Thursday, December 4, 2008

At the Le Loi Hotel, forget your English

This hotel was a blessing, and we could have probably walked it from the train station, were it not for the 76 suitcases we were carrying with us. This actually served as a great lesson for the return trip, where I only came with a a small carry on. You simply cannot travel Viet Nam with more than one suitcase, on rollers preferably. At least, not if you are going to travel the way we did, and be in constant motion.
This is the newer wing of the hotel where we were lodged

We only had one night here, since we were leaving the next day for Nah Trang. But as we entered the reception area, it was the first time I would see hotel staff dressed in Ao Dai. It looked smashing. Since our reservations had been made ahead of time by Aurora Travel, the task of checking in was somewhat easier since no one could speak a word of English. By the time we arrived it was almost lunchtime, so here's some good advice if you are going to stay more than 48 hours: arrive in early morning if possible, since most historical tours of the city leave the hotel by 8:00 am.
We were housed in the newer of two wings and went past the courtyard that displayed a very handsome topiary of dragons. Up two flights of stairs with five suitcases wasn’t a piece of cake, but we had the good help of the hotel staff. Our room was replete with imperial style, lacquered furnishings. Panic almost set in when we couldn’t get the A/C to work, but following some fits and starts with one of the chambermaids, a gust of cool air could be felt. The shower was such a respite of pure joy, as we wondered how we would dry again upon return. Two large bath towels are all you get, folks, but toothpaste and toothbrushes accompany soap and shampoo in the small medicine cabinet. 

No one is going to steal those bed covers, rest assured!

The beds were a bit hard, with single pillows and extremely colorful floral blankets that covered both. The bedside table is equipped with remote-control buttons for lighting and a radio. A small TV and refrigerator look anachronistic in this setting of chinoiserie. A large window opened to a very bucolic setting: a small curved balcony held a potted plant, and what I suspect was either an ashtray, or a bird feeder. You look at the picture and try to figure it out. Also, from the window, one could see that slanted roofs of aluminum, stone, and other materials competed for space. Shooting straight up amid the angular planes were some lovely trees intended to provide much-needed shade. A caged bird served as an alarm clock the next morning, though I could hear his occasional ceremonious singing from time to time.

I've already told you that it was our good fortune to be situated right next to the Hue Gastronomic Center, where a free breakfast for hotel guests is served. And what a breakfast it was.

Laundry facilities are available for same day delivery and are slightly more expensive than either Ha Noi or Sai Gon, but still worth it in relative terms. The bill, however, is paid directly to the laundress rather than the hotel itself. She turned out to be located at the bottom of the stairs of our building.

Around the courtyard is a small gift shop where one can get film and other sundries. We were in need of a battery for Chuck’s camera and were told of a nonexistent shopping center down on Le Loi before the Truong Tien Bridge. 

This is as crowded as Le Loi Avenue will get

We started walking in the direction of the bridge as we thought we understood that there was a small shopping center before the crossing. The avenue is wide and shaded with lovely trees, but the heat is murder. Of course, everyone is either riding a bicycle or a motorbike, but not in the frightening masses that threaten to kill you as you cross the street in Ha Noi or Sai Gon. Also, as we approached the bridge crossing, I began to notice some pillars that bore resemblance to Cham architecture. Once you get acquainted with that type of architecture, you can recognize it anywhere. It is also found in Laos and Cambodia, where the Cham Empire ruled at one time.

I recommend that you either hire a taxi or take a cyclo to where you wish to go, as there is not really much to take in on this side of the Perfume River.

No comments: