Cape Town - Accommodation can make or break a holiday. And knowing where to book is probably the biggest obstacle to overcome when travelling. If you have that sorted, the fun can start...
Similar to buying property anywhere in the world, there are three golden rules to always consider: Location, location, location.
Once you're in the right place, whether it be a luxury hotel or a rustic homestay, the tone is set for the exploring to begin.
If you're travelling Vietnam, the key is to mix the right amount of well-known, must-experience tourist destinations with a good balance of off-the-beaten-track, lesser known spots.
This way you get to experience what the country is famous for, but also get a taste of what locals love.
Check into these cool places to get the best of both worlds -
In the hotspots
Anantara Hoi An
Anantara in Hoi An sits right on the iconic Thu Bon River, a stone-throw out of the Ancient Town. It's the perfect vantage point from where to explore the city, and they offer guests complimentary bicycles to do so.
Apart from its superb location, the local employees of the hotel also took interest in our interests and helped us outline experiences in the city that we knew we would love. We ate our way through Hoi An with the help of Duong, a local gal whose family happens to run a most-delicious Banh mi stall close by.
The hotel also offers a sunset cruise on the Thu Bon River, which is a must.
Cost - From R3 000 per room per night, including breakfast
More info - Anantara Hoi An
Christina's Mother Ship in Ho Chi Minh City
This Airbnb success, situated right in the heart of Ho Chi Minh City within walking distance of all attractions, is what modern accommodation is all about - personalisation.
It's a superb spot from where to explore the bustling city, and the team at Christina's will really help you make the most of your trip.
Upon arrival, host Thuc Nguyen brewed us the most delicious Vietnamese ice coffee, gave us a map and highlighted a few must-do experiences after asking what we were interested in.
Their OneTrip tours are also some of the best, most authentic and affordable I've encountered.
Cost - From R1 300 per room per night, including fresh fruits and coffee
More info - Christina's Saigon
Cruising Ha Long Bay
Okay, this is the expensive one. But if you're travelling to Vietnam you need to visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ha Long Bay and you need to spend some time there. Location, location, location.
The Indonesia Junk cruises are the most popular, and go for around R3 800 per person for the two-day experience, all inclusive.
If you don't want to sleep on a cruise boat, rather opt for a upper-class backpackers on one of the islands nearby and book a local tour operator to take you through the bay on a private tour.
I can recommend giving local tour guide and operator Smiley a call. She will team you up with a local boat driver to take you anywhere your heart desires in the bay - to a private island, to kayak and snorkel (all gear provided), and to enjoy a meal at a local floating restaurant.
The boat driver packs his own fishing rod, drops you off where-ever you point to, and then parks his boat just close enough to see you when you wave at him to pick you up again. Wherever you choose to go, you'll have a slice of paradise with a private beach to explore all by yourselves...
Be warned, however, it is touristy.
Cost - Varied
More info - Indonesia Junk / Private tour operator Smiley
AVANI Quy Nhon Resort & Spa
You know that idyllic image of paradise... private, desolate stretches of sand with lush green vegetation pushing out almost to the edge of the water?
This is what AVANI Quy Nhon Resort & Spa is - paradise.
Situated in one of the more rural parts of Vietnam, right on the East Coast south of Hoi An, the resort is a hub from where to explore the fishing communities.
When we weren't biking around the villages, eating river crab (and getting severely sunburnt...) we spent our days lounging either in the pool or on the beach, where our drinks never seemed to empty.
A very awesome highlight was the hotel's cooking class, in which they sent you out to the market with a dedicated chef to shop for local ingredients. Upon return, the chef shows you how to cook three local dishes, which you make yourself and then tuck into for dinner on the lookout deck! Superb!
Another highlight was a massage in their forest-like spa, perched right in the tropical forest.
Cost - From R2 600 per room per night, breakfast included
More info - AVANI Quy Nhon Resort & Spa
Emeralda Resort Ninh Binh
This stunning resort overlooks several natural protected areas close to the world-famous Ninh Bình mountains and Trang An Landscape Complex, which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Centre in 2014.
The latest King Kong movie was filmed in these mountains, the locals told us. And looking at the otherworldly beauty of the isolated wonder, I would have believed them if they told me that mythical creatures still lived here.
In the harvest season, a trip will take you past the golden fields of rice.
What we loved most about our stay here - one of the most rural parts of Vietnam - was the location as well as our interaction with the local people.
Emeralda Resort's manager Mrs Son even invited us to her party at a restaurant close-by one evening. We had such a blast, drinking shots of Vietnamese rice wine and eating platters of the freshest and most delicious Vietnamese food.
The entire party, except for us, were Vietnamese, but they insisted on speaking tongue-twisting English for the entire evening to accommodate us.
Cost - From R 1 500 per room per night
More info - Emerelda Resort
House Boat Hoi An's Thu Bon River
Although Hoi An is by no means a 'lesser known nook' in Vietnam, this quirky accommodation option is. The Thu Bon River runs right through the heart of the city of Hoi An, and while it's great doing a river cruise at sunset - it's better even to sleep on the river.
Christina Hoi An has renovated an old fishing boat, converting it into a lovely, romantic houseboat, complete with a sundeck on top. While the boat is able to cruise, it is now anchored permanently to the property's private river bank to ensure guests to not drift away during the night...
Cost - R780 per night for the entire boat
More info - Christina's House Boat
Disclaimer: Traveller24 writer Louzel Lombard Steyn was hosted as media at Anantara Hoi An and AVANI Quy Nhon Resort & Spa for part of her stay in Vietnam.
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