Au Lac Bar and Hostel, Dong Hoi

Au Lac Bar and Hostel Dong Hoi, Dong Hoi accommodation, Vietnam accommodation, Vietnam hostels
Au Lac Bar and Hostel Dong Hoi, vietnam, vietnam tourism, phong nha, places to stay in vietnam, vietnam hostels

Au Lac Bar and Hostel is more than your average Vietnamese hostel

This was our second visit to Dong Hoi and it was for pretty much the same reason. We wanted to visit the Phong Nha caves. While researching accommodation options, we found that not only was Dong Hoi cheaper than Phuong Nha, it had more to offer too.

Leon and Tash Vlog

The famous Phong Nha National Park Caves

On our first visit we found one hostel, Buffalo’s Hostel and all the foreigners were raving about. Everything else, was either in Vietnamese or way out of our price range, so we went with it.

We chose to book it as they offered accommodation and cave tour options, which at the time, was just what we needed. While our stay there was a fun experience, it wasn’t the warmest or most comfortable experience.

This time round we did the same thing and found the same result. Phong Nha just didn’t offer value for our money so we went back to looking at Dong Hoi.

I’m going to be honest and say that I wasn’t completely thrilled by the idea of staying at another party-hard hostel. What saved the idea was that it wouldn’t be for long and I could work with that.

Our stay at Au Lac Bar and Hostel turned out to be one of the highlights of our trip!

 

How we found Au Lac Bar and Hostel

Our regular readers will know that Hotels Combined is our ‘go to’ for finding a place to sleep and so far, it has been good to us. Though when it gave us another hostel option in Dong Hoi, I was a bit hmmmm.

As it turned out, Au Lac Bar and Hostel is now a new addition to our favorite accommodation list. Not to mention our first option for future visits to the super funky city of Dong Hoi.

Affiliate disclosure: This blog contains affiliate links for our accommodation partner, Hotels Combined. We trust and used them for most of our trip and we are happy to recommend their services (especially since they were so easy to use and found us really good choices too.) Now, you don’t get charged extra for using these links and we may earn a small commission from them which goes towards finding and managing all the awesome content on our site.  You are under no obligation to use these links but if you do, we want to salute and thank you for your support, we appreciate it!

 

Location

Au Lac Bar and Hostel

Au Lac sits at 68 Dong Hai, Dong My, Dong Hoi.

The area boasts plenty of restaurants, bars, hole-in-the-wall eateries and you can walk to the city center or river front in no time.

 

Au Lac Bar and Hostel Facilities

The first thing we noticed about Au Lac was the awesome decor and welcome feel when you step inside.

The massive pool table greets you at the entrance then leads you to the bar/reception area. before sweeping you up the stairs to the rooms.

The communal area extends from the comfy couch by the window with a great view, across to the the row of small tables and chairs on the opposite wall leading to the bar.

There’s no lift but thankfully it’s only three levels so you don’t have far to go. The staircase is nice and wide too, so you’re not wrestling your luggage to the room.

 

Parking

Au Lac Bar and Hostel does offer parking and at first, we thought the parking facilities were a bit silly as there wasn’t much room in front of the building.

We soon learnt thought that they use the parking space across the street as well as the space out front.

The staff also bring the bikes inside round 11 PM and then wheel them back out at 7 AM the next morning. We thought that was super courteous of them, making our stay so much more enjoyable.

 

Socializing at Au Lac Bar and Hostel

The ground floor area is great for mingling with other visitors or just doing your own thing.

We had a blast playing a few games of pool and chatting to Thao who was manning the bar. Not only was she awesome to hang out with but she had great taste in music and was happy to find a few of our favs too. Thanks Thao!

We met a few of the other visitors in passing, though we got the feeling it wasn’t fully occupied.

 

Our booking bonus

Another bonus for us and booking via Hotels Combined was that we got a free breakfast out of this deal.  Kien delivered our breakfast as soon as we were ready for it and it consisted of the most delicious banh mi. Freshly made by the local banh mi legend and we loved every bite.

Au Lac also has a proper coffee machine too! You can order a choice of Vietnamese or western coffees at very reasonable prices.

