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Advice on hotel choice, hiring a driver, and water parks

Richmond, Virginia
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Advice on hotel choice, hiring a driver, and water parks

Our family of 4 will be visiting HCMC in late March. I have booked a suite at the Spring Hotel. We'll all be in one room with 1 king size bed and 2 singles for $75US per night. Does this seem a reasonable rate for 4 people to be in one room?

I've been reading more today about some of the guesthouses and other places posters are recommending (Ha Hien, Huong Sen Hotel for example.) I'm open to advice if anyone has opinion/recommendation if there's somewhere better to stay for less.

Also, is anyone familiar with Guesthouse Phạm Ngọc

Thạch? I read someone's glowing reviews about that on Yahoo travel, but haven't had much luck finding out how to contact them. We're open to staying somewhere besides the "usual" hotels, but within some parameters (see below).

A friend also recommended the Hosen Hotel, but I've not been able to find any reviews on it. I appears their VIP room would accomodate all 4 of us, but wouldn't be any cheaper than the Spring Hotel. Just wondering if it would be comparable or better than staying at the Spring? Hosen Hotel: http://www.hosenhotel.com.vn/index1.html.

Here's what I'd like to find:

Relatively clean (we're fine with 2-3 star)

Air conditioning (important!)

On a budget (we'd prefer to stay in one room together, but would consider staying in 2 rooms if it's cheaper)

Quiet as possible (I understand this is rare in the city), but unfortunately I'm a light sleeper

Walking distance to good eating/shopping

Now, to open a can of worms, we're considering hiring a guide/driver for a day to go to the tunnels and Mekong area. Last year when we visited Bali we did this for a day and it helped make our trip more memorable since we were able to learn more about the area. We'll only be in HCMC for 3 full days and it'll probably be one of the last times we get to take a trip with just our 2 older sons for awhile (we also have 2 very young daughters who will be staying home with friends). So, I want to make this as memorable/fun as possible without spending a fortune. The $6US per person price for the 1/2 day tours (Sinh tours) sure looks a lot more appealing financially than forking out about $100US for a private tour (a la Jason or other private hire), but I've also seen other company tours online that would still average close to $100US for 4 people. I'd much rather hire a driver for a day, get personal service, and build some memories (by having a flexible schedule and conversing with the guide) if I'd be paying a tour company the same amount anyway. (Sometimes I have to "talk" in circles to make decisions, and this may just be what I'm doing, only through email. My husband just loves that about me -- NOT!)

Anyway, do we do it "on our own" and join everyone else on the scheduled bus, or do we pay some extra for one day and have the flexibility to really "do our own thing?" I really want to make this a special time for our teenage sons without going broke (or feel like we've been taken advantage of financially). The person we hired in Bali was a taxi driver who was hanging out at a supermarket and drove me home one afternoon. At the end of the ride, I ended up hiring him for the next entire day after we negotiated an agreed-upon price. Is that a viable option in HCMC? If so, what's a reasonable rate for 4 people to hire a driver with a van for a day? I'm certainly willing to go for that option, assuming we can get someone with a van who speaks English well.

Also, any feedback on the water park(s) in HCMC? Thought the boys might enjoy splashing around part of a day.

Looking forward to replies!

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Long Beach...
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1. Re: Advice on hotel choice, hiring a driver, and water parks

First of, Spring Hotel (on Le Thanh Ton St.) is a good hotel with great service. Therefore, I'm not surprised with the $75 per night, and no doubt that includes breakfast. You can spend as much, and get 2 rooms at The Indochine (on Hai Ba Trung St.) but the service won't be as comparable. In any case, the trick to get a good night sleep is to ask for a room away from the street (typically, street front room is more expensive anyway) and as high as possible; if that doesn't work, bring Melatonin.

The Spring Hotel is close to alot of restaurants, but it will be a decent walk to Ben Thanh market for shopping (15 minutes). However, as we just found out on our last trip, it will be an easy walk to my wife's favorite spa in the city - Chys Spa (on Ngo Van Nam St.). Try the facial and the aromatherapy message if you get a chance.

Most hotels can pre-arrange for car & driver for a day at a rate of around $70. I would check with the hotel first before shopping around. Most hotels care about their image and won't steer you wrong.

