Travel-Vietnam : Hotel vs Hostel.

Country: Vietnam

Hotel or Hostel? What do you think?

HOTEL:
 
As mentioned on our freshest snippets (blogged on the travel day itself), the first time, we landed in Ho Chi Minh, I ended up in a hotel (the passport retention incident) before heading to a hostel. I wanted to note the disparity of comfort and prices in comparison to both hotels and hostels.
The hotel was a 3-star hotel named Kingston hotel. I booked the accommodation thru Agoda.com. The rates was about $30 USD per day. I do not stick to one search/travel engine page. I roamed about as I pleased like my “fickle” travelling feet. (Whatever that seems reasonable and coincide well with my heart, I just booked it.).
It took us less than 30 minutes by cab to this hotel. Fare by meter was about $110.000-120.000 dongs (one hundred and twenty thousand, I placed the full stop cos that was what shown on the currency notes. I was confused at first)
Note:The hotel staff will tell you that the price range from airport to Kingston Hotel is about $150.000- $160.000. Ensure that the metre is up and running before you proceed sitting in the cab. And also beware, whenever the cabbies  said that you have to pay extra for “I- dunno-what taxes”, we did not take heed. First time, as a newbie, we did pay. And then when we realised that the “taxes requested varied” accordingly to different drivers, and so we decided not to pay any more so-called “Taxes” to and fro airport or wherever.
I loved the location and its quiet vicinity. Its just 5-10minutes stroll to the popular Ben Thanh Market.
Okay, everything was done online. Payment and requests were completed even before we touched down. We arrived late night and so we did requested for late check-in. We read the rules and regulations by the Hotel Management. One unique rule was that, marriage certification is a necessity. And passport might be retained by the Management  for safe-keeping (I read this too late..only after the tug of war with the staff and my passport).
 
Tip: Please always carry 1-2 photocopied version of your passport everywhere you travel. That is a must rule.
My face showed element of frustration and restlessness due to the passport incident. There was a piano at the lobby. Bryan was trying to lighten up the whole situation by showcasing his pianist talent. I was expecting someone to storm down and grab us by our necks for making such a din in the middle of the night (*lol) but we were enjoying ourselves with the rustic un-tuned piano.
The buffy door men were very polite and “helpful”. They took my lightweight backpacks and Bryan’s suitcase in the hotel from the trunk of the cab but not up to our rooms.
We went up to look at the rooms after check-in. The lift was very small. It might be claustrophobic for some. Reached the eight level. Red carpets lead to our rooms. Upon opening the door with the electronic card, Wa-La!

The door revealed a spacious room with a king-sized bed. There was a lot of space (for prayers and such). The bathroom too was quite spacious with clean showers and flushing toilet. Complimentary mini toiletries such as toothbrushes, shampoo, combs, ear buds  and liquid body soap were also provided.
Very comfy bed like Dunlopillo with plushy pillows.
Overall:
Breakfast is a daily inclusive in the hotel rates. They did not even check how many people per room entered for breakfast. As to whether it’s Halal or not, it’s NOT. So eat according to the level of your faith (iman-if in doubt, its best to avoid them).

But this hotel has many visitors from Malaysia. So I believed they are quite aware of our Halal stringent diet. Cos I watched these Malaysians left in busloads day after day. I did communicate with some of them as well.

So, if unsure about the authenticity of the food origins and its ingredients, please ask. The staff were very conversant in English language. For me, I did not get the chance to try their daily breakfast. Because I’m always on my feet in search of the local street food. My tongue prefers that type of food rather than hotel’s food version.
No extra amenities such as swimming pool. But they do have spas/massage centre. But I reckon, if you are more adventurous like us, you can even get a $60.000 Dongs massage on the street spas/parlour for an hour (Bryan is good at finding such crazy deals!!).
My take: 4 love out of 5. (Good service, very clean, friendly/accommodating staff and efficient)
Location: 4 love out of 5 as well. It’s a walking distance to major shopping streets, Halal food is just around the corner, Malaysian street is just 15 minutes away, daily night market is just beside Ben Thanh Market (5-10minutes away).
Price: $30 USD per night (the price is right for me)
Safety: 4.5 love out of 5.

