Posts from the “Caustic” Category

The Eugenia, Bangkok: Sadly getting a little tired

Update:

I am very sad to report that the Eugenia in Bangkok is starting to get a little tired. I’ve always enjoyed staying at the hotel as you will have known from my previous posts, but having advised a friend that it was worth the money I was horrified when she reported back on her experience this week.

She and her beau had shelled out for one of the most expensive rooms with a double four poster bed, only to be put in a room which just had twins beds shoved together.

The overhead shower wasn’t working in the bathroom and wasn’t fixed during their three day stay, and reports were that generally the decor and furniture is now looking rather tired and scuffed.

So. Until I hear that the Eugenia has been renovated, or at least repainted, I won’t be advising anyone to stay there.

Sad.

Central Park Hotel, Hong Kong: A shabby filthy hole

Review:

I’m currently investigating hotels in Hong Kong that can be had for US$200 or less a night.

A couple of weeks ago it was the turn of the Central Park Hotel in Sheung Wan. A 3* hotel that is used by many overseas travel agents who put tour groups there or those who are staying just one night in HK on a transfer through to somewhere else.

So, was it the “hip boutique hotel…in the heart of Hong Kong’s financial and commercial centre” that it claims on its website to be?

Nothing could be further from the truth.

For a start, when I last looked (yesterday), the financial and commercial heart of Hong Kong Island was definitely still Central and Admiralty, whereas Sheung Wan was still the heart of sharks fin and dried bark trade. But petty differences in geographical opinions aside, onwards to what I actually experienced.

After an unnecessarily long 15 minute check-in process, the first room I was assigned (2504 I believe it was) was so musty, and the atmosphere was so damp I couldn’t believe they’d dared give me the key. Uninhabitable.

Central Park Mould

The mould covered the entire wall

Keeping the door wedged open so as not to be overcome by the smell, I rang reception for a new room. As I was on the phone holding for a response, I realised that the odd pattern on the wallpaper I was staring at was in fact mould. It was all over the entire wall behind the bed.

I then looked at the other walls and found rising damp above the skirting boards, stained carpets and general scruffiness – and this was one of the rooms on the Executive Floor!

On to the second room.

I went to meet a porter on the 7th floor, and as soon as the lift doors opened the reek of stale cigarette smoke was thick in the air. I told the porter I wouldn’t stay in a smoking room as I had indicated on my booking reservation, so there was no need for me to see it, yet he assured me that it was just the corridor that smelled. Hmm, what a bloody stupid thing to say, and what a bloody stupid room to try and check me into when I’d asked for a non-smoking room, and already turned down one room partly because of the stench.

Against my wishes he hauled me into the room, and lo and behold, on entering it was more like walking into a smoking lounge at an airport than a hotel room. Having reiterated my request to change room, poor Mr Porter suggested that maybe all it needed was some air-freshener! Um…No…What it needs is a thorough gutting.

I tilted my head to one side and looked at him with pity, “That would be like spraying perfume on a pile of poo, dear. It’s still a pile of poo, and will still stink like a pile of poo, although probably just more rancid once the smell of pine and lilies has worn off a little.” He smiled back weakly in bafflement, as these were not the English words he was used to hearing. Poor chap, but by this stage I was gently fuming.

On the march again, and on to the third room.

This room was still shabby, dented and scratched, but at least it didn’t smell, but by now I was running so late that it would have to do.

I had a quick shower, where I noticed that the window frame didn’t fit properly so there was an air gap down the entire length of one side, and the loo was surrounded by a blooming stain of rust.

In the bedroom I also saw that not only was the bed so low to the ground that it didn’t even come up to my knees, but I also realised that it was rather short. Rather too short for even a person of just 5 foot 10 inches, which isn’t overly tall by anyone’s standards apart from probably the Mbuti tribes of central Africa. Livid and running late I had no time to do anything about it.

My night out was not starting well.

Central Park Hotel Horror

Rising damp, ill-fitting windows, leaking toilets

Later that evening, after a fine meal at a surprisingly empty Roka and a trip to the flicks, the bed as expected was found to be too short for Mr H, who had to sleep diagonally across it and I had to sleep with my knees round my ears (and not for any kinky reason at all).

