Howdy all. Time to go “retro” again as I take you back to some of the more memorable places I stayed at back in the day. The idea is that places stuck in my mind for one reason or another, and so these are not merely reviews but also memories for good (mostly) or bad (occasionally) reasons. Or indeed a combination of both. And today I’m going back to the time when I visited destination – Ho Chi Minh City, the biggest city in southern Vietnam and a personal favourite in South-East Asia.
It’s a city that buzzes with life but one that also proved to be quite welcoming and friendly to the visitor. It was the second stop after a fleeting visit to Singapore on my bid 2011 trip which was the longest trip I have ever taken. Back in the days when I rarely booked ahead, this was one time that I did. I have liked to book in advance when I fly into a country. It’s good for piece of mind to know you have a place to stay before you touch down, and it’s also the one time I feel fairly confident I actually know when I will be arriving before I start to take things more as I find them.
So I found ‘Madame Cuc’s’ online. And straight it was clear – this mini-hotel (a popular type of accommodation in Vietnam, and it’s much as the name suggests, it’s a smaller hotel) was a Ho Chi Minh City Institution! Which is kinda cool. There was more than one too. As I do before writing this posts, I go back online to find the place. And this time it proved a little tricky.
It was hard to find the right one. The place I stayed at was literally just down the road from the ‘Crazy Buffalo’ Restaurant and (I think) Bar. There was a huge buffalo’s head above the entrance and it was hard to forget. On each night people staying at the hotel would just sit in chairs outside the entrance and watch the HCMC life go by. And the Buffalo’s Head was within easy eyeshot. So by double checking it is definitely called ‘Khach San Madame Cuc’ and sometimes there is a ‘64’ attached – it’s at 64 Bui Vien.
On arrival I took a bus which dropped me off just around the corner from the hotel. I found it reasonably easily. It’s actually not that small, there was maybe 7 floors. But it was a skinny building. The reception was always manned as far as I know, and there was one receptionist there almost all the time. She had a baby at the time who was also often there. Madame Cuc is a real person too, and she popping in once very briefly I remember.
The staff were friendly and the reception was always full of people chatting or travellers planning – they connected me with a Cu Chi Tunnels tour, a stock standard for most visitors to Ho Chi Minh City.
The room was neat and clean, and for less than $20USD (it was $16USD per night) I would happily stay again. It wasn’t fancy, it was basic but it had air conditioning, which these days I don’t think I could do without in that part of the world. No bathtub, but you wouldn’t expect one in the price. Spacious bathroom though. Television as well, so really good value for money. Just missing one thing – and that was a lift and I was on the fifth floor. For your bags they had a pulley system rigged up in the stairwell and they would pull your bag up to your floor and offload it there, so at least you didn’t need to carry it all the way up to your floor.
But the best thing was sitting and meeting people staying at the hotel. I made a few friends and had a few beers of an evening. What more could you ask for? The one guy I remember was taking his Vietnamese girlfriend to Thailand for a couple of weeks. She was married herself with children. I was at first shocked by the arrangement. I guess somehow I was still a bit naïve, but apparently it’s not an uncommon arrangement. I still don’t know how I feel about it. But there were others I chatted with too.
I can see why it’s a bit of an institution, and I remember the place fondly. And so I delve into my exercise book for the ratings…
Value for Money: 4/5
Total: 16/20 [80/100]
Thanks for popping by – May the Journey Never End!