Currently in Chiang Mai, Thailand (06/12/2013) - 31200km cycled

9 Dec 2013

Hanoi Accommodation Review: M-Spot Cafe and Hostel

Posted by Will

mspotlogoDate stayed: November 2013 (3 weeks)
Price of dorm room: $3.50-4.00
Beds available: 12
Private rooms: No
Location: Ngo Trang Tien Street (very close to Opera House)

It is safe to say that M-Spot Cafe and Hostel made my time in Hanoi. I may go so far as to say that for the price, M-Spot is the best accommodation I have stayed in on my trip. Don’t expect too many negatives in what’s to follow.

I had planned to cycle into the city, take a few days recouperating from the mad dash out of China, then head on down south. M-Spot intervened. It’s staff, location, ambience and price meant I spent almost all my month-long visa feeling relaxed and comfortable in a city sometimes cited as too noisy and restless.

As the name suggests, the building is a hostel and a cafe, with emphasis on the latter. There are three spacious floors full of armchairs, sofas and cushions where all types of people (mainly local Hanoian) come to chat socially or on business. Some come to use the high-speed internet. There’s a wide-open shady terrace at the top too – important when it gets hot in the summer months. The hostel itself currently represents a small share of activity although that’s understandable given that it only opened in August 2013. In short, M-Spot has much more a coffee shop feel than a backpacker hangout which to my mind makes it a perfect alternative to the boisterous accommodation established for party-goers in the old quarter.

No doubt in the future as word gets round the travellers’ circuit its atmosphere will swing towards a more backpackery vibe, but I am sure it will never become the den of debauchery that other places have become.

M-Spot is located 5-10 minutes’ walk outside the old city quarter, very close to the Opera House. Not being situated in the old quarter isn’t a bad thing though. First, the alley it sits on is very quiet and less filled with death-defying motorbikes. Second, the alley has an abundance of street food to rival any other street in the old quarter. Third, not many tourists come down here so the prices are slightly lower and locals are more willing to take time to chat. Fourth, there is an exceptional sea-food restaurant next-door. Have I convinced you?

If not then perhaps you’re more suited to the old quarter – it is perfectly understandable that some travellers want to be in the absolute thick of things. But if you’re looking for a location slightly removed from the frenzy that is Hanoian noise and traffic, but still close enough to walk to everywhere, M-Spot is perfect.

The staff treated me royally during my stay, much more like a friend than in the stiff conformity of a client-server relationship. In charge of the hostel side of the business is young Van (‘Van the Man’ as I like to call him) who has since become a very good friend. Besides always helping me out – from giving me rides on his motorcycle to popping down unasked to the kitchen to get a spoon so I could stir my coffee – he also introduced me to his Hanoian friends. He speaks perfect English, has travelled extensively himself so understands backpackers’ needs and will almost certainly be willing to go out for Bia Hoi (street beer) if you so wish.

The other staff, both owners and regular staff, always said hello and more often than not invited me to eat with them if I wished, sample new street-food snacks to be added to the menu and give my own ideas for moving the place forward. Once I was invited to a huge feast where everyone had too much to drink, another time to a movie-screening. When word gets round about the hostel and it starts filling up properly there’s no way they’ll be able to treat every guest like this … but I have no doubt they’ll try.

mspotpartyOther facilities
The internet is high-speed and hardly every failed during my 3 week stay. There is a big projector screen that can be rolled down for movies or high-profile sports events (there is full Satellite TV). There is a dartsboard and noticeboard. Free hot water is provided at the bar downstairs on demand. Both 6-bed rooms have balconies, a table and chairs, plenty of power sockets and aren’t cramped (they could have easily fitted an extra two beds).

Washing facilities are fairly basic, although the shower is always hot and hand-soap is provided. There are plenty of toilets on all levels for the maximum twelve guests so queuing is never a problem. While I stayed, the bathrooms were always immaculately clean.

For bicycle tourists specifically, bicycles are kept outside the building on the street, which at first I wasn’t happy about, but are watched over by the all-hours security guard. The bicycles are brought in at night too. Usually I wouldn’t like this arrangement, but I came to realise that the quiet alley, coupled with the constant watching, makes it perfectly acceptable. I’m sure if you like the sound of the place, but are still concerned about the bicycles arrangement, the staff would somehow solve the problem.

I can’t quite make my mind up if this is a biased review. I am a friend of the manager’s … but only because I had such a great time in his hostel. I write this review wanting the hostel to be successful, not only because I want it to work out for the staff, but also because it is a genuinely fantastic place to stay.

For those who are looking to party hard: this isn’t the right choice. For anyone who wants a relaxed, peaceful, spacious base from which to explore Hanoi: I can’t recommend anywhere else higher.

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One Comment already on “Hanoi Accommodation Review: M-Spot Cafe and Hostel”
  1. 4:25 ampermalink
    18 Dec 2013

    Daisy - The tarot girl

    Thank you for having us as your friends and it was such a pleasure to meet and hang out with you. I hope we will have the chance to see you again soon. Wish all the best for you and all the fun you will continuely have with “Carry on Cycling”!