Posts tagged “weekend

Dusit Thani Cairo – easy access to the airport.

Review:

I’m not sure what it says about a hotel that has now had a soft opening that has lasted for over a year, but it’s certainly a good excuse for not providing 5 Star service at a 5 Star hotel.

However, the Dusit Thani Lake View in Cairo is certainly well on the way to getting things right.  During my stay there, my only criticisms would be that their service was a little slow, and that their showers are impossible to turn to the right temperature. As I had a bath which was functioning correctly, I wasn’t overly fussed –  I think because I wasn’t expecting a first-world experience in a developing city.

Rooms: You could be anywhere in the world when you step into the Dusit Thani’s rooms, they are utterly generic.  No traces of either Egyptian or Thai styling, which was a bit of a shame. Frequent business travel can be a monotonous schlep, and finding yourself in basically the same hotel room in yet another city, is actually rather soul-destroying. But it’s new, it’s inoffensive.

Rooms are large, beds too soft for my poor old bones, utilities functional, and it’s nice to have a balcony or terrace in each one.

Bathrooms: Far too dim to apply make-up successfully. As previously noted, the showers are almost impossible to get to the right temperature.

Public Areas: Good pool and a nice hot tub.  Huge lobby that is A/C’d to sub-zero temperatures, and there is the rather odd detail of putting the open bar in the lobby, which means that there are small gaggles of people standing aimlessly, cluttering up the thoroughfares hanging onto their glasses.

Food: The buffet breakfast was 5* standard and the food I had during my stay was all more than acceptable (the fresh Egyptian yoghurt was delish).

Service: There is a mix of European top management, Egyptian middle management, Thai/Egyptian operations/reception staff. Maybe it’s because I’m so used to Thai hospitality, but they were hands down more customer service focussed than the locals.

Location: The Dusit Thani is in the middle of what is called New Cairo – a half built mega-town of new huge single residences and the odd office tower, about 45mins away from Cairo proper. It is a building site and a cultural wasteland, so if you are not planning on going into Old Cairo much and just want to hang at a hotel, then the DT is a good option.

It’s also an easy ride into the airport – going both ways we got there within 30mins, which in Cairo is a massive blessing.  Taxi drivers don’t really know the hotel though, so it is worth ordering a hotel pick-up from the airport to cut down on any hassles.

To give some context – it takes a good 45mins-1hour to get to Al Khalili Bazaar from the hotel.

Price: At the moment as it’s still soft opening the prices are under US$200, but that was the best price we could muster from a travel agent – going to the hotel direct was more expensive.

A word of warning – if you are going at the weekend, then make sure to check whether there is a wedding booked during your stay.  The hotel holds them in the central courtyard overlooked by half the rooms – Egyptian weddings are awesome – like MTV awards ceremonies, but that means pyrotechnics, techno DJs and huge sound systems, and parties that carry on until at least 3am at top decibel.  Not a relaxing way to spend a night if you are just looking for a good kip.

*one extra note is that the Spa isn’t opening until 2010.

So would I go again?  If I was just passing through Cairo on the way to somewhere else I would definitely stay at the DT again, but if I wanted to spend a couple of days in the city then I’d look for somewhere closer to the action.

Address: Dusit Thani LakeView Cairo, The LakeView, El-Tesseen Street, City Centre,Fifth Settlement, 11835 New Cairo. Tel +20 2 2614 0000

Danang – Easily doable for a long weekend from HK

Getting to Danang in Vietnam is surprisingly smooth from Hong Kong.

If you travel with hand luggage only, you can leave HK early morning on a Friday and get to your resort in Danang or to Hoi An in time for lunch (the transfer is a bit of a squeeze in Hanoi but we made it no problem – you arrive at 9:40 and your next flight is 10:05, but if you miss that you can get the 14:30 which gets you in at 15:45pm). On Sunday you can catch a 16:35 flight back to Hanoi that connects to the HK flight that finds you back there at 22:50pm. So, very doable for a quick weekend away somewhere a bit different.