HOTEL :
Kingston Hotel
52-54
Thu Khoa Huan St, District 1
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
Tel: 848 38 245588 | Fax: 848 38 245577

 

 

 HOSTEL:
I booked this hostel thru Hostel World . I noted that they also have many impressive reviews from visitors around the world in Trip Advisor (one of my favourite source for accommodation reviews)

As mentioned, whenever I booked accommodations online, while gauging the money in my pocket, I also take note of my intuition. If it goes well with my heart, it’s ok with me. Sometimes the images shown online may not be as good as in reality and so, therefore I feel that gut feeling and intuition is a necessity. So far this method has served me well, Alhamdulillah.

We reached Pham Ngu Lao area nearing midnight. We circled the so-called location umpteen times but still cannot find the location of the hostel. We also passed by a group of locals again and again, almost disoriented. Fatigue was slowly weighing me down.

One lady came to us and warned us to be careful of our belongings (especially me because I was holding out my I-pad and my half-opened sling bag) unaware of the possible dangerous consequences.

We met her again twice, cos we were indeed lost. She then showed us the right way …walked us to the mini lane and gestured to us to follow that particular lane. I hugged her like a sister in gratitude. We did not even communicate in English at all. Her body language spelt her unconditional love for strangers like us.

When we finally went thru the dimly-lit mini lanes, winding pavements and split end corners … eventually we saw the 4 storey building. There were 2 buildings with VY Khanh signage. One was the office and the other was the real hostel. Their curfew was 2230 hours whereby the doors and the grilled gates will be closed for additional security. We need to press the bell for the door to be opened from the inside by the caretaker. But no worries, we were allowed to come and go as we please, even in the late hours of the night or mornings (some inconveniences to the sleeping caretaker with a kid)

They have a very small “lobby”. We have to undress our shoes to enter the building. Leave those expensive leathered pump shoes in their shoe cabinet on level one. Then proceed to climb the narrow staircase up to our 3rd storey rooms. Upon using the manual key, I unlocked the white door and revealed the nice and comfy room.

Very clean, not as spacious as Kingston hotel but good enough for 1-2 people. The bathroom was very spacious with shower and flushing toilet. Again, its quite clean. For sure, it will pass with flying colours for Singaporean standards.

The queen bed with 2 pillows were  comfy for me. And they do daily house keeping which includes daily change of bed sheets and blankets.

Chilled bottled mineral waters are aplenty in the mini fridge with price tags cheaper than the outside stalls. The slim TV was wall mounted but I did not remember switching it on, at all. The room was air-conditioned .

Once, the aircon kinda leaked and water splashed on the electrical gadgets. The laptop kinda get cranky after that. *sigh  Luckily, they rectify the defect almost immediately. (Cos in the day, it was very humid and hot but night, it was quite cooling)

But overall, it was a good experience. I like the room. Very homely feel and comfy. Cleanliness is their top priority which I like. There was a mini cupboard to hang the clothes. A small table and chair. Everything was perfect for my stay there.

The location was somewhat like a little bustling town. Everything there was cheaper than at Ben Thanh area. But of course, you need to survey the prices thru various shops. There was even a $60.000 dongs massage and $3USD hair cut.

We went for a night stroll to learn more about the locals and its night life. Pham Ngu Lao was packed with backpacker hostels and guesthouses. So there were many travellers from all walks of life especially from the Western world. And there were myriad kinds of street food carts passing us by.

There were also many bars whereby young Vietnamese ladies  dressed scantily to attract passers-by (I loved their smooth flawless complexions and slender figures). I did not noticed until Bryan nudged me to watch this very young lady (probably aged 11-14 years old, I didn’t even know whether its legal for her to be there) mingling with men who can even be her grandfather. I got slightly nauseated after that.

We moved on…

Saigon beers were everywhere. We sat down on those tiny stools to breathe in the local air and listen to the midnight chatters. The bottled beer cost about $13.000 dongs..cheaper than a can of coke ($20.000 dongs=$1USD).

