Double the Delights of Vietnam

Happy in Hanoi, GREG HACKETT hits the road to Vung Tau. Literally.

I came. I saw. I broke a big toe. (Apologies to Julius Caesar.) However, Vung Tau might just be my lucky break. I’ve been on the hunt for an “easily do-able” South-East Asian seaside destination to replace Cambodia’s diabolically destroyed Sihannoukville, and this south Vietnamese pearl is looking perfect. Even an aching toe (I don’t suppose you can sue a municipal council for an uneven footpath injury in this part of the world, eh? Haha) doesn’t seem so bad, with the aid of osteo-paracetemol, Saigon Green beer, a beach, and a thousand smiling faces.

Pullman Perfection

Variety is the essence of this Vietnam journey: imagine French Versailles one day, Ancient Sparta the next; from a Hanoi Pullman luxury suite to a standard room at Vung Tau’s Hoang Cam guesthouse. This is how I travel. And I love it.

My first time in Hanoi, and the Pullman makes it easy. An optician across the street from the hotel’s entrance is handy – I have my eyes checked with the hi-tech gadgetry, and order (with same day delivery) several new spectacles of the same or superior quality, and half the price, of those I bought in Melbourne. The Pullman is located on the edge of the Vietnam capital’s “embassies precinct”, with the Temple of Literature, Uncle Ho’s Museum and all the other bits and pieces that tourists seek. The Pullman’s concierge provides a map for a casual 40-minute “cultural walk”.

Embassy “Spy” tail

Now with good vision (and a full stomach from the breakfast buffet) I gladly put the map to use. As I strolled (or semi-hobbled, with a crook back) past the Ukraine embassy’s gated entrance, a 30-something, hair shortly cropped, blue eyed blond bloke, dressed all in trendy black, emerged with a beautiful Vietnamese girl. He nodded “hello” to me, and I nodded in acknowledgement and let them pass, as I further studied my “cultural walk” route. By pure coincidence, we headed in the same direction – him chatting to his young companion and darting glances back at me, and me schlepping along about 30 metres behind, happily absorbed in trying to decipher street directions. Ten minutes later, we passed the Chinese embassy and crossed the intersection, to Lenin Park. With a quick frown in my direction, he ducked out onto the street, stopped a taxi, hurriedly bundled his lady acquaintance into the back seat, jumped in himself, and off they sped to their … afternoon assignation.

The silly bloke. If he thought I was tailing him, Putin’s spies must now be half the height and twice the age!

Choice accommodation

Smaller, “no-frills” guesthouses and hotels (the ubiquitous sign Nhà Nghi in Vietnamese) suit a solo traveller such as myself, and the Hoang Cam guesthouse, at US$7 a night, ticks the boxes: fan and aircon, WiFi, mini fridge, cleanliness, location and a bonus balcony. However, for a traveller, a couple or a family wanting quality/price comfort, I can’t speak (or write) highly enough of the Hanoi Pullman. My many friends and contacts who have followed my travel writings over the years are familiar with my praise for the Accor accommodation properties Pullman/Sofitel/Novotel – because I’ve simply never had a problem with them. And I can be blunt in my assessment.

Travel Tip: Always tip the hotel/guesthouse manager the day you arrive, not the day you depart. It makes sense.
At Vung Tau’s Hoang Cam hotel, The reception lady mistakenly overcharged me when I prepaid my bill. The following day, the manager informed me and reimbursed the cash. Most Vietnamese and Cambodians are good like that …

Hotels plug nicely into digital – Fairfax article


The original disruptors, online travel agents such as Expedia, and Wotif, were now themselves facing disruption from the likes of Tripadvisor, Google and Facebook, which were offering, or about to offer, cheaper direct booking capability


An Adina Apartment Hotel will open in Melbourne's former Pentridge Prison in 2020

An Adina Apartment Hotel will open in Melbourne’s former Pentridge Prison in 2020

This article, by Simon Johanson, is published by Fairfax:

Online booking and travel advisory businesses were having a less disruptive impact on the hotel sector than claimed, a leading hotel manager says.

TFE Hotels chief executive Rachel Argaman said the group’s expansion plans – it will add 16 new venues globally in the next five years with another 10 in negotiation – and revenue growth in Sydney and Melbourne (5.3 and 4.2 per cent respectively) defied talk of disruption.

TFE controls Adina, Medina, Rendezvous, Vibe, Travelodge and TFE Hotels Collection brands focused in central city locations.

Ms Argaman said hotels were changing in response to digital disruption, but demand was undiminished. Travel and tourism were still a “No. 1” aspiration in both developed and developing countries.

“Airbnb operate in parallel to us with a very different product. We see them as a valuable distribution partner. We distribute all our hotels on Airbnb,” she said.

“The challenge is about retaining customers. We’re happy to pay 3 per cent commission on Airbnb to acquire a new customer.”

Across its portfolio of 70 hotels in six countries, TFE was achieving 85 per cent occupancy, Ms Argaman said.

The group was more aware of social media strategies and had shifted to create a “home away from home”, a sense of place in its venues.

“Our lobbies are transforming. They are living lobbies. Reception is tucked away in the corner. They are like a social lounge: a place to be, to eat, to drink, to dine and to socialise,” she said.

TFE will open the doors of two new Adina Apartment Hotels in Frankfurt and Nuremburg this October and November, and others in Leipzig and Hamburg in 2017, and later in Munich.

It will also add five new properties in Australia including a new Travelodge at Sydney Airport next year, an Adina Apartment Hotel in Fremantle near the port and cruise ship terminal and one in Macquarie Park at North Ryde.

Another is set to open in Melbourne’s former Pentridge Prison in 2020 with a function centre in the old prison chapel.

Travellers expectations were also changing, Ms Argaman said.

“Bleisure” travellers who blend business and leisure, taking their partner or child on a trip, were an emerging sector. As were “3G” travellers – family holidays with three generations, grandparents, their children and grandchildren.

Medical tourism, “journeying well and wellness”, was also growing, she said.

The original disruptors, online travel agents such as Expedia, and Wotif, were now themselves facing disruption from the likes of Tripadvisor, Google and Facebook, which were offering, or about to offer, cheaper direct booking capability, Ms Argaman said.

Read the Fairfax article here:

Off to Singapore, and the Hotel Jen Tanglin

Hmmm. Jetstar web check-in express lane, with just one operator, is slower than the long economy check-in queue. The operator is doing her best, though, and friendly as usual.

Anyway, off to Singapore for 2 nights to see how the new-look Hotel Jen Tanglin shapes up. This should be good. The hotel is only a block away from Singapore’s famous Orchard Road, and I reckon catching the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) from Changi Airport should do the trick…

Jetstar's web (not-so-) express check-in, Melbourne International Airport

Jetstar’s web (not-so-) express check-in, Melbourne International Airport