Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Orchid Garden Homestay

By now we’ve stayed at oh, approximately, eleventy hundred and fifty-seven different accommodations (and yet, Lana still can’t spell ‘accommodations’ correctly on the first try).  And of the ones we’ve stayed at, most of them were fine, or ok, but forgettable.  You guys, this isn’t that place.  We have nothing but high gushy praise for our hotel in Hoi An, Vietnam. Orchid Garden Homestay was perfect for us, and it came after a long string of hotel rooms, the best of which we’ll call…interesting.
We arrived late, but we had a driver that picked us up at the airport and ferried us off to the hotel. At the hotel they carried our bags in, showed us how to work the air-conditioner, showed us around and left us to it. “What time is breakfast?” Lana asked. “Whenever you want it,” was the response.  We wandered around for a bit, taking in our “apartment.” It was beautiful.  A private outdoor rainhead shower. Two big screen TVs. Two bathrooms. A soft, king size bead. Heaven. And we hadn’t even seen it in the daylight.

There was a lovely pool, outdoor breakfast seating just to the left of it (indoor seating too, for when it poured…which it did).
The whole place is one big beautiful garden, with bougainvilla, plumeria, daisies, and yes, orchids. Orchids everywhere.
When we finally woke up and headed out to breakfast, we were once again in for a surprise. The menu was large (often the “free breakfast” menu is eggs and toast, juice and coffee, and regularly the eggs only come hard-fried). There was Vietnamese coffee, juice, scrambled eggs (with ham in them), fried eggs, or a selection of omelettes. Muesli and yogurt, banana pancake, or the traditional Vietnamese breakfast of pho. Baguettes—really good ones—were included (maybe not with the pho). Every single breakfast also started with an “appetizer” fruit plate, which was normally pineapple, watermelon, passionfruit, and mango.  And here’s the thing—you could order it all, if you wanted to. “Eat until you’re full. You can have whatever you want.”
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Among the other flowers at Orchid Garden were two of the women who worked at reception—Ruby and Mimi. Both were helpful, cheerful, and answered any questions we had about the town, the hotel, and life in general in Vietnam and Hoi An. We didn’t get any pictures of them, but they were lovely women, and a big part of the reason that we loved our stay there so much.
On our last day in Hoi An we rented a scooter through the hotel and drove around, out to the beach.  We got about that far before we got a flat. We went to a nearby fancy big hotel out by the beach, where they pumped up the tire and it promptly went flat again—a puncture.  We asked them to call Orchid Garden at reception for the large hotel, but none of the people who worked at the front desk spoke much English. Now, admittedly, I’m usually the first person to advocate for learning the language of the place you’re visiting, but Vietnamese is a tonal language and notoriously difficult to learn. And every other person staying at the hotel who came up to that front desk spoke English. Eventually we were able to talk to Mimi, and she said someone would be coming, and to wait for them, and told me to hand the phone back to the person at the hotel reception. And she hung up. We went and waited outside, and eventually one of the helpful gentlemen from the hotel came and rescued us on his scooter. He took ours and walked it to the repair shop, and insisted we take his. Then he waited while the tire was being patched (by the older gentleman above) and made sure we were on our way again.  If we had rented the scooter through someone else, we certainly wouldn’t have gotten such service.  And at $7 for the day, it was worth every penny. The patch job while we waited? The outrageous sum of 21,000 Vietnamese dong, or about $1.
The last little detail we’ll share about Orchid Garden was that on our last night the owner held a dinner for all the guests (12 people), cooked dinner for us herself—all out of her own generosity.  We met some wonderful people, some of whom I really hope we get a chance to see again (Hi Lourdes and Simone!), and the food was amazing. Cau Lau (the local specialty soup), coconut rice crepe pancakes, spring rolls, and pineapple and watermelon for dessert. You’re going to hate us for this, but we had such a wonderful time at dinner that we took NO pictures. It’s a crime, we know.
If all of the other stuff wasn’t enough, the fact that someone took the time to cook a meal for us really touched our hearts. And from reading other TripAdvisor reviews, we know that it wasn’t a one-off. She regularly does it for her guests.  We splashed out a bit on this hotel stay, but when we know you’re going to stay somewhere for a while, we always think it makes sense to pay a little more. And we don’t usually talk about how much hotels cost, because it changes so much and it really depends on where you are and what time of year it is (just don’t go to Sydney on Australia Day…trust us on this one). But for all of this wonderful luxury we paid $65 a night. And it was completely, utterly, and definitely worth it.
If you’re going to go to Vietnam (and you really, really should), we strongly urge you to stay in Hoi An for a few days. And if you stay in Hoi An, we strongly urge you to stay at Orchid Garden Homestay.  It remains, hands down, our favorite place we stayed in Asia. And just so you know, we didn’t get any kind of discount or deal for mentioning this on our blog (we wish!). We just really loved the place and when that happens, you can’t help but rave about it to everyone you know.