Danang Nam Hai Caustic Candy

Of the Danang resorts I would choose a villa at the Nam Hai (review here), although I do still have a soft spot for the Furama Resort as it was the first decent hotel in the area, cheap in comparison to the Nam Hai and very adequate. (The latest property someone tried to flog me was the Hyatt Regency Residences which look horrid.  Can’t believe the government have allowed 12 storey high buildings in this area. Very sad).

Nam Hai Caustic Candy

If you want to stay in Hoi An instead then I highly recommend the Vinh Hung 1 right in the centre of the old town. It’s an old teak Chinese merchant’s house and is really sweet, it’s very reasonable, staff are welcoming and the service is good.

Vinh hung1.jpg

In terms of things to do, you can either just chill out in your villa or on the beach, go into Hoi An which is very much worth a snoop around, take river trips, play at various watersports in the sea, visit the ancient Cham ruins, or in fact go into Danang, which I think is a thoroughly pleasant town and has some great street restaurants and some hilarious bars and clubs.

Restaurants.

The restaurants that I have been to and enjoyed (apart from the ones in the Nam Hai which are really very good), are thus:

Hoi An: Brother’s Cafe. Venue is lovely. If you go for supper and sit in the garden which is by the river, do load up with mozzie repellent and get them to light coils. This is the most expensive restaurant in Hoi An, but is not leaps and bounds ahead of the competition in terms of food.

Cargo Club – run by expats, good food, lively. Has a balcony that overlooks the river, went for supper.

Saigon Times Club – run by some guys from Saigon, has a large roof terrace and interesting interior. Food is good. Gives Brothers a run for it’s money.

Cafe des Amis and Tam Tam Cafe – tended to go to these for lunch and for daytime drinks – Cafe des Amis, hasn’t had great reviews for dinner.

All these restaurants (apart from Brothers which is a bit of a walk) are within about 150yards of each other and the Vinh Hung 1 Hotel in the two roads that run parallel to the river.

Danang:  There are loads of little street restaurants in Danang that open up at night. Just pick one that’s busy and sit down.  Even if the waiters don’t speak English or French, then fellow diners will always help out.

Apsara: Lonely Planet recommends this as the best restaurant to go to in Danang, but it was nothing special in terms of venue, ambience or food especially after dining in Hoi An, and was overpriced for what it was. Really don’t bother – I’d just as soon eat on a plastic stool on the street.

Camel Club: We also stopped by here for a drink as it had been touted as the best club in town by Lonely Planet again (they really didn’t get things right in Danang…) and it was absolutely hilarious. Riotous techno, seizure inducing strobes, sleazy old expats rubbing themselves up against young ladies of negotiable affection, and to our eternal but rather politically incorrect delight, a group of Little People who got really drunk and aggressive with one another on the dance floor.

All in all, for a weekend away from HK it’s very easy to find things to do around Danang, it’s incredibly photogenic, and of course you are in Vietnam so the food is bloody lovely.

The Nam Hai – Still the best place on China Beach by far

Review:

It’s difficult not to enjoy staying in a pool villa at the Nam Hai - they really are pretty pukka, but these days you do have to be as rich as Creosus to stay (when we first went during the soft opening it only cost us HK$2,400 for a two bed pool villa per night which was a ridiculous bargain).

Located on China Beach, near Hoi An and Danang, The Nam Hai opened in 2007 and is a collection of villas and hotel accommodation. It was developed by GMH who own such lovely resorts/hotels as the Chedis in Oman/Chiang Mai/Bali etc and the awesome looking Nizuc which is about to be built in Mexico.
Nam Hai Caustic Candy Danang 1

Service starts with being picked up at the airport or train station in Danang by a driver, which is always a nice touch. Each villa comes with a butler, who brings you whatever you want for breakfast, and then cocktails, fruit and snacks at lunchtime and sundown. You get an open bar, buggies to take you to the hotel and spa, a great stereo system you can plug your iPod into, a library of DVDs and the option to use hotel room service if you just can’t be bothered to move for lunch or dinner.

