We’re back from an incredible trip to Vietnam. As Irish people whose burning point sits around the 24-degree mark, March was an ideal time to travel there (though we’re considering April next year for a bit more sunshine).
We stayed completely in northern Vietnam this year because along with holidaying, we were also in the country for personal reasons. So while we don’t have such an extensive list as previous trips there’s still a good chunk of information here to whet your appetite.
King Ly Hotel
8 Phố Lý Thái Tổ, French Quarter
We loved the King Ly Hotel and in fact, we had stayed in this hotel way back in 2010. This hotel is in one of the most convenient locations in Hanoi at less than 5 minutes away from Hoan Kiem Lake. You walk out of the hotel, go left and take a quick left and walk straight and you’re there. It’s a family run hotel with 6 floors and the staff are a delight. The breakfasts were decent too with a selection of a buffet and then a menu for requesting things like omelettes, pho (Vietnamese noodle soup) and steamed buns. It was super cheap (our room cost about €15 each per night) and it was very clean. It had a French boutique vibe and the rooms came with an empty fridge which was fantastic because we were able to bring back food and drink and store them. We also got takeaway multiple times and then had no issue with that at all – some people even got their food delivered to the door.
Internet was a bit patchy at times but all we had to do was ask for a reboot and all was good. We stayed about 15 nights overall in this hotel and anytime we headed away for a few nights we were able to leave our suitcases in the lobby and while we took our backpacks with us. We also really liked the staff, they were friendly and never forced any tours upon us and also checked in to see if we were doing well without being overbearing.
We booked the first week through Booking.com and then just booked on the whim while we were there. Which incidentally, they do give you a better rate if you do it like that. They also reduced our taxi fee to the airport when we were leaving since we had been for so long.
Note: Though technically in the French Quarter it gets away with being in the “Old Quarter” since it’s so close to it. This is important because if you’re going on tours, some companies will only collect you from the Old Quarter in the city.
34 Hang Tre Street
As much as we wanted to stay in the King Ly for the entire trip, there was one night where we had to move hotels because the hotel was full. We booked Labevie last minute which was just around from the King Ly so we left one of our suitcases there and took one with us.
Labevie was about €46 per night for the twin room we wanted (though we got a reduced rate via Booking.com) and compared to the King Ly room it was much smaller with not a lot of space. However, we did like that the room had a table and chairs so we could sit down and eat our take away. The room was cozy and very clean, there were nice robes to lounge in and the duvets were so soft – it was very comfortable and thankfully had good internet connection.
The manager tried to hawk a more expensive room off to us, but we stuck to our first decision which was good as it was at the back of the hotel and much quieter. Sometimes a non-city/street view is much better. But that being said, we felt that it just didn’t have much personality. The breakfast was just ok and ok is how we would describe the hotel. The location was great, the people were fine but we wouldn’t come back.
Note: What put me off about this hotel is the email I received a few days after our stay:
“If you don’t mind, we would be very appreciated [sic] if you can spend several minutes of your time sharing your great experience at Labevie Hotel by writing a review on Booking.com (10/10) and Tripadvisor.com (5/5). We know that we cannot get the total perfect but we will try our best every day to make it better. Currently, we have 9.3 rates on Booking.com so that would be great if you could give us a similar one or higher if possible. Nothing sweeter if you can write some comment as well as share with other travelers to know about your unforgettable experience in Vietnam and Labevie Hotel. Your excellent rating is a big motivation to encourage all staff to work hard.
“I would like to send you the link to Tripadvisor.com [removed link]
“With Booking.com, you just log in and leave your review there”
There were, of course, other pleasantries within the email too but it didn’t sit well with me at all. While of course, I understand the value of good reviews, I think it’s very cheeky to ask for them in this manner. Particularly suggesting that we give a positive one and that this was never brought up in person during our stay. So while the hotel was grand overall, this was unnecessary. I have raised this with the manager of the hotel suggesting not to do this in the future and he came back to me (March 2019) and agreed and said that they would reconsider this which I was delighted to hear. Here’s hoping that they follow through with that.
Pu Luong Eco Garden
Bang Village, Pu Luong (in the middle of nowhere)
This resort hasn’t been open very long at all and so it’s still in the process of being constructed (the reception area was being built while we were there!) however there were a lot of good things going on with this hotel.
We stayed here as part of a trekking package and so our transportation to and from the resort was organised in advance, which is a must as it’s in the middle of nowhere. It takes about 5 hours to get there from Hanoi, but the views and remoteness make it worth it.
There were three types of rooms that you get – the ultra-luxurious, which are like hotel rooms, then dormitory room and homestay-type rooms on a stilt house which we were in. We had a double and a single bed which had mosquito nets above them which were definitely needed because the mozzies were out in full force at night. The rooms were relatively dark even with the lights on and had two windows one with glass and another with none – which you must be really careful about (though this is something that’s traditional in the stilt traditional houses). We also had to share toilets and bathrooms whereas those in the fancier rooms had their own ensuites. As we were on tour, we didn’t get a choice in our rooms.
Because we were so high up in the mountains the humidity made the atmosphere quite damp which means that nothing really dries. The beds were very comfortable but not warm because of this. This means that even towels stay damp, so much so that they actually transported fresh towels from Hanoi for tourists (that’s a 5-hour journey for towels!).
The food in the restaurant was fantastic which we were surprised about considering we were essentially in the middle of nowhere just make sure that your chicken is fully cooked – this was a general thing we found a lot about the chicken legs in Vietnam.
One of the biggest draws was the infinity pool which looked out onto the incredible mountain ranges in the area. Magical (though a bit cold).
Personally, there was just one major thing that put me off – using the word “eco” in the title. Eco suggests that there is something environmentally conscious about the establishment or product, but I didn’t get that from the resort. Like I said, the towels were transported from Hanoi and the toiletries in the room were wrapped in plastic. “Eco” has turned into a buzz word for companies to use to attract people but there should be responsibilities that come with it too. I really hope that they decide to do something about it so it can have a sustainable story behind the resort.
Based in the tourist town of Tam Coc, we also came here as part of a motorbike tour (more on that in the future). It was about 5 minutes from the centre of the town which we appreciated because while the town was buzzing, there was a fair amount of noise from the dining and the karaoke.
The homestay is family run and very different to other homestays we’ve experienced in Vietnam. Usually, we’ve ended up in traditional tilted houses which are very simple and basic, but this felt more like a mini-resort. Each resident had their own bungalow and ensuite and we also had a deck area outside which overlooked the river.
You could choose to either have your breakfast and dinner at the homestay as well or just take a stroll into the town (you can also hire bikes). While the owners’ English isn’t great, they’re still very, very friendly and with a bit of patience, Google Translate and gesturing they made a massive effort to accommodate our needs.
Even though we had our own bungalow I would have preferred if we still had mosquito nets. I get bitten a lot when on holidays and though I loved the fact that we had two entrances to the building, this meant that the mozzies were able to come in easily and I had no protection, so I felt very conscious about opening the doors.
Also, we felt that the bathroom was built in a very strange way where you had the toilet at one end, followed by the open shower then the sink. This meant if you had a shower you wet the entire floor so if you wanted to go to the toilet, you’d have to get through the water first. I think some better draining system or a non-slip mat would be much safer.
We really liked the location but would recommend eating away from the homestay as the food was alright. It was a nice spot and the people were lovely, just don’t think we’d stay there again.
Have you been to Vietnam? Where were you thinking of staying? Don’t forget to check out all of Vietnam archives on the blog some tips and reviews of everywhere we’ve been and if you like what you see, please feel free to share this post!