25 Jan 2008
S.A. Hotel, Trat, Thailand
A$17/£8.10 night
12°14'30.91"N 102°30'44.92"E
1 room


We got the bus from Rayong and at Trat bus station, inconveniently located one kilometre out of town. A taxi driver demanded 60 baht. We ignored him. He said "What are you going to do - walk?" I told him we've walked a lot further. He didn't like that. Found a couple of Germans who were heading to Koh Chang - their taxi passed the town centre on the way to the pier. I was in the middle of asking if we could share their taxi when our taxi driver approached Peter with an offer of 40 baht - which we have since found out is 10 baht less than the going rate. We told him Town Centre. He took us straight to Pops Guest House. Apparently, estimates which varied from 85 to 95% of all taxi's from the bus station do. The woman who runs Pop's seems to have the place sewn up. They have a magnificent and totally undeserved write up in Lonely Planet. It wasn't where we wanted to go, but not that far from the town centre. with hindsight, I should have left my backside parked, not paying and not moving until we got the the town centre. Next time, that's just what I'll do.

I couldn't be bothered but Peter had a look at the rooms, coming out saying there was no way we were staying there. We got a business card though - advertising a Lonely Planet guarantee, whatever that may be, Cable and Satellite TV (which they told Peter they didn't have) and ADSL internet (didn't have it either). Biggest thing I think is in the guarantee, where they actually had the gall to use the Lonely Planet Logo on their card. I've drafted an email already with a copy of the card to send to the legal department of Lonely Planet, and when we get back to Melbourne it won't be going out of our way to call into the head office in Footscray to make sure they got the email and to give them the original of the card and to make sure that they didn't just ignore the email. We've since heard from several independent sources, both local and expat, including those with interests in accommodation and those with no interest at all in any business in Trat that on several occasions things have turned violent. Nobody wanted to give a direct quote. Almost everyone asked that we don't tell anyone what they told us because they end up with big problems or trouble. Complaints have apparently been made to the Police and Tourism Authority of Thailand but were met with a "What can you do?" shrug of the shoulders. If I send a few emails to people who seem to matter, I'll feel as though I'm actually doing something to stop people like this, who really, really annoy me.

So, we walked the short distance to the town centre, checked out the Trat Hotel which was OK-ish but not so great, then the S.A. hotel which was a real gem. The ownership changed about 12 months ago and a lot of work has been done. The room was spotlessly clean. The sink and toilet still had the stickers on, the beds were good quality and hardly slept on, the air conditioner and electric shower brand new and the curtains a perfect fit. No internet access, but we were able to pick up a signal from the corridors to check email. The TV had all local and some Cambodian (I'm guessing, but certainly not Thai) channels as well as about 20 European/Japanese/Australian channels. Straight opposite the hotel entrance is a dutch pub/restaurant which has full satellite TV including live football, but Peter was too tired to bother (and the medication meant that he couldn't drink anything but coke) so he didn't bother. The location of the S.A. hotel is great. It's very close to the night market, but far enough away to have no noise from it.

It's also a couple of streets past the main road which means it's really quiet. We were told we were lucky we didn't go for the Trat Hotel - it is adjacent to the day market which starts at 2am, 7 days per week and is apparently very noisy.

There are good eating possibilities and convenience stores and mini marts within a minute or two walk, and a supermarket on the main street about 5 minutes walk. No cheaper than the mini marts, but more choice. English language newspapers are rare in Trat - if you see one, grab it (not like me, who thought I'd get it on the way back as I didn't want to carry it around.

We paid for one night, as we always do, and after making sure it was comfortable and quiet enough during the night, we booked and paid for another 2 nights. This is the first time that we wished we didn't.

Wandering around, we found a far better option in the same price range for the best rooms, much cheaper for smaller rooms with less facillities and importantly ADSL internet access. Make sure you check out Residang Guesthouse, which can be found at http:www.trat-guesthouse.com or you can email them on residangguesthouse@yahoo.com. The owners, Herbert (German) and Kanchamrna and one of their daughters, Kip are in the photo opposite, and are a mine of information about onward travel in all directions (not trying to sell anything) and gave us enough info to know we need to overnight in the border town in Cambodia rather than move straight on. He even gave us recommendations for a couple of different places to stay, eat and drink. Residang Guesthouse isn't really a guesthouse, I'd call it a small hotel with, I think 4 or 5 floors, but in Thailand if you call yourself a hotel, you pay a lot more tax than if you call yourself a guesthouse. There's great eating around the area, and it's in a really quiet location. Had we not paid the two nights in advance, we would certainly have moved. To this guesthouse/hotel.

Although I would have no hesitation in recommending the S.A. Hotel, I would give the Residang Guesthouse a higher recommendation - it seems to be much better value for money. And even though I've never put much store in what the Lonely Planet guide books say, I've seen first hand that, at least in Trat, you really shouldn't take their word for it.. Check everything out for yourself.