The added bonus of your own salt water swimming pool and garden really is very civilised – so when the tides are strong (which they are at certain times of year), you just can’t be bothered to go down to the beach, or you have an aversion to sand, you can gaze at the sea whilst keeping cool in your pool.

Nam Hai Danang Caustic Candy 2

The restaurants at the Nam Hai are very good, and there are lots of different options about where you can sit and sup – inside/outside/by the pool/in a sala.

They also have a very good spa with individual salas that open onto a lovely lily pond, so you can patter about butt naked but private to the rest of the world. I spent a whole afternoon having a range of massages, scrubs and facials that were blissful.

One word of caution though – this is not a small-child friendly venue.  As you can see the gardens and swimming pools have no barriers, the interiors of the rooms are all sharp corners and sunken baths, and you cross to the bedroom salas across little bridges with 6ft drops either side.

There are masses of things to do around Danang and Hoi An (take a look here) – watersports, ancient ruins, the UNESCO protected old town of Hoi An, even Danang itself is a great town to rumamge around with good restaurants and hilarious techno clubs.

Price: The Nam Hai is pricey – it’s the most luxurious place to stay in the whole of Vietnam, and direct rates start around HK$11,000 a night for a 2 bed pool villa like in the photos (hotel villas are around HK$5000 a night), but if you have a concierge company as good as mine through Coutt’s (or through Vertu for that matter) then you’re likely get a decent discount or upgrade.

I think it’s a great place to stay. Really tip top, very private, utterly relaxing with fantastic facilities, food and service.

Location: Hamlet 1, Dien Duong Village, Dien Ban District, Quang Nam Province, Tel: (84-510) 3 940 000

River Kwai – brilliant long weekend from HK (if you like driving).

As you may gather I’ve got a bit of a penchant for Thailand, and often go for long weekends.  I love going up to the River Kwai in Kanchanaburi for a couple of days not only because it gives me a chance to drive for more than an hour and not hit either a border or the sea, but also because one of my favourite hotels is up here and it happens to have one of the best Thai restaurants in the whole of the country (believe me, I’ve been to plenty…)

River Kwai Caustic Candy

Here is the itinerary:

Fly to BKK, pick up your hire-car and head west. It takes about 4 hours to drive to Sai Yok, which is about an hour past Muang Kanchanaburi. It is worth pushing on through to Sai Yok, and avoiding the temptation to stop off in Kanchanaburi itself.

Stay at Resotel (more info here) on the River Kwai  - do book ahead as it’s quite small and is popular with the Russians in particular now for some reason.

Now you are ensconced in your hotel there are loads of things to do.  Erawan has some lovely waterfalls, you can go to the fascinating, eerie, and beautiful Hell Fire Pass where all the POWs, Thai and Vietnamese slaves were forced to build the Thai/Burma railway in WWII. You can go and visit the elephant camps, hire bikes and just cycle around, visit the labyrinth of reservoirs up around Srinakarin and go fishing, take river trips, or  just generally mooch around in your car exploring up to the borders of Burma. Lots of things to do for a 2-3 days.

The restaurant (and the spa for that matter) at the Resotel is particularly good, it is without doubt one of the best restaurants I’ve eaten at in Thailand.  There are also loads of road-side stalls and restaurants all over the place and you can pretty much guarantee having a good if basic meal at any one of them, no matter how rustic they might look!

It’s a super chilled area of Thailand, it has beautiful scenery and it’s really quiet.  The roads are almost empty and are a joy to drive on.

On the drive back to BKK you do have to be very careful when you close in on the BKK ring-road if you don’t have sat-nav, as it is easy to miss the turning to get on to the ring-road that will take you back to the airport.  If you miss it, turn back, DO NOT get involved in driving into Bangkok. If you miss the ring road and follow the airport signposts they take you straight through the centre of town and it will take you an extra 2 or 3 hours to get to the airport – as you can tell, I didn’t turn back…