A weird place - for me, much much more "The Shining" than my own personal Shangri-La.
I expected tranquil & serene but found desolate & Stephen King (with a touch of Ian Fleming).
I know the various Intercontinentals are under different ownership & management, but this still came as a big disappointment to me as I had found the Intercontinental in Saigon to be one of the warmest & liveliest hotels I have ever visited. Difference may also be a bit of a North/South thing, not sure.
Anyway, the Westlake Hanoi is huge with endless "Get Smart" hallways and Bridges to Nowhere but few guests to be seen. Most of the rooms had lights on at night meaning the place was close to full but it just felt empty & cold. In pictures, it looks good, but in reality it has all the warmth & charm of the lair of a James Bond villain.
I think the problem lies in it being mainly a tourist transit hotel. Guests seem to be exhausted middle-aged or older Europeans or Americans on their way to or from Halong Bay as part of an Asian Grand Tour. They must be sleeping off their travels & eating room service because the restaurants, bars, even the Club Lounge, were totally dead at all times. The only times I saw the place lively was at tour bus loadouts at the beginning or end of the day.
Service is sort of iffy but I think the staff just falls into a stupor as there is usually so little for them to do. Also as such a package tourist-y hotel, it was so hard to break through & be treated as something other than just another Westerner (e.g. ordering Vietnamese coffee (in Vietnamese) & getting watery American coffee with cold, white milk because "that's what foreigners like" or ordering a Vietnamese dinner (again, in Vietnamese) & having a knife & fork smacked down on the table in front of you). By the end, staff warmed up but it was difficult.
Aggravatingly, online booking, even as an Ambassador member booking a Club Room, was met with a barrage of "upselling" as in: "As you are a Gold Ambassador, you will get a free upgrade to higher category. Thus, as a suggestion, we would like offer you to take our Junior Suite at the additional charge of US$80.00 plus 15.5% taxes per room per night." This kind of upselling continued even after I wrote that I did not want a big room because my wife was not accompanying me on this trip & would prefer to spend my money in the restaurant & the bar. Overall, I was made to feel like a cheapskate for not booking a bigger room, instead of a welcomed frequent guest. This has never happened to me when booking any other Intercontinental - should have seen it as some sort of a warning.
Last straw was being handed my check at the main Diplomat Lounge at 11:10PM on a Saturday night without any "last call" warning. A hotel bar just cannot close at that hour, especially on a Saturday night. There were still other customers in the bar & there we were, after enduring (or succumbing to) all the upselling on rooms, eager to spend more money but, in effect, being thrown out. I was sorely tempted to go to the bar in the Sheraton next door & deal with all the reported dodgy business there just to get a proper nightcap.
Should also add the Tay Ho area outside the hotel is pretty grim & makes the Old Quarter look like Singapore. Forget about taking a walk anywhere. The 1/2 mile or so walk to Bobby Chinn's one night & an aborted walk to HCM's mausoleum the next afternoon were truly death-defying (from a pedestrian standpoint) & I considered myself lucky to escape with nothing worse than a mud-splattering.
Overall, unless you are on a package & just passing through, having stayed at both, I suggest The Metropole as the warmer, livelier, more charming choice in Hanoi.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- The new InterContinental Westlake Hanoi overlooks the 800-year-old Golden Lotus Pagoda on Hanoi's largest lake. It is the only hotel in Vietnam to be featured on CondÃ© Nast Traveler s 2008 Hot List, garnering the honour for a sublime waterfront locale. The historic city centre is within a 10-minute ride, as is a wide range of shopping and cultural venues. The hotel is just 40 minutes by taxi from Noi Bai International Airport. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Intercontinental Hanoi Westlake Hotel Hanoi