sojourneys


The Beat Hotel Bangkok is minimal rather than minimalistic, and not in a good way
November 26, 2014, 2:09 pm
Filed under: holiday, hotels, reviews | Tags: , , ,

I enjoy most of my hotel experiences in many parts of the world, and usually try to highlight the positive traits of each. But at Beat Hotel, I found this a Herculean task. The hotel management must believe that less is more:

  • No air conditioning in common corridors
  • No hairdryer in rooms
  • Little product knowledge among staff at reception (they could not distinguish a junior suite from a regular room, and had no idea that their website hawked free minibar for junior suite guests)
  • Minibar was literally mini with just a few cans of soda
  • Safe was even more mini; barely enough room for a tablet, much less a laptop
  • Breakfast was abysmal; the most substantive item was a plain white bread (nope, I’m not kidding)
  • No juice at breakfast “buffet” either — just plain water, coffee, or tea
  • No reading lights in room
  • No nightstand
  • Light switches are on the opposite side of the room across from the bed (if you like groping in darkness, this could be fun)
  • No soap dish and no place to place the tiny slice of soap given
  • Terrible, cheap pillows
  • Queen sized bed is really two single sized mattresses pushed together
  • Glacial internet speed
  • Poor drainage in bathroom shower
  • Tiny TV with poor resolution
  • Very few international channels
  • No international news channel
  • If you request for late checkout, the reply is a petty 1-hour, even though the hotel is practically empty

The only plus point of the Beat Hotel Bangkok is that it’s near the Phra Khanong BTS. But, there are numerous properties that can lay claim to BTS propinquity too. Hence, avoid Beat Hotel Bangkok.

DSC09905 DSC09906 DSC09908 DSC09915 DSC09916 DSC09917 DSC09921 DSC09923 DSC09925 DSC09930



The Ambassador Hotel Wichita
October 10, 2014, 1:49 pm
Filed under: holiday, hotels, reviews | Tags: , , ,

The Ambassador Hotel Wichita is located in the city’s Old Town–a section of the central business district that the local government has tried to rejuvenate with new businesses, restaurants, and retail. The hotel is located in a historic building interesting in itself, but the gem is the size of the corner king room that we were upgraded to.

Ambassador_Hotel_Wichita_1

Ambassador_Hotel_Wichita_2

The large, ample windows let in plenty of natural light serving to further enlarge its capaciousness, while French inspired draperies, furniture, and decor add to the charm.

Ambassador_Hotel_Wichita_3

Ambassador_Hotel_Wichita_4

The Siena Tuscan Steakhouse, contrary to its name, is an all-day restaurant, and the breakfast was sumptuous. The only crease in the otherwise crisp linen is that the gym is a tad small for a hotel that bills itself as a luxury property and the range of equipment can certainly be expanded. All said, the Ambassador Hotel Wichita is certainly one of the city’s best.

Ambassador_Hotel_Wichita_5

Ambassador_Hotel_Wichita_6

Ambassador_Hotel_Wichita_7



The Mövenpick Hotel Hanoi
September 15, 2014, 1:25 pm
Filed under: holiday, hotels, reviews, vacation | Tags: , , ,

The Mövenpick Hotel Hanoi is quite a hike by foot to favored tourist spots such as The Old Quarter or Hoàn_Kiếm_Lake, but what it lacks in propinquity it makes up for in understated elegance, cleanliness, and prompt service.

Movenpick_1

Guestrooms are spacious and appointed with all the amenities one would expect in a business class hotel such as work desk, high speed wifi, reading lights, a wide array of cable channels, and more. Housekeeping does a thorough job and is unobtrusive. The bathrooms are gorgeously sized and a pleasure to use.

Movenpick_2

Movenpick_3

Movenpick_4

Movenpick_5

The hotel does have Mangosteen,an all-day dinning restaurant, which serves up a good meal at reasonable prices. The fitness center is moderately equipped but could benefit with more weight resistance machines. There is a sauna in the changing room. Swimmers, be aware that there is no pool at the property.

Movenpick_9

Movenpick_6

If you’re a tourist and do not mind trekking to attractions on foot–it’s after all a great way to experience a new city; just be aware traffic signs are not always obeyed–the Mövenpick Hotel Hanoi presents a viable value proposition.

