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The Western Ho Chi Minh Road, leading through lofty mountains cloaked in dense jungle along the Lao border, is one of the most spectacular rides in Vietnam. But this route is so isolated that, until recently, there wasn’t a single guesthouse or hotel for the entire 240km stretch between Khe Sanh and Phong Nha. However, that all changed a couple of years ago with the opening of the first and only accommodation on the Western Ho Chi Minh Road: Duc Tuan Hotel. A great boon to motorbikers, Duc Tuan Hotel has changed the dynamic of riding this fabulous section of road forever. (Read my complete guide to riding the Ho Chi Minh Road here.)
REVIEW: DUC TUAN HOTEL
Address: Long Son Hamlet, Truong Son Commune, Quang Ninh District, Quang Binh Province
Price: 200,000-300,000vnd ($10) per night | Phone: 0949 522 331
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Duc Tuan Hotel is located in the tiny village of Long Son. Almost exactly halfway between Khe Sanh and Phong Nha, it couldn’t be in a more convenient position for motorbikers. (For full details about this stretch of road read this.) Nor could you hope to find a prettier setting for the only accommodation on the Western Ho Chi Minh Road. Long Son village is situated in an absurdly picturesque valley, with the jade-blue waters of the Long Dai River sliding through two giant limestone pillars, covered in tropical foliage that appears to melt over the rock-face. The village, which sits between the river and the mountains, is made up of several dozen homes: from traditional wood and tile dwellings to modern brick and concrete houses. There’s easy access to the river for a glorious swim, or to the crop fields along the riverbank for a pleasant stroll.
At odds with the landscape (and, indeed, with the rest of the village), Duc Tuan Hotel is a characterless, one-storey, concrete box. But inside, it’s everything you want, need and expect from a classic Vietnamese nhà nghỉ (guest house): it’s clean, simple, sparsely but adequately furnished, and cheap. After the bizarrely large and empty reception area, rooms are set along a corridor. Doubles or twin rooms are available, sleeping 1-4 guests. Rates are from 200-300,000vnd ($10), but on weekends and public holidays you might find they go up by a couple of dollars.
All rooms have simple bathrooms with bad plumbing as standard. The beds are good and firm, the linen is clean but cheap, there’s a fan, air-conditioning, and TV in most rooms. Windows can be opened for some fresh air (some of the rooms are pretty musty), but there’s not much of a view.
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It’s not possible to book online (yet) but there are two phone numbers (0949 522 331) which you can call to make a reservation, however you’ll need to speak some Vietnamese in order to do this. There shouldn’t be any trouble just turning up in the late afternoon and finding a room available here, as long as it’s not a weekend or public holiday. Duc Tuan Hotel is on the east side of the Western Ho Chi Minh Road as it passes through town: there’s a red signpost outside which is easy to spot [MAP]. However, since this hotel is such great news for travellers on motorbikes, I expect it to become a regular stop for anyone riding the Ho Chi Minh Road, and therefore room occupancy may increase very quickly. But on my last visit (April 2018), we were the only guests.
Long Son has a few rice and noodle shacks along the Western Ho Chi Minh Road as it passes through the village, including one either side of the Duc Tuan Hotel: look for signs saying cơm phở (rice and noodles). The hotel has Wi-Fi and so does the cafe directly opposite. There are a few shops near the hotel, selling snacks, drinks, and useful items, such as rain jackets and batteries. There is also a new gas station on the east side of the road just south of town. This is a particularly significant development, because there are only a few gas stations along the entire length of the Western Ho Chi Minh Road from Khe Sanh to Phong Nha/Khe Gat: don’t forget to fill up. Several motorbike mechanics, including one right next door to the hotel, come in handy if you’re having bike problems.
Walking around the backstreets of Long Son village towards the river, in the evening or early morning, is very pleasant. If the weather’s good, bring your swimwear, because a dip in the Long Dai River, with the exotic, Jurassic-Park-like scenery all around, is very special. As far as I can tell, the river’s name means ‘Great Dragon’: a romantic name which befits the grandeur of its surroundings. It’s a wonderful place and now is the perfect time to visit, because surely, some day, this area will see a regular flow of travellers. For full detail about the Western Ho Chi Minh Road click here, and to read my complete guide to the entire Ho Chi Minh Road, from Saigon all the way to Hanoi, click here.
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