sojourneys


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 Newly Refurbished Traders Hotel Yangon, Myanmar
August 18, 2013, 4:14 pm
Filed under: hotels, reviews, vacation | Tags: , , ,

I have never begun a hotel review by talking about the breakfast spread, but the sumptuous morning fare makes for a fitting start in the case of the Traders Hotel Yangon, Myanmar, part of the Hong Kong-based Shangri-La Group.

Image

Image

Image

Image

Categorized according to countries and regions, the breakfast buffet boasts everything from porridge to prata and everything in between.  The juice bar even features a “juice of the week” mix that promises a detoxifying accompaniment even if one is chewing down the bacon.

Image

Image

The other detoxifying star of the property is the fitness center, which is co-located with the spa.  Recently renovated and looking out to the pool, the gym features a comprehensive suite of treadmills, elliptical trainers, resistance machines, and free weights that will do a fine job of working the core.

Image

Image

Image

After an adrenaline rousing workout, one can decompress in the jacuzzi, steam room, and sauna.  A spa with a basic list of treatment options is also available.

Image

Image

Image

Image

The guestroom is bright, with a vibrant painting of local stupas taking centerstage.  The decor may be somewhat prosaic, but it makes for a comfortable abode and a welcome respite from the bustling Yangon downtown.

Image

Image

The Traders Hotel Yangon is a luxurious if pricey stay, but like many under-developed cities, there is a lack of mid-tier or business-class alternatives such as the Novotel, Pullman, Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn, or Hyatt Place.  But with Myanmar now open for business following sweeping political reforms introduced in 2011 and Yangon starting to boom, that is surely set to change.

Lobby_1



Hotel Nikko Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
April 1, 2012, 3:40 pm
Filed under: holiday, hotels, vacation | Tags: , , , , , ,

The Hotel Nikko Saigon may be at the fringe of District 1 and away from the main tourist attractions, but don’t dismiss it because of that.  The newly minted property (opened in Dec 2011) runs a regular shuttle service to the tourist hotspots such as the Independence Palace, Notre Dame Cathedral, the Central Post Office, the Opera House, and more.

Image

More than that, perhaps because the hotel is new, the staff are earnest, smiling, friendly, and generally eager to make you feel at home.  The service is generally impeccable and thoughtful.  The number one tip is to pay for a room on the Club Floor–at a marginal premium–that entitles guests use of the Executive Club that serves breakfast, afternoon tea, evening Happy Hour, and a 3pm check-out.

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

The decor is understated and classy with a balanced use of marble, glass, steel, and wood.  The overall color scheme is muted shades of pastel and grey.  The net effect is a vibe that feels contemporary, upmarket, comfortable, without bordering on pretentiousness.

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

The guestroom is well-appointed, with every amenity one would ask of, and twice-daily service (morning housekeeping and evening turn-down).  The only possible improvement that the hotel might do well to consider is to have multi-standard power sockets that will charge a variety of plugs from their guests who must come from diverse parts of the world.

Image

Image

The gym–more like a fitness room–is a tad small for a five-star property, but is serviceable.  The ambience at the pool is relaxing, and chilled water is delivered to guests at their deck chair.  Overall, the Nikko Hotel Saigon presents value-for-money, and its lack of propinquity to major tourist attractions is more than made up by its stellar standards of service.



Universal Studios – The Rest of the Pictures
April 25, 2009, 4:32 pm
Filed under: California, USA, vacation

Universal Studios is more accurately a sprawling theme park incorporating a suite of working film and TV production studios with multiple state-of-the-art sound stages and minutely-reproduced production sets.  The most awesome of the production sets, in my opinion, must be that of the 2005 War of the Worlds set (yes, the one starring Tom Cruise).

Here are some others…see if you recognize them.

A Christmas show just for the kids (and kid-at-heart).

But even amidst the pyrotechnics and hum-drum, there are still areas of pristine tranquility.



The Houses of Wisteria Lane – On the set of Desperate Housewives

One of the highlights of the Universal Studios tour is surely the set of the fabled Desperate Housewives.  Here, set designers have recreated a microcosm of American suburbia on steriods with its ensemble cast of zany characters including Terry Hatcher as Susan Mayer, Felicity Huffman as Lynette Scavo, Marcia Cross as Bree Van de Camp, Eva Longoria Parker as Gabrielle Solis, Nicollete Sheridan as Edie Williams, and others.  Do you recognize any of the houses here?



Picturesque Mission Bay, San Diego
February 6, 2009, 2:47 pm
Filed under: beaches, California, USA, vacation | Tags: , , ,

Nestled just south of San Diego along the Pacific Ocean in a picturesque enclave, Mission Bay is part of the recreational Mission Bay Park, the largest artificial aquatic park in the United States.  The total land area, including the water catchment, is about 4,235 acres (17.14 sq km), placing it the 9th largest municipally-owned park in the country.  I stayed there for a couple of days, and took these pictures from the vantage point of my hotel balcony and along the docks of the bay.