Discover The Best Boutique Hotels In Vietnam With Lauren Pienaar

The Vietnam Is Awesome Podcast will help you discover the real Vietnam with awesome experiences.

In this episode, we’ll share our recommendations for boutique hotels across Vietnam.

My guest today is Lauren Pienaar. She has been in Vietnam now for 7 years, she’s from South Africa originally. She’s a singer-songwriter with Moon Rise City and is now the Head of Communications for Vietnam Is Awesome. The very maker of this podcast, she has traveled all over Vietnam to many different luxury and eco-friendly boutiques.

Hotels and activities mentioned.

Phu Quoc

  • Mango Bay
  • Fusion Resorts
  • Premier Village


  • Myst
  • An Lam Retreat
  • Mia Resort
  • Villa Song

Mui Ne

  • Clown Car
  • Minh On Hotel
  • Cargo Remote
  • The Cliff
  • Joe’s Cafe
  • Bo Khe
  • Mini Golf

Da Lat

  • Twin Lam Lake (sic
  • Lavender Valley
  • Mo Stay
  • Lang Biang Peak

Phong Nha

  • Victory Villas
  • Phong Nha Homestay

Da Nang

  • La Salle de Mer

Hoi An

  • An Bang Beach
  • Royal Riverside Hotel
  • Cao Lau
  • Nem
  • Mi Quang

Niall Mackay: 1:09
Welcome to the Vietnam Is Awesome podcast.We’ll help you discover the real Vietnam with awesome experiences.I’m Niall Mackay,your host.I’ve lived in Vietnam since2016,and I’m the host of a Vietnam podcast,A comedian,and now brand ambassador for Vietnam is awesome.I came to Vietnam for a two week vacation in2015and was immediately taken by the beauty,friendliness,energy,and even all the quirks of Vietnam.

Niall: 1:42
Welcome back to the Vietnam is Awesome podcast.Sharing awesome experiences of Vietnam.My guest today has been in Vietnam now for…Seven years,she’s from South Africa originally.She’s a singer songwriter with moonrise city,and she is now the head of communications for Vietnam is awesome.The very makers of this podcast,and she has traveled all over Vietnam to many different luxury and eco friendly boutiques.My guest today is Lauren Pina.

Lauren: 2:11
Thanks for having me,Neil.I’m so

Niall: 2:13
so how did you end up going from a tourist to somebody that lives in Vietnam?

Lauren: 2:21
To work at the summer camp,as like a little gap year and I was supposed to be on my way to London actually.and I chose Saigon because I’m a Singer-Songwriter and I heard that Saigon is one of the best places for live music in Vietnam.I literally Googled that where is the best place for live music in Vietnam?And I found Saigon and I really didn’t know much about Vietnam at that stage.I’d only traveled to like neighboring countries,but I love Asia and I love the idea of being in a country that’s so different to my own,where people aren’t speaking,the first language as English because that’s like.a huge opportunity to grow,because when you,I mean,I love Europe.I’ve been to Europe and like a lot of times,but,it’s easy there,but when you come to Asia,it’s kind of,it’s kind of difficult at first,because when you,when you come from South Africa and you’re doing your gap year and I’m doing,I was doing my second one,usually you either go to work on the yacht or,which I did,which kind of got me into like the F&B and hospitality industry and having like a keen eye for.Like hotels,hence why I’m excited to talk about this,topic,or you come to Vietnam or Asia to teach English,or you go work on the ski slopes.Like those are three very common things to do.When you leave South Africa or other countries too,I’m guessing.but it’s,there’s something really cool and magical about coming to Vietnam or coming to Asia and immersing yourself in a completely different culture.So that’s one of the reasons that I,that I came to Vietnam.and I just fell in love,really.And then I just never left.Well,

Niall: 3:54
Well you came here,you said you wanted to immerse yourself in the culture,somewhere that they don’t speak how’s your Vietnamese?

Lauren: 4:00
Vietnamese.It’s okay.It’s okay.It’s okay.It’s more than I can

Niall: 4:05
speak,so that’s pretty good.

Lauren: 4:06
Yeah,I try a little bit just like directions,food,money,the basic survival,go.The acs too cold in the spa,kind of thing.

Niall: 4:15
How did your passion grow then for luxury tourism?Because,again,I think a stereotype of somebody wanting to come to Vietnam is cheap.And it is an attraction of Vietnam that it is inexpensive.And maybe people aren’t thinking so much on the luxury end.

Lauren: 4:34
Yeah,exactly.That’s why,that’s what I love,not stereotype,I love to challenge it because I’ll be able to stay at like a luxury three to five star resort,which is like amazing on the beach has yoga in the mornings breakfast,you wouldn’t really afford that.I mean,you could,but it would break the bank,whereas in Vietnam,if you just spend a little bit more,you can really have some amazing like experiences and for a fraction of the price of what you’d pay back home.I mean,I’m from South Africa,which is not even expensive,but it’s way more affordable to travel at like luxury boutique hotels here.And also,I mean,I’m31now.So,I’ve ditched the backpack,a friend of mine who just visited here and she’s a travel writer.She just wrote a blog about,traveling with suitcases and not backpacks.And like,I feel like that’s the phase of the life I’m in.I mean,I will go to a backpackers if it’s super fun and super nice,like a really nice one,but for me,it’s not really about the price.It’s about sometimes I go like cheaper,sometimes more expensive,but it’s about the vibe.Like to be beautiful.Surrounded by nature,kind of arty,boutique vibes and eco.Like you can tell it even by the products that they have in the bathroom,lemongrass.And like,there’s not like plastic wrapped around everything,bamboo toothbrushes.I don’t know,that all attention to detail,I don’t know.

