As a travel blogger who’s focused on affordable luxury ideas for the solo traveler, I spend hours researching where to stay on my next trip. I have a discerning list of qualities that I look for before I decide to make a reservation. Here are some of my requirements:
Hotel must be rated 5 star
The price per night is in the $100-$350 range
Centrally located around sights and activities on my itinerary, and also near a metro stop if needed
Distinctive interior design either chic, modern, elegant or historic with an ethnic twist
Top-notch concierge services
Shuttle or private driver airport transportation service
Multiple pleasant, quality eating venues
Attractive room and bathroom layout with plenty of amenities such as high count sheets, pillow top mattresses, a balcony or at a minimum a nice size window, international cable television and a bathtub if possible.
An overall sense of authenticity and comfort
With my goal always being to find a city’s most distinctive luxury hotel at an affordable price, my searches typically start with Jetsetter, a wonderful website geared to offering price specials on unique, highly rated hotels. Next, I look at what is offered on Kayak using its refined search capabilities. Last, I go to the travel giant, TripAdvisor, for hotel recommendations and reviews.
Once I’ve narrowed my options down to three, I start digging deep into the hotel’s look, feel and amenities. Is it well-maintained, recently refurbished or brand new? Are there outside seating areas and are the grounds attractively landscaped? Is there something that set’s a particular hotel apart from its competitors? Are there a few different types of specialty spa services available? Does it have a popular chef at one of its restaurants? Is it solo-friendly or is it better suited for families? A quality very important to me is, does the hotel exude a sense of relaxed, refined comfort? There are tons of beautiful hotels around the world that I find which are too corporate, too systematized and downright cold.
Besides reading personal hotel reviews, I look through as many photos available on the internet to help me make my choice. The last step I go through, and an unique approach I highly recommend at Astrid Solo Travel Advisor, is to do a YouTube search and view all of the video clips about a hotel that are on the Web. This is an invaluable decision making tool and has helped me many times chose a special hotel verses just another standardized luxury hotel.
Before traveling to Hanoi, I had known about its famed Metropole Hotel and had always wanted to stay at this historic place. Last year when I visited its website, I found the rates to be excessive. Once I made peace with myself that I wasn’t going to stay there and, thus, overspend on my Hanoi lodging budget, I checked my three favorite sites-- Jetsetter, Kayak and TripAdvisor-- and narrowed my decision down to two choices: the trendy Hotel de l’Opera Hanoi or the Apricot Hotel. Hotel de l’Opera was priced at $120 per night and was located near the Hanoi Opera house in the city’s French Quarter. The Apricot Hotel was priced at $125 per night and was located within a five minute walk to either the Old Quarter or the French Quarter. Right off the bat, I was happy to find two beautiful 5 Star hotels at an affordable price.
Luxury hotels at the moment are so affordably priced in Vietnam and other third world destinations. I have found in countries that have their own currencies that the dollar conversion rates are usually quite good. This dollar conversion favorability translates into great bargain prices on everything you do in these countries. Traveling to these places while the US dollar is high is a smart money saving move for the solo traveler.
Both boutique hotels were 5 star and equal in price and basic services such as the concierge, airport shuttle service, spa and free Wi-Fi. Design wise. The l’Opera from the photos seemed a bit more flashy and hip than the comfortable, elegance exuded by the Apricot Hotel.
From the Youtube videos of both I discerned the the Apricot Hotel was more to my liking with its gorgeous cream and gold color scheme accented with antiques and famous artworks by prominent Vietnamese artists. Both hotels had ample common areas but the Apricot’s first floor communal area with an inviting bar and light food area was stunningly beautiful. I could see myself relaxing there after a busy day of shopping or sightseeing.
As far as location, both were good but I felt the Apricot’s was slightly better because it was situated within easy walking distance to either the Old or French Quarters and was right across the street from the picturesque Hoan Kiem Lake. Views of the beautiful lake from the rooftop pool and bar where highly recommended.
Ultimately, the deciding factors were garnered from the Jetsetter and TripAdvisor personal reviews I read online. The Apricot had almost no negative comments but the Hotel de l’Opera Hanoi had several recurring ones such as small, dark bedrooms with oversized beds that provided little space to relax, cramped bathrooms and a strange curtain that divided the bedroom from the bathroom.
I love when I enter a hotel I’ve never been to before and and immediately know I’m going to like it there. As you might guess, that was my impression when I was escorted into the lobby by the doorman and seated at one of the settees waiting on the receptionist to check me in and offer me a welcome cup of tea. This VIP check in procedure definitely sets the tone for your stay at this elegant hotel.
I found the rooms to be medium sized and tastefully decorated with marble accented bathrooms and only a shower. The elegant, second floor restaurant had an Asian and Western menu. The lobby lounge was wonderful with its chic seating areas and live piano music in the evenings. The spectacular views of Hoan Kiem Lake from the rooftop pool and bar were as advertised. Overall the quality of the facility, the service, the location and the ambiance was first class.
In conclusion, I must say this is the chicest, most comfortable hotel I have ever stayed in anywhere in the world for the price, affordable luxury at its best! This week I checked the room rate and it has been discounted to $90 per night!!
As Coco Chanel once said, “luxury must be comfortable otherwise it’s not luxury.” The Apricot Hotel in Hanoi is a perfect example of comfortable elegance at a highly affordable price.
Going to Hanoi or thinking about traveling there, I highly recommend staying at this hotel. Do you have any plans to visit Hanoi? I'd love to hear from you.
Here is a video to better understand the level of luxury and comfort that awaits one when staying at Hanoi’s Apricot Hotel.