The challenge of beating the infamous Duc Vuong Hotel in Saigon, my previous lodgings back in 2009 at which I attended a family party from which I still haven’t fully recovered, was always going to be monumental. So, when it came time for our recent stay at the Harmony Hotel, I knew they’d have their work cut out for them.
Arriving to the hotel, I very uncharacteristically dropped my entire passport and wallet onto the roadside unwittingly and so my first memory of the hotel is of the bellhop picking it up, and me stunned that I’d even let go of it so haphazardly in the first place. Getting old, I guess. And tempting fate.
Inside, the check-in process was quick and simple and in no time we were in one of the two lifts headed to the room (credit card for incidentals was requested here, with an amount pre-charged). The room was well-appointed, with a TV, wardrobe, safe and a writing desk. The bathroom and oddly, the writing desk also had further windows bizarrely facing into some kind of internal hollow, where a bit of natural light entered from the top of the building. OK then…
One thing – and I’m sure this affects all in Saigon, due to the architecture of having little lot-like buildings that all eventually end up facing each other – is that because this hotel mostly only has an unobstructed forward-facing view, our room had a rather unfortunate view, in spite of having an actual big window…
It’s so easy to assume that in somewhere like Saigon, internet speed should be absolutely dismal (again, getting old – my preconceived notions continue to well…be preconceived and regularly inaccurate) but actually it was better than a number of hotels I’ve stayed in in Malaysia.
Topping the whole deal off, considering the space and size limitations was an incredibly unusual yet effective bathtub-like swimming pool on one of the lower floors. Being in the shade all day (since it was indoors for all intent purposes), it was absolutely Baltic and I managed to give the two or three staff loitering around a good laugh on my first visit by over-eagerly ploughing into it, before nearly having a heart attack from the absolute freezing cold.
OK, gripe time; our shower was really not very effective. It went from cold to third-degree-burn hot and not for the first time in my life, I had to use my special technique of hopping into the shower during the reasonable middle-ground period between hot to cold or vice-versa, before hopping back out of the spray while it cycled through burning hot or freezing cold. This happens in hotels worldwide and yet never ceases to irritate me to great lengths. Is it seriously that difficult to have awesome WiFi and yet somehow have a shower that can’t decide which temperature it wants to be at?
Onto the breakfast. The first morning I was somehow left kind of unimpressed, but I came to realise that taking only the Asian options and some kind of muffins or scones from the Western selection was the way forward. Sadly – and I realise this is completely a case of ‘different strokes’ – I really reserved special hatred for the local coffee, which tasted like it wasn’t sure if it wanted to be a hot chocolate or a cup of coffee. Again, I’m sure (and I know for a fact, as a colleague asked me to bring some of it back for him) some absolutely love it, but I really didn’t appreciate the coffee, which of course is a staple – and some might say essential – part of my breakfast every morning.
So was there a family party? Sadly not, no. But would I stay there again? Yes; no doubt, it was a slightly more refined and sophisticated stay than I previously had, and beneficially, I was actually able to wake up and make my flight on-time this time around, which is more than could be said after the animal session at the infamous Duc Vuong (which to be fair, will always go down in history as one of my best and worst memories of any hotel anywhere), but no, I’ll never come around to liking hot chocolate-flavoured coffee.