Niall: 5:56
One question I always wonder myself,what’s the difference between a three star and a five resort?I honestly have no idea.

Lauren: 6:04
Yeah,I guess that’s a good question,especially in Vietnam sometimes.

Niall: 6:09
It’s fluid

Lauren: 6:10
well,five stars is usually like really,really expensive.and actually I’m not the biggest fan of five star.I find that’s not always boutique.There are some boutique five star luxury experiences but I find five star resorts really nice,obviously,but it’s like.Super big.Lots of people.The bedrooms are all very uniform and it doesn’t feel like special and intimate it just feels like this giant,I don’t know I feel like hospital in a way.Like really clean,but like very basic.Whereas like three,four stars.That’s usually where I,But I mean,because if it’s eco,that’s a problem.If it’s eco,a lot of people,it could be like five star luxury,but it’s eco.So you might have a lizard coming into your room at night and like,things like that.So people will say,Oh,that’s not five star.And like,like,do you know Fuquok in,in,Mango Bay?Mango Bay Resort,sorry in That was one of my,that’s actually my top favorite resorts in’s on Phu Quoc Island and I researched Phu Quoc.It’s only an hour flight,obviously,which is and I thought,I want to go live there for a while.and then we were trying to find some places where we could possibly play.And I found Mango Bay and actually they didn’t even have a stage and they didn’t even do live music.So we went there on a business trip and I met the general manager and Yeah,we made a deal with them,built the stage,and then we started performing at Mango Bay.But that was like,honestly,a dream for me because I just love that area of Fukuoka.It’s in Onglang.It’s not like the main touristy spot,and yeah,so beautiful.These little beach huts.

Niall: 7:46
I’ve not stayed.I’ve been there for food.I’ve been there to the

Lauren: 7:49
Yeah.The food

Niall: 7:50
food is so good.yeah,yeah.

Lauren: 7:51
Yeah.No,the food is so good.See,that’s three star technically,but it feels

Niall: 7:55
what makes it a three star?Like,this is what I…I read something one time,it’s like,if there’s a TV in the room,like,it automatically bumps it up a

Lauren: 8:02
Yeah.There’s stuff like that.

Niall: 8:03
Yeah,this is pointless,because like,I never watch TV in a hotel.Like,I never would go to a hotel…Like,maybe the TV is on in the background while I’m getting ready,but…That’s a weird one to me like you get a star for having a TV or having a fridge I think I read as well,which is pretty useful to have a fridge if you need it

Lauren: 8:19
Yeah,if you need it,but I mean,mango Bay is eco.So they don’t have AC in the room,but the rooms are,

Niall: 8:24
That’s why I’ve not stayed

Lauren: 8:26
but actually they’ve got this thing called midnight breeze.It goes over the bed and it’s just as good as like an AC.It’s,it gives us cool breeze on you at night and it’s eco friendly.It uses less electricity in that.So a lot of people that want to stay there cause they’re like,Oh,there’s no AC,but there is actually,it’s like really not hot in the rooms.There

Niall: 8:45
Because it’s on the water,right?

Lauren: 8:47
It’s on the water and the room is designed in like a traditional Vietnamese way,like,there’s like at the top of the,the hut and the air can flow through the bathrooms and outdoors the bathrooms outdoors with in the garden and yeah,you’ve got that midnight breeze.So you do keep like cool at night.

Niall: 9:03
I would recommend Mango Bay100%.Yeah,I love when we go to Fuquok.We’ve had a birthday dinner there before.I’ve had an anniversary dinner there before.It’s a beautiful location,right on the water.And I’ve not stayed…But I will definitely look at staying.One thing I think people might be concerned about is that,well,eco gets thrown about so easily,and that greenwashing is such a big problem.And I’m almost,like,roll my eyes at it now as well,are you really eco?So what,for you,if you’re looking for an eco place,and you’ve mentioned,obviously,no AC,what other things are you looking at in a venue or a hotel?And you actually are like,yeah,okay,you are eco.And have you seen examples of that greenwashing?

Lauren: 9:42
Oh yeah.The greenwashing is my absolute worst.At hotels,it’s usually like in the small little details,like the kind of products that they use.Usually,I find like a hotel that is like,or conscious or enough to give you like shampoo and conditioner and body wash.That’s like natural.You can tell it’s not like that,like giant,like just like soap,like factory soap.They usually like eco minded like this,the,the toothbrushes will be bamboo or there won’t even be a toothbrush and they’ll say like request if you need one and they won’t be,they won’t just be giving you a bunch of junk.

Niall: 10:21
Yeah.One of the things I always love in every hotel,especially the big five star ones is like,if you want to be more eco friendly,we won’t wash your towels.

Lauren: 10:29
But then they do wash your towels.

Niall: 10:30
Well,I want them to.I’m like,I’m in a hotel,like,I don’t want a dirty towel.At home,I don’t wash my towels every day.I’m okay if you do that for the whole two days that I’m here,

Lauren: 10:40
Yeah.No,I mean,in Vietnam also,let’s be serious.It’s really hot here.So I don’t always want to stay somewhere with,I don’t want to stay somewhere with absolutely no AC,but there are certain stays like on the beach,or maybe they have something else like this midnight breeze thing I was talking about or fans,then it is,then it’s definitely doable,but you can literally just read the reviews usually.I mean,if a review on,go to a booking or whatever is over like nine out of10,then.You’re pretty much guaranteed safe.

Niall: 11:10
So what are some of your other top locations,top hotels that you’ve been to?

