Best budget pick
Main Road, Son Trach, Phong Nha T: (052) 367 7069
The Thien Thanh Hotel is our pick for Phong Nha’s best budget option. Marble frontage – check. Reception sporting six inaccurately set clocks from great cities – you’ve got it! Tour bus out front – more often than not. We’ve just described every Vietnamese hotel in Quang Binh — possibly the country — but what makes Thien Thanh standout is the perky red stickers on the window saying Thien Thanh… and a few other highlights.
Right in the middle of Phong Nha town, plain-looking Thien Thanh holds a few ace cards up its sleeves in terms of value for money and awesome balcony views. At $10 a night ($12 for two) it’s short on facilities, with just the usual tour booking desk and breakfast room, but some great little local food joints are nearby and a ramshackle bar lies just across the road. Rooms come with air-con, hot water, satellite TV, a comfortable bed (or five for a couple of dollars more) and ensuite, private bathrooms. For the best balcony views, ask for a room on the left overlooking the national park.
For the price you’ll be hard pushed to find similar quality accommodation in town. The slightly pricier Saigon Phong Nha on the river fails to live up to its grand exterior (although the location right next to the cave boat dock is the best in town). For now Phong Nha town is a bit light on pickings for families or couples unless you are happy to pay upwards of $30 a night for a room at Ho Khanh’s Homestay on the river, a beautiful old traditional wood and tiled antique house run by the very fellow who discovered Son Doong, the world’s largest cave. At the other end of the scale is Easy Tiger, a backpacker dorm with a lively traveller scene and bar.
The usual tour bus parked out the front of the Thien Thanh will give a clue as to the hotel’s regular clientele – huge groups of holidaying Vietnamese after a day or two cave trekking. These groups tends to be the early to bed, early to rise noisy kind, but if you are planning an activity-packed couple of days in Phong Nha, chances are you’ll be matching their timekeeping. For those hoping to squeeze in a lie in, you’d be better off seeking out accommodation away from the town. Phong Nha Farmstay, the Pepper House Homestay and Ho Khanh’s are all located in more tranquil areas away from the thundering traffic making its way through the town to Dong Hoi.
Overall Thien Thanh is a great budget hotel; the balcony views, easy links to onward travel and the chance to sample a bit of Phong Nha town make it worth one night of your Phong Nha stay. Staff are charming and breakfast is typically Vietnamese — though if you arrive more than four seconds after a tour group has hit up the buffet like a plague of locusts you’ll be looking elsewhere for sustenance.
By Caroline Mills
Last updated on 2nd January, 2014.