We spent our first night in Hanoi in a hotel. The next day, we moved to an Airbnb apartment. Why we stayed at two places had to do with our flight schedule.
When I was looking for accommodations, I found a spacious and reasonably priced Airbnb apartment that I knew would be perfect for Sam and myself. The problem was that late check-in was not allowed. The cut-off time was 10.00 p.m. (I think the owner has since adjusted that to 12.00 midnight) but we wouldn’t land in Hanoi until well after midnight.
That’s the difference between apartments and hotels. There is no 24-hour concierge in most Airbnb apartments so things are run differently. Meanwhile, a full-staffed hotel accepts check-ins even at the most ungodly hour.
My solution was to book the Airbnb apartment for our second night onward then look for a hotel that would allow us to check-in after midnight.
Hanoi View 2 Hotel
Located at 48 Ngo Sy Lien Alley, Dong Da, Hanoi View 2 Hotel has rooms in different sizes. I chose a Deluxe Room with twin beds and a balcony with city view.
The room was clean and comfortable, and the bathroom was spacious.
Despite the unholy hour, coffee was brought up on my request.
Coffee before dawn? I knew we wouldn’t be able to sleep immediately. Our body clock was already screwed so I figured we might as well enjoy the view and bustling activity below.
See, during the day, the street where Hanoi View 2 Hotel is located turns into a fresh food market. From our balcony, we could see the vendors arrive. But it started raining hard and we couldn’t stay in the balcony for more than a few minutes at a time.
We showered, plugged in our phones and laptop and tried to rest. We planned on a late breakfast then move to the Airbnb apartment.
But we were tired. We dozed off. Sometime after 6.00 a.m., I opened my eyes to witness the torrential downpour through the balcony door.
I don’t remember if I woke Sam up or if she was already awake. What happened was that instead of having a late breakfast, we were almost the first to come down to the dining area for breakfast.
Sam chose French toast, I had beef pho and there was a plate of fresh fruits on the side. And coffee, of course.
That was the best bowl of pho I had ever had in my life. Better than any pho I experienced anywhere else, including Saigon. Sam, who sat facing the hotel entrance, observed that the beef pho came from outside — probably supplied by one of the street food vendors or market sellers.
There was a lightness and freshness that’s hard to put into words. It didn’t come with the side plate of herbs and mung bean sprouts but it didn’t matter because they would have been superfluous. The noodles, the meat, the vegetables and that incomparable broth were all that I needed and wanted on that rainy morning.
We went back to our room after breakfast. I set an alarm on my phone for 11.00 a.m. and then we slept.
I was up before 11.00 a.m. though because I needed to follow up on the local SIM cards I had ordered before we flew to Saigon and which hadn’t yet been delivered to the hotel when we checked in.
I got dressed, went down to the reception desk and I was about to ask them to call the SIM card vendor when the receptionist handed me an envelope. The SIM cards had arrived.
We showered and packed. I settled the bill. The receptionist booked a Grab ride for us.
Why didn’t we stay at the hotel?
Yes, I know the room looks great. The staff was friendly and accommodating. The food was good. What was the problem?
As with most hotel rooms, our room didn’t come with a kitchen. Not even a small one. There were no coffee making facilities and I need that very badly wherever I am. Plus, I wanted to be in another part of Hanoi — in particular, somewhere between Union Park and Hoan Kiem Lake.
The Airbnb apartment
So, we moved. And the Airbnb apartment was everything I hoped for.
Large. A 50-square meter studio with two beds, a dinette, a sitting area… much larger than the 30-square meter apartment in Saigon where Alex and I stayed a month earlier.
There was a complete kitchen that came with everything including plates, bowls, cutlery, a chopping board, cooking oil, condiments, dishwashing liquid… And, yes, even wineglasses.
Bottled water was included in the price. If you run out of bottled water, just bring the empty bottle to the ground floor, take a new one, load it on the elevator and bring it into the apartment. It was a huge convenience. Much preferable over buying drinking water in one-gallon bottles everyday.
On the ground floor, there were laundry facilities including a clothes dryer.
Cleaning is included in the price too.
On the far end, sliding glass doors opened to a balcony. No view but we loved spending time there anyway. Just as we loved having our meals on that small table. Sometimes, I’d put my Macbook on the side, log in on Facetime, and Sam and I would chat with Speedy and Alex while we ate. Okay, mostly, to show them the food and make them drool.
The building is family-owned and several units are rented out on Airbnb. The owner, Mr. Tam, was such a joy. After checking in, he brought us to the rooftop garden and we sat there for a while smoking and chatting, and swapping tidbits about our countries.
Mr. Tam told us about Hanoi; I talked about Manila and its suburbs. He had tips about making the most of our stay in Hanoi; I had tips about why, if he should ever decide to visit the Philippines, he should just skip Metro Manila and head straight for other parts of the country.
The Airbnb apartment is not currently listed (someone may have rented it on a long-term basis or, maybe, to repaint the ceiling) but you may check out the other units in the family-owned building.