Saturday, July 14, 2018

Hotel on the Lake

Whenever I am travelling alone, I usually am not particular about accommodations as long as it’s clean and safe but this time I made an exception and booked myself into the luxurious Intercontinental Hanoi, using some of the points I accrued under the hotel group’s loyalty program.

I originally hesitated in choosing this hotel because of its remote location, and I almost changed my mind at the last minute. The Westlake district, where the hotel’s located, is a bit further out from the downtown and where most of the sights (and more importantly, restaurants) are, but after reading the review from the trust-worthy The Points Guy who stayed and recommended the hotel, I stuck with the plan, and it’s only a quick taxi ride away once I got off at Hanoi International Airport late morning.

The reviewer recommended the upgrade to the "Overwater Room" for nominal charge – just when I was going to inquire about that option at the front desk (and ready to pay extra for it), I found out they already upgraded me to that room category for free without me asking. And either way, I think it’s worth the extra buck even if that's what it takes. My room is on the ground level of a pavilion-style building constructed right on top of the lake, connected to the main hotel by a long walkway accessible either on foot or by the golf cart on request. The walk to and from my room was actually quite pleasant, with gentle breeze coming in from the lake and I got the vibe of a seaside resort.

Despite the interior clearly showing its age and a bit tacky with those cliche wooden-themed decor, the room was spacious with gorgeous view of the lake. It even came with the balcony right above the water with perfect view of the lake and sunset. Right across the water was The Sunset Bar of the hotel which was said to be the bar with the best view in all of Hanoi, but I figure sitting in my own balcony with the cheap bottle of beer in hand (that I bought from the small shop not far from the hotel) was just as good if not better.

I didn’t take much of an advantage using the other facilities in the hotel, including the relaxing pool by the lakeside and the huge fitness center – except stopping by for a quick shower before heading to the airport on the last day of the trip, but they all looked impressive with excellent services by the staff. The heat and humidity has been gruesome when I was in Hanoi, and the hotel provided me the perfect sanctuary to escape from all that with a sense of serenity, so it’s good that I decided to "splurge" this time for a better accommodation.

And over the 3 days in Hanoi I became a fan and regular customer of Grab, which is a ride-sharing service similar to Uber and popular in Vietnam (and other Southeast Asian countries). It worked exactly the same but slightly cheaper - if you dare you can even ride at the back of a Grab bike (as opposed to a normal car). When I checked in to the hotel I was informed that due to road construction, I was unable to ride a taxi to downtown during morning and evening peak hours (unless I did a detour going the opposite direction and around the lake), so Grab became my only other sensible options of going out and about. And I enjoyed my every ride with them – it’s easy, fast and there’s no concern over rigged meters, overcharging, confusion over money notes (I swear a few times I must have mistaken my 500000 dong notes as 50000 ones and overpaid) or drivers claiming they don’t know the way etc.

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