We sat amongst the crowd. As if awaiting for some kind of parade to waltz us by. Many push carts of night snacks, knick knacks, local food, balloons and many more, pass us by. I was excited. I was really soaking in the colourful sights and sounds like a kid, all over again.

Then suddenly, I noticed this young lady shouting out pretzels and selling German sausage to us, crowd. I was like what? German sausage in HCMC? (of course not Halal).

I noticed that she was wearing a white high-cut Converse canvas shoes (my favourite school shoe brand), I was watching her intensely. Her boss, a German looking man was busy tending the pretzel pushcart just opposite the art gallery shop.(There seems to be an art conspiracy theory-the paintings looked so good to be true, almost as they were “alive” but we caught 2 similar paintings in an art shop cum foot spa (?!).We realised that there could be templates for all these paintings thus eliminate the originality of natural creativity… *sigh)

Later the next day (without knowing the coincidence of meeting the night before) , she sat beside me while Bryan was playing the local sport called đá cầu at a nearby park. We chatted and I realised she was an artist. She brought along a drawing book with soft crayons. She was doodling gorgeous paintings in her book. She even drew Bryan’s face in just mere minutes.
(thanks Kim n Sis, u guys are pretty awesome!)

She came to the park with her sister and then all for us went out for dinner and local dessert. It was really inspirational to share creative ideas and be in the same room with like-minded creative people. There was a moment when, she was drawing, I was writing and Bryan was photo taking at the same time, in the same room. All three of us were so engrossed in our passion, in our own inspirational moment. Geniuses at work.. I guess *lol (Kim and Sis- miss u both!)

Anyway back to the topic…

Overall verdict of the Hostel: 4.2 love out of 5.
Love the accommodating, friendly staff and owners. They make us felt so at home.

Price tag? $13USD per night (very affordable for me) and Vy helped us to plan our days with the most economical tour and travel prices (We did compare Kingston’s hotel prices of tours and travels as well, it was a huge WHOPPING difference!)

Cleanliness -very good. 4.3 love out of 5. Overall I realised the locals are very hygiene oriented.
But I cannot withstand the men peeing in front of me… on the streets, onto the trees (I do know that’s a good fertiliser *roll eyes)

3.9 love out of 5 for location. As much as I love the bustling atmosphere. I rather be in Ben Thanh area  (Kingston Hotel above) because its much easier to find legit Halal food there (in Ben Thanh area , there was a whole stretch of Halal food in Malaysian street).

But I don’t mind coming back here. The little lanes were so intriguing. You can get lost and be happy about it because one can always find some bizarre street food and stuff. I just love that, it’s like a big maze full of surprises!

Security? In-house was 4.5 love out of 5. We left our expensive and bulky electronic gadgets like laptop in our rooms when we went roaming about. And everything was where it was, untouched even though the staff did their daily housekeeping. So security inside the hostel was tiptop.

As for outside security, it was ok. Nothing fancy happened to us only bad fare “extortions” from cabbies and motor bikers/renters.

If compared Pham Ngu Lao area with Kingston Hotel area (near Ben Thanh market)…its much safer to be in Ben Thanh area, more serene and quiet.

But as mentioned in previous post, I did walk from Kingston Hotel to Vy Khanh  hostel area around 2am. And it was indeed safe. I did see homeless and drunkards sleeping on the streets and all kinds of stuff. But no one tried anything funny. Alhamdulillah.

But, I would not recommend it to anyone… it was a great experience to walk alone to soak in the solitude of the early morning. A time to be on your own. But again, when travelling, your instincts, guts and intuition are your bestest friends. Be aware.

Outside security? 3.9 love out of 5.

HOSTEL:

Vy Khanh Hostel/Guesthouse
241/11/6  Pham Ngu Lao street,
District 1, Ho Chi Minh           
Vietnam

 Phone (+84) 0908343012 : Ms Vy

Directions given by them: Once on Pham Ngu Lao street, head for Liberty 4 Hotel- (on Pham Ngu Lao street), you will see (small) ALLEY 241 situated between Hotel Liberty 4 and Hotel Elios, take this alley go straight about 20 meters then TURN ON THE FIRST LEFT /facing an Indian restaurant, you will see Vy Khanh Hostel on the third house.