I first visited Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, in 1997. It was a quiet, charming capital city that had only recently opened up to the West. Traditional Vietnamese culture had not really been exposed to the modern outside world – most women still wore the “ao dai” (the traditional Vietnamese long dress), bicycles ruled the streets, and the occasional foreign tourist wandering by would spark curiosity amongst the locals. Over the years, I’ve made a point of visiting Hanoi every year or two. By about 2005, it became quite obvious that the city was taking on a completely new look, with modern residential developments, skyscrapers, and massive industrial zones. Miraculously, the historic city center was left mostly untouched, somehow surviving the changes with its old-world charm intact.
Hanoi will be celebrating its millennium anniversary this October and what better way to experience this historic event than at the new luxury Mövenpick Hanoi hotel. With its combination of old world class and modern refinery, the hotel is the perfect reflection of its host city.
Located in the city center, Mövenpick Hanoi is a pleasant stroll or a 5 minute taxi ride to most of Hanoi’s main attractions – Xuan Huong Lake, the Temple of Literature and the Old Quarter, just to name a few of the favorites. And for the business traveler, the hotel offers convenient access to Hanoi’s financial districts and offices.
Greeting you upon entry to the hotel’s ground is a classic 1959 French Citroen, a reminder of Vietnam’s colonial era. The hotel reception is a five star experience, where the friendly, cordialstaff greets guests cheerfully and enthusiastically. In fact, the enthusiasm of the staff is a deciding factor that will make this hotel a definite repeat visit.
The rooms offer a modern yet cozy layout with all the amenities one would expect of a luxury hotel – a soft, inviting bed, a businessman’s plug-n-play desk and a relaxing shower – what more can you want? Though, a busy world traveler looking for a quiet night in from the concrete jungle might find the mini-bar selection slightly lacking in choices with no wine, champagne or other extravagances to choose from.
The hotel’s main restaurant, Mangosteen, offers some of the best dining in town. In particular, the Friday night seafood buffet was a ‘2 thumbs up’ treat, boasting wonderfully fresh salmon, lobster, shrimp and various Vietnamese seafood concoctions served in an elegant setting with friendly service and freely flowing wine. The breakfast spread was also among the best in Hanoi.
Other services offered in the hotel include a gym, a spa and a comfortable lobby lounge-cum-bar.
However, not unexpectedly, every new hotel has its growing pains. The WIFI service was a particular disappointment – connection was nonexistent in the room despite repeated visits from the ‘IT’ staff. In my opinion, WIFI should be a one-click, no-brainer button (and free) at a five-star hotel, but it simply didn’t work here. Another growing pain was that the hotel was understaffed – particularly bellboys and bartenders. In a country like Vietnam where young, eager and willing workers are readily available at affordable salaries, there is no excuse to have a guest wait 10 minutes for one bellboy to collect luggage from the room.
Nonetheless, I left the hotel with a feeling that the staff had won me over with their sincerity, energy, and quality service. The combination of great location, delicious food and brilliant staff make the Mövenpick Hanoi a hotel worth another stay the next time I visit the great capital city of Vietnam – Hanoi.
Mövenpick Hotel Hanoi
83A Ly Thuong Kiet, Hanoi, Vietnam
Phone +84 4 38 22 28 00
Fax +84 4 38 22 27 78
Curtis King is based in Dalat, where he consults for foreign firms entering the Vietnam market. He can also be spotted adding to the local nightlife, often jamming on the harmonica or guitar, or even leading his Asia-trotting band “The Curtis King Band”. www.curtiskinglive.com