Last weekend, my family of four went to Hanoi- for the first time- to have some documents done in the capital of the country where we are living at the moment. We have a lot of friends in the city but we opted to stay at a hotel to have that feeling of a traveler or at least a tourist in this adoptive country of ours for five years. Besides, our appointment at the embassy was on a Monday so we got Saturday and Sunday for ourselves. I don’t know if it was a coincidence but we did stay at Hanoi First Choice Hotel on our first visit in Hanoi.
How we found out about it
My wife (@herdailydigest) found this hotel through Twitter. A well-travelled tweep had recommended it to her so we checked Agoda for reviews and rates. The hotel-booking site had over 70 reviews of Hanoi First Choice, the average rating was 9/10 and its customers used the words central, clean, safe, quiet and excellent customer service to describe it. At that instant we decided to book two nights there. Luckily, they were on promotion so we saved at least 30%.
What room we chose
There are four of us- two adults and two kids- so we decided to pick the Family Suite. Based on Agoda’s info, it had a queen bed, a double bed, a balcony, a mini bar, a coffee maker, a free WIFI and the basic amenities in a standard hotel (e.g.TV, AC, hot/cold shower, in room safe, etc.). Plus there’s free breakfast! Not to mention it’s a walking distance from Hoan Kiem Lake, which is one important landmark in Hanoi. So we thought it was a sweet deal for $35/ night.
What I least liked
Getting there was not so easy but that was partly my fault because I didn’t look at the map or Google Earth before going there. I only remembered that it’s just a few meters from St Joseph Cathedral a.k.a. Hanoi Cathedral and it was on 60 Au Trieu. The bus we took dropped us off in front of the church and from there I only relied on my survival Vietnamese (Tieng Viet) skills to find the hotel. Good thing I spotted a Bun Cha place on the corner of a street at the right side of the cathedral and the address was ‘1 Au Trieu“. So it’s ‘Blue’s Clues time’ I told my kids. We walked about 30m and there I saw a red billboard with “Hanoi First Choice Hotel, 60 Au Trieu”. I thought that was hotel already but the hanging signage was in fact between two hotels and neither of them had the name “Hanoi First Choice”! One had “Blue Lotus”; the other one bore “Little Hanoi” so I went to the one with “Hanoi”. I asked if it was the hotel I was looking for for which the man in jeans and shirt confirmed. I looked at the lobby and I was disappointed. And this carried on- the staff asked me to pay! Showing Agoda’s receipt, I explained to him that I had already paid for it. He looked at the paper for about 5 minutes then he said “First Choice next door”. Boom! Immediately we took off and went to Blue Lotus Hotel where I repeated the routine- ask, show receipt, plus tell the man in white long-sleeved shirt and black trousers about our experience next door. He introduced himself as Kelvin-the manager, confirmed our reservation, apologized for the confusion, and politely asked us, in comprehensible English, to wait for a few minutes as the room was being prepared.
What I liked
Now that’s the only thing I didn’t like. What happened onwards was not what as Lemony Snicket described in his book “A Series of Unfortunate Events”. Gladly everything else went smooth and pleasant. For one, the room was so spacious, clean, tidy and well-decorated with Vietnamese paintings. There were enough towels, pillows, and blankets so I thought what had been written about the hotel was accurate. All the features Agoda cited are there as well except that they did not mention the free laptop in the room. There were two windows and a large door to the balcony, which gave us a view of the neighboring boutique hotels and the cathedral which is a big thing for me as a Christian. Their free breakfast was ace as well- sliced bread, a toaster, butter, jam, fruits, cereals, coffee, tea, milk and fresh juices were available for guests and being food lovers ourselves we did have a big breakfast. I particularly liked the service of the maids and other staff- they were so friendly and forgiving to my chatty and hyperactive kids and they made our room up without messing with our stuff. Kelvin, the head,was equally helpful- he was always willing to give us information, guide and insider tips. And the best part of their service was the free transport to the airport. Yes, it was not on Agoda but the manager had a black sedan take us to the airport for free! That’s at least $15 saved.
Why I recommend it
1. It’s quiet and safe.
2. It’s good-value-for-money.
3. Its service could compete with its 5-star counterparts.
4. It’s centrally-located.
(just 2 mins walk to Hoan Kiem Lake; 5 mins walk to the city centre;
5 mins cab ride to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleom)
5. It’s family-friendly.
Here’s their contact info:
Address: No.60 Au Trieu Street, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi, Vietnam.
Tel: +84.4.39289770 Fax: +84 43 9289769. Hotline:+84985980345
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