Review:

I found the website to the new Golden Silk Hotel in Hanoi back in February. It was yet to open, but from the website it looked as though it might finally be the breakthrough boutique hotel that Hanoi so desperately needs, and I was all for trying it.

If money isn’t a concern and you just want to stay somewhere small, stylish and 4* or 5* in Hanoi, it is utterly impossible.

The options at the deluxe end for a quick weekend break are:

  1. The Sofitel Metropole‘s Historic Wing – very pleasant, but unless you stay in one of the history soaked suites, ultimately it’s just like any other 5* hotel. The rooms have been refurbed to the point of losing their historic feel.
  2. The Sofitel Metropole’s Opera Wing – pleasant, but modern with no real connection with the older areas of the hotel, so could be any Sofitel in any city in the world.
  3. The Hilton Opera – pleasant, modern, again could be any Hilton hotel in any city in the world.

The Metropole has a lovel swimming pool and landscaped courtyard, so definitely rates higher than the Hilton and is a very nice hotel, but it has somehow lost most of its former charm in the refurbishment, which is a great shame, (oo, and don’t eat at Spices Garden)

There are other 5* hotels in Hanoi, but none of them are within easy walking distance of the Old Quarter which is where you want to spend most of your time poking around, so aren’t very convenient for tourists.

The next level down in price are the raft of Hanoi’s 3* boutique townhouse hotels. These include the Luxe Guide recommended  Church, and the Zephyr  (no idea why these two in particular, they don’t seem to offer much to me), and whilst all of them try to deliver an international standard of styling, quality, amenities and service, none of them actually manage it.

Plus, if you want to stay in a decent room at any of these hotels, it’s going to set you back upwards of US$100, (all their cheapest rooms are well under US$100), and it starts making more sense to just suck it up and go to the Metropole.

Under this level, are the plethora of small, honest to goodness 2* and 3* townhouse hotels, that are just as comfortable and have the same amenities as their ’boutique’ brethren, but with none of the deluded aspiration.

Find one in a quiet spot (I’ve had a lot of luck with a number of the Prince Hotels over the years), and you’ll enjoy family style service and clean rooms at great value.

The Golden Silk is unforunately yet another example of that merry middle band of boutique hotels that promise luxury and barely deliver anything beyond necessity, (i.e. four walls, a bed and a basin). Here’s my take.

Service:

This hotel had been open barely six weeks when we stayed and so I didn’t expect much of the service.  It was horrendous though – painfully slow, staff who weren’t empowered to make decisions when faced with a problem to be solved, and no managers around in the evenings or at the weekend to sort out such problems personally. We spent much of our time forcing the staff to ring the managers for their input when there was an issue.

Weird to stay in a hotel where the staff thought that their managers’ leisure time was more important than their guests’.

The staff need training, and I’m sure that the service will improve when they get it. Unfortunately the rest of the problems with the hotel will not improve without a complete refurbishment, or maybe a few days with a bulldozer…

Rooms:

The bathrooms: Let’s start at the design travesty of the bathrooms and get one thing clear. For all those idiots à l’étranger who post on Trip Advisor and think that a separate bath and shower are the very quintessence of sophistication: it’s not, it’s a basic human right. Any hotel that describes itself as luxury and then makes you clamber into the bath just to get clean deserves a rating of zero. The Golden Silk has actually managed to screw this up even further by installing showers that spray water everywhere but the bath, and so unless you dam the edges with towels you end up with a flooded bedroom.

Not content with designing a bathroom with merely safety hazards to negotiate, the Golden Silk has gone one step beyond in the silly stakes and inexplicably, (but like a growing number of its Asian contemporaries who can’t afford switchable smart glass), erected a clear glass wall to separate bathroom from bedroom…and then plonked the loo in full view of the bed.

Although there is a “modesty” blind of sorts it covers both the wall and door, so it’s impossible to get in and out without hoisting and lowering said blind on each visit.