 

Red Peppers Restaurant and Pizzeria

Au Lac Bar and Hostel Dong Hoi, vietnam, vietnam tourism, phong nha, places to stay in vietnam, vietnam hostels

If you’re looking for somewhere to to eat, then head on over to Red Peppers Restaurant and Pizzeria.

Au Lac guests receive a 10% discount on their food bill. Extra bonus, whahoo!

The food selection is a good combination of western and Vietnamese food. The ingredients are fresh, the dishes are really yummy and reasonably priced.

Red Peppers is a short walk from Au Lac and like the hostel it has a very welcoming vibe to it too. It is a sister property to Au Lac and you’ll receive the same high level of hospitality there.

It’s not unusual to see Thao, Binh or Kien floating between the two either.  Good company guaranteed!

 

Where to eat in Dong Hoi

If you’re looking for something of the more local variety, then head right out the front door where you’ll find plenty of options to choose from.

A short stroll across the bridge towards Cang Dong Hoi takes you to an area that is full of eateries with mouthwatering selections to chose from.

Dong Hoi also sports a lively night market. On of the main features is the selection of local delicacies and crowd favorites, which we miss out on thanks to the wet weather and of coarse a good reason to come back. HA!

 

Au Lac Bar and Hostel Dong Hoi, vietnam, vietnam tourism, phong nha, places to stay in vietnam, vietnam hostels

 

We tried a local spot at the other end of Đông Hải that had a lovely little old couple running it. While communication was almost non existent between the four of us, Leon and I were quietly confident they would deliver a superb meal, which they did of coarse.

Our order turned out to be beef and noodle soup dishes that were absolutely divine, not to mention a great find as it cost us next to nothing at VND80,000 (~USD3.50 / ~AUD4.80) for both bowls.

The most enjoyable part of the meal was watching the old couple get excited about their foreign visitors, finding ways to converse which ended in a fun and hilarious conversation via Google Translate that still makes us laugh.

 

Our Room

Our room was a basic but lovely and comfortable space where everything felt and looked bright and fresh and the private bathroom was huge (compared to previous places we’ve stayed).

 

Au Lac Bar and Hostel Dong Hoi, vietnam, vietnam tourism, phong nha, places to stay in vietnam, vietnam hostels

 

The queen size bed was a dream with a Western style mattress, crisp sheets and a super warm and comfy duvet.

The first bonus was the balcony with a view over the Cau Rau river and out over towards the Nhat Le river. It was a great spot to have a beer and watch the world go by.

 

Au Lac Bar and Hostel Dong Hoi, vietnam, vietnam tourism, phong nha, places to stay in vietnam, vietnam hostels

 

Two special mentions.

One, there is no TV. We weren’t bother as we were too tired after exploring and touring. Two, there is no wardrobe as such but they do offer coat hooks. Still if you’re only there for a few nights, you won’t even notice it.

The bathroom was clean and modern with the traditional all-in-one set up and was big enough to swing a cat in. We love it!

It had a western toilet, basin, double head shower which was perfect for Leon and stocked with basic toiletries as well as plush towels.

 

Au Lac Bar and Hostel Dong Hoi, vietnam, vietnam tourism, phong nha, places to stay in vietnam, vietnam hostels

 

Service Experience

Can’t fault the service in any way. Owners Binh and Kien, along with their team did an amazing job of looking after us. They give us heaps of insight into Dong Hoi and some great recommendations too. Then they hooked us up with a great tour to Paradise and Dark Caves, assuring us it would be both value for money and memorable.

We enjoyed hanging with these guys so much so that we’ve become friends and stay in touch regularly and it’s experiences like this that make us love this country so much!

 

Cost

We paid VND 200,000 (~USD 8.50 / ~AUD 12.00) per night for our three nights at Au Lac Bar and Hostel. It was an awesome deal and one of the best we’ve come across in our travels so far.

 

That’s our stay at Au Lac Bar and Hostel

We really enjoyed our stay. In fact, we enjoyed it so much so that we almost considered extending our trip to spend just so we could spend more time with Binh, Kien and Thao!

If you are thinking of doing the Phong Nha caves, don’t feel obligated to stay in Phong Nha. Dong Hoi has so much more to offer and Au Lac is the ideal spot for a base.

