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Hotel in HCMC: near the bus station for departures to Phnom Penh

Hotel in HCMC: near the bus station for departures to Phnom Penh

Aug 2nd, 2005, 04:49 AM
  #1  
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Hotel in HCMC: near the bus station for departures to Phnom Penh

We have an early departure from HCMC, on the 6 a.m. bus for Phnom Penh (which leaves from the bus station in District 1). Since that will be after our first night in Vietnam, it's a cinch we'll be suffering from jet-lag and that at 5:59 we will be running down the street desperately trying to find the right place.

So we need some "insurance": a hotel as near as possible to that bus station, so we can plan our "run" the evening before. We're a family of four, and are on a tight budget, so what we are looking for is, in simple terms, an old but interesting "cheapie".... I presume that such a thing won't be too hard to find, since bus stations are usually right in the middle of town, where the old places are.
Does anyone know of such a hotel, with a family room? Thanks for all suggestions!
Alan is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2005, 09:06 PM
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OK Alan, I was waiting for someone to respond w/ a specific suggestion for you, as the last time I stayed in a "cheapie" in HCMC was 1997. Thereafter I moved into a house. All this was in Dist 1.

The bus depot I'm thinking of is the one across the street from Ben Thanh market. It is in the heart of the city, you're right, but in HCMC the heart is where the most expensive hotels are (Sofitel, Caravelle, etc). Very nearby is also Pham Ngu Lao, the backpacker district, and I'm talking about 2 blocks away. This is cheapie central. If you do a search for hotel rooms and find locations on Pham Ngu Lao or De Tham streets, this is the location. Very convenient also for cheap, eclectic eats, souvenir and bookshops, internet cafes, bus and day trip tickets, cheap motorbike taxi rides, etc.

Nicer, mid-range hotels are to be found along Dong Khoi Street, also w/in a couple blocks of the bus depot. I'm thinking of the Mondial or Grand Hotel. Dong Khoi is lined w/ antique and silk shops and some mid-range and nice places to eat.

On Le Thanh Ton Street, a couple of blocks beyond Dong Khoi, is the Spring Hotel, also mid-range. I think room rates start in the $20s. Lots of boutique shops and nicer but accessible ethnic restaurants (Indian, Thai, Korean, pizza).

In terms of grittiness--touts, beggars, hard-sale approaches--Pham Ngu Lao is edgiest, followed by the more genteel (but still be careful) Dong Khoi, followed by Le Thanh Ton, which is where many expats lived, me included.

Maybe if you could indicate a price range?

Re another query: No bus service from Tan Son Nhat that I know of. To downtown, yes, $8-$10 for a taxi. That's a SMALL taxi. With a family of 4, I'd really try to minimize luggage.
mari808 is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2005, 06:42 AM
  #3  
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Mari808, I am very grateful for all that sage advice. I think Pham Ngu Lao will be our destination, as it's only for a single night, and there should be plenty of people there to point us in the direction of the bus station.

Is Tan Son Nhat the name of the airport? (You see, I haven't done much research as yet!) You can rest assured that we will all fit into a small taxi, even with luggage. Our last family trip, a few years ago, was over nine weeks in Europe (from Scotland to Poland), and we allowed ourselves one backpack each -- only cabin luggage. You have no idea how wonderful it is travelling with both hands free. This trip is just two weeks, so I can't imagine we'll need to take much at all -- and, anyway, if we forget our undies, I am sure that there are shops over there cheaper than here in Sydney!

I have enjoyed reading every bit of your advice, and will be grateful for any other tips, in any area, you can think of. Thanks again!
Alan is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2005, 01:35 PM
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So you're backpackers! That gives a lot of leeway (tho I can't imagine how you packed for Scottish weather in one backpack)!

