Santa Barbara Hotel reminds me of some old hotels in Italy - quiet and quaint. If there were tiny verandas with flower plant boxes, the similarities would have been complete. Although there was indeed a nice garden up the 6th floor where we had breakfast - munching on some noodles while watching the typical Hanoi street scene below was precious.
In a place where store front space is prized (and heavily taxed, that's why most Hanoi buildings are narrow front and up but built deep across), Santa Barbara occupies quite a space - add the Highlands Cafe at the ground floor and the building seems to wrap around two streets!
We checked in at around 3am (CebuPac's schedule is really something), found the tiny front lobby in darkness and thought the hotel was closed (we're so used to bright lights at night that this was a pleasant surprise). Of course, hotels are always open and the bright (for that time of day) reception staff (Mr. Bing, sorry if I didn't get the name right), had us checked in in a jiff!
Our room had a window that opened directly above the front door. Surprisingly, it wasn't all that noisy and we still had a good four hours of sleep as we needed to be ready before the 8 am pick up for the Halong Bay tour that I've been dreaming of or years.
Loved the huge headboard spanning the twin beds, with tacked foamed faux leather that was perfect for my feet as I needed to put them up after walking long hours touring and shopping! Just this is enough reason for me to come back. I remember I also did this in our Beijing hotel after walking more than 20,000 steps at the Great Wall, but my feet only encountered cold concrete! Ouch!
The good stuff kept coming - they have nice toiletries, fluffy towels, bathrobes, comfy comforter, and a tub! I love bath tubs! And the one at Santa Barbara was very good for the price we paid for the room.
Then there's the service level - friendly and efficient, just like most in Southeast Asia. Cleanliness was excellent - good for sometimes OCs like me. Breakfast fare was modest but filling - loved the mantao, tho they should be always steamed to maintain their fluffiness. The noodle dishes were also very yummy.
The location is prime - we walked in any direction and we reached interesting restos, spas, convenience stores, little shopping areas, cafes, etc. The night market is just a walkable distance away - esp. if you're young with lots of excess energy. Don't worry if you get lost, the locals are very friendly and they will use their smart phones to point you in the right direction without fail.
We greatly enjoyed our stay, albeit short, in this hotel. On our last day we met some pinoys who also booked this hotel by luck! We'll definitely be back - in Hanoi and Santa Barbara!