Specifically Ho Chi Minh City.
The first hotel since relocating was a bad experience. It was extremely uncomfortable. I was taking a course at the time and needed some sort of desk and there was none. The beds were horrible, and it was loud. I first tried moving rooms to get a window. It overlooked the alley, but I cut my head on some metal holding the air-conditioning unit. After my iPad was stolen from my room I knew it was time to go. Even though the location was close to school, it was inconvenient. I moved to a hotel in the Phu Nhuan district that had extremely nice accommodations. It was more a month than what I pay for my apartment now, but it had a pool and a terrace. It was surrounded by good and cheap food. It was also less chaotic. It was worth the $400 USD for 6 weeks.
Once I returned from my motorbike tour of the central highlands, I found myself in HCMC quite often. After finding a teaching position, I needed to get my affairs in order to live here for a length of time. I would find myself going to and from HCMC on almost daily basis. There have been times that I’ve spent an overnight, due to the lack of entertainment in the town I currently live.
Hotels of all sorts are everywhere. There isn’t a street you walk down that doesn’t contain some type of lodging. There are all types of accommodations to fit one’s needs and desires. Since traveling in Asia in 2015, I have been a fan of Agoda. Like BookingDotCom it lists all available rooms. The more you use it they give discounts and coupons. It’s good to see what hotels have available and a lot of the times there are major discounts. I remember the first hotel I ever stayed in, with my ex, during our Asia tour. It was sandwiched between two other hotels. The building was thin in width and had about 6 floors. The only window was between the bathroom and bedroom. It was quite closed in, with wallpaper showing a forest and a small spring. We ate breakfast on the roof overlooking the busy street and discolored tin roofs. A lot of hotels are like this.
When finding accommodations online, you should do it with an expectation that you may walk into a place that looks nothing like it’s posted photos. Read the reviews, but I don’t think those can be trusted, especially if they are posted by an American. I find that Americans and other westerners in general have grand expectations and are simply surprised so they rate the place low. For example, I recently stayed three nights in a Japanese style capsule. It was located on the edge of the backpacker area in District one. It was a glorified dorm with screens that came down to individualize the pods. The review said it was loud and smelled. People smell, especially, when you get about twenty bodies into one area. They also rented towels so I am sure some budget travelers were choosing to spend money on beer over hygiene.
As far as being loud, it was in the backpacker area, where it is full of restaurants, bars and clubs. It’s just not going to be quiet. The only thing in the review I agreed with was the hardness of the bunk. The mattress was about two inches thick but mushed down with wear. I basically slept on metal. I asked for an extra duvet to sleep on, just a little extra cushion. For $17USD for three nights and the location, it suited its purpose. I stayed in a different capsule hotel once before. It was trash. What I had walked into was not in the photos at all. So, you have to be careful.
There was a hotel I found just outside of the backpacker area I thought was a nice little gem. The night I arrived was like a story. It was raining heavily that night. The car had no access to the alley, so I had to wander a bit before finding my destination. I took the elevator to the 5thfloor and walked into the first hotel room I had in the city that not just had a window, but it had a view over some rooftop gardens. Yeah. It was spacious and it was clean. I ordered some BBQ using Vietnammm.com and watched as the lightening showed off for about four hours. How did I get so lucky?
Later that night, I went to the little market to grab some beer and met a few fellow Texans. They had been living in the area for a few years at this point and the market was like their little club house. We chatted for a while. They insisted that my living in Binh Duong wasn’t living in Vietnam. Sometimes I think that is true. That stay in the alley was just so romantic to me, especially being outside of the touristy area and winding through alley ways. There was something comforting being enrapt in the city in that way. I enjoyed the accommodation and experience. I continued to book nights there. The next occasion of an overnight in Saigon I stayed across the hall and this room had windows on three of the walls and a balcony. I was beginning to geek out on this place until it was time to take a shower. It was a bucket shower. Not really a problem, but the facilities I was experiencing were beginning to get worse.
The last booking I made at Happy Homes required me to walk 6 flights to my room. I had a window, but no functioning way to bathe. I had to use a tea cup and daintily pour water gathered from the sink. I haven’t been back there since. At one point I was actually thinking of making it my regular weekend retreat. Oh well.
September 2nd is Independence Day in Vietnam. It fell on a weekend and just in the way that I could spend a few nights in HCMC. I booked a hotel that I would see from the bus traveling to and fro. It included a breakfast, always a plus. It had a window that had a sliver of a view of the park across the street from the hotel. A block away was Bui Vien walking street, the backpacker area. It was a quiet room with two double beds pushed together, but individually made up. There was orange Fanta in the refrigerator which gives this place a high score in my book. Anyway, HCMC quirkiness continues with this facility.
When I arrived, I had to lug a fairly heavy overnight bag up a flight of stairs before entering the hotel. It was only heavy because it was actually two bags, one including my laptop and some books. Once I had my key the “bellboy” took my bag and showed me to the elevator. He pushed the fifth floor, but my key had a number for the fourth floor. I pushed four and then he explained that we have to go to the fifth floor, walk up to the sixth floor and then walk down to the fourth floor. WTF?! Sure enough. We got to the fifth floor and then walked up a thin stairwell to the sixth floor. From there we walked down a hallway into a garden. We walked across the rooftop garden to basically another building and walked down another thin stairwell to the fourth floor. There is always something funky about places here. I had to retrace my steps each time leaving my room because I don’t know where the nearest stairwell would’ve taken me.
I would say, that staying in HCMC is a unique experience. Booking a room online is easy enough, but it does need some due diligence on your part or you only have yourself to blame. Read the reviews, a lot of reviews. Don’t expect the pictures to tell you any kind of truth. Location might be important for you, but consider the fact that transportation is very cheap. If noise is a factor then stay away from Bui Vien or pack earplugs. The price range is so varied you are bound to find something you like within any kind of budget. Having paid $140USD for a mediocre room in a Holiday Inn in Austin, I realize that the same price could afford extreme luxury here. At $50USD you can get a great room at the Pullman. Vietnam is definitely a country that has a surprise a second.