We stayed in the shabby Mai Phuong hotel before checking into Huong Bien and we were pleased to be surrounded by some luxury! Lobby is very smart, staff in uniform and a huge marble (or whatever shiny stone it is made from!) staircase.
We booked a Deluxe Seaview through agoda for $72 a night. But we arrived at the hotel and their price is actually $63/night - bl00dy agoda!!
Our room was on the 2nd floor and directly underneath the restaurant on the top floor. They serve breakfast from 6:15am so we were woken up at 5.30am by the staff working above us and scraping tables and chairs across the floor as the floors are tiled and paper-thin. We had earplugs in, but could still hear the constant racket above so we asked to change rooms. At first they said no and they're fully booked, but after pleading a second time the receptionist asked her manager and they managed to swap us around. Thank god! We like our sleep, especially on vacation! So we were moved to the first floor, this room looked older and a bit tattier, but otherwise the same as previous room.
Air con is nice and quiet, small balcony overlooking sea and sunset with two wooden chairs, small fridge with a few drinks in, hot shower every day, two small double beds with nice firm matress and one latex foam pillow (not the most comfiest of pillows), TV with loads of channels, lots of English speaking ones, (nice flatscreen on 2nd floor, older model in second room) good free WiFi in room, two computers down in lobby, Maids are miserable as sin and don't smile whatsoever or even acknowledge you, one receptionist speaks really good English, most of the other staff don't speak too much. Free transfer to and from airport - the schedule is in reception.
Breakfast was included and served from 6:15 to 9:15, (who gets up at 6am on vacation???), on our first day we went down at 9am and there was nothing left except a few slices of bread the chef made us some eggs. A few other days we went up at 7.15am and there's fruit, asian food, chef with his eggs, nice fresh soft baguettes, sliced white bread. Mainly Asian stuff though - noodles, congee etc.
The Beach is right outside the hotel, it's quite small and a little shingley, water is nice, shallow and the bed is all sand which is always nice under the feet. There was only a few beds, about 6, and they are incredibly uncomfortable wooden slatted ones, and we saw annoying selfish tourists putting their towels on them pre-7am to save them for later - I won't mention which nationality they were but you can probably guess! Beach was usually quite quiet until the families come out late afternoon with their screaming kids. There's a small pool with sunbeds (with pads on, so comfier), but didn't really use it.
The porter, Viet, hassled us to rent a motorbike the minute we arrived and wouldn't stop bugging us until we said yes! Originally wanted to charge 180,000 VND for one day, or 150,000 if we booked for 4 days. We found someone in town who charge 120,000 so we bartered Viet down to 120,000. Later found out that it's just his mate's bike and probably just making a bit of money on the side. Didn't have to sign anything, didn't ask to see our licence, but i think that's the same everywhere on the island! The bike was fine though, definitely recommend hiring a bike to see the island. We drove down to Sao Beach, it's about 24km away and took 30 or 40mins - the road next to Long Beach is a very dusty and bumpy road, there is a main road running down the middle of the island which is a proper tarmac road which you can take instead though. Sao Beach was ok, you pay 20,000 for an uncomfortable wooden bed, lots of tourists there, but if you don't need a bed you can find a more isolated spot. Nice sandy beach but have seen a lot better in Greece and Spain! Look out for the ice cream man on a bicycle! Also there is a couple of old ladies selling things that look like poppadoms in a plastic bag, they're actually really nice.
The night market is right next to hotel and there are loads of 'restaurants' crammed in half of the market and the other half is stores selling pearls and touristy crap. The whole market is just one small street. We ate there a couple of times, the food is actually very tasty and CHEAP but the surroundings are very grubby, plates and bowls are plastic, litter all around your feet, chefs cook with a fag hanging out of their mouth, coughing and spluttering all over the food, the waitresses are the owner's 8 year old kids, flies in the food.... but if you can look past all that, I'd recommend it for the fresh seafood!
There are more westernised restaurants out of town, along Long beach near the bigger hotels (Blue Lagoon, Chez Carole etc). Number 1 restaurant is very good - the staff are VERY nice and attentive, after a week of only experiencing miserable staff it was a bit of a shock! . The Seafood hotpot was very nice, 140,000 for a big pot. Mundos is owned by a Swedish couple, do all day breakfast - their homemade yoghurt is very nice - great place to come if you fancy a break from Vietnamese food!
If you want to experience some proper authentic Vietnam - go and visit the Fish Market, you have to cross a rickety wooden bridge (it's on the map) and then follow your nose! It's very hectic though be warned, motorbikes and pedestrians weaving in and out of one another, you can also get things like tshirts and those authentic hats, prob a lot cheaper than in town.
All in all, the hotel is nice, 3 star, great location in the town and next to beach, but the $72 rate is probably a bit high, for Vietnam.
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