May 25 2013
Just a few blocks from the backpacker area of Pham Ngu Lao, in a small alley between the streets of Co Bac and Co Giang jam-packed with yet more places to stay, Guest House California offers decent rooms but in a relatively quieter atmosphere.
The first building you’ll notice as you walk into the alley, California Guesthouse (also known as Guest House California) has a unique look — kind of like someone turned a Buddhist temple’s stupa into a hotel. One of the biggest guesthouses in the area, California seems to hover close to the line that separates a guesthouse from a hotel; it’s big but still somewhat homey. A single, and mostly narrow staircase gives you access to the floors above; instead of accessing your room from a door in stairwell though, you’ll likely have to use a narrow, outdoor hallway/balcony that somewhat exposes you to the elements but gives you views of alley life below.
The guesthouse is actually divided into two buildings sitting across the street from one another. Guesthouse number 1 is the bigger, more modern, temple-looking residence, while Guesthouse 2 is a nondescript smaller building with rooms that are slightly bigger but with older furniture. Guesthouse 2 is mostly used by long-term residents who are drawn to the relatively quieter atmosphere in the area.
In both buildings, rooms are spacious enough, and feature amenities such as air-con, TV and mini-fridge. Bathrooms in both are on the more compact side of things but you should still have enough room to spin around or do whatever it is you do in the bathroom. The big difference is that Guesthouse 2 rooms have fewer windows and are slightly cheaper — 260,000 VND compared to Guesthouse 1’s 300,000. Both include breakfast.
Staying here gives you access to the guesthouse’s well-equipped shared kitchen, where you can cook to your heart’s content. They also have a barbecue grill that you may be able to convince them to let you use on their top floor garden, if you get really serious about cooking your own food. You can also simply enjoy the roof and its view of the surrounding area.
This alley doesn’t have the same party atmosphere you’ll find in Pham Ngu Lao. It’s quieter and gets darker. You’re also a little further away from the city’s attractions and you’ll find far fewer restaurants within walking distance.
California has no website and they’re hardly found on any of the major booking websites, but they have still managed to foster a positive reputation through word-of-mouth and guidebooks. Their popularity with long-term residents as well as travellers keeps them consistently booked so it’s a very good idea to book in advance (via email or try calling). If you don’t pre-arrange a room and they’re full, the staff will be happy to help you find another nearby guesthouse — the alley is full of them. Or walk down the alley yourself – Ngoc Hue Hotel and Miss Loi’s are oher good spots, though they are both a little smaller.
171A Co Bac, District 1
T: (08) 3837 8885
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