Cao Bang -- Cao Bang's Thanh Loan Hotel used to be the top dog, commanding the most prime real estate overlooking the river at the very center of town (near the bridge), but this big government-run calamity has fallen into disrepair. Some tours will try to stick you here. Don't buy it.

Lang Son -- Next best to Van Xuan, and a similar standard, is Hoang Son Hai Hotel, near the town's central square (57 Duong Tam Thanh; tel. 025/371-0479). Rooms are priced the same, but they don't see many foreign visitors here and have no services.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.