Lauren: 11:13
I lived in Fukuoka for a year,but over two high seasons because I didn’t want to be there during rainy season.So from like November onwards,and yeah,Mango Bay was my top,but then there was also two,which are a bit more expensive,but also really cool is Fukuoka.But that’s like five star,you get your own private villa,and a premier village,but I also performed at both of those places.on Fuquok besides Mango Bay,there’s also a premier village in the south,which is like right in the peninsula,which is beautiful.And there’s Fusion Resort,which is kind of in the North,which is also amazing,but that’s like five,that’s five star,like expensive and five star,but for maybe a very special occasion,it’s really,really,really You drive around in golf carts

Niall: 11:57
my wife and I went there for our fifth wedding anniversary.And we had our own private villa,private swimming pool.Didn’t look up about rainy season.And it rained for five days straight.I’m not even kidding,like every morning we woke up and there was rain on the ceiling every night,every day.We went stir crazy by then.We had our own pool,we could barely use it.I ended up like jumping in the pool with an umbrella because I was just going crazy.I was like out in the rain.

Lauren: 12:27
Yeah,so you definitely don’t want to go there for guac in rainy season.It’s still beautiful.Like,I mean,you have your own villa and whatever,but you want to be able to go to the beach And and the spa is nice.You get free spa

Niall: 12:38
you get free spa

Lauren: 12:40

Niall: 12:40
included.Yeah,it’s pretty good.But at the same time,we did not look up the weather at all.We didn’t even realize that Foucault had a rainy season.It’s just like July,let’s go to Foucault.It’s the beach.It’s beautiful.And so,but as a resort,yeah,that’s absolutely beautiful.And I would recommend it.

Lauren: 12:56
Yeah.That would be my first tip when you’re traveling Vietnam is depending on what season it is kind of like might influence your trip and where you go.

Niall: 13:03
Check the weather.

Lauren: 13:04
Yeah,check the weather Yeah,and then in in Ho Chi Minh City because I’ve lived here for seven years almost or more than I Want to escape the city sometimes like I’m not a city girl.That’s the thing like I’m I like nature and arts and like Living in the city is a lot like anyone that travels here.A lot of people that travel here are like,wow,how do you live in Ho Chi Minh city?It’s so,I know.But the thing is,if you go to all the tourist places,like the very popular tourist places,it is kind of crazy and like,yeah,maybe it’s fun to see those like main tourist sites,once or twice,but I kind of like,well,I escape out of the city and when I have friends visiting here,I often recommend these three hotels,my favorite three ones in.In Saigon.The first one is,Oh,the Myst Dong Khoi

Niall: 13:50
was about to say,is it going to be The Mist?That is my favorite as

Lauren: 13:53
well It’s one of my favorites.Yeah.It’s not my top favorite,but it’s one of my favorites.

Niall: 13:57
I absolutely love it.My aunt came to visit in December and she wanted somewhere to stay in Saigon,so I recommended The Mist.She was only going to stay for one night.I think she stayed for like three or four.

Lauren: 14:07
It’s so beautiful.Yeah,it even smells nice.

Niall: 14:10
it’s just,this is a really nice vibe.It’s all wooden paneling inside.Kind of like,is it based on the inside of a boat?

Lauren: 14:16
Yeah,it’s very antique.And they even have those old like telephones and a big giant rose courts at the entrance of the,of the hotel.Yeah,

Niall Mackay: 14:24
it’s just a really cool vibe.It’s,

Niall: 14:26
it did have a beautiful view over the Saigon River until they decided to build a Hilton right in front of it.I love.Which is still not opened.

Lauren: 14:33
Yeah,I know.I actually was,went,stayed there before the Hilton was built.So we had the

Niall: 14:37

Lauren: 14:38
view and you have those jacuzzis on the balcony,which is so much fun.

Niall: 14:42
Just So the other great thing about The Mist is,I don’t know if it’s every room,but I think every room has its own bath and jacuzzi on the balcony.And so even if you didn’t have a river view,you still had your own bath,like beautiful bathtub outside.So there’s just something about The Mist.It’s a really cool

Lauren: 14:58

Niall: 14:58
Mystical.Yeah,yeah,there you

Lauren: 15:00
no,it’s really

Niall: 15:01
I would be,I want to go and stay there again soon,actually,because it’s just a really cool place.

Lauren: 15:05
I want to go And it’s in the center of town and that’s by the,close to the walking street.And from that Dong Khoi,you can walk down to the Ang Bang water bus station and you can take a water bus into Taorine or anywhere.I love to take,I take the water bus a lot.Whenever I can get onto the river by boat or water bus,I what?

Niall: 15:23
because we went to go on it one time and here’s a good piece of advice.Book your tickets in advance because we went,I think it was like the,for the full30ferry.We’d had a day in town and I’m like,right,we’ll get the ferry back.And they were like,Oh,next ferry is not till seven30.Like the next available tickets.We were like,wait,what?So.If you do want to do it,I would absolutely recommend it.It looks so,so fun.It’s quite a relatively new thing in the last few years and you can get the water.It’s like a water taxi from Taodin to,to the city,but book your tickets in

Lauren: 15:52
Yeah,you can,you can do it on Google Maps actually,but it’s difficult because the,the,if you don’t speak Vietnamese because the actual stations have like interesting names.Well,Vietnamese names,you have to know which station is in which district that you want to go to.and then it’s all in Vietnamese.I use Google translate,take a screenshot and then go over to Google translate,quickly check,make sure that that’s the right.Bus that I’m booking,and then do it that way.But yeah,the evening times at sunsets are very popular.Sometimes we even buy a little beer on the streets and take it for the ride.And it’s really fun because then you arrive in district one and take a nice walk up the walking streets and then go for dinner and whatnot.So,and that actually leads me to my next,which is probably my favorite boutique hotel in,in Ho Chi Minh City.

