Dec 02 2012
Tam Dao, a cooler-clime retreat you can easily get to from Hanoi, is so chock-full of hotels that it can be difficult to know where to start. Here’s our guide to a few places that might fit the bill.
Although Tam Dao prices are on a par with, if not pricier than, Hanoi hotels, there are plenty of cheap basic options around. Do be prepared to go door to door on arrival, so you can check-out rooms first. Good first stops include Suoi Bac or Sao Mai hotels, both around 300,000 VND and basic but decent. Prices at Suoi Bac go up by 50,000 VND on Saturday nights — a common occurrence in hotels in Tam Dao.
If you want a step up, try Han Vet Hotel. Rooms are freshly decorated and clean, with those at the front having valley views from their small balconies. Furnishings are sparse but adequate and rooms come with air-con and a portable fan, neither of which though you’re likely to need for most of the year. Bathrooms are spacious with large shower cubicles. Overall it’s nothing fancy, but nothing to complain about either, and the manager on duty on our last visit was all smiles. Rooms are 500,000 VND during the week, 800,000 VND at weekends.
Gia Le Hotel is a new addition to the town’s offerings. Prices start at 1.2 million VND (around US$60) for a room at the back, and go up to 1.5 million VND for a room with a view. A large VIP room is also available for 3 million VND. Try for a room at the front on the fifth floor – the only rooms with full width balconies. Rooms are spacious and modern with simple furnishings and a lone painting on the white walls. Beds are large and comfortable, with thick duvets which you’ll need in winter. Facilities include flatscreen TVs and tea- and coffee-making facilities – well, a kettle and cups – but no air-con or fans, as even in summer it gets cool at night.
Bathrooms are small – somewhat ill-considered given the rooms are so large – but adequate and have excellent rain showers. Overall, if money’s not a consideration it’s the best option we saw.
The Mela Hotel was once the hotel in Tam Dao, but time has not been kind to this once fine place. Room design is dated, with a lot of wood panelling, stone cladding and fake leather, and bathrooms are the wet room variety. Communal areas fare no better — look out for the lime green sofa in reception. I’ve also heard reports that the food’s not up to much either.
However, the Mela has two redeeming features: the room terraces and the pool area. And what redeeming features they are. Rooms at ground level, facing the pool, have terrace areas equipped with table and chairs — albeit tatty ones — and rooms at the top have large roof terraces. The pool has a slightly green tinge to it but is otherwise quite inviting in the warm weather, and even if you don’t fancy a dip, a drink at one of the tables to the side, overlooking the valley, is an excellent way to start the evening. Even still, that might not be enough to warrant staying in the poor value rooms — particularly as outside guests can eat at the restaurant, and no doubt nip outside for the views.
Remember that although Tam Dao is a popular weekend getaway for locals, and often hosts school groups and corporate team building trips, it is not a major destination for foreigners, therefore you are unlikely to find much English spoken in the hotels. Prepare practise a few Vietnamese phrases if you can, or be prepared to use a lot of hand signals.
Suoi Bac Hotel
T: (0211) 382 4275
Sao Mai Hotel
T: (0211) 382 4304
T: (0211) 381 6868
Gia Le Hotel
T: (0211) 382 4369
T: (0211) 382 4321
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