Wednesday, November 6, 2013

EDU Hostel Yogyakarta: It May Just Be the Best Hostel in Southeast Asia

Note: This review is not sponsored. I paid my own way.

As with any backpacker who has traveled around Southeast Asia, I have had my fair share of hostel experiences. Some good, but also the bad and the ugly. Crammed dorms, filthy bathrooms, damp beds, etc. Now, I won't regale all of these experiences here but I am very, very happy to notice that modern, clean, and well-managed hostels are beginning to pop up here in my main stomping grounds.

EDU Hostel, Yogyakarta, Indonesia
Yogyakarta skyline mural in EDU Hostel Yogyakarta. This may just be the best hostel in Southeast Asia.

I have seen some notable ones. Off the top of my head, you have May de Ville Backpackers Hostel in Hanoi, @Hua Lamphong Hostel in Bangkok, Grid 9 Hotel in Kuala Lumpur, and a few others I may have only mentioned in my social networks. Some of them are so new, in fact, that Lonely Planet has yet to list them down. The newest, most notable, and probably the best one I have encountered thus far is EDU Hostel Yogyakarta in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Let me explain this pronouncement in no less than 12 reasons. Here we go:

1. The Facility and Location

EDU Hostel, Yogyakarta, Indonesia
The colorful exterior of EDU Hostel Yogyakarta

EDU Hostel Yogyakarta occupies its own very colorful building. It is directly northwest of the walled city center (which houses the political and cultural center of the city—the Kraton). This location makes it easily accessible from the central railway station, Tugu, just a few blocks north. Additionally, the hostel is also close to the main commercial area of the city, Malioboro. Immediately around the hostel are a number of convenience stores, laundry shops, and eateries (including a couple of ever reliable Masakan Padang restaurants).

2. The Huge Lobby

EDU Hostel Yogyakarta, Indonesia
Spacious lobby is spacious.

Tall glass walls separate the lobby from the covered driveway in front of the main entrance of EDU Hostel Yogyakarta. The lobby has a ceiling so high and floor space so vast you can play football right there. (I exaggerate, of course.) As soon as I walked into the lobby, I whispered to myself, "This place is too fancy for me." The reception desk is manned by young and friendly staff. Need to drop your bags before (or after) checking in? They give you a claim stub for them and leave them in a secure place. It is only to get better from here.

3. The Dining Area (My "Work" Area)

EDU Hostel, Yogyakarta, Indonesia
Dining area (or "work" area) on a mezzanine above the lobby. I love that the Philippines is mentioned in the map. (It might not be that accurate though. Might.)

EDU Hostel Yogyakarta's lobby is huge because it holds two mezzanine areas overlooking it. One is an area with dining tables and chairs, which for me doubles as a "work space." It had a few outlets for us veritable citizens from Laptoptopia. The bonus is a colorful map of the world on the wall adjacent to it and a quirky map of Yogyakarta by the staircase leading to it. This mezzanine area leads to a balcony, too, overlooking Yogya's busy streets. Come here during Ramadan and it's the second best place in the hostel to see fireworks (best one being #5 below).

4. The Mezzanine Hangout Area

EDU Hostel, Yogyakarta, Indonesia
Carpeted hangout area right above the reception desk. Win.

The second mezzanine area on the lobby floor of EDU Hostel Yogyakarta is right above the reception desk. It is a hangout area and it is awesome! There are comfortable couches, bean bags, a TV, a foosball table, and two acoustic guitars. (That annoying hostel guitar guy does not have to bring his own!) In all seriousness, this is the perfect place to hang out with backpacker buddies or meet other independent travelers. I met one who was pondering on traveling to the Philippines and she found it serendipitous that a Filipino (me) was right beside her when she was mulling her decision over with a friend. Long story short: I eavesdrop and butt in conversations. Yes!

5. The Rooftop Dining and Hangout Area

EDU Hostel, Yogyakarta, Indonesia
Best place to have breakfast. A rooftop with views of the city and Mount Merapi.

Another hangout area which I believe is one of the strongest selling points of EDU Hostel Yogyakarta is its rooftop. The rooftop's covered area has a large dining room (where breakfast is served every morning), while the outside has tables, chairs, couches and tarpaulin-covered benches. Another higher level has more benches and open spaces. The bonus? A narrow pool lines the perimeter of the rooftop. Truth be told, this is not for the exclusive use of hostel guests. They rent this place out for parties and other similar events. Most of the time I was here, however, the area remained quiet. It is the perfect place for breakfast, I tell you.

6. The Reliable WiFi and the Numerous PC Portals

EDU Hostel, Yogyakarta, Indonesia
A PC portal area by the lobby and right below #3 above

WiFi signal is reliable in the lobby, on the rooftop, and in the dorm rooms. What I found most delightful, however, was the WiFi password. It was the hostel's philosophy: kebersamaan, which was Bahasa Indonesia for "togetherness." It's a particularly delightful word not only because of its English meaning but because of how it sounds to a Filipino like me. "Togetherness" in Filipino is samahan, while keber is actually street lingo (originally, gay lingo) in the Philippines for the expression "Whatever!" Such trivial linguistic delights. It's the small things really.

