What we say:
Hotels with pools are certainly out of the budgetary reach of most visitors to Hanoi, and I definitely wouldn’t be jumping into the Red River or Hoan Kiem Lake, but fortunately a few public pools provide a reasonably priced alternative if you’re in need of a swim — quite possible now the weather has heated up.
The Army Hotel pool is most conveniently located for visitors, being near to the National Museum and Opera House. The hotel itself isn’t much but for around 70,000 VND (pay at the reception desk on your way into the hotel) you get a decent-sized pool, a towel, changing rooms and — if you’re early enough — a lounger.
I last went on a Saturday in the height of summer and it was busy, with a fair few kids running around, but not unbearably so: I still managed to grab a chair and there was enough space in the pool for some half-hearted lengths, with most visitors preferring to lounge around the edges. Friends of mine have been going in the mornings for a swim and it’s been empty. So avoid weekends if you’re a serious swimmer or want a bit more peace and quiet.
The same applies to the other three options: Thang Loi, Sao Mai and Four Seasons.
The Thang Loi Hotel, at the end of Yen Phu on West Lake, is now 80,000 VND. I’ve heard mixed reviews regarding the cleanliness of the water — with some reports of it being dirty and others that it’s fine — but having now been myself I must say I was very impressed: clean water, not too busy (it gets busy mid to late afternoon), loungers and shaded seating and a view across West Lake. Now my pool of choice.
Sao Mai Pool is a stand alone pool right next to West Lake (down the same road as Don’s Restaurant). It has more limited space for sitting and lounging but is a huge pool with a large shallow pool making it ideal for children. Entry is 50,000 VND and it’s open from 06:00-11:00 then from 14:00 till dark.
Finally, I’ve heard that the Four Season pool (south of the Temple of Literature) is decent enough, with good showers and generally clean water. Apparently men have to wear Speedos, which may not appeal to the girls or the guys! Price is also 50,000 VND.
If you want to upgrade, then some of the large hotels also allow visitors to pay and use the pool. For example, the Daewoo on Kim Ma charges US$10. I’ve stared at that particular pool wistfully many times (I used to teach English there) but haven’t ever taken the plunge.
33C Pham Ngu Lao, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi
T: (04) 3825 2896
Thang Loi Hotel
200 Yen Phu, Tay Ho, Hanoi
Sao Mai Pool
Alley 27, Xuan Dieu (the road that runs along the edge of the lake — keep going and it’s on the right)
T: (04) 3718 3161
14 Dang Tien Dong Street, Hanoi
T: (04) 3537 6250
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