36-44 Nathan Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong
This grim looking tower block has been the epitome of budget travelling in Hong Kong for decades. The 17 floors are packed with residential cells, tiny tailor shops and budget accommodations of the smallest kind, for space in downtown Hong Kong is a luxury. Besides saving money, it is worth staying there just so you can say that you've done it. If - or when - this backpacker silo is going into flames, things will turn ugly, but until then it is a classic within the travelling community.
Why would anyone go to Kuta? It's touristy, the town is ugly and the beach is not even that nice! Well, because Indonesia's most famous beach area is pleasure zone. There is something for everybody, whether they seek style or sleaze. Potbellied, beer drinking Australians are rubbing shoulders with tattooed surfer dudes and blonde, Scandinavian girls on holiday fun. Even families on vacation are crowding up the narrow lanes that are packed with endless supplies of t-shirts, pirate DVDs and tacky souvenirs (like wooden penis bottle opener, why?). But it is Kuta, and that is how Kuta is!
Khao San Road
Khao San Road is not a place, it is an experience. Previously just a street with dirt cheap hotels to crash while passing through, it has now morphed itself into something more. A 24/7 backpacker-haven covering not just the original street but the whole neighbourhood, offering anything from visas, beers and Indian tailors over fire-dancing equipment, tattoos, and fake designer clothes to Starbucks, teeth bleaching, and cocktail sipping. It is now such a popular party zone that it even attracts the trendy Thai youth. But the toothless old fellow with the hammocks is still walking around. This place is unique.
Pham Ngu Lao
Pham Ngu Lao street, Ho Chi Minh City
Though Pham Ngu Lao is technically only one street, the name normally refers to the whole backpacker ghetto area southeast of Pham Ngu Lao street. When independent travelling was slowly picking up in Vietnam, residences in the Pham Ngu Lao neighbourhood were renting out cheap rooms illegally. Today, the block constrained by the streets Pham Ngu Lao, Bui Vien, Hem 28 Bui Vien and Do Quang Dau is chockablock with cheap hotels, cafes, tour agents, counterfeit DVD vendors, fake outdoor equipment shops, bars and persistent photocopied-books sellers. Every night, confused backpackers get dropped off here by the many open tours and buses from Cambodia, but it only takes a moment to feel at home here among gangsters, hustlers, and friends. It is a vibrant madness with a strong flavour of Vietnam, which is only outdone by Khao San in Bangkok and maybe Kuta Beach in Bali in terms of backpacker density.