Those who do not have their own WiFi-ready gadgets can easily head to EDU Hostel's lobby and use any one of the eight PC portals. Convenience. I think so.

7. The Colorful Murals

EDU Hostel, Yogyakarta, Indonesia
One of the murals in EDU Hostel's rooftop area

I really love street art and graffiti, and absolutely adore places that embrace it. EDU Hostel Yogyakarta does that. Beautifully and abundantly, too. As soon as you walk in the lobby, you see the Yogyakarta landmark Tugu Monument to your right and the colorful world map to your left. The staircase has a map of Yogya, as I mentioned. The rooftop dining area has a cartoon-ish skyline of the city (the first photo above) as well as other equally cartoon-ish graffiti outside. My dorm room did not have one, but I was told some had colorful murals, too!

8. The Comfortable and Secure Dorms

Comfortable beds and high bunks. Check and check!
© Derek Freal of The Holidaze Blog (Used with Permission)

Now, let's zoom in to EDU Hostel's dorm rooms. One, it's relatively safe as you get an electronic key card and the door automatically locks as soon as it is closed. Beds are large and comfortable, and are fastened enough to remain undisturbed when your bunk mate moves. The top bunk is high, too, giving both of you lots of head space. And yes, of course, there's AC in EDU Hostel's dorm rooms.

In my haste to document the hostel's facilities, I neglected to take a decent photo of the dorm room. (I know!) Photo above is by Derek Freal of The Holidaze Blog who wrote his own review of EDU Hostel here.

9. The En-Suite Bathroom and Toilet

EDU Hostel, Yogyakarta, Indonesia
Toilet with tissue paper, a bum gun (bidet), and a Japanese-style automatic sprinkler. Your choice!

Dorm rooms at EDU Hostel Yogyakarta have en-suite bathroom and toilet. The two are in separate rooms as well, so you can do away with that awkwardness when you do number two while someone's washing up in the same room. You know that one. There are two separate showers in the shower room and liquid soap is provided. The best part, I think, is the Japanese-style toilets: that thing where you flick a switch to activate a sprinkler that washes the bad juju down under. It is awesome.

10. The Spacious Locker with an Outlet

EDU Hostel, Yogyakarta, Indonesia
The ideal hostel locker, if you ask me.

Before I forget, I also need to mention the lockers. They are right by your beds and they are spacious. EDU Hostel recommends, however, that you do not cram all your stuff in there as the locker does have a weight limit. What I liked about it though is its individual outlet so you can leave your gadgets charging safe and secure inside. The only similar locker I have encountered in my travels thus far is that of Jade Emu International Hostel in Dali, Yunnan province, China. Both EDU's and Jade Emu's represent the ideal locker. By the way, bring your own padlock. Any respectable backpacker should.

11. The Free Breakfast

Nasi Goreng, Yogyakarta, Indonesia
Nasi goreng (fried rice) with fried egg slices, krupuk (prawn crackers), and sambal (chili paste)

Mention the above 10 reasons to me and I would have booked EDU Hostel Yogyakarta right away. Then, I learned they served free breakfast, too? I'm sold. For breakfast, dishes are rotated weekly and sadly, I only got to try the breakfast in one of the two mornings I was here. (I was catching the sunrise in Borobudur one of those mornings.) The breakfast dish I got to try was nasi goreng, or fried rice, accompanied with fried egg slices, krupuk (prawn crackers), sambal (chili paste), and black Javanese coffee. While indeed the nasi goreng was humble and basic, it was sufficient. Besides, for a dollar or two, you can add fried chicken, sate (meat skewers), or an omelet to your meal.

12. The Cost of the Bed per Night

EDU Hostel, Yogyakarta, Indonesia
At 7 to 9 USD per bed per night? Here take my money!

Now, all of the reasons above are rounded up quite gloriously by the cost of a dorm bed here. For all the amenities and services EDU Hostel Yogyakarta offers its backpacker guests, it only charged me a meager 70,000 IDR (7 USD) per bed per night. You read that right! Seven dollars US. I traveled during the high season in Indonesia (June to September) and stayed in a six-bed male dorm. Six-bed female dorms are available, too, as well as four-bed private dorms for groups, the latter costing a few dollars more per person. Weekends and holidays cost a bit more, too, and there is indication that by 2014, rates will increase (just by a dollar or two though). Still a fantastic deal, if you ask me.

Given the reasons above, I think I have made enough arguments to support my claim. EDU Hostel Yogyakarta may just be the best hostel in Southeast Asia.

Of course, there are similar modern hostels being built every year in this fast-growing region. It is anyone's game at this point, really. I'm just glad that ultimately, we the independent travelers and backpackers are the main beneficiaries of it all.

EDU Hostel
17 Jalan Let Jen Suprapto, Ngampilan
Yogyakarta, Indonesia

What is the best backpacker hostel that you have encountered in Southeast Asia?

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