Niall Mackay: 16:36
Oh yeah,my favorite.

Lauren: 16:37
It’s called An Lam’s actually up the river,so it’s a little bit out of Saigon.It’s about a15to20minute river ride,but included in your stay,they pick you up at that water bus yeah,you could like spend the day.being a full on tourist and doing like,being in the city,going,doing all the history things or,going around town shopping,whatever it is that you want to do.and then at the end of a long bustling day,you get picked up by this little,it’s not a yacht,a little speed boat,a little speed boat,but,and then you arrive like up the river at this beautiful,it’s actually a retreat and Lam retreat.

Niall: 17:11
I’ve heard of it,and I’ve looked into it before,and if my memory serves me right,it’s quite expensive,right?

Lauren: 17:17
But they have a lot of sales,like,on a good and they often have like50%off or whatever,if it’s not on like a weekend or whatever.So when we went,we,we

Niall: 17:28
when we should mention the price here.So,mist,the mist costs,the last time I looked at the mist,it’s5million a night.which is about200US dollars.And like you mentioned at the beginning,When I think of what you can get for200US dollars.In the U.S.or anywhere else in the world,it would be a fraction of what you would get at The Mist.So,it is,and,and you do want to,lots of people come to Vietnam because it is inexpensive and you are on a budget and you can get a lot for a little.But even if it’s for a night or two and you’re visiting Saigon,splash out that little bit extra,you,you will absolutely not regret it.So it’s,I think it’s about5million and An Lam Retreat.2.

Lauren: 18:03
I think I paid only2.2million V and D,which I don’t know what that is Yeah,because I got it on sale.Like you look on a good and in these,there’s always a sale.Like,well,but it is worth,even if you just do one night,cause you’ve been traveling and you’re tired,or if you live in the city and you want to get out,it’s just like a nice little,little escape.

Niall: 18:23
Well and the other danger is,I think a lot of people come to Vietnam and they book the cheap hotel,well come to Saigon,sorry,and they book a cheap hotel not realising that it’s right next to Boi Vien.Noisy.

Lauren: 18:34

Niall: 18:35
And you are not going to get a quiet night’s sleep if you’re next to Bois Vienne,and I’ve heard stories like this where people have booked a,a relatively cheap guest house,and it’s right next to,like,one of these massively noisy bars,so again,if you read the reviews,you would probably realize that,but like anything in life,you get what you pay for,so if you’re going to pay20for a hotel room,It’s probably not going to have a fridge or a TV and,you might have some cockroaches or

Lauren: 18:59
Yeah,I don’t mind and lizards,but I do not,and they eat cockroaches,but I do not want to see a

Niall: 19:05
cockroach.Well,that’s,yeah,exactly.So you,you can splash out a little bit and then so after Anlam Retreat,what’s the next

Lauren: 19:11
my other favorite one in Saigon is Mia Resort and that’s a boutique.That’s definitely five stars.but it’s so beautiful.There’s a giant swimming pool on the,on the river and the service is amazing.The food is so good.You literally can have a swim in the pool and order pizza and drinks and they’re like,bring it right to you.The stuff is super friendly.I’ve been there on like a girl’s trip,so even if you just,they also pick you up at,On the river,if you want to come from district one,they also pick you up included in the stay.So that’s really,really cool,I

Niall: 19:39
How much is that?That’s,cuz I’ve not been to that one cuz I know that is quite expensive.

Lauren: 19:44
It is expensive,but as I say,they always have sales like midweek sales and that,and you can also,pay like500k or a mil or something and then you rent a,like a tanning bed for the day and get like a,

Niall: 19:55
a tanning bed?

Lauren: 19:57
they have like those beds,

Niall: 19:58
do you

Lauren: 19:58
like a lounger,a

Niall: 19:59
them?A lounger,not a tanning bed.

Lauren: 20:03
lounger.the cabana

Niall: 20:06

Lauren: 20:08
You can,you can rent a cabana for the day.But if it’s a special occasion,you know,like definitely spend a night or two there.

Niall: 20:14
Yeah,and it’s not the Park Hyatt.The Park Hyatt is about10

Lauren: 20:17
Oh,no.Yeah.yeah.That’s crazy.Oh,like Mango Bay,you pay,it’s actually not expensive,too expensive,it’s pretty good.But for breakfast,which is also at,at Mia,the breakfast is insane.And also,on Le Retreat,like,you have like a buffet,but you also have a la carte,you can have champagne,like.And the breakfast.You have such a beautiful breakfast that you don’t want to even eat lunch.So like if you actually had to go out for Western breakfast breakfast of that,like scale in Saigon,you would pay like quite a lot.So if you want,if you,after having like proper cappuccinos and,and a really good breakfast when you stared a more expensive,resort,

Niall: 20:56
No,a hundred percent.If you,some of the breakfast you get,you’re like,this would be so expensive outside of the hotel.The only thing,sometimes I’m like,ah,I don’t know if I would buy this anyway.It’s not like a substitution,like if I wasn’t here,I don’t think I’d be going.doing that,but if you do have one of these nice hotels,I’ll normally get a couple of cappuccinos because you,because they’re all included.You’re like,okay,I’ll have a second one.Okay.And then you eat more food than you possibly can.The other hotel that we went to was on the river here in District2was Villa Song.

Lauren: 21:25
Oh,I know that one.

Niall: 21:28
They also do the river pickup.And that’s why we did that.We did that seven,six,seven years ago.And it was because we could get picked up in a boat and they picked us up from District4and,and take you there and drop you right off and then.

