Had an unexpectedly nice time in Nha Trang. Our first impression of an Asian Gold Coast held but on further inspection away from the beach we found a much nicer atmosphere. We’re still shaking our heads at the thorough saturation – whole multi-storied hotels catering purely for Russian package tourism along with massive restaurants and tour operators.
As I said our hotel room was fabulous – 17th floor facing the beach with a balcony I almost lived on. Add to this the General Manager of the previous hotel (Grand Mercure Danang) ringing the General Manager of this hotel, and him introducing himself to us, wishing us a happy holiday etc……you just can’t beat the personal touch. Have to admit it’s Peter’s doing – he seems to be able to wangle his way anywhere.
Thank God it finally stopped raining, enough to have a few days on the hotel’s “private beach”. It’s not actually private, it’s just they have sun loungers and umbrellas for the exclusive use of the guests….no riff raff here thank you!
We then took a bus up to Dalat in the Central Highlands, six hours of hairpin bends, through jungle, rice paddies and small villages. Great trip. Dalat is very interesting. First up it’s cool, being high in the mountains. Was established by Europeans early last century as a hill station fleeing Saigon’s heat. Add 2500 chateau-style villas and art deco beauties build by the French, some derelict, some in perfect order, along with seemingly hundreds of hotels and, of course, local architecture, all dotted over green hills. The whole mix is very pleasing with a huge man-man lake in the centre and lots of parkland. The main activity up here (apart from tourism) is flower and vegetable growing. Consequently the town is surrounded by acres of hot houses and, oddly, pine forests, presumably planted by the aforesaid Europeans. Really very pretty.
Just did touristy stuff for three days, walking up and down the hilly streets, took a chair lift to a Buddhist monastery, went on a steam train, visited the former Emperor’s summer palace (1 of 3) which was an art deco wonder, complete with the original furniture. Stayed at Saigon Dalat Hotel which we assume was one of the original hotels – large room with a lovely wooden floor and inlayed wooden furniture and a bell-boy on each floor to cater to guests. He actually played on his phone the whole time – must be one of life’s most boring jobs.
Another bus, another fantastic bus ride down to Vung Tau on the coast, this time down the opposite side of the mountain but through more agriculture and very thick forest. Now the extra-posh kicks in again. Pullman Hotel Vung Tau - put it this way – there is a white baby grand piano in the enormous foyer (see photos) which is played each evening!! Whoooaaa!
Thankfully there is very little traffic here, therefore easy to cross the road and fairly quiet. Must admit the noise level in Vietnam is ear-bursting – very loud music played in just about every shop and shopping centre, on buses, in trains, and the frigging beeping and air horn-driven traffic is starting to get to us. Here is quiet and you can use the wide footpaths without having to plough through parked and moving bikes. It’s a pleasure walking on the street and on the hard packed sandy beach. Eight lovely relaxing days here, again doing tourist stuff – climbing the old light house, climbing up to the statue of Jesus which you can then ascend inside on narrow steps onto his shoulders for a great view (purportedly 999 steps and higher than His Rio counterpart but….) and of course walking the whole peninsular.
Due to Peter’s innate ability to wheedle he managed to get us upgraded (again) half way through our stay to Platinum status on the Accor Plus card. This involved moving to a larger room, free breakfast, access to the Privilege Lounge for all day snacks and soft drinks plus free beer, wine and canapes between 5pm – 7pm and twice daily servicing of our room. We were almost at Platinum status but due to rule changes we’d just missed out – a few words with the General Manager, a very charming Frenchman, who made a few phone calls and the problem was resolved. I’m still shaking my head.
The staff at the hotel are amazing. It’s low season and consequently very few guests, and even fewer Westerners therefore everyone seems to know our names and want to chat. We’ve eaten in a few times at the hotels’ seafood BBQs. As many oysters, scallops, crab, and Peter’s favourite Mekong prawns as you can stuff in plus free-flow beer, amazing salads and desserts – and at a measly $30 each!! Afraid to say the inner backpacker in us is being slowly eroded......
Now into Saigon (HCMC) and back to weaving beeping motorbikes, polluted air and head-ache inducing traffic noise. Here for four days but must admit, after four months on the road we’re getting a little ragged. Yes, the hotels have been fabulous but with over 20 location changes in that time, we’re both getting slightly weary. I can hear the howls of sympathy from here!! Again staying posh – Pullman Saigon Centre and with our Platinum status we don’t even have to leave the hotel ‘cos we’re entitled to buffet breakfasts, all day food in the Privilege Lounge along with beer, wine and canapes in the evening – why would you go out! Actually we do go for morning walks, one day to the Reunification Palace. Next to the palace is a very large well established park, went to go in but were refused by an angry guard. It appears that the park is for palace employees only. We then followed other locals who were exercising by walking around the park on the OUTSIDE via the footpath!! Communism gone bonkers I think.
We are now in Kuala Lumpur on our final leg – and I’ll make this our final blog. Again staying at a Pullman Hotel and have been (triple) upgraded to a suite!!! Upon arrival we were immediately whisked up to our suite with the check in procedure conducted from there! AND AND AND the rooms….entry foyer, guest toilet, kitchen, combined dining and lounge room and a huge bedroom with ensuite. I’d call the style Nanna meets Louis 16th with inlayed wooden furniture, numerous mirrors and overstuffed arm chairs. We are on the 23rd floor on a sweeping corner with floor to ceiling windows consequently the views are incredible. Going Platinum also entitles us to free laundry, twice daily cleaning, as well as the Privilege Lounge. Now for the best surprise – we only pay $77per night!! Blimey…..there goes any trace of our former travelling style.
Seriously, we admit that this everything-catered-for-in-the-hotel is quite isolating. As every traveller knows it often takes days to establish where cold beer and decent street food are, but in that time you do get a feel for the place and people (and not always positive). With all our free privileges it’s just too easy to take advantage of them in beautiful surroundings with attentive friendly staff. "Would Madam like another seared scallop with caviar on top?" YES, Madam would!! On the down side though you could almost be in any big city in the world if you don’t explore.
We’ve inadvertently caught Chinese New Year here in Malaysia with shops and businesses closed for a few days and hundreds of people on the streets. The hotel is buzzing, the foyer has been crowded for several days. Did have a bit of excitement 3 days ago – Peter woke at 3am saying he couldn’t breathe and we hightailed it to the nearby hospital. Turned out to be a chest infection which is thankfully on the mend.
Back to Australia on Thursday, firstly visiting my Mum in Brisbane then Peter’s Mum in Melbourne. Then just to end our holiday (in the style to which we have become accustomed) we are spending our last night at the Sofitel Melbourne on Collins……..presumably with all the privileges!!
Confession – I’ve just emptied all the small containers of CO Bigelow products provided by the hotel into my empty shampoo and conditioner bottles. The tight-arse still lives.