Hoxton Hotel – an east end hipster haunt in London

When I booked the Hoxton Hotel for my short stopover in London, I didn’t realise it was such a hipster joint. But even better than that, it’s great value, fun, and in a great location near to Old Street tube.

Apparently I turned up during London Fashion Week (not something I have marked in my diary). “How on earth did you get a room here during LFW?” ask my local London (hipster) friends. Truth is, I have no idea, I just booked it on their website a few weeks earlier. Maybe someone had just cancelled, maybe I was just lucky? When I booked it seemed like a great price for a decent hotel in a fun part of London. Only later did I realise what a cool pricing policy they have.

There’s the periodic £1 room sales. And there’s the pricing policy that starts around £59 six months in advance and rises to about £199 one day in advance. This is a really good place to plan ahead for.

The staff are friendly and professional, theres no attitude oozing around here. I arrive looking like a frumpy backpacker (probably because I am), and they treat me as warmly as the guests that look like they might be LFW stars.

The decor and rooms are funky but also very well equipped and practical. I love the iconic rock/paper/scissors pillows, and the white-on-white wall art.The bed is very comfortable and the bathroom downright luxurious. A great touch is the Hoxton Guide, a credit card sized fold out map with staff recommendations on local bars, restaurants, shopping, art, music and “looking good”.

And they have the best room service breakfast I’ve come across, in terms of having items and quality I actually want to eat for breakfast. Instead of filling out a form and hanging it on the doorknob, I mark my choices on a recyclable brown paper bag, and voila, next morning there is my yogurt, banana and juice ready and waiting by my door – and it’s free.

And for the sociable, there’s the Hoxton Grill and Bar on the ground floor, a very popular place indeed to hang out on a weekend. And yet still a great place to have a delightful porridge breakfast in peace the next morning. I’ll be back.


The Cambodia swimming pools tour

When I dream about Cambodia I dream about the temples of Angkor, the fish amok, the handmade crafts & the foot massages. What I had never previously associated with Cambodia is swimming pools, but I sure do now. While visiting Cambodia in April, it is exhaustingly hot and humid, both day and night. I am here just before the monsoon season is due to start, so the heat has not broken yet. So my great daily pleasure became the swimming pool, and I am lucky enough to come across some really good ones.

The Siem Reap swimming pool.

pool at Golden Banana, Siem Reap, Cambodia
pool at Golden Banana, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Before arriving in Siem Reap, I had booked into the Golden Banana B&B on a friend’s recommendation. It is down a quiet laneway just 5 minutes walk from Bar St, and right next to its flasher siblings, the Golden Banana Hotel and the Golden Banana Resort. All three share the same facilities, which include a gorgeous pool in a courtyard surrounded by brightly flowering tropical plants and sun loungers, and with bar and cafe access. All this with a room I am paying $22 a night for. And the room itself is well above expectations. It is large, clean, nicely decorated in the angkor style, and has a mod, almost trendy bathroom. The shower water is hot (not that I need that in this heat) and there is a working air conditioner. In fact the only problem with the air conditioner is the local power supply, which seems very overburdened and unstable, not surprising given the level of tourism in a country that is running fast to try and catch up in terms of actual infrastructre. There are power cuts every night, which means a few hours without cooling, but its a citywide problem so there is no point getting  stressed about it. Anyway, back to that pool!

Because of the heat, we are generally up and out exploring temples from as early as 5am, and are finished and back at the GB by lunchtime, as the heat is just too intense to sensibly do anything else. So the afternoon is pool time. I order a iced lime tea (which comes by the litre) and float in the pool while they deliver it to me. I stand under the waterfall wall at one end and let the water drum the top of my head and run over my shoulders for the ultimate cool down. Its a very friendly pool as well, with many of the guests introducing themselves and swapping tips on what to do in Siem Reap and the various temples. And to top it off, the food available all day is really good, with excellent examples of local food including fish amok, local fresh fruit platters, and spring rolls.

The Phnom Penh swimming pool

pool at Blue Lime, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
pool at Blue Lime, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

I’d picked  hotel Blue Lime for my Phnom Penh stay, for its location right behind the Royal Palace, its good reviews, and its strict no “sex travellers” policy – a still sadly all-too-present part of Cambodia’s tourism market, particularly in Phnom Penh. Its a very modern makeover of an older building, with polished concrete floors, minimalist lines and bright blue, lime and orange colour schemes. Its only four stories high and has no lift, so getting a room on the top floor does mean a good leg workout while I stay here – I don’t want to waste all that practice from clambering up the steps of temples. My room is large and has a large balcony as well, and the aircon works all night here. The lobby opens out onto a large pool surrounded by traditional day beds down one side and sun loungers on the other, nestled cosily within a solid wall of lovely tropical trees and flowers. This is also the breakfast patio, and the bar, although I was underwhelmed by their sweet & creamy cocktail list (where’s a mojito when you need one?) and the food options are mainly pizza, of the “thick, soggy, too much cheap cheese” variety – oh well, you clearly can’t have everything. I don’t know if it is just while I am here or a if it is regular occurence, but all the other guests that I got chatting to around the pool were westerners working for NGOs and having conversations about who had the most success from their proselytising – not really my kind of conversation, at least if I don’t wont to offend the other guests! The room here is twice the price of Siem Reap at $50, but still a bargain in this heat, and I can always hide away in one of the day beds.

The Kep swimming pool

The Kep Lodge, on the southern coast of Cambodia, not far from the Vietnam border, lies a couple of hundred metres up the hillside, overlooking the ocean and the distant islands. Each room is its own mini-villa, a thatch-roofed large bedroom with a four poster bed swathed in a huge mozzie net, a basic bathroom, and a front deck with a hammock. I love hammocks, I think every balcony in all accommodation should have a hammock, so i am often disappointed, but not here. I am going to spend time every day in this hammock reading my book in the shade from the heat of the day, or sheltering during a tropical thunderstorm.  The rooms are spread along a meandering path through the gardens, and all paths lead back to the large comfy communal open-sided lounge/bar/restaurant, which looks out over the pool to the ocean. Ahh, the pool. A deep blue curvaceous salt water pool, with sun loungers and umbrellas, the requisite tropical flowering plants and palms, and the ongoing view over the ocean to the horizon – with bar service. This pool is particularly spectacular at sunset –  a great place to float in the pool, sip one of the very strong cocktails (Mojito’s are really good here) and watch the sky turn red. The pool and the communal bar space makes this a very friendly and social place to stay as well.And its a bargain down here on the coast, under $30 a night for my room at this time of the year.

pool at Kep Lodge, Kep, Cambodia
pool at Kep Lodge, Kep, Cambodia

Yep, its safe to say I am going to be paying more attention to the pools when I plan to visit anywhere hot from now on, a good pool is just the icing on the cake of a great trip. Have you got a great pool recommendation?


www.golden-banana.com www.bluelime.asia www.keplodge.com