We had a fantastic holiday in Northern Vietnam this year, varying our experiences from trekking to cycling, to kayaking to swimming.

Throughout our adventure we roamed across the north, staying in various types of accommodation.

Rated and reviewed, from start to finish, here’s where we stayed in Vietnam on our 2016 journey.


Hanoi

Golden Sun Suites Hotel

Type of accommodation: Hotel

If we could give this hotel more than five stars we would. Located on Hang Quat in the Old Quarter, the Golden Sun Suites Hotel is part of a small chain of hotels in Vietnam. From the moment we set foot in the hotel we knew that we were in good hands.

Myself, Mom and Pádhraic with some of the staff at the hotel.

Myself, Mom and Pádhraic with some of the staff at the hotel.

The rooms were spacious, clean and modern with a security safe, TV and air conditioning. Anytime that we arrived back in the hotel we were offered something to drink, be it juice, tea, coffee or water.

The highlight of the hotel was the staff. Friendly and professional, they catered to our every need and did so with a smile on their face. They were incredibly pleasant and kind.

In total, we spent eight nights in the GSS in Deluxe rooms, which cost us just €205 each (€25 per night) including breakfast, free wi-fi and complimentary bottles of water every morning. Every room in the hotel has a window.

  • Value for money: 5/5
  • Cleanliness: 5/5
  • People: 5/5
  • Overall impression: 5/5

Booked through: Agoda


Mai Chau

Nha Nghi Homestay

Type of accommodation: Homestay

This was our first experience of a homestay in Vietnam and it was a great one to start with. A traditional house on stilts and tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the city, it really felt like you were among the locals.


We slept on futons in a communal room upstairs on the first floor of the homestay, surrounded by light curtains for privacy. The homestay was owned by a Thai ethnic minority family. No air-conditioning but there were large fans on the ceilings and mosquito nets to prevent bites.

The lady of the house was very good-natured and came to our aid when Mom and I got stuck in the mud on our bikes! The food was also excellent but even though we were far from fluent in Vietnamese, it would have been nice if we ate with the family rather than on our own. We did feel like we were offered too much food and were worried that we had offended our host by not eating it all.

  • Value for money: n/a
  • Cleanliness: 5/5
  • People: 4/5
  • Overall impression: 5/5

Booked through: Handspan 5-Day Tour


Pu Luong Nature Reserve

Ban Hieu Homestay

Type of accommodation: Homestay

A magnificent location that’s only accessible by trekking, bike or motorbike, the Ban Hieu Homestay we stayed in was a sight to behold.

Pádhraic and I were given the “Honeymoon Suite”, a lovely little cabin away from the main building. We slept to the sound of the water trickling into the rice fields and the crickets (and yes, I did offer Mom the suite but she declined!!)

Pu-Luong-Homestay

The showers at the homestay were also a welcome blessing, and there was plenty of hot water to go around.

Eating at the homestay in Pu Long

The food was top notch (weirdly our homestays insisted on serving us chips but their chips were probably the best chips I’ve had in a long time). However, like the other homestay in Mai Chau, it would have been nice to eat with the family.

  • Value for money: n/a
  • Cleanliness: 4/5
  • People: 4/5
  • Overall impression: 5/5

Booked through: Handspan 5-Day Tour 


Ninh Binh

Tam Coc Rice Field Resort

Type of accommodation: Individual lodges in a resort

No one can fault the location of this resort. Surrounded by the gorgeous limestone formations in Ninh Binh, the resort is a haven with a Hawaiian-esque design. The bamboo lodges are each named after ethnic minority tribes, and vary in style.

Tam-Coc-Rice-Field-Resort

Clean and spacious, the rooms were fitted with wooden floors and a tropical bathroom. Word of warning, though: no air-conditioning, just fans. But there the rooms were also equipped with mosquito nets. Our beds were very comfy.

We’re docking marks off them for a few reasons. Firstly, they weren’t the friendliest of staff. Not that they were unfriendly but more that we felt like “just another customer” to them which is such a shame considering how small the resort was. They missed charm.

