Jul 12 2012
This cheery yellow – and perhaps a bit scruffy — open-fronted bar and restaurant is located by the river edge on Cam Nam Island and has quite possibly the best views in Hoi An. Now the Sleepy Gecko is also offering among the cheapest, best-value lodgings in town. Tucked away behind a wall bursting with foliage, it would be quite easy to miss this spot if it weren’t for the fact that strolling any further would land you up to your neck in the Thu Bon River.
The Sleepy Gecko is a Hoi An institution run by talented English photographer Steve and his Vietnamese family, who have been serving up proper pub grub for years. They have however recently added accommodation — in fact the second dorm in town — alongside four en-suite guest rooms. To get here, it’s a good 10-minute walk from the old town (cross Cam Nam bridge and take your first road to the right past Randy’s Book Exchange), but your efforts are rewarded with peace, great food and a very knowledgeable host.
This is a classic home from home; every room has been thoughtfully laid out and built around the fabulous view. The ground-floor dorm opens out to the river breeze and the two-storey bar and restaurant make for a great communal area where you can play a friendly game of pool over a beer or two or chew the fat over a cup of tea and a full English breakfast. You could also sharpen up your photography skills with a few tips from your host.
The Gecko has libraries of books, movies and music so if you need to update your hard drive for the long journey ahead its not a bad place to sit yourself for a couple of hours between excursions — speaking of which, in my opinion Steve does the best bicycle and motorbike tours of the surrounding countryside, and is also the only man I know in Hoi An that owns a real road map and is very happy to offer advice on routes and organise transport if you want to go it alone.
You can also talk to Steve about onward travel; the Gecko is firmly on the golden triangle, sitting comfortably in the middle of the backpacker trail between Hue Backpackers and Doc Let’s Jungle Beach, and he’s also in the know on the recently “discovered” Phong Nha Caves and will happily advise you on logistics.
The Gecko is suited for families too, with one of the four air-con, en-suite rooms being a particularly large one, holding two big double beds ($45, while the others are $35). All rooms offer vast slate bathrooms, comfortable beds and minibars. What they lack in Vietnamese charm — or lots of dark wood and Hello Kitty bed linen — they make up for with Western minimalist styling, comfort and natural daylight.
The dorm room sleeps six, with three generously sized bunk beds each appointed with their own light, fan and a double electrical socket. There are two spacious shared bathrooms, one of which has a bath, plus separate toilets and an extra shower room in case you are in a hurry. Dorm price ($6-7) does not include breakfast, but if you’re staying you get a discounted rate of 60,000 VND for a rather handsome all-day breakfast. The en-suite rooms at rack rate are quite average for Hoi An but do include breakfast, are brand new and well maintained; phone ahead to see if you can land yourself a discount.
For backpackers and budget travellers happy to share, the Gecko should be high on your list for Hoi An; the only other option really is Hop Yen on Ba Trieu Street, which offers a dated eight-bed dorm at inflated prices. Mid-rangers could find better value in Hoi An, but at the expense of location. Cam Nam Island has limited accommodation options and is expensive; Windbell Homestay offers similar standard rooms at double the price; it has the benefit of a pool though a much longer walk into town.
The Gecko is a popular spot for kicking off your backpack and sharing a few road trip adventures. It’s a great meeting place but its also not a bad spot to catch up on your emails and amble a day away from the maddening crowd. For families with young children the accommodation is great, but you may well need to keep an eye on them in the restaurant as the stairs are steep and lack rails; for older kids there is loads to keep them entertained.
If you are looking for a crazy late night, you could head to Duc’s New Life Bar just around the corner, which if you bring a crowd means you get to take over the music. If you meet Duc, let him create you a cocktail — they are truly awful but the thought that goes into his creations should leave you impressed. Do be quiet when you head home though, as the Gecko, like all family homes respects the importance of a good night’s sleep.
Update: The Sleepy Gecko recently upgraded its facilities to include a small pool and two extra dorm rooms for its guests.
The Sleepy Gecko
Cam Nam Island, Hoi An
T: (090) 842 6349
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