In the morning before even 7:15am had rolled around, the cleaning staff were crashing about with their walkie talkies squawking at full volume, so the only thing to do was admit defeat, forego the lie-in and check-out as quickly as possible.

The night out was thus not a great success I’m sad to report, but at least it has given me the chance to reveal the full horror of the hotel to you here, and thus save countless others from a night of misery (and potential infection). I did wonder about reporting the hotel to the Food and Hygeine Department, but instead have settled for exposing the hotel for the disgusting, health hazard it most surely is through these pages.

Price: We paid HK$1308 (US$168) for a Garden View room for the night through Agoda, booked on the day. We ended up staying in a cheaper City View room, but I didn’t have time to argue once I’d finally settled on the 10th floor, and as we’d pre-paid it wasn’t worth my while walking out to find another hotel at so late an hour.

Website: www.centralparkhotel.com.hk

 

The Golden Silk, Hanoi – Elegance in Exclusive Luxury my arse…

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

Hotel Costes, Paris – Supercilious sons of bitches.

Review:

THIS IS NOT CHILD FRIENDLY READING…

As I’ve mentioned before on these pages, I have been lucky enough to stay in some fantastic hotels. Unfortunately, the massively hyped Hotel Costes in Paris, does not fall into this category.

I’d first stumbled across Hotel Costes back in the summer of 2006 walking home from a club to our rather more modest hotel early one morning. As we tottered down Rue St Honore we saw an inviting and mysterious doorway, and decided to have a looksee into the ultraviolet-lit tunnel. What we found was the ground floor of Hotel Costes and we stayed and had a drink in their wonderful courtyard, surrounded by the leggie lovelies and sharp suited boys. Fun.

We went back for brunch a couple of days later, and the courtyard really was a super place to sit and chill, listening to the birds over a pot of tea and a croissant, recovering from trawling the shops.

So, when my beau and I more recently decided to pop to Paris for a few days on a whim, I asked if we could stay at Costes. Our concierge duly booked us into a room with a balcony for later that same day.

On arrival at the hotel early that evening we walked in to find reception unmanned, and the bell boy had to be sent off to find someone to attend to us. This person duly arrived some 5-10mins later – not what you expect when you are paying close to €1000 a night to stay somewhere.

I knew that my boyfriend’s hackles were already raised by this point, but we were processed and then escorted to our room.

I have never in my life seen such a poor excuse of a room in a luxury hotel.

It had no balcony to begin with, but rather more importantly, the window that it did have was so far up the wall that I couldn’t even see out of it.  The room was shoebox sized and dingy to boot besides looking like it was furnished with faux antiques – overthemed to the max.

No class, and certainly no elegant decadence.

As you can imagine we turned round to the receptionist who had brought us up and asked him where our room with the balcony was. Whilst we checked with our concierge company that they had confirmed a room with a balcony (they had), our receptionist was checking out whether they had the right room.

So, dumped back in reception (not even the bar) with no offer of a glass of water, let alone an apology for the inconvenience caused thus far, we started to wait.

After being glared at for 15 minutes by some pointy-nosed prick who had all the savoir-faire of his ignorant Visigoth barbarian ancestors, we’d had enough.

He and whatever other staff came into our locale would get into whispered huddles and dart supercilious glances at us, and after a quarter of an hour, it was obvious that no attempt was being made to resolve our situation.

We called our concierge (who was mortified), and he immediately booked us into a suite at the Lancaster, which is one of the loveliest hotels and set of rooms in all of Paris.

That these squirts in their off-the-peg suits and cheap shoes decided to be so offensive to us wasn’t what really got up my nose. They are just idiots who will live very small lives.

What did bother me was that they wasted our time, and that the management of the hotel obviously condones and promotes this kind of behaviour.

Of course I will never again set foot in that nest of mediocrity and specious sophistication, which is a shame as I like their bar and their courtyard cafe – but you do have to stick to your guns.

And so, my well traveled friends – just don’t do it to yourselves. Never stay in a hotel like Costes where the staff think they are more important than their clients.

There is only one word for people like that, and it’s one I save for special occasions – c***s.