Lauren: 21:39
are they still around?cool.I haven’t.Okay.that’s next on my list.Thank you Yeah.

Niall: 21:44
So that’s,that’s like four or five star as well.That’s like really,really nice.

Lauren: 21:48
in Ho Chi Minh City,I would stay in like.Quite a nice place.and then,but the thing is,there’s also,like cheaper boutique hotels to stay at too,like,like in Mui Ne,there’s a lot of good options,which now is only like two and a half hours from Saigon because of the new highway

Niall: 22:05
So they’ve just opened up a new highway.So I have never been that big of a fan of Monet one,because there’s not the best beach in the world.You really,you gotta go to the White Sand Resort,which has the beach backed onto it.But the rest of the town,there’s not really much of a beach.It’s also it,for me,it was always too far.Because it took about five hours to get there and some of our friends would go for a weekend or a long weekend Even just a weekend so they would leave Friday five hours in the car come back Sunday another five hours back Oh,yeah,it’s too far ten hours to go for like two nights So I’ve obviously been quite a lot,but I’ve never been like the biggest fan But now they’ve just opened up a new highway that goes almost direct from Saigon,which is cut it down I had talking to friends about it on the weekend.They’re like two hours.

Lauren: 22:50
Two hours,20minutes.Exactly.Last time.But I,I love Mui Ne.I’ve been there like a million times.I can’t even count how many times.That’s like my low,like where I

Niall: 22:59
So put me in my place.Why do I,you,you,we’ve got two sides here.So I’m not

Lauren: 23:03

Niall: 23:03
fan.Why do you love it?

Lauren: 23:05
well,when it was still far to get there,we used,we used to take the local sleeper bus and then just leave really early in the morning,like maybe6a.m.or something,and then just sleep for five hours and read and whatnot.

Niall: 23:17
How tall is your boyfriend?

Lauren: 23:19
We’re about the same height,171,173meters.

Niall: 23:24
Yeah,I do feet,I don’t know.I’m six foot,so I think that’s184centimeters.So if you’re listening to this and you’re about my height,you cannot go on a sleeper bus.It’s the most uncomfortable,I did it once and it is the most uncomfortable thing.They are not made.For Western Heights,they’re made for females mostly,like my wife is smaller,like a female can fit in it fine,or a Vietnamese person.If you’re over5’105’11it’s gonna be a pretty uncomfortable ride.

Lauren: 23:49
5’11and like the two hour route,some of the big buses are still going the long route.So I made that mistake last time I went to Mui Ne,and then I came back by luxury limousine.Luxury limousine is the best way,or private car.Like they,and You know,it’s pretty good price if you’re like two or three or four

Niall: 24:08
a pretty good price if you like two or three or The one that we always use is called Clown Car and they’re dog friendly and they’re,they’re amazing to deal with.So if you want to get a taxi,a private taxi,but then the limousine is like,what,10seats,like10,12seats?

Lauren: 24:31
Yeah,there was,there’s like3S limo.there’s another one that I just used that was so good.Or like private drivers.You can find all of these kind of drivers,honestly,on Zollo.yeah,you can just write driver Moonee,and then like travel companies will come up.local ones with like local prices.I wouldn’t,I don’t,I don’t really book on like Expedia or any of

Niall: 24:50
No,no,I just,we’ve just always used clown car

Lauren: 24:54
I just,we just that one.

Niall: 24:55
and so they’re really reliable,really good and dog friendly as well.

Lauren: 24:59
So this is why I love Muay

Niall: 25:00
Yeah.Why do you love my name?

Lauren: 25:01
well,the first reason is they have what’s called Bo Khe.And I hope that I’m pronouncing that right.But it’s,it’s,like seafood and street food,like.It’s not really street food.It’s along all along the ocean.And then they have,I mean,you know what it is,but,just to explain,it’s all along the ocean it’s basically fresh caught seafood on the beach,but it’s very informal.You can sometimes buy,take your own bottle of wine from outside because you’re not always going to get a good bottle of wine in there if you’re into drinking wine,which is what I do.and then I usually order off the menu because sometimes when you order from the,the,the.The tanks,you get shocked by the prices.So I order usually off the menu.And then unless there’s like some other stuff,I check the price first.Cause I,I mean,you are at a very informal restaurant.You don’t want to pay like a lot money,but a lot of the places are super delicious.But yeah,eating the fresh seafood on the beach.and then also there’s a lot of boutique stays.They’re really,really beautiful ones and for all different price favorite one,which is.It’s the most expensive one is called the sailing club.It’s the sister or,like hotel from Mia,but,wow,that is just honestly’s so beautiful.The pool is perfect.The beach is like white sand.They keep it really clean in front there and it’s like super,the food’s delicious.Actually the chef’s South African.I think if they’ve still got the same chef,gorgeous.I’ve also sung there,so I got to stay there a couple of times.Lucky me.But also.Forked out to go stay there with on girls trips or with my partner cuz it’s so beautiful,it’s worth it.but then there’s two other which I really love is called Minjon,M I N H O N,Minh Hotel.And it’s super cheap.It’s like600,000and a night,which is like,how many dollars30and you get breakfast included.There’s a beautiful swimming pool.Like you look up and there’s palm trees everywhere.The rooms are clean and’s not five star,but it’s clean,beautiful.The food’s really good,very Vietnamese.And you’re in like this little village and you can bicycles and cycle around.So it’s a little bit more rustic,but still beautiful,good service,like clean.I really love Mignon.So if I’m going to go for like a week.I,I would stay probably there.And there’s also a sister,one of,of mignon,it’s called La Marina,and they’re actually also owned by the same people.And th those ones have sea views.Yeah.And it’s like,the price points is way,I mean,the pool that pool’s in the shade.So like,for Western is we,we want pool in the sun,but the actual rooms are so beautiful.So yeah,you can also,you can stay.And then there’s also,I,I go there a lot.So there’s Villa Araria,which is beautiful on the beach,and Sun Sea Resort,which is beautiful and also has an amazing Thai restaurant.

