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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:

Posted in Nha Trang, Vietnam | Tagged: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Paradise

Posted by Heliocentrism on May 20, 2009

May 19-27, 2008

All Pictures

Morning at Paradise Beach Resort

Reservations for one

For the first time ever, I planned ahead before going to Nha Trang. I looked online for a nice place to relax for a couple weeks and found it in Paradise Beach Resort in Doc Let. Then I made, dear I say it… reservations. I sent an email with my expected date and time of arrival.

This will most  likely never happen again. So take pictures now.

me and my bungalow

While traveling in Vietnam, I had heard stories of tourists who got into cabs and asked to be taken to Hotel A only to be told that either Hotel A is closed, Hotel B is better, or they are taken to Hotel B and told by the driver that it is Hotel A. The cab driver usually gets a commission from Hotel B to drop off naïve tourists.

You should travel with a picture of your hotel and its address if you have made reservations.

The Market in Doc Let

I knew that by the time my train pulled into the Nha Trang station I would have been on the train for over 24 hours and I would be in no mood to deal with dishonest or pushy cabbies. So in my email I asked the resort owner to have a taxi there waiting for me. Because of the low price of the lodging I knew that the taxi would not be free. The guy that was called had a deal with the hotel and charged me a flat rate of $20 for the hour-long drive to the resort.

Other guests who got their own taxis ended up paying two or three times what I paid. One cab driver who said he knew where the resort was got “lost” and demanded an unreasonable amount of money as a “getting lost” fee. The driver’s logic was that the place was so hard to find that he should be compensated for the extra time and gas he took locating the place. This would have been alright, if the driver had not stated at the beginning of the trip that he knew exactly where Paradise beach resort was and because of that statement he was chosen over other drivers.

Paradise Beach Resort, Vietnam

I still don’t want any pineapples!

When I got off the train, there were vendors galore! About twelve people tried to talk me into buying a pineapple before I made my way to the pushy cab drivers. Many of them tried to carry my backpack for me. I was successfully ignoring most of them when I saw a lonely looking man in the distance standing next to his van as if he were being punished by his grade school teacher. He was half-heartily holding up the most wonderful sign I had ever seen. It said, “Josie — Paradise”.

Enjoying the sunrise

Guest 1: And What did you do today?

Guest 2: Nothing.

Paradise was a great place because there was nothing to do; absolutely nothing to do. There was free internet there, but it seldom worked and it was really slow when it did. The resort was never crowded during my stay. When I first arrived there were five guests, including me. My days were spent eating, swimming, reading, and sleeping.

My day would start around 6 am. I would just lie in bed, then go for a swim. Sometimes I would wake up earlier to watch the sunrise. After swimming, I would go to the main building for breakfast. By 7:30 am, I would be full and would have met everyone staying at the resort. Everyone seemed to wake up early there. At breakfast, we would talk about traveling, the best spots at the resort for a nap, and how great it was to be there and not at an office or in school.

I would take a nap after breakfast, then read a bit and go swimming before lunch. All of this was done without the aid of a watch. The teenaged girls who worked there, walked around the resort at meal times, calling everyone to eat. After a while I stop caring about the time.

boating in Doc Let

In the evenings everyone would have dinner together. Since there was no TV to watch and nothing to do, we would all sit in the main hall after dinner and just talk. We would talk into the wee hours of the night, like 8 pm, and then head off to our beds.

I met all sorts of fun and interesting people there. I ended up traveling with 3 of them to Ho Chi Minh City. There was nothing eventful that happened while I was there, except for the day the Russians showed up, the two snorkeling trips, and the two times I went to the market with the owner.

When the Russians came everyone got blazing drunk and all the Russian women went on and on about how beautiful I was. I liked them! They kept wanting to buy me things, but there was nothing to buy. “If we were in Russia I would buy you a (insert Russian thing here) and you would like it so much.” “If we were in Moscow I would take you to “insert Russian restaurant here” and you could eat “insert Russian food here” until your head exploded.”

They only stayed for one chaotic and noisy day. Like a harmless storm they swept in, caused quite a stir, and swept out. Then the resort when back to being laid back and quite. For the next few days conversations started with, “You know Ivan said to me?” or “You know what Anya did once?” After about a week the Russians were forgotten.

…Oh, and the meals there were great. If you go there, try the salad. I would have stayed there for the salad alone! Everyone eats together, like one big or small family depending on how many people are there. There was always salad, a main dish or two, and fruit for dessert. Sometimes there was soup and once there was banana cake.

I left Paradise totally relax and unable to cope with the real world. It was hard to use a watch again.

All Pictures.


 

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.

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 airport either in your country or in Vietnam. 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 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.

Paradise Resort

How to get there:

  • 12°34’01.0″N 109°13’59.1″E
  • Go to Nha Trang, either to the train station or the airport and take a taxi from there.
  • It’s best to call the resort and have them reserve a taxi for you.
  • If you don’t, just know that the ride should cost about 20USD more or less. (about 15USD if you are going by motorbike.)

There is a bus, but I don’t have any information about that. (If you have information about the bus, please leave a comment.)

Cost:

The depends on the room. The one I had was 20USD per night for single; 15USD per person per night for double, and that was in 2008. The 20USD, or what ever rate you pay for your room, covers 3 meals a day.

Phone:

  • 084-58-670480

Website:

e-mail: paradise_doclech@hotmail.com

Notes:

  • Paradise is in the town of Doc Let, which is near Nha Trang. It takes one or so hours to drive to Doc Let from Nha Trang.
  • There is nothing to do here. The website advertises “internet services” but there really isn’t any. There is a slow dial-up connection in the owner’s office and if you ask nicely he’ll let you use it. But it’s not good for anything more than sending a quick email to family and friends to say you’re still alive.
  • Don’t expect to get any surfing done at the resort. There is an internet cafe within walking distance. But, keep in mind that on a really hot Vietnamese day, nothing is really within walking distance.
  • There are no TVs.
  • You can wash your clothes by hand or for a small fee you can pay one of the ladies to wash your clothes for you. They will do it by hand.
  • If you want to go into town (Doc Let), the owner will gladly give you a lift for free. He drives into town just about everyday in his WWII era jeep. Just be ready to leave when he’s ready and to head back to the resort when he heads back. If not, you can pay someone with a motorbike to take you to the resort. There’s always someone willing to make a quick buck, umm dong.
  • Bring some books and lots of sunblock.

Map:

Click here for Google maps

Posted in Doc Let, Nha Trang, Vietnam | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

 
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