Check them out guys, you won’t be disappointed!

They are locals who know Dong Hoi well. They have a ton of recommendations that you will never find on TripAdvisor. Or any other review platform for that matter. (*Hint: Ask Binh about the hot springs.)

Thanks for reading and see you in the next one…

Two days in Cam Ranh

Two days in Cam Ranh things to do in Cam Ranh

Two days in charming Cam Ranh 

After a fantastic stay in Tuy Hoa, it was time to hit the road and head to the next destination on our list. Cam Ranh was a planned overnight stop. On the ride down though, we discovered there was more to what we thought was a sleepy little coastal town.

We ended up staying two nights to do a bit of exploring and found some interesting things along the way.

First impressions of Cam Ranh

We thought Cam Ranh sat on the coast, next to Bai Dai beach. As it turned out it was a bit inland and right next to main highway, QL1A, instead. It happens to be one of the busier roads in Vietnam and the traffic is insane! More on that in our travel vlog.

Despite the unexpected location, Cam Ranh is full of charm and authentic Vietnam. Our visit here turned out to be a bit of fun on a short stop.

Accommodation in Cam Ranh

Location

We opted for a budget hotel that wasn’t far from our intended route. Motel 42 Cam Ranh (Nha Ngi 42) sits just off QL1A, at 42 Nguyen Thai Hoc, Cam Loc, Cam Ranh. The two nights cost us VND400,000 (~USD17.20) all up. Not a bad deal at all. (PS: that is an affiliate link.  You don’t pay extra to use it but we do get a small commission and that helps keep us on the road longer and to tell you about more awesome places like this one!)

On arrival we met the colorful Loe (pronounced Lo-E) who had plenty of questions and a few stories to tell us.

He was most intrigued by our age and state of childlessness and had a lot of questions about why we chose Vietnam. Loe will certainly be a fond memory for us.

The room

 

Cam Ranh

The room was bigger than expected for a budget option and that’s a bonus for us. It was modestly furnished with a queen bed and small table and chairs. For comfort we had both an AC and fan, as well as a decent sized TV with ALL the cable channels.  (It means we get to catch up on some MotoGP action where possible.)

The bathroom was spacious too but unfortunately didn’t have any hot water. This was the first time we experienced the infamous Vietnamese cold shower. But it didn’t bother us much. We were expecting it based on a few reviews we’ve read of accommodation around Vietnam.

 

Cam Ranh

 

Our stay

The location and room were perfect for a short stop. We had no gripes except maybe for the constant traffic noise coming from the main highway.  The excessive honking all ours of the day and night got a tad irritating.

But that was the only negative!  Overall, we enjoyed our stay and Loe was an absolute treat!

What to eat in Cam Ranh

When planning our overnight stays, we also look for locations for food and supplies. This included things like meals, coffees, gas station, drinking water, etc. When riding motorcycles for four to six hours at a time, the last thing we feel like is running around looking for food and supplies.

Com Ga

Cam Ranh not only gave us an option for com ga (our favourite dish!) but it was chicken and rice with a new addition!

Our meal arrived in a colorful combo of broken rice, chicken and a heap of pickled veggies and fresh herbs.  Nicely finished off with a dollop of mayonnaise.

The surprise was the cute little bowl of soup that came with it. It was a lovely light chicken broth with fresh herbs and a poached quail’s egg in it. We haven’t come across this combo before and it was delicious! And for VND50,000 (~USD2.15) for both meals, it was a absolute score!

We enjoyed it so much that we ended up going back on our second night. If you’re ever in Cam Ranh, we recommend the com ga (chicken and rice) at Com Ga Hai on Huyinh Thuc Khang.

Cam Ranh

Roadside Banh Bao

We also tried a roadside banh bao vendor located on the corner of Duong Le Duan and Hai Muoi Hai Thang Tam. They were fresh, fluffy and super tasty! Not to mention a steal at VND20,000 (~USD0.85) for two of them.

Where to find coffee in Cam Ranh

Trying to order a hot coffee

No visit is complete without trying a local coffee and there were plenty of options to choose from in Cam Ranh.

Our first visit was to this tiny hole in the wall next to the hotel. There was no English available so we tried our hand at ordering a drink in our limited Vietnamese.

