can be a finicky room companion, so I thought why not splurge here.

My first-cousin-once-removed offers gift to monk in nearby Surin temple.

My first-cousin-once-removed offers gift to monk in nearby Surin temple.

Arriving at the hotel though the busy, bustling town of Surin, I was impressed to find that it was not located on some remote industrial estate where they shot the invasion scenes from the Terminator movie franchise. Furthermore I thought, it actually looked pretty nice, was close to the thoroughfare and one of the main temples, and had an adjacent comfortable looking coffee shop-come-café. Decently dressed, smiling helpful folks worked at reception, the elevator worked, and behold, the rooms were nice, clean and with wraparound balconies offering decent views of the entertaining town of Surin. What a deal I reflected, we should be paying more. Leaving the next morning my first-cousin-once-removed and I couldn’t identify a single aspect of the Surin Maneerote hotel experience that could be impugned, even at a much higher price.

Splendid view of Surin from the Maneerote Hotel $12 room’s balcony.

Splendid view of Surin from the Maneerote Hotel $12 room’s balcony.

For all of the above traits the hotel shall receive nothing less than the highest possible rating from each of us. Even in altruistic dedication to my on-line reviewer’s badge pledge of allegiance, how can I possibly deduct points when it cost less than I used to spend on youth hostels in Europe over 30 years ago? And here, in our comfortable separate rooms at the Hotel Maneerote, we don’t have communal bathrooms or showers, nor do we have to tolerate Germans snoring in the top bunks or the wandering waft of well-traveled socks. The Maneerote hotel, what an absolute bargain!

Nearby Khmer-style temple in Surin, within walking distance of the $12 Maneerote Hotel.

Nearby Khmer-style temple in Surin, within walking distance of the $12 Maneerote Hotel.

Four Stars for Four Bars in Aranyaprathet

The Hotel Indochina is located conveniently in the colorful and rustic town of Aranyaprathet on the Northwestern edge of the bustling Cambodia-Thai border. Perhaps the best set of digs in the entire town, it is a fair-sized hotel shaped like a large U with the lobby area bridging two very long wings that could double as professional bowling lanes. Very clean and functional, the hotel offered one or two entertaining quirks for the intrepid and road-weary traveler.

Bowling is optional.

Bowling is optional.

The first was the Wi-Fi teaser. There indeed was Wi-Fi with all four welcoming solid bars in selective pockets of space around the residence. In the hallways it was satisfyingly solid, but in the rooms it was peevishly pervasive. It would work by the bedroom door, and I mean right by the door. Tantalizingly, it would follow you to the bed but would vanish immediately the moment you got comfortable. Initiating the wireless mating dance once again starting from the door you could lure it very slowly and cautiously to the comfy chair in the far corner where it would leave brusquely and without warning. Most annoyingly, the signal bars would reappear with vigor whenever you stopped using your phone only to retreat promptly when you once again showed interest in communicating with the world beyond Aranyaprathet.

Free Wi-Fi available here. Only here.

Free Wi-Fi available here. Only here.

While radio signals had coverage challenges throughout the flophouse, audio did not. Noise traveled freely and with impunity. Mosaic hard-tiled floors throughout the sparsely decorated structure ensured lossless transfer of sonic utterances from the rectilinear echoing hallways to the austere rooms. Our involuntary wake up call was at 6:30AM, courtesy of a cacophonic coachload of middle-aged Asian ladies who appeared to have a busy and exciting day ahead of them. By 7:30AM, they had come and gone as suddenly as a migrating swarm of desert locusts. Other intriguing sonic disturbances peppered the silence of the late summer Aranyaprathet evening. At first I thought the locals had implemented a bylaw to standardize ring tones, only to realize later that the electronic bedroom door locks would sing stridently when correctly identified by a guest’s plastic entry key. Who thought of that I wonder? No sneaking out and back in at the Hotel Indochina I suppose. Why not put bells on the bathroom doors too?

While these quirks added some color and challenge to a long trip through Isan I think it would be unreasonable to complain or to knock the hotel’s ratings given the most satisfactory marks it attained in all other departments (food, cleanliness, blah, blah, blah, and so on). I would stay again at the Hotel Indochina.