The world is huge

Don't miss any of it

Travel news, itineraries, and inspiration delivered straight to your inbox.

By proceeding, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.


The ‘Cyrillic’ Invasion

Author: Brian W Fisher
Date of Trip: November 2013

The short flight from Hue on Vietnam Airlines got me to Nha Trang. I was looking forward to somewhat of a more relaxed schedule and perhaps even a half day diving or snorkelling among the pristine coral reefs offshore (more about Rainbow Divers in a separate review).

Half a century ago this coastal town was an important base for the American war machine during their involvement in Vietnam’s civil war. The aircraft runways they built during the 1960s are still visible, a stark reminder of what the payloads of the bombers contained.

Today, the city and its districts are becoming a somewhat of a Mecca for tourists from many parts of the world – demonstrated by the brand new airport located a few miles away.

Having arrived at my reserved hotel, The Hanoi Golden, located smack in the centre of ‘Downtown Action’ just as daylight was giving way to street lights and neon signs, I delayed my usual hotel walkabout inspection until the following morning.

Quickly unpacked and showered, I ventured outside and trawled the area’s two main streets (Nguyen Thien Thuat and Hung Vuong) to get a feel of the place. No doubting it was popular – the density of European tourists milling around and the crowded restaurants were testament to that.

Right from the start I was aware of the many signs and hoardings sporting Cyrillic letters. A little probing of an Ex-pat Australian retail proprietor, soon revealed why.

The Vietnam government had agreed to allow a Russian Charter Company, Pegas (Turkish owned) to operate 72 direct flights per month from Russia to Nha Trang. Some 4500 Russian tourists per week have been landing there since October 2013, with a total of over 100,000 expected by April of this year (up 57%).

Digging a little deeper, I easily learned that package deals offered to Russian tourists, including return flights and hotel accommodation, can be bought for less than US$700. At say 1.6 to the £, that amounts to around £470.

Airfares alone from the UK can be £1200. Is such a staggering differential the reason for the type of Russian tourists I encountered during my three night stay?

I suppose I should tell you that I am in my 81st year (but believe I’m still in my early 50s!!!) and have toured over 40 countries in both packaged and own arrangement categories, Nha Trang certainly turned upside-down every interaction with people of all races, I’d ever encountered.

Apparently, bottles (uncountable) of a clear alcoholic beverage starting with the letter ‘V’ was the tipple of choice – the results of overindulgence visible everywhere. Scenes of altercation were not uncommon and on one occasion nudged even me into reacting, when an inebriated individual began berating and threatening a party of young Vietnamese women in a cafe.

Remembering the old adage that, ‘evil can only happen if good men stand aside and let it’ (or some such phrase), I, with a degree of trepidation, faced the individual and told him to quieten down and leave the young folk alone.

Now what?

He glowered at me and without warning, swung a right-handed haymaker at my head. Instinctively, my 65 year old army training kicked in. I grabbed his wrist and pulled it towards me with my left hand – and connected my right elbow with his chin.

Hmmm…one horizontal idiot with a broken jaw.

The restaurant’s proprietor refused to give me a bill, the young folk kind of applauded as I managed a grin and leave.

Back to the hotel. Similar to the one in Hue, the Hanoi Golden was fairly new, was rated as 3 star, had fifteen floors, a bar, a restaurant and a small swimming pool on a high terrace surrounded by a timber deck.

What differed from all the previous hotels I’d stayed in during my tour, was that it proved to be almost dysfunctional. Staff were undertrained in dealing with the everyday needs of guests. The hotel lobby on most mornings was crowded with arriving guests who’s rooms were not ready for occupation.

The management was conspicuous by its absence. Certain ‘rules and regulations’ beggared belief. For example, if a guest (say on the 10th Floor – or any floor if comes to that) wanted to swim in the terrace pool, he/she had to travel down to the ground floor reception area, sign for a towel and then travel back up to the pool. This rigmarole taking place whilst the so-called pool/bar staff, sat hidden behind a screen playing games on a computer. Mad eh?

As to breakfast…that was a complete fiasco. Six a.m. to nine a.m. the notices read…pity the restaurant staff weren’t told (or were they?) Many guests had booked excursions which meant pick-ups from the hotel at seven a.m. so having an early breakfast was required. But, on the three mornings I (and many other guests) entered the dining room at precisely six a.m. the only person visible was the woman cleaner swishing a mop around the floor. Guests were certainly frustrated and took that out on the waiters when, at around six twenty-five, they began their duties.

During my meeting with the hotel’s middle management (the General Manager was never available???) these issues were brought to their attention. It wasn’t difficult to sense that they were aware of their station and afraid to act in the way they should.

To add one further account, which could have been far more serious than it actually was, I, at the end of one tiring day, donned a bathing costume, duly retrieved a towel from reception and made my way to the pool. I padded in bare feet across the timber deck and promptly stood on some shards of broken glass, one of which penetrated my right heel.

True, one hearing my ‘yelp’ one of the bar staff attended me and arranged for first aid. When I asked when was the last time the deck was examined and cleaned, I could not solicit an answer.

So, with all my past hotel experiences firmly embedded in my memory banks, the Hanoi Golden Hotel in Nha Trang has to rank as the very worst. It does not give me any pleasure to pen such a negative report but obeying my own mantra of, ‘Tell It As It Is’, I have no option.

I only hope that the senior management accept the issues I have raised and opined upon, and will instigate a root and branch development regime for all elements of the hotel’s operation.

We hand-pick everything we recommend and select items through testing and reviews. Some products are sent to us free of charge with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions and do not accept compensation to review products. All items are in stock and prices are accurate at the time of publication. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.

Top Fares From