Niall: 27:44
And you’ve missed my favorite one.I’ve been waiting for you to mention it.Cargo Remote.

Lauren: 27:48
Oh,I haven’t stayed there.And then they’ve got live music

Niall: 27:51
well.Yeah.I’m going to be heading up there soon.So Cargo Remote is one of my favorite places in all of Vietnam.

Lauren: 27:59

Niall: 28:00
just this little place of paradise.So Cargo is owned and run by a guy called,who’s quite well known.His name’s Rod Quinton and he was a big music producer and music saigon and i think in australia as well they used to run a venue called cargo that was in saigon and it closed down before i ever

Lauren: 28:18
here.I went to went to there?Yeah,as I moved here.

Niall: 28:21
yeah it must have been yeah and my favorite one of my favorite bands in the world ever is black rebel motorcycle club and they played there i think the the vaccines or the horrors played there so it was like a really cool indie music venue and which We don’t really have it in Saigon,unfortunately,and there’s not really the market for it,because it closed down.But what they did was they,with him and his wife,they opened up a little place in Moine,but it’s not on the beach,it’s up on the hill.So it’s actually really cool to get to.They have to come and pick you up in a buggy,like a little golf buggy.Cars can’t get up there.And then they bring you up to it,and you just feel like you’re away from the world.There’s like palm trees all around.All the rooms are like,the restaurant and everything is above.The rooms,like it’s on grass on top,and it’s all containers,the pool is all natural water,no chlorine,it’s all like,it’s got plants in it that clean it naturally,and it’s just like this little slice of heaven,so we absolutely love going up there,you can spend a couple of days there,you can go down to the beach if you want to,but you could honestly just stay in cargo,remote,shut off,relax,the people are awesome,the staff are amazing,and it’s also dog friendly as well,so if you do have a dog,you can take your dog there as

Lauren: 29:30
Is there a sea view?

Niall: 29:31
Not really,no.I mean,if you look out far enough,you may be able to see the sea,but you’re not going there for the sea view,it’s back up on the hills,it’s more you can just see the top of all the palm trees,which is beautiful,just being able to see the top of all the green,but that’s,that’s definitely my,my top recommendation for Moynihan is cargo remote.

Lauren: 29:47
definitely try it next time.Cause some of my friends have also told me that it’s amazing.I just love being on the beach and I find that if you don’t stay On the beach at a nice resort in Moine,it’s difficult to like,find a good beach because the public beaches,as you say,aren’t that nice.It’s because it’s a fishing,fisherman town,yeah,fishing town.fisherman,fisherwoman town.So like,that side of the beach is a little bit more like,you fished on.

Niall: 30:11
the only downside of it.If you want to go for a beach holiday,then Cargo Remote is not the place,but

Lauren: 30:16
But you can actually spend the day at some of

Niall: 30:18
resorts,Yeah,you can go somewhere else If you can

Lauren: 30:19
all those places.If you go,if you have lunch there,you can,you can tan there and access the beach and it’s,it’s

Niall: 30:25
And I think Cargo Remote,if I remember rightly,is about a million dong a night,so not super cheap,but not super expensive either.

Lauren: 30:32
Oh,there’s also the Cliff,which is

Niall: 30:34
amazing.Oh,I don’t know that

Lauren: 30:35
Oh,I don’t know that one.That’s as you drive in on the right hand

Niall: 30:37
hand side.Is it on a cliff?

Lauren: 30:38
Is that on the Cliff.And it’s that’s five star,but that’s also really,really nice and a very good

Niall: 30:44
Sweet.To do in Moines was obviously Jules Caffey,which has live music365days of the year

Lauren: 30:50
And the’s called Johnny’s,it is the best,best massage,best foot massage I’ve ever had in my life.Like this tiny little yellow spa with like,it’s very like rustic and beautiful and clean and wow,the service is really good.So it’s like spa,seafood,beach,Joe’s cafe,live

Niall: 31:08
last one as well.Mini golf.

Lauren: 31:10

Niall: 31:11
golf.You’ve never done the mini

Lauren: 31:12
No,I’ve been to the driving

Niall: 31:13
Into the mini golf course,it’s so much fun.

Lauren: 31:15
up on like

Niall: 31:16
just on the main road.Drink some beer,play some mini

Lauren: 31:19
golf.Oh,that’s fun.Cup.Yeah.

Niall: 31:22
where’s next?

Lauren: 31:24
Next is Dalat.My favorite place,one of my,I mean,my favorite two places to travel is definitely Dalat and Hoi An.but I mean,convenience sake being in Saigon,obviously I go to Phu Ne frequently.but yeah,I love Dalat.I’m from Cape Town,so I love the,I love the mountains and being there.I mean,first of all,the weather is amazing because it’s,nice and cool.There’s hiking,there’s beautiful lakes.have you been?Twin Lum Lake is so beautiful.So I usually try to stay in that area.It’s like one of the biggest,most,oh,it’s so beautiful,most beautiful lakes in Dalat.and then recently I’ve stayed at a few places,but recently I stayed at Mo Stay.and it’s like,Retreat in the forest literally and you stay in these you can rent a whole like villa if you have big family,but you can also just rent a room I stayed in like the entry level like cheapest room and it was amazing I went with my mom and when you open the curtains,you just see like forest and they pick you up.In a little golf cart and take you to dinner and breakfast.The breakfast is amazing and you literally,you’re in the forest.It’s beautiful.and you can also barbecue on your roof,on your rooftop.So if you wanted to cause it’s a bit out of the city,so you can’t like easily pop into local restaurants.And in Dalat,the There’s some really good food in yeah,I would spend like maybe one or two nights there.Also a special occasion,like getaway retreats,and then maybe spend two nights.Or in

Niall: 32:55
nice.I would add to that list lavender valley

Lauren: 32:58
Lavender.Yes.That’s one of the

Niall: 33:00
the that’s one of the ones you can see.