As for waterpark, there are 2 in HCMC. The most easily accessible one is Dam Sen Waterpark (in district 11th). Public bus (no. 11) can be picked up at the city main bus terminal across Ben Thanh market, and the last stop of the bus is the waterpark. It's a 35 minutes ride each way. One-way bus ticket is 3000 VND (equivalent to $0.20). The park is clean and well maintained; they closes every Wednesday for maintenance and cleaning.

Seal Beach, CA
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2. Re: Advice on hotel choice, hiring a driver, and water parks

I do not want to comment on Hotel because there are plenty of recommendation here in the forum already.

Guide- It is better if you hire a private guide because you only have 3 days. You may not even have enough time to negotiate and looking for a private guide. I would start immediately with your hotel tour guide first and branching out to Sinh Cafe or Pham Ngu Lao St. ( not far from your hotel by Taxi) dinner in this area is also recommended ( Lots of choices and fairly cheap by any standard). Do not recommend Taxi driver as guide because they may not know enough or speak good enough English for you to understand.

Dam Sen Water Park- You can easily schedule this on your second day in Saigon. I would start out with breakfast and catch a Taxi (60 K VND from Ben Thanh Market) to Dam Sen park by 10 AM ( Not very crowded on a weekday ). I would spend 2-3 hours here ( that is plenty). Arrange for a an afternoon city tour with Sinh Cafe tour ahead of time and visit the Independence Palace in the afternoon after having lunch. Dinner would be at Binh Quoi village ( Buffet style for one price).

Have your guide ( whoever you pick ) pick you up very early in the morning 7 AM or about to take you to Cu Chi tunnel and possibly the Mekong Delta if you really want to see it ( It will be a very long day if you choose this option. Maybe staying overnight in Can Tho is not a bad ideas)

Have fun and enjoy your time in VN.

Semporna, Malaysia
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3. Re: Advice on hotel choice, hiring a driver, and water parks

Henry,

I like the bus going to Dam Sen. That day (years ago) we walked around Ben Thanh Market. We saw bus with the word "Dam Sen" in the Central Bus Station. We got on it and there were about 6 people only. Siesta time and Saigonese avoided the strong sun. Very big and new bus. Only one thing: the staff didn't smile.

land

Seal Beach, CA
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4. Re: Advice on hotel choice, hiring a driver, and water parks

Check out

www.binhquoiresort.com

London
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5. Re: Advice on hotel choice, hiring a driver, and water parks

Beach

Did you mean www.binhquoiresort.com.vn/index.php?lg=eg

Fill

Seal Beach, CA
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6. Re: Advice on hotel choice, hiring a driver, and water parks

Fill,

Yes.

Beach

Long Beach...
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7. Re: Advice on hotel choice, hiring a driver, and water parks

Beach,

I tried taking taxi to Dam Sen once, and it costed me 90K VND (with meter). The kicker was that it wasn't any faster than the bus. In fact, it took 45 minutes (from Ben Thanh market) to get to Dam Sen by taxi and only 35 minutes by bus. By law, automobile can't be on the right lane, but this does not apply to the public bus. It's great when you see the bus passing all the cars on the left, and you can't beat the bus ticket price of 3000 VND (it was raised from 2000 VND to 3000 in 12/1/06).

Land,

How's your trip? I hoped you got my message about Hai Lua. I also found a very popular place you can get Com Tam (for breakfast & lunch) if you ever interested.

Henry

Semporna, Malaysia
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8. Re: Advice on hotel choice, hiring a driver, and water parks

Beach,

You're right. For that route you can't do better by taxi.

Henry,

Yes I got your message for Hai Lua. Many thanks. We saved till our last day to eat the pig at Vuon Pho but the plan didn't come true. We did the last minute boat trip in Binh Quoi 2 and ate goat meat for lunch at Tu Tri near there.

In the afternoon we were looking for some timber things and a kind of medicine so we rushed like hell to the airport :-)

I lost my mobile phone in Vietnam and all the contacts went with it. I had to ask for a new sim from Dtac and bought another phone in Siam Paragon.

land

Semporna, Malaysia
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9. Re: Advice on hotel choice, hiring a driver, and water parks

Hi Henry,

I still didn't eat com tam this trip. I like it a lot. Where are the places?

Thanks,

land

10. Re: Advice on hotel choice, hiring a driver, and water parks

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