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Hello, Nǐ hǎo, and Chào bạn.

My next trip is to Vietnam and China and I am very excited. I will be starting out in Saigon and working my way up north. From Hanoi, I will cross into China either by the International train or plane. This is about the pre-planning, the trip itself and after. “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” – St. Augustine


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When a tiger dies he leaves behind his skin. When a man dies he leaves behind his reputation.
Vietnamese proverb

In Memorium

Today is the 50th Anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan in Phuoc Tuy Province, South Vietnam which took place during the Vietnam War between the VC and North Vietnam and 1st Australian Task Force. 18 Australians and 245 Viet Cong soldiers died.

There would have been soldiers on both sides who were only 19.
In commemoration of those who died 50 years ago today. August 18, 1966.

Monday, March 5, 2012

16. Saigon Accommodation

To lift or not to lift - that is the question.

Well I decided I had better get a move on and start booking my accommodation. Usually when I'm planning a trip, I get the accommodation sorted out months ahead but this time for some reason, I seem to be dragging my feet.

After reading through my Lonely Planet like a good little traveller, I decided to go sit Madam Cuc's - listed as "Our Pick" in LP's Vietnam guide book. Looking carefully at the three on offer (Madam has three - 127, 64 and 128) I chose 128. Sent of an email to which I received a reply fairly promptly, emails went back and forth between me and her, airport transfer was sorted ($12 US), I asked for a room on the first floor due to bad knees although I did notice no mention of my request for a first floor room was in evidence.

What if me knees don't hold up?
Anyway, I thought I'd sorted out Saigon although the lack of a lift was niggling away in my brain somewhere. It was further enhanced when I read that a chap had requested a first floor room because his wife had some knee trouble, but when they arrived they had been given a room on the 4th floor (think it was the 4th). Which then set me thinking - what if that happens to me? No matter how much cheaper, or how good a review in LP, is it really worth taking the risk? Bad enough having to slog my way up one floor, let alone two or three, but imagine doing it in the heat. Yes, yes, I know the place has air conditioning, but after a long day or a hot couple of hours walking around outside sight seeing, the last thing I want to do is have to climb up ruddy stairs!

Back to the drawing board
So - then began the let's start again from scratch and find a place with stairs. Which is what I have been doing these past few days. And let me tell you - it ain't easy! I found the best thing was to go to Agoda, type in the city and dates and go from there. I further refined my search by selecting a particular area (I've gone for Pham Ngu Lao area) which I know is backpacker haven where the budget places are and I know it's noisy and busy, but I don't mind that. At least it's not dead and staid - I'd rather have full of life than quiet, conservative and dull!

So ... these are the ones I've picked out and "short-listed" and I thought better to type it all down here then read and re-read and compare them all in the one space. Now the room at Madam C's was $20. Originally I had gone for the cheapest ($16) but that had no window so went for the next one up ($20) - still only a single, not a double which was from memory around the $25 mark. One of the beauties of this place apart from breakfast and a simple dinner is the free fruit, tea and coffee provided all day. I have to weigh all this up with the benefit of having a lift and the lift wins hands down I'm afraid, even if it does mean more money for a room.

Ideas of granduer?
It's funny how I was prepared to pay for a single at the place I booked but at the hotels with a lift, I'm going for the "Deluxe" or "Superior" isn't it? Because I have found that the hotels give room sizes and some of them sound mighty small. I asked my son - if you were going away on holiday and you get a room 18 sq metres for $22 or a room 20 sq metres for $28, which would you choose? His answer? "I'd pay the extra 6 for the bigger room." Which I agree with although him being young a single and not having the budget issues his mum has, makes it a bit of a different story for me. But hey! - it's the first stop in my holiday trip, and the weather's going to be pretty hot, I might as well have a few home comforts to help me cope with the heat. (That's what I'm telling myself to justify the extra expense and it's working, it;s working!) Well, sort of. Almost. (Sigh) I tell myself I can cut down in other areas. So much for the girl who had decided on a $15 a night budget!

Six of one and half of the other
So, after all that, here's the short list. Some have advantages the others don't while the "others" have advantages the other lot lack. What it comes down to is this - do I go for fridge and tea/coffee making facilities or a balcony/terrace? Being a smoker, although being able to smoke in your room might be good, I personally don't like the idea. I don't smoke inside at home and smoking in your hotel room makes the room smelly. And it stinks because there's nowhere for the smoke to go, not unless you open the window wide and even then it doesn't get rid of it. And opening the window rather defeats the purpose of air conditioning doesn't it? So, it looks like the rooms with a balcony/terrace win over the fridge etc.