Movenpick_8



The Emeraude, Halong Bay, Vietnam
September 14, 2014, 2:42 pm
Filed under: holiday, reviews, vacation | Tags: , , ,

The burgeoning tourist arrivals at the world renown Halong Bay has seen the proliferation of new cruise vessels to bear DSLR-totting visitors eager to witness firsthand the magnificence of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Emeraude is not one of them. The quaint, 37-cabin ship was named after a cruising vessel that plied the bay between 1906 and 1937, and despite its age of 11 years (it was made in 2003), The Emeraude bears the pride of its namesake well.

Cabin_1

Cabin_2

Cabin_3

The rooms are reasonably spacious and comfortably air conditioned. Each room comes with an en suite bathroom that dispenses hot water at strong pressure. The decks are spacious and open, with plenty of seating so there is never a need to jostle. But the best part of the experience is the warm, ever-smiling service and excellent Vietnamese cuisine that is served buffet style at every meal. The salads are light and refreshing, the Vietnamese rolls are succulent and moist, the meats are sweet and tender, and the desserts are…well, they are the icing on the cake.

DSC07206

DSC07207

DSC07209

DSC07424

DSC07426

DSC07428

DSC07430

DSC07210

DSC07421

DSC07212

If you are visiting Halong Bay, I would thoroughly recommend The Emeraude as the choice vessel to take in the wondrous sights.

DSC07275

DSC07373

DSC07471

DSC07473



The Holiday Inn Birmingham City Centre

The Holiday Inn Birmingham City Centre is strategically located within 10 minutes of brisk walking to the bustling Birmingham New Street station with regular services to and from London (1 hour 20 minutes away by Virgin Trains) and other parts of the UK, and also to the futuristic Bullring Shopping Mall anchored by Selfridges and Debenhams department stores.

Image

The Holiday Inn Birmingham City Centre reminds me of the Holiday Inn Los Angeles International Airport, which while totally serviceable, provides a quick and comfortable transit stop rather than a relaxing vacation residence, and lacks facilities such as a pool and a gym.

ImageImageImageImage

Staff are generally friendly, but service can be tardy, as perhaps can be expected of a busy hotel.  A call for an ice bucket was not fulfilled despite a reminder after an hour’s wait, and we had to personally make a trip down to the lobby bar to bring up the ice.



The Hyatt Regency Indian Wells

Nestled in the Coahcella Valley embraced by majestic mountains such as the San Bernadino Mountains, the San Jacinto Mountains, and the Santa Rosa Mountains, the Hyatt Regency Indian Wells (formerly known as the Hyatt Grand Champions) is a 45-acre desert oasis in a well-to-do neighborhood festooned with posh gated communities.

DSC00136

DSC00129

DSC00107

The grounds are verdant, and immaculately manicured.  The rooms are spacious, with a step-down area holding a living area, workdesk, and balcony space looking out into the property.  The color scheme comprising muted earth tones is soothing and the furnishings are comfortable for an extended stay.

DSC00062

DSC00064

DSC00065

DSC00066

There are three pools (including a small water slide) and the fitness center is more well-equipped than most Hyatt Regency gyms, although it is also  much busier as it is open to members of the community (for a fee, one is fairly certain).

DSC00068

DSC00095



The Hyatt Regency Orange County

The Hyatt Regency Orange County exists–along with the myriad other properties such as Marriott, Residence Inn, Sheraton, etc–primarily to serve the throngs of tourists flocking to the nearby hallowed Disneyland.  Indeed, Disney runs a tour desk in the lobby and a regular shuttle ply the hotel and America’s favorite playground.

Image

Perhaps it’s because of this reason that the Hyatt Regency Orange County has the most capacious atrium lobby of any Hyatt I’ve yet encountered and the smallest rooms.

Image

Image

Image

The room I was assigned was basic.  A king-sized bed when you enter, a flat-screen TV to the side and a workdesk awkwardly placed directly in front of the TV, a side closet, and a bathroom across.  The designers of the hotel probably expect guests to be out all day making the most of the Southern California sunshine and visiting the numerous places of interests.

Image

Image

Facilities include a decent sized pool (expect it to be filled with kids) and an adjoining gym with the standard StayFit equipment.