I just don’t understand the f**king stupidity of the interior designers. It’s not just the fact that I don’t want my beloved to inadvertently catch a glimpse of me straining on the pot; what about when one of us needs to visit the bathroom in the night? There is no way to not disturb the other person unless we start wearing bloody headlamps to clamber around the room. The bathrooms are so awful that I wouldn’t stay here again just because of them.

Golden Silk Hotel, Hanoi

Can you see the similarity?

Right -onto the rest of the bedroom.

The styling: Hotel marketing 101 suggests that you don’t lie about the rooms on your website. None of the rooms (and I looked in four) looked anything like the renderings on the website. Shiny floors, square rooms not rectangular, no rugs, no dimmer switches on the lighting etc, etc, meant that I couldn’t actually get the room to look even close to what was displayed on the website. I was standing scrunched in the corner to take my photo, so the perspective in the hotel’s rendering is way out, and the Studio Suites are far smaller than suggested.

The noise: It seems rather a large screw-up that in the Golden Silk the more expensive your room, the noisier it becomes. The “better” rooms have balconies, are larger and apparently have more furniture. Unfortunately they have the same bathrooms and hanging rails and  are also on the front of the hotel.

Hang Gai is pretty much the busiest street in the Old Quarter, so the noise is appalling. Plus, the windows and doors don’t fit, so though they are double-glazed, they are pointless.

Even if I didn’t nearly die of shame every time I had to take a pee, I can’t recommend anyone to stay in a room above Luxury class (which are all at the back of the hotel), because of the cacophony of constant traffic and early morning loudhailers they will be subjected to.

The terraces: None of the rooms have terraces. They have balconies wide enough for a table and chairs, but there are none provided, so it’s pointless to have a balcony.

Again, do not stretch the truth on your marketing material, over-promising and under-delivering is unforgivably bad business practice.

The wardrobe: There was no wardrobe. Simply a couple of short hanging racks along part of the bathroom wall. A complete mess and somewhat in contradiction to the idea of luxury in a hotel.

Powerpoints: The one powerpoint in the luxury room took five minutes to find and was behind a heavy bedside lamp that had to be moved to access it. There was one powerpoint in the Studio Suite in the same position and another thankfully near a shelf in a more convenient place.

Bedside lamps: The bedside lamps in all the rooms had their switches hanging off the far edge of the bedside table making it impossible to reach whilst actually in bed.

Electicity and Water Pressure: Hanoi does seem to have a bit of an issue with the stability of its water pressure and electricity, so it was no worse here than at any other of the townhouse hotels I’ve stayed in. Don’t expect hot water on the higher floors by 9:30am.

Beds: Surprisingly the beds were not rock solid, and were actually pretty comfortable. In the luxury rooms though the beds are so wide that there isn’t really space for much else. However on the plus side, if you are six foot five inches tall you can sleep across the bed, which makes it one of the best hotels for tall people in the whole of the capital.

Summary:

If my expectations had been managed properly before I arrived  - a photo of the bathroom, realistic descriptions of rooms, and photos not renderings, then I think my impression of the hotel would have been more forgiving. But having been dumped in a room in a lower category without being told when I checked in, and then at every turn when I wanted to do something in the room being faced with inconvenient and downright stupid design, I’m not in the mood to be charitable. The Golden Silk provides a brilliant case study of pretty much everything you shouldn’t do when building a new hotel.

So, once again  I shall have to make my way back to the Metropole or the Prince until someone in Hanoi finally comprehends and then manifests a Boutique Luxury Hotel. I’ve been travelling to the city for seventeen years, and I’d have hoped by now that the hoteliers here would have caught up with the rest of Indochina. Heavens to Betsy! If Laos can manage a dazzling array of small luxury hotels why the darnation can’t Vietnam?

Location: 109-111 Hang Gai Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi, Vietnam, Tel: 84-4-3928 6969

Website: www.goldensilkhotel.com