Tam-Coc-Rice-Field-Resort-Lodges-where we stayed in Vietnam

Secondly, the food was just bad. It completely lacked flavour and was in dire need of creativity.

This was part of our Handspan tour (we have given feedback to Handspan and hopefully they will relay the message back to the resort).

  • Value for money: n/a
  • Cleanliness: 4/5
  • People: 3/5
  • Overall impression: 3/5

Booked through: Handspan 5-Day Tour 


Bai Tu Long Bay

Dragon Legend 2

This was pure luxury for us.  The Dragon Legend featured 24 luxury cabins, four decks with both inside and outside restaurants, a spa, bar and sundeck area. We did Tai Chi at 6am on the top deck as the sun rose over the bay.

Each spacious cabin had Vietnamese traditional hand crafted décor. The bathrooms were glorious. With large bath that you could fill with fresh or salt water, I enjoyed a wonderful bath looking out at the bay (the bath could fit two people easily, and they also had a shower).

 

Dragon-Legend-2-Cabin

The staff were also incredibly friendly, were fun and very kind. They always greeted us and were up for a laugh.

The only fault, and it is a perfect example of a good fault, is that we were served too many courses (but they were all delicious). Apart from that we loved what they offered, especially going to Bai Tu Long Bay which is much quieter and less touristy.

The Dragon Legend 2 Junk ship

  • Value for money: n/a
  • Cleanliness: 5/5
  • People: 5/5
  • Overall impression: 5/5

Booked through: Handspan 5-Day Tour (We were upgraded to the Dragon Legend 2 due to the fact that the boat we were meant to be on was in for maintenance)


SaPa

SaPa Eden Hotel

Type of accommodation: Hotel

We had a bit of an issue with the SaPa Eden Hotel at first as we organised for them to collect as the train station in Lao Cai and they didn’t show. This meant we had to fight off aggressive taxi sharks at the station and ended up paying way more than we had to. HOWEVER, when we arrived and after discussing the situation, we were allowed an early check-in and were upgraded to better rooms. Now that’s good customer service!

It’s located in one of the quieter areas of SaPa on Phanxipang Street, with a superb view of Mount Fansipan.

Mount Fansipan in SaPa

View from the restaurant in the hotel

The hotel itself definitely needs a bit of an upgrade, rooms are inconsistent in terms of style and there was a definite touch of DIY going on.

That being said, it was excellent value at just €38 for two nights (€19 per night) and the staff were pleasant. We got complimentary water each day. Breakfast in the rooftop restaurant was also very enjoyable.

  • Value for money: 5/5
  • Cleanliness: 3/5
  • People: 4/5
  • Overall impression: 4/5

Booked through: Agoda


Muong Hoa

Miss Co: Black Hmong Homestay

Type of accommodation: Homestay

With simple futons and mosquito nets for bedding, this brought us back to the ethnic roots of Vietnam.

With Miss Co from the Black Hmong ethnic minority

Our host had plenty of character, fantastic English and made us feel right at home. What we loved about this homestay too is that we ate with Miss Co and her two children. We really shared the meal with them and she gave us a great background to her culture.

The bathroom was absolutely pristine too.

  • Value for money: n/a
  • Cleanliness: 5/5
  • People: 5/5
  • Overall impression: 5/5

Booked through: Sapa O’Chau Muong Hoa Trek


Ban Ho

Type of Accommodation: Homestay

We were impressed with the size of the homestay in Ban Ho. The house on stilts had a huge upstairs area and large kitchen. Capable of hosting at least 13 people, the beds were futons with some areas sectioned off with curtains.


The mosquito nets needed repair with holes in their linings.

We ate with the family too but it was difficult as they didn’t really interact with us much and instead with our guide. The children made more of an effort than the adults. The experience didn’t feel particularly special. Food was good but not very memorable.

  • Value for money: n/a
  • Cleanliness: 4/5
  • People: 2/5
  • Overall impression: 3/5

Booked through: Sapa O’Chau Muong Hoa Trek 

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