The backpacker trail in Southeast Asia has legendary stop-off points at every step. Opened three years ago, the leafy, Easy Tiger hostel in Phong Nha has already etched itself a place in folklore.


For any traveller’s haven to stand out from its contemporaries it needs to fulfill a variety of roles. First it’s the accommodation, drink and food. Easy Tiger has 108 dorm beds, each costing VND180,000 a night. Huda beer goes for VND20,000 a bottle, soft drinks are VND15,000 each and food — Western and Asian — is in the VND40,000 to VND100,000 range for a main course.


This isn’t going to attract the five-star, all-luxury-included brigade, but despite their penny pinching ways, the budget traveller still has money to spend. With over 100 people a day cramming into this spacious establishment, that’s a lot of beer and meals we’re talking about.


Decisions, Decisions, Decisions


Next it needs to be an information point, a place where people coming through the area can find out what to do in Phong Nha, can make the decision whether to visit the caves in Hang En, the National Park or take a trip with the Phong Nha Riders to Bong Lai Valley, a rustic untouched spot on the edge of Phong Nha.


Easy Tiger is this and more. You want to book a tour? Here they can make the booking and push you in the right direction. Want to know where to go next? The staff will point you the way. Want to hop on or off the Open Tour bus to Hue or Ninh Binh? The sleeper vehicles now stop outside Easy Tiger.


Privacy, or the Lack Of


The final need is for the establishment to be a place to chill out. After all, if you’re sleeping in a dorm bed, you need somewhere to hang out that isn’t your room.


There’s a swimming pool out back, a hammock area housed under a reclaimed traditional Vietnamese house, a pool table in reception, two beer gardens, indoor bench-like seating and a pay-as-you-go bar and restaurant ordering area. Attractive, Indochine-influenced contemporary murals are painted onto the walls, and a playlist with 1990s and 2000s Indie classics runs through the speakers. Lovecats anyone? Or maybe Mr Brightside.


With the chill-out facilities all in place, and prices to match people on a budget, travellers don’t have much need to leave. Unless they go to the caves, that is. 


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Photos by Nick Ross

Nick Ross

Chief editor and co-founder of Word Vietnam, Nick Ross was born in the humble city of London before moving to the less humble climes of Vietnam. His wanderings have taken him to definitely not enough corners of the globe, but being a constant optimist, he still has hopes.


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