Lauren: 33:01
on Twila Lake.The glamping?And they’ve got an amazing like,restaurant that overlooks the whole But then my favorite thing to do in,in,in Dalat is to go hiking.yeah,I did,that,what’s the highest peak called again?Lang Peak,and do not underestimate that hike.Oh my goodness.I’m like,I’m a hiker.And I think,in Vietnam,people don’t really,they’re not that adventurous.Like people aren’t like swimming a lot and like everyone’s,I just think everyone’s city,pe city people,And then,oh my goodness,was that a rude awakening and like,I was completely unprepared.I was just in my normal and then running shoes and my little shorts and top with my hat and my friend.And then there we go.And next minute we got to the top and it started to storm.It started to hail.We were like coming down.The path was literally like an ice river.We were freezing cold.I didn’t have it.Yeah.And it took hours and hours.It was absolutely beautiful.But yeah,go prepared for sure.

Niall: 33:56
You do have to be conscious of the weather in Vietnam cause it can change.I’ve had friends that went over the high van pass in.Outside of Da Nang.And similar thing,they went up in shorts and t shirt and by the time they got up and came down it was like pouring with rain,sideways wind and freezing cold,so the weather can change.The other,well the other thing for Lang Biang peak mountain is you can get cars up of,up it,like really old jeeps which are really cool but you do have to book them in advance so we went and it was like a two hour wait.So it’s really,really popular with locals and with tourists,so you don’t have to walk up it,but…

Lauren: 34:30
You the one that the cars go up is a different peak.And then the one that you hike up is another peak.And you could get lost if you did it by yourself.We did it with a guide because a friend of mine,she tried to do it by herself before with a friend and,and,and they got,they got lost.So I would say get a,get a,

Niall: 34:47
the money for a

Lauren: 34:48
get the guide for your own safety and take a proper rain jacket and some snacks.

Niall: 34:54
Alright,so where we go next?

Lauren: 34:55
so yeah,after,after the lat,my,is an,is Phong Nha,which is also maybe not as popular tourist destination,but.everyone talks about Halong Bay in Vietnam,which is beautiful.And I love Halong Bay,but it’s become very touristy.and the ocean for me is not very clean to like swim in over there.I mean,there’s a lot of boats in and out and whatnot.So,which is unfortunate,but in Phung Nha it.It’s the same sort of landscape,like those beautiful hills covered in that like mossy green.It’s so,so beautiful.And there’s a bunch of beautiful places to stay there.But my favorite,one of them is Phung Nha Farmstay.and by the same owners is Victory Road Villas.And you get your own villa.So Fung Nya Farmstay is more like the affordable,like beautiful eco,farmstay.And then the Victory Road Villas is a little bit more luxe.but it’s beautiful.You get your own villa and it’s super boutique,gorgeous swimming pool.And when you stare out in the distance,there’s,all those buffalo grazing and you look out on the river and you can do cave tours and all sorts of adventurous things around there.It’s Pung

Niall: 36:00
Because Fung Yat is where Dong Sun Cave is,right?Yeah.Which,if you don’t know what that is,it’s the biggest cave in the world,which they only just discovered a few years ago.And the waiting list for that,I think,is like a year.

Lauren: 36:11
Yeah,I didn’t do Dong Sung Cave.I guess I should go on the waiting list and do it.but there’s a lot of other caves to do.We literally had like torches on our head and like swam in the dark through this cave.It was very adventurous.and like trek through the jungle.And I must say,take mosquito repellent.and put on coconut oil too,because those mosquitoes bite you through mosquito repellent.But that was really,besides the mosquitoes,an amazing experience.and yeah,where you stay,where I,where I stay is so important for me.Like,I really love after a day of adventure coming back to a beautiful place,having a glass of wine and delicious meal.And also sometimes when you stay in a,in a more expensive place,you don’t have to eat there every can have the breakfast there,enjoy it,and then try local spots too,to balance it out.

Niall: 36:52
and I think we’re going to finish up with two of the most popular places in Vietnam.And what is that?

Lauren: 36:59
Hoi An and Da Nang.

Niall: 37:00
Hoi So where do you recommend to stay there?

Lauren: 37:02
well,I mean,if you’re traveling to Vietnam for the first time,you wouldn’t know that you have to fly into Da Nang and then take a car to Hoi An,because that can be

Niall: 37:10
I still forget that.I’m like,let’s go to Hoi An,and they’re like,oh yeah,but we’ve got to go to Da Nang

