With Backpack

One World in One Lifetime

Hotel Hopping

Posted by Heliocentrism on June 15, 2017

Tuesday April 25 – May 1st, 2017

Finding Accommodations 

Mark is the one who works out the logistics of travel. He figures out how we get from point A to point B. He finds the hotels and books them. Before we left for Nha Trang he asked me which I valued more, cheap accommodations, clean accommodations, or being close to the beach. The more you have of one, the less you have of one or both of the other two.

I couldn’t decide which I wanted more. Clearly the more money we save, the longer we can travel. If we run out of money after a few months of traveling, we will have to stop and get jobs. So I really needed a cheap hotel.

But, I didn’t want to stay in a dump. I like being in a clean hotel. I don’t want to sleep on dirty sheets with questionable stains or odors. I hate moldy old bathrooms that leave be feeling more icky after taking a shower. The room doesn’t have to be fancy, but up to a normal level of clean.

On the other hand, Nha Trang beach was supposed to be one of the best beaches in Vietnam. It wouldn’t do to be so far from it that it was too much trouble to go see it. We did that in Hoi An. We never even set foot on any of Hoi An’s beaches and the regret of that weighed heavily on me.

“Let’s get the cheapest place near enough to the beach that we can still walk to the water,” I told him.

“Are you sure? You might not like it,” He warned.

“I probably won’t,” I agreed.

Then, Mark came up with the most ingenious plan. “Why don’t I just book 2 nights at one place? If we like it, I’ll extend our stay. If we don’t, we’ll just go somewhere else.”

That was the perfect plan. I didn’t (or couldn’t) see anything wrong with it.

Accommodation 1: The Grubby Hostel

This first place cost us 5USD per night per person. This included breakfast and a fresh towel each day. We checked the reviews and everyone loved it. It had something like a 4.8 out of 5 rating.

Normally I am a bit suspicious of 5 dollar hostels, but we stayed in a really nice one in Hanoi that cost $6 per night with similar amenities. It too, had very good reviews. So, we thought, this place would be nice too. The problems I anticipated were related to its distance to the beach. It claimed to be a 10 minute walk to the sand, but thinking about our hotels in Da Nang I wondered, “How far is it really?”

Our train got to Nha Trang 2 hours late. By the time we checked in and got to the room all our roommates were fast asleep. We couldn’t find the locker that is practically standard with many hostels. Not wanting to wake anyone up, we just put our packs on the floor and climbed into bed. We would sort everything out in the morning.

The military school next door

At 4:30 in the morning I dreamed that I was being chased by a trumpet. I couldn’t get away from the possessed instrument. I ran as fast as I could, but it just played louder and louder. Then I woke up. The trumpet was real.

It wasn’t being played very well. “Who is practicing music this early in the morning?” I wondered as I tried to will myself back to sleep. It was still dark out. I hadn’t slept much that night. My bed was very squeaky. Every move I made caused the bed to make noise. Whenever I changed positions the noise woke me up. And just as I got so tired I could sleep through the squeaking, I was woken up by Reveille.

Once the sun and most of my roommates were up I got out of bed to check out the room. The dorm room was packed with too many bunk beds. The room could have fit 2 or maybe 3 bunks nicely, but it had 4. This left very little floors space. My roommates kept their packs on what little floor we had…

Because, the lockers were tiny. It was a set of eight 1X1X1ft3 lockers, the size you would find at an overly crowded high school. You could not fit your whole pack in these lockers. Everyone had to choose their most important items and hopefully they were less than 1 cubic feet.

The window was a reasonable size had this been a bedroom for one. But it was way too small for 8 backpackers with damp towels and wet swim suits to air out. This left a permanent musty smell in the air.

I hung my head down from my top bunk bed to see what Mark was doing below. He was already online looking for the next place. He motioned me to come down and join him in his bunk. I sat next to him, pressing my hand on the wall to stop the bed from squeaking. “This was the highest rated hostel in the area,” he told me. “I think we should try a hotel next.” I agreed.

We went upstairs for breakfast. Every hotel and hostel does breakfast a little differently. Some places do things buffet style. In others, you have to choose one or two dishes. We stood in front of the food waiting for a staff member to tell us what we should do. We asked a lady who looked like she worked there.

“You have to pay 2 dollars,” she told us and waited for the payment.

“I thought breakfast was included,” I said.

“Not for the first day,” she explained. “Tomorrow it will be free. Today you must pay.” She put her hand out for the cash.