Now, there are two places that have a balcony/terrace - and only one of them also includes a fridge and tea/coffee maker. Really when all is said and done, a fridge and tea/coffee making facilities aren't really all that important although it is nice to sit down and have nice cuppa tea and a smoke early in the morning or late at night at the end of the day. Don't think I'm trying to save a few bob by not having to go out and buy a cuppa coffee, it's just more convenient being able to make it yourself. Don't get me wrong - when I'm out I buy a drink/tea/whatever and sit at an outdoor table and have a wonderful time just watching the world go by.

Do you believe the so-called reviews or not?
Something that had me a bit worried - I looked at the hotel reviews on Trip Advisor and found some of these places have terrible reviews. Which is strange, because some reviews are "good", yet others are "bad". So - which do you believe and how do you know what to believe? You don't - you read them and then make your own decision. And if it turns out I should have listened to what the reviews said, you know not to make the same mistake again. And then you look back and laugh it off and put it down to experience!

Ava Saigon 2 Hotel - Deluxe double - Room size: 28 sq.m, $28 breakfast (126 De Tham Street)
View: City, non smoking rooms, air conditioning, bathrobes, desk, internet access – wireless, in room safe, television, bathtub, shower, separate shower and tub, mini bar, satellite/cable TV, coffee/tea maker, internet access – wireless (complimentary), fridge

Le Le Hotel - Deluxe double, $27 breakfast (171 Pham Ngu Lao Street)
View: Ocean (partial view), non smoking rooms, air conditioning, bathrobes, desk, hair dryer, in room safe, television LCD/plasma screen, bathtub, shower, separate shower and tub, mini bar, balcony/terrace, satellite/cable TV, internet access – wireless (complimentary), fan, NO FRIDGE OR TEA/COFFEE MAKER
BETTER LOCATION. Has balcony/terrace

Saigon Sports 3 Hotel - Superior Double - Room size: 20 sq.m $28  breakfast, (175/21 Pham Ngu Lao street) Free: Welcome Drink, Fruit.
View: City, air conditioning, desk, hair dryer, internet access – LAN, in room safe, television LCD/plasma screen, bathtub, shower, mini bar, satellite/cable TV, coffee/tea maker, internet access – wireless (complimentary), internet access – LAN (complimentary)

Giant Dragon Hotel - Suite Double - Room size: 30 sq.m $30 breakfast 173 Pham Ngu Lao street,
View: City, non smoking rooms, air conditioning, desk, hair dryer, television, bathtub, shower, mini bar, satellite/cable TV, complimentary bottled water, internet access – wireless (complimentary), fan

Duna Hotel - Deluxe - Room size: 30 sq.m - $30 breakfast, 167 Pham Ngu Lao Street,
View: Park, non smoking rooms, air conditioning, desk, hairdryer, internet access – wireless, internet access – LAN, ironing board, television, television LCD/plasma screen, bathtub, shower, balcony/terrace, satellite/cable TV, DVD/CD player, coffee/tea maker, internet access – wireless (complimentary), internet access – LAN (complimentary), fan, fridge Has balcony/terrace

I'm tossing up between the Duna Hotel and the Le Le Hotel. The Le Le has nicer looking rooms, but the Duna has that "balcony/terrace plus fridge, tea and coffee maker. So, it looks like the Duna it will be. Although ... judging by the photos, the balcony at the Le Le Hotel has seating and looks quite nice, whereas the balcony of the Duna appears to be not as enticing.
(I'll wait until I've reached my final one hundred percent decision and booked it before contacting Madam C and cancelling. With a suitable apology of course. (I may sound flippant, but courtesy and politeness are important.) I think I'm going to go for the Duna.

I found the Duna website Duna Hotel and it says airport pick-up is one of their services, yet on the Agoda web page, they don't offer airport transfer. I'll have to email the hotel. If as I think I will, choose the Duna, perhaps it might be worthwhile booking direct with the hotel.

Another strange thing, I also found the Le Le website Le Le Hotel and on their web page, the room also has a fridge, tea/coffee maker plus a toaster. Plus, it's cheaper to book through Agoda rather than direct with the hotel. We're not talking a few dollars here, we're looking at $108 compared to $132. That's a big difference.

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