We ended up with another iced coffee. It wasn’t bad, except for the fact that it was absolutely pouring down with rain and cold as anything. At a cost of VND24,000 (~USD1.00) for both coffees, we weren’t complaining and they were good too, for a cheap coffee.

Cam Ranh

Cafe Phin Cam Ranh

The next morning, we went for a wander and found a huge café around the corner and right on the highway. Not sure of the name as we didn’t get a menu or a receipt and there were several names up on the building itself.

This time round we managed to order a hot coffee with milk and when it arrived, we had a good giggle about it. Because in front of us were two glass cups, sitting a tiny tin bucket of hot water and a phin on top of each.

We’ve never seen coffee this way before and it was funny. Ingenious but funny. That round set us back VND30,000 (~USD1.30) and again a cheap, good local coffee!

Cam Ranh

Trying our first milk tea

We did try something new this time round and that was the infamous milk tea that we see everywhere.

It took us a long time to get use to cold coffee and we definitely couldn’t see the appeal in cold tea. Tra Sua SIP is this hip little spot on Nguyen Thai Hoc and they were hopping!

We got there just as they opened and it didn’t take long for people to start piling in. Before we knew it, motorcycles were adding to the madness, queuing up for take away orders.

The teas were amazingly yummy too and looked very pretty. Not how I ever thought I’d describe a beverage, but there you have it.

They only cost VND32,000 (~USD1.40), which makes them a great and cheap alternative to coffee and we can see why they are popular.

Cam Ranh

We are now on the lookout for more of these milk tea shops.  If you want to see what we find, then keep an eye on our #snackingourchops hashtag on Insta for more updates.

Bai Dai Beach

Apart from the fact that Cam Ranh was within our 200km/day travel distance, it was also home to Bai Dai beach. You don’t hear much about this beach as it’s more famous cousin Nha Trang is a short distance away and usually in the lime light.

On day two we decided to go for a tiki-tour to check it out and see if we could actually get to the beach. (See our travel day blog for more on this.)

See, when we rode past it on our way into Cam Ranh, we couldn’t see this famous landmark at all. All we could see were the scores of gigantic hotels and resorts in different stages of construction. Every site hidden behind tall barriers. At that point we thought we’d never see the beach which was a little sad.

Cam Ranh

Found the beach!

We did find a way to it in the end and it was an amazingly beautiful beach! It was as beautiful as all the fuss we’d read about.

Pristine powdery white sand with the clearest blue water we’ve seen in a while. We didn’t think to take our togs before we went out there. A swim would have been amazing!

Sadly, it is slowly being overtaken by large resort companies and we fear it may disappear in a sea of resorts soon. It’s still worth a look if you’re out that way. If you do, go for a swim and let us know if it is as amazing as it looked!

Cam Ranh

The unusual memorial

One of our other finds was this huge memorial located at the northern end of the beach. We’re not sure what it commemorated as there was no English available and no one to ask.

We believe it may be a memorial to fallen soldiers but not sure from which war or what year.  It would have been nice to tell you more about it.

The grounds and statues were beautifully done and it was a very peaceful spot to visit.

Cam Ranh

Overall impression of Cam Ranh

For a small town it does offer a lot on a short visit!

Besides the endless options to eat and have a coffee at, there are also two full sized supermarkets.

Finding someone to help us out with Xorf’s flat rear wheel was a little harder. The kind man we did find in the end, was super efficient, honest and did a great job of getting us back on the road.

Cam Ranh

How much did it cost?

Below is a simple breakdown of costs for our two day visit.

Expenses VND USD (approx.)
Accommodation (2 nights) 400,000 17.15
Food and groceries 168,600 7.20
Beverage (non-alcoholic) 86,000 3.70
Motorbikes  fuel and repairs 325,000 13.90
Total 979,600 41.95

What’s next

We’re heading to Phan Rang next! We will spend a few days to explore a famous ancient Cham village and try some local legendary food spots. Make sure to tune in for more on that visit.

And don’t forget to hit the road with us on travel days. We cover those in our LTXtraordinary page as well as our vlogs.

Thank you so much for experiencing this adventure with us!

See you in the next one…