What time will you arrive in HCMC? Yes, Tan Son Nhat is the airport. I'm thinking if you're arriving in the morning or afternoon, you could get a taxi to Pham Ngu Lao street and park the family at a cafe. These line the street and are easy to spot because they tend to be ON the street--you know, no inner sanctum per se but tables and chairs spilling outside.

Then, when you've cooled off with your jolt of iced Vietnamese sweet milk coffee or your freshly squeezed limeade, one or two of you leave the others, get up and wander down Pham Ngu Lao and the odd alley. You'll want a guesthouse w/ a reception desk. I doubt you'll get a family room, but these lodgings are dirt cheap if you can do w/o air conditioning. I've stayed at LeLe Hotel on Pham Ngu Lao (there's now a LeLe2) and a friend stayed at Bee Guesthouse in the little alley w/ the pagoda, but this was 8 years ago. Otherwise I'd vouch for these as clean with good, friendly service.

You want a reception desk there because of your early checkout, for one, and because if you decide you don't want to schlep the 10 minutes or so on foot taking your lives into your own hands dodging thousands of motorbikes (often unlicensed), bicycles, food carts, trucks, death wish cyclos and hellbent taxis, you may want to arrange for another taxi, and a desk can find you one at that hour.

Forget your bus idea from the airport. There are few city buses in HCMC and they run along major routes like between Districts 1 and 5, where Cholon or Chinatown is. Airport is not a major route for most Vietnamese because they can't afford to fly, and those who can take taxis, arrange for relatives to come or have their own chauffered cars.

I hope you and your family will get to spend more time in Vietnam than just this one night!
mari808 is offline  
Aug 4th, 2005, 05:27 AM
  #5  
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Thanks again, Mari808, and rest easy.... we will have a whole three nights in Hanoi to experience something a little different from Pham Ngu Lao! Several years ago -- before we had a family -- my wife and I went to HCMC, as she was born there; so we did, at that time, see the city quite well (and managed to hunt up some of her relatives who still lived there then but who are now no longer with us). While I wouldn't have been able to call up the name "Pham Ngu Lao" out of my memory, I do have very vivid memories of the "tourist street", with all the cafes and the tiny travel agents (one on the corner)with the photographs of their buses and the blackboards, and the shops selling hand-painted replicas of the Mona Lisa. We didn't, at that time, stay in that area, but since this time HCMC is not our primary destination, it would seem like the logical place to centre ourselves.

We arrive at 3:30 on a Monday afternoon; so we will find the hotel a.s.a.p, and after installing ourselves there, start walking around the city, drinking in the sites (and having dinner along the way). We might try to visit, at least from the outside, the General Hospital, where my wife was born... I think my girls would like to see that. As long as we can be in bed by about 11 p.m., I expect we'll be just fine for the 6 a.m. bus departure.

That's a good tip about the reception desk! We'll tuck those hotel names away in our memory, also -- no reason why they would be any different now from your experience.

By the way, do some of those tourist offices in Pham Ngu Lao run their own tourist bus to Phnom Penh? My internet search turned up TWO addresses for the departure point of the 6 a.m. bus to Phnom Penh: the first says 145/7 Nguyen Du, District 1 (Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday only), and the second site says 309 Pham Ngu Lao Street, District 1, twice daily. Of course, it may be the same bus making a second pick-up (but I think I'd rather be there at the first pick-up for the best seat choice), or maybe there are private buses (or mini-buses) as well as the three-times-a-week public bus. Do you have any ideas on this?

Thanks again!
Alan is offline  
Aug 4th, 2005, 08:47 AM
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Whoa! Neither Nguyen Du nor Pham Ngu Lao is the bus terminal I was thinking about. I was thinking of the Vietnamese bus terminal, w/ full-size buses that pack 3 people in 2 seats and carry chickens in baskets and on the rooftop, bicycles and baggage.

While Ng Du is not a hugely long street, it's too long to walk, and I don't know where number 145 is. At the end of Ng Du closest to Pham Ngu Lao are the SOS Clinic and Thai Air offices, whose address is 65 Ng Du. So I'm almost positive you won't be able to walk to 145 from Pham Ngu Lao.

