Places I Stayed, and Didn’t, in Hanoi, and Saigon

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I have a friend I meet for lunch once a month in Vancouver.  When we met in Sept. she told me she was going to be in Hanoi in Feb. so we decided we would meet for lunch. She sent me her dates and told me she would be staying in the Old Quarter.  I would be meeting her during Tet – the big Lunar New Year festival in Vietnam, so I thought I better book my hostel  early.  I usually just show up, or book something one or two days ahead.  I booked a hostel, but arrived in Hanoi  early, so decided to stay somewhere else for a few days. I stayed at A Dong Hotel – lovely place, great staff, in the heart of the old city.  It was very cold when I arrived so the manager got a heater for my room for me.  Wifi worked very well here.  I found my friend’s hotel and to my surprise, the hostel I had booked was right next door.  On the day I was to move I went to      hostel, I took one look at the room and left.  For the first time on this trip I was shown a dirty room.  When I went to meet my friend I went to the hotel next door to this hostel, but she was at another hotel, with the same name, two blocks away.  I found another place to stay  Fantasea Hotel that was lovely and clean.  Wifi worked well. My room was on the 5th floor – and no elevator, so I got my exercise every day. The staff there were also great.   I was disappointed when I went to leave, I had booked a taxi to the airport – every tour place advertises it for $11.  I had told them I wanted to book the $11 taxi, but that morning it became $15, and then because it was their New Years Day it was suddenly $20.  I refused to pay that amount – and agreed to pay $15 – but was not happy about it.  There was no traffic at all, so I could not understand the higher rate.  Ongoing scams in Vietnam were starting to bother me.  I booked a hotel along the river in Ho Chi Minh as I thought it would be interesting.  It was, but the river was just floating garbage, and something about the area did not feel right, so I only stayed 2 nights at  Nguo Tung Hotel.    It was a nice enough hotel, but when I went to check out they tried to shortchange me.  Moved to the funky backpacker area and stayed a few days at  Thien Hong Hostel.     It was basic, but clean and cheap.  Hostels in Asia have been cleaner and cheaper than Central America.  Some of you have asked me the difference between a hostel room and a hotel room.  Since I always book a private room with private bath – there is no difference at all in my room.  Hostel rooms are pretty basic.  The big difference is most hostels have dorms where 4 – 20 people share a room, and most have a big common area to share and meet others.  Many hostels offer breakfast included in their rate.  Paying more would not have given me anything more I needed – and I would estimate my rooms have cost me an average of less than $15 U.S/ night.

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