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Saturday, 18 February 2012

Hotels in Vietnam

For five weeks hotels were our home. During our trip our nights were spent in a range of high and medium quality hotels and some rooms even moved on trains and boats. Here is our ratings of all of our accommodations:

Ruby Hotel - HCM:

We can't really rate this hotel, since we never actually stayed there. But it haunted us at both the very beginning and end of our Vietnam adventure. Upon arrival in the HCM airport our driver insisted that he was to take us to the Ruby Hotel. Only after we were equally insistent did he call someone to verify our understanding that we were to stay at the Caravelle Hotel. A simple misunderstanding since we were originally planning to stay at the Ruby and had only changed the reservations a few weeks prior to our trip. We were surprised though when on the last day of our trip our driver who returned us to HCM from the Princess D'Anna pulled up in front of the Ruby. A quick call and he swiftly brought us to the Caravelle. Perhaps on our next trip we will have to try the Ruby, since it obviously has a thing for us - and from the outside it did look pleasant.

Caravelle Hotel - HCM:

The Caravelle Hotel was just as we had pictured it. A Cosmopolitan lobby with excellent front desk service. We stayed here several times during our trip and each time it felt like coming home. The guest rooms were modern with very comfortable beds. The exercise room was large and well equipped and looked out on the outdoor pool. We enjoyed lazying about the pool, sipping drinks and warming in the sun. The Spa was on the same floor and for a nominal price they provided an excellent foot massage. The breakfast buffet was included and was phenomenal. It had a range of asian choices (Vietnam, Japanese, Chinese...) as well as western eggs, bacon and pancakes. The French influence was obvious in the pastries. So many choices, all superb and caloric! The Fine Dining Restaurant had a nice atmosphere, but the food was quite average and the prices were similar to any large city. However the rooftop bar is a must see. Apparently this is where the diplomats hung out during the Vietnam war. It has a great view of the city and excellent drinks. The hotel is well situated and near many great restaurants and nearby the famous Rex Hotel.

Kim Tho - Can Tho City:

After a long and wonderful day on the Mekong River we were glad to walk through the local market in Can Tho City and head to our hotel, The Kim Tho. Walking into the lobby it was immediately obvious that this was a business hotel. It reminded us of many similar North American hotels that are utilitarian in style, but still provide a sufficient level of hospitality. Our room was reasonably large with two beds. The bathroom was ample, although a bit strange with its large two person sunken tub. This was the hotel that also provided a "Birth Control's Cabinet" (Phong Chong AIDS) and warned that prostitutes were not allowed in the rooms. The hotel seemed to have a snack bar on the roof, but we weren't able to find anyone there. We did have a drink in lobby bar. But we would not recommend eating or drinking here.

Kool Hotel - Siem Reap, Cambodia:

We knew when we booked our trip that many of our hotels were 3* "Boutiques". There was a big price difference between hotels like the Caravelle and the Kool Hotel and we understood not to expect the same quality. The Kool Hotel was the only hotel on our five weeks that we cannot recommend. On the plus side it was small and located on a quiet alley away from the hustle and bustle. It had a lovely back garden with a pool which we did enjoy in the hot Cambodian sun. The room was small and the bed was less than comfortable. A breakfast was included but most choices were not well prepared. The owner was very gracious, but he was not around much. The staff were equally pleasant, but did not speak english or french well and so most times they were unable to provide much service. If you go to Siem Reap there are many first class and boutique hotels. This was not one of them.

Apsara Hotel - LUANG PRABANG CITY, Laos:

This was one of the best hotels we stayed in during our trip. Prior to arriving here we had been in Cambodia where the Kool Hotel had disappointed. We became proactive and sent an email to the Apsara to upgrade our room for a modest increment. This was a good decision and we had a lovely 2nd floor room with a balcony where we could sit and watch the local street activity and view the Mekong river. The bed was very comfortable and the room had teak furniture and all the amenities. It felt like an old French colony, which of course it had been some time in the past. The hotel is owned by an ex-pat British fellow and he understands hospitality. His staff were superb and went out of there way to learn how to make some of the drinks we requested. Breakfast was excellent. We had dinner at the restaurant our first night and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. We highly recommend this quiet, low key but very comfortable and friendly Inn.