Lauren: 37:14
Yeah,but it’s not,it’s not that far.You just organize a driver to take know,Danang to Hoi An,but in Danang,I don’t normally spend a lot of time there because it’s like more the city.But when I have,I stayed in La Salle de Mer.Like the salt of the sea.I think that’s the translation.It’s kind of a big,hotel,but it’s on the beach and it’s like,the design is really,really cool.The rooms are beautiful.The view is amazing of like the whole beach and the pool is like this infinity pools,like these big,like,it looks like.salt blocks everywhere.So that was fun.but I would just make my way straight into Hoi An and stay either in Ang Bang beach,which is like10minutes from Hoi An.Very confusing for people too.Hoi An does have a beach.It’s just like five,10minutes outside of the ancient town.So like,if you want to be on the beach,I’d stay there.My favorite hotel in Hoi An,his dad,is called the Royal Riverside Hotel.And that’s,I’ve been there like three,four times.I’ve been there with a group of friends,with my mom,with my’s in Old Town.They give bicycles.So it’s a two minute cycle.And then you’re at the Japanese bridge and it’s boutique.They have bathtubs,which is a big one because a lot of hotels and houses in Vietnam don’t have bathtubs.So if you’re missing a bathtub,you can go there.Little pool,little spa.And it’s just like the location is perfect.There’s a lot of nice boutique ones in the area.But you have to look at which area it’s in.And know where you want to be.I like being in the Old Town or on Angbang Beach.Oh,and the,the food in Hoi An is also my favorite in the whole of Vietnam,like Khao Lao.So good.When you come here,you have to research,the best dishes in Vietnam and then like order them off the menu,be brave and,and,and do it.There’s good street food in Hoi An too,like Nem’s off the side of the road,like don’t be scared.I’ve never

Niall: 39:01
Don’t just eat pho.

Lauren: 39:02
Don’t just eat pho,yeah.

Niall: 39:04
pho,yeah.And then in Da Nang as well you have Mee Kwang,right?So,Lauren,what’s your final recommendation for someone looking to come to Vietnam and book something a little bit different,a little bit nicer than their usual hotel?

Lauren: 39:15
I would say first,obviously look at the weather,see where you want to go and then you can look on any booking sites and look between three to five stars and maybe don’t just look at the price bracket straight away and,and like definitely pick out one or two experiences that are,that are really,really special and then go for budget in between,I would really recommend trying out some really amazing stays with amazing hospitality and experiences,which you probably wouldn’t want to Fork out the budget for back in your home in another country.So I would really say take advantage of that.And usually I look for ratings over nine before I book,but maybe if I’m feeling,generous,I’ll look for like over eight.

Niall: 39:57
I think that’s a great advice.Don’t just look at the budget right away because that’s what I’m guilty of.I just look at the budget and think about more,what are you going to get for that?Like what value do you get?So we just stayed,my wife and I just stayed at the,the Mia in Nha Trang.and Yeah.Ooh,it was so nice.It was amazing.So again,our anniversaries,we always like to splash out and do something nice.So this was a10year wedding anniversary.So we did,the Mia hotel and it was unbelievable.And part of that,there was,you got,one spa package included.So like a massage each,and then also had a cooking class and we didn’t realize it was a three course cooking class and we got to cook it.So it was buntit nung,bolalot,And spring rolls.

Lauren: 40:38
Yeah.My favorite

Niall: 40:39
Yeah.And we,so that was like our meal for,we barely ate dinner that night.I don’t even think we had dinner cause that was,we had the breakfast buffet.Then we had the cooking class at lunch and we’d eaten so much food by that point.You don’t need that.Then you get the massages.If you include that,so with the cost of it,that we probably got another like4million worth of value

Lauren: 40:58
Yeah,definitely.Like when you travel to Mango Bay and you stay there,you almost don’t need to leave.If you want like a relaxing holiday,you can kayak,you can snorkel.That’s all free.The breakfast is included.There’s Tai Chi,there’s yoga,there’s so many things included.There’s like spa discounts.So a lot of these places that do seem a bit more pricey,they have,it’s like an experience.And if you just want like a few days to just chill and not actually.Move around,you can actually just stay at the room,at the resort and experience.

Niall: 41:24
And the other one is airport pickup.So like we were there,they,they Brought you to and from the airport and when we looked up,that was almost like probably going to be five,six,seven,800,000dong if we booked our own grab and they’re,they’re going to do it for you.So yeah,look at the overall package.What are you going to get?and you’ll,you’ll find some absolutely unbelievable experiences in Vietnam.And I feel very privileged to be able to have these opportunities because I do think the same as you,I’ve lived in New Zealand before here.I,I could not even contemplate.Being in New Zealand and being like,oh,let’s go and splash out for a,a weekend away because that,the price of that would be so astronomical,it wouldn’t even,splashing out wouldn’t even

Lauren: 42:04
Splashing out here is so doable.Yeah.

Niall: 42:07
it.and I always like to couch it in the terms of like,whether you live here or whether you’re coming from overseas,we’re very lucky that we can have that opportunity because not everybody does.So I do like to make that clear,like I don’t want to sound like we’re just being

Lauren: 42:19

Niall: 42:21
we’ve got all this money to throw about.We’re in a very lucky position to be able to do that.

Lauren: 42:26
Yeah.I think you can mix your holiday up with like some budget stays,but beautiful ones.Look for,look,look at the design,look at the reviews.They are cheaper places.And I always go boutique when I can and support like small businesses rather than like these big corporations anyway.

Niall: 42:41
like the one that built right in front of the Mist and Ruined the View.Thank you very much Lauren,this has been awesome.

Lauren: 42:49
Thank you so much for having me,everyone,and enjoy your travels.

Niall Mackay: 42:56
I’m Niall Mackay.I’m your host of the Vietnam is Awesome podcast.We are here to help you discover the real Vietnam with awesome experiences.So make sure you go check out our social media pages.Vietnam is awesome,and go to the website.Vietnam is so you can see more about tools.Read the blog,see pictures,give you everything you need to know about your trip to Vietnam.If you have enjoyed this podcast,don’t forget to follow.Subscribe,all of that good stuff.Share it with people.Send us any questions that you have,and we’ll be more than happy to help you.