Saturday, November 10, 2012

Where to Stay in Vietnam - Tran Ly Hotel in Hue and May de Ville Backpacker Hostel in Hanoi

Normally, I don't make hotel or hostel recommendations. I find it difficult because what may be acceptable for my backpacker standards may not be so for some travelers or even other backpackers. There are two exceptions, however. One, the hotel or hostel stay is sponsored, like my my short-term rental in Chiang Mai, Thailand, sponsored by the kind folks at Roomorama. Even then I make sure I stay completely honest about my review. Then, there's number two: the hotel or hostel is so exceptionally and remarkably good that I cannot help myself but rave about it. Hopefully, what little promotion I generate by writing this post will help them continue their business and good businesses need to continue.

Let me start by saying that in no way at all did the two properties I will be recommending sponsored my stay, asked me to write about them, nor offered me anything in exchange for recommending them. That out the way, here we go.

Tran Ly Hotel (Hue, Central Vietnam)

Hue was not my favorite of Vietnamese cities, no. Hue had a grand old imperial palace, which was impressive. Yet there was something about it that just didn't sit well with me. I visited during the winter season in Vietnam and I liked the cool temperature, yes, but the weather was gloomy and generally drizzly, not the sort of thing you want in your travels. What happened in the next few days did not help. I blame the cheap bowl of soup I ate at that street-side hole in wall and some rude backpackers I had the pleasure of bunking with the last few nights in the city.

The Culprit, Hue, Vietnam
The culprit of my stomach woes. Damn you, bowl of soup!

Maybe I had expected these things to happen coming from Hoi An, the prettiest little town in Southeast Asia, where I had a wonderful time exploring the quaint streets and getting to know new friends I met there. Maybe not. At any rate, it was a good thing that I found Tran Ly Hotel. It was the only redeeming factor of my stay in Hue.

Tran Ly Hotel, Best Budget Hotel in Hue, Vietnam
They even have them little soaps with their hotel's name on them.

I guess to put it succinctly, Tran Ly Hotel provides a number of things travelers need all at great value. Apparently, the folks at agree. Tran Ly Hotel has been named one of the top hotels in the site and has been given an award of excellence in 2011. Not surprised, actually. Tran Ly Hotel has little details about it which you, the traveler, will appreciate.

I should start with Tran Ly Hotel's rate for a private single room with a double bed and en-suite bathroom and toilet: 13 US dollars. Other amenities which went along with the rate are WiFi (very important for this digital nomad), Satellite TV, AC, and free breakfast from their breakfast menu. It was 3 dollars more than I usually spend but what they hey, that's good value. But again, it was the little things: the way they offered me a drink upon arrival; they way a staff immediately took my heavy backpacker backpack from my back to take up to my room; the way they offered me a reduced rate should I want to extend my stay; and, the way they offered to wash my dirty clothes for free. It's rare to encounter that good a value. So when passing by Hue (hopefully, not in the winter like me), do consider Tran Ly Hotel. Alright?

Tran Ly Hotel
78 Le Loi Street, Hue, Vietnam

May de Ville Backpackers Hostel (Hanoi, Vietnam)

Hanoi is one of my favorite big cities in Southeast Asia and that's rare as I am not a fan of big cities. Hanoi is an older, more historic, and tamer (just a little though) version of big and bustling Saigon. I have been to Hanoi twice and the city is one of the reasons I keep returning to Vietnam despite the statistics. That and one of my all-time favorite backpacker hostels in Southeast Asia, perhaps my favorite of all, is in Hanoi—May de Ville Backpackers Hostel.

May De Ville Backpackers Hostel, Hanoi, Vietnam
One of the private, mid-range rooms in May de Ville Backpacker Hostel
and yes, it's as clean and posh as it looks

There are many reasons for which I consider May de Ville Backpackers Hostel to be one of the best in Southeast Asia. And no, they most certainly did not ask me to write that. May de Ville Backpackers Hostel is the backpacker version of their parent company, May de Ville Hotel, one of the bigger and more posh hotels in Hanoi's old quarter, i.e., the tourist district. I think they wanted to retain some of that luxury and posh when they decided to build a backpacker hostel.

Let's enumerate, shall we? For a bed in a six-bed dorm with en-suite toilet and bathroom in May de Ville Backpackers Hostel, you pay 6 US dollars (7.5 to 8 US dollars in the high season, which is winter). The dorm room is not as spacious as one could hope, which can be said for the toilet and bathroom, too, separated only from the rest of the room with floor-to-ceiling frosted glass, but that's all fine, really. The bed itself is spacious and there are lockable cabinets for your big backpacks. And you wouldn't really want to hang out in the rooms anyway, especially when there's an entertainment room waiting for you at the second floor! I should say rooms really because there are two. One room has a cable TV and a pool table and the other room, a very spacious room, has a big-ass TV complete with movie-viewing equipment (DVDs, HDs, surround-sound speakers, etc.) and a long-ass couch and bean bags. That's too much luxury for a backpacker, if you ask me.

May De Ville Backpackers Hostel, Hanoi, Vietnam
On some days, I just stayed in. Damn these creature comforts!

Then, there's the breakfast. Oh the breakfast in May de Ville Backpacker Hostel is legendary in the backpacker circles that have passed through Hanoi. Breakfasts which come free with your hotel stay is a thing in Vietnam and boy, May de Ville Backpackers Hostel does their breakfasts well! Two words, breakfast buffet. That's bread, butter, and jam; unlimited brewed coffee and tea; freshly-squeezed juice; stir-fried noodles; fried rice; eggs prepared the way you want them; bacon and sausages; steamed vegetables; bacon and sausages (yes, again!); fresh garden salad; crème caramel; yogurt; and, fresh fruits. And it all comes free with your 6-dollar dorm bed! Imagine that.

May De Ville Backpackers Hostel, Hanoi, Vietnam
I have wonderful dreams about this breakfast buffet, you know?

One final thing about the May de Ville Backpacker Hostel: the location. Alright, so most hostels in Hanoi are located in the old quarter, sure. And every attraction here is just a few minutes' walk. May de Ville Backpacker Hostel though is situated right by Bia Hoi corner, the center of nightlife in the old quarter. Bia Hoi is Hanoi's daily brewed draft beer sold at a quarter US per mug. It's delivered to and sold by many small, mostly street-side, bars in Hanoi. And the intersection of Luong Ngoc Quyen and Ta Hien streets, right outside May de Ville Backpackers Hostel, is Bia Hoi epicenter. Every night, locals and tourists all congregate to the area and have themselves a mug (or two or three, because it's so gosh darn cheap!) of Bia Hoi.

Bia Hoi Hanoi
Bia Hoi in Hanoi
Photo by Lioneel | CC BY-SA

Let's sum it up. The sufficient dorms, the entertainment rooms, the wonderful breakfast, and the location. Now you know why I love staying in Hanoi and why I think May de Ville Backpackers Hostel is the cream of the crop in backpackers hostels in Southeast Asia. Now go book a night or two.

May de Ville Backpacker Hostel
No. 1 Hai Tuong Lane, Ta Hien Street
Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi, Vietnam

Have you been at any of these places? What other recommendable places have you found in Vietnam?

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