I suppose that few people are planning trips to Asia lately, but one day this whole virus craze will simmer down, and someone out there may find this post useful. I did a great deal of preparation for our recent self-guided trip through Cambodia and Vietnam, including research on the best hotels in several cities across both countries. Here’s a review of our hotel planning and where we ended up staying.
Accommodations in both Cambodia and Vietnam can run really cheap, with hostel dorm rooms and such going for less than $10 USD per night. On the other end of the spectrum, there are five star luxury resorts that can easily cost you $1000+ per night, especially in some of the beach destinations.
I skipped my low budget backpacking travel phase since I was trapped in school for such a long part of my early adult life. Nowadays, with careers established and finances in order, Mr. Chuckles and I appreciate the opportunity to stay in more comfortable accommodation during our trips. We aren’t exorbitant in our spending, but we enjoy having a nice place to lie down after a long day of touring, and we actually do often take breaks in the middle of our days to just veg out in the hotel. It is vacation, after all!
Therefore, with our mid to borderline high range budget, we ended up spending an average of $50 USD/night per person on accommodations. Here are our hotel picks in Cambodia and Vietnam.
Pavilion | Phnom Penh, Cambodia
We stayed in Phnom Penh for only one night after a very long flight from Canada, so were mainly looking for a place to lounge around and rest up. The amenities at Pavilion were really comfortable, so it was well suited for our purposes. Within short walking distance to the Royal Palace and National Museum, this boutique hotel is centrally located and has been featured in several Lonely Planet guides.
It has 36 rooms, of which we were able to book the Superior Double that comes in the form of a small private bungalow. I enjoyed the outdoor pool surrounded by a lush garden, and as usual, I was apparently the only person who was interested in swimming so had the entire space to myself. We had lunch at the restaurant, which was pretty good. The only disappointment I had about this place was that I was not able to partake in either the complimentary massage or sunset river boat cruise as they were fully booked for the one evening we were checked in. I would have liked if the staff had offered to pre-book these activities for us, especially since we were only going to be there for a single night. C’est la vie.
HARI Residence & Spa | Siem Reap, Cambodia
We had originally booked a different five star resort hotel for our stay in Siem Reap, but I later realized that it was located quite far from the city centre. HARI turned out to be much more conveniently located, within walking distance to Pub Street and the night market. There were some good restaurants around the block as well. If you’re ever in the area, we would specifically recommend Pou Restaurant & Bar, which serves delicious traditional Khmer food with a modern twist; our best meals in Siem Reap were had here.
We were upgraded into a Double Deluxe Suite which was huge, with a walk-in shower and all the works. The facilities were a little less shiny in person compared to the website photos, but were fairly extensive and overall a good deal given what we paid. The staff here were extremely attentive and our package had several ‘freebies’ included as well, such as a 60 minute massage at the spa, a traditional Khmer dinner, and two way airport transfer. Unlike at Pavilion, I did manage to get in for the massage here and it was excellent!
Silverland Yen | Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
In bustling and busy Ho Chi Minh City, the best area to stay in as a first time visitor is District 1, which will keep you close to all the major tourist sights. We stayed here at Silverland, a chain hotel with several offshoots throughout the city. I liked the Yen for its location down the street from the action of Ben Thanh Market, but tucked into a side street so it was secluded from the noise. We were regrettably only in Ho Chi Minh City for two nights, but had a lovely stay at this hotel. It is definitely on the pricy end for Vietnam, but the amenities were high quality. They serve a good afternoon tea and there is a rooftop plunge pool and bar where we enjoyed a couple drinks while admiring the city view. Airport transfer was not included. They have a private car service for hire, but I would skip this and use Grab rideshare, which is about a quarter of the price.
Lantana Hoi An Boutique Hotel & Spa | Hoi An, Vietnam
In Hoi An, you can take your pick of a hotel either closer to Old Town or toward the beach. We opted to stick close to Old Town since it wasn’t quite beach season when we visited, and it allowed us easier access to our explorations (i.e. the food). Lantana has two locations, so we ended up at the one situated just across the river from Old Town, near the action but in a quiet spot.
Staff were really friendly and actually made the point to remember our names. The hotel offers a free shuttle service to An Bang beach, which we took up for a visit on a blustery afternoon. The night market is also usually a popular nearby attraction, but it was closed during our visit on account of that pesky virus. There is a pool and spa as well, although we never ended up checking them out. We did use their laundry service and spent a relatively hefty sum since it was priced per item (about 50 cents to $1 each) rather than by weight. It was a necessary expense though; I was sick of packing up my stinking sweaty laundry accrued in the heat of Cambodia and I was in need of more clean underwear!
Essence Hanoi Hotel | Hanoi, Vietnam
When in Hanoi, I recommend staying in Old Quarter. Unlike historic neighbourhoods in many other touristic cities (for example, Centro Storico in Rome, and Old Montréal), the Old Quarter of Hanoi is actually livable, inhabited and frequented by locals. Everything is within walking distance and there is so much good food around. While here, we stayed at Essence Hanoi Hotel which is located adjacent to Beer Street. We were a little concerned about noise levels, but we ended up on a higher floor and didn’t get bothered at all. There were a couple short bursts of karaoke around 10 pm on both nights, but whoever was singing would always seem to shut down after just one song. Fine by us!
We were booked into a Double Deluxe room with window, again with a package that included complimentary airport pickup and a 40 minute spa massage. This was the largest room we had in Vietnam and it was well appointed. Of note, many hotels in Cambodia and Vietnam have windowless rooms so you should make a point to pay for the small upgrade to ensure you don’t get stuck in one of those. I guess fire code is not a thing here.
Essence Palace Hotel | Hanoi, Vietnam
We moved over to Essence Hotel’s sister location for our final two nights in Hanoi, after we returned from our Bai Tu Long Bay cruise. I was a little disappointed with this choice after staying at the other Essence, as this location is smaller and more run-down, although certainly not unliveable. It was adequate for a couple nights sleep and the staff were very courteous, but I would choose the other Essence if I were to make a return trip. Nevertheless, fancy hotel or not, we still had an awesome time in Hanoi and I do hope to get back there again one day.
Top tips for your hotel search
Book direct. In almost all cases, I found the best rates by booking directly with the hotels rather than going with third party sites (other than one reservation made via Booking.com). You will also find more inclusions in their packages and potentially have an easier time managing changes/cancellations if you are able to deal with the hotel directly.
Go with the refundable/cancellable option. I like to book my hotels earlier to just get things organized. If going this route, I suggest paying the extra couple dollars to pick the refundable bookings, in case you find a better deal down the line or if you need to cancel your trip due to a zombie apocalypse.
The problem with TripAdvisor. I still rely a lot on TripAdvisor to help me find hotels in my travel destinations, but you should be aware of its many issues and learn to look at it with a critical eye. Generally, I am reassured by a high aggregate rating if there is a substantial number of reviews, but I still make a point to sift through the negative ones and see if I catch any legitimate criticisms. Conversely, many poor reviews obviously suffer from negativity bias and are basically stupid comments written by irrational, irate customers. TripAdvisor is definitely not a completely unbiased source of information and useless or fake reviews are a real thing!
That being said, I am not being paid or endorsed in any way for this post. The reviews above represent my experiences and opinions only.