“But, what if I only stay one night?” I asked. This set up made no sense to me. “Then breakfast would not be included at all.”

The lady shrugged and continued to demand money. Then her coworker overhearing the conversation came over. She asked, “When did you check in?”

“Last night around 11pm,” I told her.

“Breakfast is included,” the coworker told the first lady. Then she turned to Mark and me, “Just eat what you want. It’s a buffet.” Then she motioned for us to get plates and eat.

The first lady apologized. “I didn’t know you checked in last night,” she said with a phony smile.

It turned out that the beach was, in fact, a 10-minute stroll from the hostel. We spent most of the day there. It was a very nice beach; crowded, but very nice. Many vendors peddled their wares along the shore. You didn’t have to leave the sand to buy food or water. Hell, you could buy sunglasses from right in the water!

The next day, I talked to the lady who saved me from getting scammed.

“Are you checking out today?” she asked me.

“Yes,” I told her.

She looked at me a little dreamy-like and asked, “Where are you going next?” She seemed to live vicariously through the backpackers.

Without thinking I blurted out, “Oh, I’m not going anywhere. I’m staying in Nha Trang.” As soon as the words were out, I realized how it sounded. “I just wanted a place closer to the beach.”

This was non-sense and she knew it. The beach was not that far from the hostel. She sighed. “I understand. Too many backpackers…” She shook her head. “Most of them like here for cheap drinks. They don’t care about noise. They make so much noise… and they don’t care about cleaning…”

The hostel did run a bar from 6 to 10:30PM. It was also next to many other bars. They specialized in a bucket cocktail which was very cheap and could be shared with many friends. This meant that there was always someone left to finish an only partially consumed bucket. That person would usually wake up in an alleyway the next morning not remembering the night before.

Accommodation 2: Decent Hotel

At the hostel we paid 5 USD per night per person or $10 a night. The next place, a hotel, cost $20 per night. We were living it up for the next two days! The new place came with a pool, but we still swam mostly at the beach. And best of all, there were no military schools anywhere near the hotel.

We did have the cheapest two person room in the hotel. This afforded us with a great view off the fanciest hotels with a view of the beach. We could look at their guests looking at the beach and it was amazing.

The story could have ended here. Mark went online to book more days, but there were no rooms available. Thinking that something must be wrong he went to the reception to sort things out. He came back dejected.

“Well,” he explained, “this room is available for the weekend.”

“That’s good,” I smiled.

“It will cost $75 per night.”

“That’s bad,” I hissed.

We didn’t know it at the time, but that weekend was a big holiday. All we knew was that all the hotels in town were sold out. Nothing in our price range was available. Everything a few steps above our price range was taken. Rooms several steps above that were all gone. All that was left were rooms that cost a several hundreds US dollars a night. That was out of the question.

Accommodation 3: Fancy Hotel Away From Downtown

There was one option left to us. If we took a taxi and went a little outside the downtown area, there were a few more hotels to choose from. It’s still Nha Trang, just a 20 minute cab ride away. Mark found us the cheapest room in a fancy hotel; a beach adjacent hotel. How long did it take to get to the beach? It was just across the street.

Is it raining outside? I have no idea.

So what is the cheapest room in a fancy, beach side, non-downtown hotel like? It was $50 per night and had no windows. Yup, no windows. We were also on one of the higher floors, but it didn’t matter. We had no view.

If we did have a view it might have looked like this. This photo was taken on the third floor.

This beach here was even nicer than the one downtown.  It was quite similar, yet not as crowded. The hotel provided beach chairs, big shady umbrellas, and beach towels.

The hotel pool was really nice too. Oddly shaped, but half of the pool was always in the shade. (Guess who hates putting on sun-screen.)

The best part of the hotel though, was the amazing breakfast. It was a buffet that took up half of the second floor and it had everything. There was a bread station, a coffee and tea station, an egg station, a rice and noodles station, a cereal station, a juice station, a fruit station, and a dessert station. Did I leave anything out?

So, how did I like the different hotels?

I liked the mid-range hotel the best. If the hostel were clean and quiet I would have liked that one. I really like saving money, but not to the point of being too uncomfortable. The fancy hotel had the best amenities, but I did not like not having a window. It was difficult waking up. If we stayed there long enough, we would have had to start using an alarm.

Vietnamese food in Vietnam

RTW Trip Rule #2 When in Country A eat only Country A’s Food.

We’ve made some rules for ourselves. They help us to better enjoy our year of traveling. The first rule is to avoid, whenever possible, taking taxis to or from airports. This is a very good rule that saves us a lot of money.