Check out this map of the city:
http://www.livinginvietnam.com/image..._Map_Carte.htm

If you still really want to stay in the backpacker area, I'd advise you to have the taxi driver veer past 145/7 Ng Du (this type of address probably means it's on a side street or alley off Ng Du) on your way from the airport to Pham Ngu Lao, and mark it on a map for you. This way you won't waste a lot of time hunting for it on foot.

I can't imagine a bus depot on Pham Ngu Lao itself. You're right, it's probably a tour office where the bus stops for pickups.

It sounds like the closest hotels to the likely bus depot location would be the Sofitel on Le Duan (nix that on price) and the aforementioned Spring Hotel, which is a tiny boutique hotel on Le Thanh Ton between Hai Ba Trung and Thi Sach. These may be w/in walking distance.

Sounds fun re finding the hospital where your wife was born. It's probably the same one most women in HCMC give birth at today!

Re Hanoi/Noi Bai airport to city question, also no bus I know of. There are minibuses run by Vietnam Air from Noi Bai to VA's downtown Hanoi office near Hoan Kiem lake. Don't know foreigner price because I'm Asian and can manage enough Vietnamese to fool the ticket sellers into giving me the local price, which at the time was $4. It's 50 kilometers to the city, so not much choice.

Have you tried Lonely Planet Thorntree w/ these queries?
mari808 is offline  
Aug 4th, 2005, 09:04 AM
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I see at Lonely Planet that jarman ah has a query abt buses from Tan Son Nhat and Noi Bai, and there ARE buses. (Are you jarman ah??) Also, Vietnam Air's Noi Bai-Hanoi shuttle costs a lot less than my faulty memory recalls. So you may be in luck on that score, altho I didn't see any schedules. Oh well, worse comes to worst, there's always a taxi!
mari808 is offline  
Aug 4th, 2005, 06:38 PM
  #8  
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Yes, Mari808, I plead guilty as charged.... jarman_ah on Thorntree is, in fact, yours truly. I have questions floating around on three forums at the moment (the third being Tripadvisor, where my nick is AlanJ), taking in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Luang Prabang, and Phonsavan.

I've received a lot of help from all three forums, but I don't think any of the other helpers would begrudge my saying that your help has been easily the most detailed and helpful, and I am very grateful to you. I have now printed it all off (including the map of HCMC) and am studying it all carefully. The Spring Hotel sounds like it's the ideal one for proximity both to our bus departure and Pham Ngu Lao, so that's one I am content with (now, if only I can get some equally-good suggestions for Phonsavan....!!)

Thanks again for everything, and be assured that your suggestions will be followed, virtually to the letter! Our first limeade at that street-side cafe will be a toast to Mari808!
Alan is offline  
Aug 5th, 2005, 03:29 AM
  #9  
 
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I'd kill for a limeade and a bowl of pho right now, sitting on a 6-inch stool at a rickety card table just out of range of the crazy motorbikes beeping and sputtering by. Make that a Saigon Beer and a pho!

It may be just as well that you only have that short time in HCMC. The city you and your wife knew is disappearing. I left in 2000 and went back in 2003, and there were massive new department stores w/ ELEVATORS and loads of boutiques catering to tourists, who were coming off cruises in packed, full-size buses. Next door to my house on Le Thanh Ton street was the old French colonial navy headquarters, empty except for a few college students; now it's a parking lot for those huge buses. New traffic signals everywhere, and talk of closing off some streets in District 1 to vehicle traffic. So much money and modernity coming in. Your old memories may be better.

Have a great trip, Alan and family, and if you get a chance, I and I'm sure others would love to hear about your adventures!
mari808 is offline  
Aug 7th, 2005, 07:54 PM
  #10  
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Thanks again! We will not forget your thoughtfulness.
Alan is offline  

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