Friday, March 21, 2008

Hong Ngoc Hotel

The view from our terrace

You may wish to visit their website. We were very spoiled when we were there.

One of the charms of Viet Nam is the people, so I do try, as often as I can, to talk to the people who host our stay and if they speak English, I do a little more than just listen, I take notes. And this was the case with the owner of this 5 chain hotel, of which this was the first.

Thang Hoang is 35 years old and started working at this very hotel 13 years ago doing housekeeping when his aunt owned the place. Today, he is impeccably dressed every morning and greets his guests individually. We received some special attention from him, as we were sent by Van at Aurora Travel. Yes, we had the penthouse suite on the fifth floor.

Back to Thang; he was born in
Hai Duong, which is 50 kms from Ha Noi. He has two olders brothers, and a younger one who died. His father was a math teacher and his mother owned a trading company. By Viet Namese standards, this is very upper middle class. He finished high school and taught himself English, and his computer skills are also self-acquired. He admitted to me that not many Americans come through the hotel, but now that Viet Nam has joined the WTO, he expects there might be more.

choux à la crème
What I found particularly poignant was that his wife of eleven years was working in Taiwan, and her labor contract must have already expired, so I do hope she is back home with Thang and their two children. The Viet Namese are extremely hard working people and have little time to lament over what was. Their future is what interests them, and we could certainly learn from them when it comes to attitude.

The staff at Hong Ngoc Hotel was getting ready for Christmas. As we had our first breakfast the next morning in the dining room, we watched them put together Santa Claus outside the window. The breakfast spread is amazing, and I for one, fell in love with Viet Namese yogurt the first time I visited. The vanilla is much better than the strawberry, so have a go at it. As far as tea goes, if you are a conoisseur, forget about the tea here. The best you'll get is the Lipton Yellow, or the Viet Namese tea, which, frankly, has no taste. So, go for the coffee because it is smooth, aromatic and sweet.

you can also order eggs, sausages,
pancakes; you can see the yogurt
at the forefront

Elevators in general are very small, and at best 4 people without luggage can fit per trip. For the room we occupied, we had to climb a few short steps after the fifth floor stop where the double wooden door leads to the suite. There are no words to describe this room other than luxurious, and the sitting armchairs and table came right out of a dynastic movie. The photos do justice. If you come with a laptop, you'll have cable access in the room. There is also international direct phone dialing, a mini bar with liquor (individual bottles cost US$5.00), peanuts, other munchies (US$0.50/pack), and the small refrigerator is always stocked with bottled water.

the room before we moved in
As far as the hot water goes, in this particular hotel, you have to be lucky to catch a time when not too many folks are showering as you'll freeze to death. As customary, you will find all you need in the bathroom, including a hair dryer, toothbrushes and toothpaste. You may also order room service, which we did once or twice, but there are so many fabulous eateries around that you'd be missing out. The nem here is finger licking good.

This is also a place that has live entertainment in the evening. The musical instruments are hung on the wall above the stage. We entertained a business colleage of mine one evening here, but that's for another entry.

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