The second deals with eating exotic foods. Just don’t do it. It always leads to disappointment. For example, when in Japan stick to Japanese food. Don’t fly all the way to Japan to eat in a French restaurant. French food in Japan is expensive and it won’t taste like real French food. Maybe if you go to a very expensive and posh restaurant they might serve authentic French food, but that’s beyond our budget. Besides, we can have French food when we get to France.

Sometimes there is a gross misunderstanding about what the food should taste like. Once in Busan, South Korea Mark and I went to a Mexican restaurant. There was a picture of “nachos” on the menu. It looked very delicious, so we ordered it. When our plate of “nachos” came it looked a little off. I tried it, picking up a chip, sliding it across the plate to get some cheese and toppings on it, and popped the chip in my mouth.

It was awful! What should have been cheese was honey mustard. These fools at the restaurant probably only saw a picture of nachos and assumed what the ingredients were. It was an all around huge mistake.

But still, the urge to have familiar food still pops up every now and then. Mark saw a menu for a place calling itself, “Pizza King”. It had photos of the pizzas it offered. I had to admit, the pizzas looked good. I was curious.

Sometimes, in Vietnam, the photos of dishes are found online, and are only a representation of the food you get. In a photo there is a lemon or a salad, but the dish comes with no lemon or salad. So, I wondered how close to the picture the actual pizza was.

We went inside and Mark ordered a sausage pizza with extra cheese. Below is the culinary abomination he was served.


Vietnam
(Việt Nam)

How to get there:

  • You can enter by plane, train, boat, or bus.
  • Make sure to get a visa before going to Vietnam. Although some nationals can get a visa at the border for a few days, many cannot or will need a visa for longer stays.
    • Visit the Vietnamese embassy in your country to get a visa.
    • Or you can apply for a visa online if you do not live near an embassy or consulate.
    • Remember if you enter Vietnam on a single entry visa then leave, you must wait 30 days before returning to Vietnam on another visa.

Phone:

Website:

Videos:

Notes:

  • Don’t worry if you cannot get Vietnamese dong from your local bank back home. You can get your dong at the bank in Vietnam. (DO NOT get money at the airport. You will never get a good rate. Use an ATM/bank.) Don’t get too much; no one will buy it back from you. Many hotels, fancy restaurants, and tour agents will take US dollars or Euros. Though who knows what exchange rate they will use? You will need dong for taxis, small shops, and local restaurants and vendors.
  • When you get to Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh pick up a map of the area from any hotel, hostel, travel agency, or tourist information center. Once you have one of those you’ll be able to find anything.
  • Having a map of the area in Hanoi is very important. Every block has a different street name so once you know the name of street something is on you can easily find it with a map.
  • Wherever you choose to stay, make sure you bring a picture and the address of the hotel. One common trick that taxi and motorbike-taxi drivers like to pull is to take you to the wrong hotel. When you say, “I asked for ABC Hotel!” They will tell you that the name changed. They usually get a commission for bringing tourist to certain hotels.
    • Sometimes hotels do change names. But most likely a hotel will not change names between the time of your booking accommodations and your arrival without telling you.
    • Also, asking the average Joe on the street for ABC hotel will do nothing. Locals don’t stay in hotels, so they don’t remember hotel names. But Mr. Joe will know where 123 Hanoi St. is.
  • Also for taxis, NEVER agree to a flat rate fee. The flat rate fee will always be way higher than it should be. Always demand that the cab driver use the meter. If he doesn’t want to use his meter, get out. Taxi drivers are a dime a dozen. This is true in most countries.
  • For motorbike taxis, settle on the cost of the ride before getting on. Ask fellow travelers for advice on how much a ride should cost.
  • Watch out for cyclo drivers that claim not to have change as a way to get more money out of you. If you need to, wait for one of those fruit vendors to come along and buy something from her to make change. You really should ask the cost to your destination and make sure you have exact change before you get in the cyclo. 
  • It’s best not to say anything bad about Ho Chi Minh while in Vietnam. He is still very much loved by his people.
  • There are companies that charge 10USD to take you from Hanoi to the airport. They are all around Hanoi. Use one of those instead of jumping into a random cab.

Map:

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3 Responses to “Hotel Hopping”

  1. dejahgatz said

    For the most part, I eat the local food. However, I do crave foods from back home once in awhile. Of course it is always hit or miss. I had a delicious burrito from a Mexican spot in Thailand. The nachos, on the other hand, were completely inedible.

    Like

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