Conifer Hotel - Hanoi:

The Conifer became another home away from home. We stayed there on about six occasions as we journeyed off to other one night excursions. The Conifer was also a 3* Boutique, but it had a high standard of service. The staff were very friendly and happy to recommend local restaurants. They seemed intrigued that we kept coming back so often. It is a small hotel located in the heart of the City Centre. Across the street was the Press Club which offered food and drink and one minute away was the opulent Sofitel Metropole Hotel where we found excellent food, wine and cocktails. We spent one entire afternoon here sipping tea and other delights. The Conifer included breakfast and there offering were simple, but satisfying. Their Pho soup was the best choice. We would be very happy to stay here again and highly recommend it.

Sapaly Train Best Western:

When traveling in North America we try very hard to avoid any Best Western Hotels. We were surprised to learn that our sleeping car train was considered to be a Best Western. Tonkin Travel made the excellent decision to book us an entire four person cabin. The extra cost was negligible and it provided us both privacy and security. The room was ample with two bottom and two top bunks. The beds were surprisingly comfortable. The train was quite old and noisy as it rattled and swayed along the track. But the beds were suspended and we felt cradled. Our one complaint is although the rooms are "non-smoking" it seems that rule was ignored. The shared ventilation meant we smelled cigarettes most of the evening. Be prepared to be woken up (4:30 or 5:30) by loud music and a repeating advertisement for the train line. Helpful hint: Water is provided in the cabin. If you want snacks, pop, wine or beer you can buy it from vendors just before you board. You might need a glass or two to sleep through the bumpy night.

Victoria Sapa Hotel - Sapa:

Sapa is about an hour's drive from the train station in Laocai. The Victoria Sapa Hotel has many amenities including an indoor pool and Spa. The hotel is laid out like a resort with rooms a short walk outside from the main lobby. Our room was well appointed and comfortable. The bathroom was fairly basic and small. The hotel has a pleasant bar with a good wine list. We had dinner one night in the large dining room. There were more staff than guests and service was attentive. The food was fine, but not worth repeating. Breakfast was included and there were many choices. One note: the Spa provided excellent massage services and the indoor pool looked great; but both are about a 350 metre walk outside up a hill.

Moon Garden Home Stay and Halong Bay Dragon Pearl Boat - Please see the specific blog entries we made earlier on these two experiences

(Saigon) Morin hotel - Hue:

The Morin in Hue is an old refurbished hotel with colonial charm. The rooms were quite large and well appointed. Unfortunately they had a slight musty odor that never seemed to go away. The restaurant and pool were excellent. We ate two wonderful meals in their courtyard garden with attentive warm fun service and amazing food. Breakfast was equally superb. We would come back here in a heartbeat.

Life Heritage Resort - Hoi An:

Hoi An was one of the highlights of our trip. A quaint town we enjoyed the food, the streets and of course it was Lunar New Year so there were many celebrations. The Life Heritage Resort was a quiet oasis with great food. Our room was large and could have been designed by Conde Naste. We almost didn't want to leave it. The pool was equally designer friendly and has good drink and snack service. The main restaurant has an amazing seafood platter for two which could serve four. We were stuffed, but the food was so fresh and well prepared we couldn't stop eating. This hotel/resort is highly recommended!

Princess D'Anna Resort - Hon Lan:

Please see our separate blog entry for this hotel (Dead Dog Beach).

ICON Hotel - Kowloon, Hong Kong:

FANTASTIC. This was the best hotel of our whole trip. It rivals most places we have been throughout the world for service and quality. The experience begins with in-room check in and a thorough explanation of all hotel services. We had a Club Room which provided access to a lounge along with breakfast, tea and cocktails. The restaurants were superb and we had food experiences each time we ate. It was much better than the 2* Michelin Minto Court restaurant. The living wall of plants in the main lobby is a wonder to behold. We can't wait to return.

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