Old Jan 24, 20, 6:36 am
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Join Date: Oct 2006
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InterContinental Hanoi Westlake and Scenes from Hanoi

I’d pre-booked the IC’s chauffeur service for the 25-minute drive from the airport; met kerbside, our wifi-enabled Mercedes E-Class was soon pulling up, stocked with mineral water and mints. We were offered cold towels by the driver and received a phone call from the hotel through the car’s Bluetooth to welcome us, confirm our preferred check-in location, and take arrival drinks orders.

The InterContinental Hanoi Westlake is one of two ICs in Vietnam’s capital; as its name suggests, it’s located on the banks of Ho Tay (or West Lake), in contrast to the skyscraper location of its sister hotel in the business district.

As we pulled up at the low-rise main building, we were greeted by a host and escorted through the lobby and along the ground floor corridor to the Club InterContinental lounge. Although not required on this trip, the lobby featured a separate Ambassador desk and seating area immediately to the left of the entrance.

Check-in formalities were completed within the lounge, accompanied by yet more cold towels and welcome drinks. The hotel’s Assistant Manager even stopped by to provide a personal welcome, which I don’t recall ever experiencing before. Combined with the chauffeur transfer, this was a very impressive arrivals experience.

Declining the offer of a buggy service to our room, we stopped off to look at the hotel’s main lounge area, before heading out along a walkway to one of three over-water pavilion buildings and our Over-Water Panoramic View room located on the ‘ground’ floor of the second pavilion building, and an upgrade from our booked Club InterContinental room in the main building.

Decorated in classic Vietnamese style in keeping with the rest of the property, the room was spacious if not overly luxurious and featured a stunning view from its suspended balcony across the lake to the city centre beyond.

Two bottles of mineral water and a small fruit ‘hat’ were placed as a welcome gift, alongside a welcome card. Interestingly, and in contrast to most other IC properties I’ve stayed in, there was no coffee machine in the room, these only being provided in selected suites. There was, however, a cafetière and complimentary ground coffee available in the minibar.

Whilst there were plenty of power sockets by the desk, there were none available for use by the beds, and certainly no USB sockets. Both the bedside and over-bed lights were linked for each bed, which meant everything was quite bright and difficult to adjust to a good pre-sleep level. That being said, the bed was comfortable and provided a solid night’s sleep.

The bathroom was as spacious as the room and nicely appointed, featuring double vanities, a separate bathtub and walk-in rain shower. I particularly liked the wooden ladder-style towel rail and appreciated the thoughtful bottle nook in the shower stall. Amenities were the usual San Francisco-based Agraria products.

Considering our welcome drinks in the lounge had taken some time to enjoy, luggage delivery to the room was quite late; when it did arrive, there were limited locations to store it, with only one suitcase stand in the room (and no spares available on request). Despite this, staff were friendly and quick to respond to requests, including coming to remove a dead gecko from under the TV console.

The Club InterContinental lounge, located in the main building, is spacious and comfortably designed, featuring numerous different ‘rooms’ and seating areas to suit all occasions. To the right of reception is the large dining area, with the buffet at one end and table seating at the other, including one large dining room-style table for groups.

In the middle of the lounge, behind reception, a comfortable lounge seating area features three sofas and several armchairs, and views across the lake either side of a faux fireplace. A selection of board games and children’s toys were available here.

The left-hand portion of the lounge is split into three; a combined business centre and library, a glass-sided meeting room, and a smaller lounge seating area with low tables for two or four. The washroom is also located here, although note that unlike some other hotel lounges, there is no shower for early arrivals.

We visited the lounge that evening for drinks and canapés (which commence at the early hour of 5pm and conclude at the equally early 7pm), where an extensive and beautifully presented buffet was available alongside waiter-served hot canapés and drinks from a somewhat makeshift bar set up on a couple of dining tables in the corner of the dining area.

Service was polite, but a little overly reverent, with some staff members lacking in confidence. That being said, by our third evening visit, the staff had remembered our preferred drinks orders and had two Hanoi Breezes practically lined up waiting for us as we arrived.

This service pattern continued at breakfast, with friendly but slightly slow service and clearing of tables, tempered by another great buffet and a strong à la carte menu that featured everything except my favourite Bircher muesli. All breakfast beverages were waiter-served, and the tables were notably well-laid.

Our first breakfast of oatmeal porridge and smoked salmon Eggs Benedict was excellent.

As novel as the over-water location of our room was, the consequential damp smell was overpowering; after one night we’d had enough and requested after breakfast the following morning to relocate to the main building. The staff in the Club lounge were happy to source an alternative room for us, and we left them to do this whilst heading out to explore Hanoi for the morning.

Our first stop was the Kim Lien Pagoda, a Buddhist temple located right next door to the InterContinental. Wandering around Ho Tay, we stopped at the picturesque Tran Quoc Pagoda, the oldest Buddhist temple in the city at over 1,450 years old, before moving on to the wholly uninspiring Botanical Garden.

The One Pillar Pagoda near the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and Museum is designed to resemble a lotus blossom, and although small, is worth a stop for its unique design.

With feet tiring, a taxi (red, white and blue livery are the ones to look out for) was hailed to take us to Dong Xuan Market; you could easily spend an hour or so getting lost amongst its wet and dry sales floors and many more hours exploring the streets of the surrounding Old Quarter, including Quan Chuong gate and Bach Ma Temple.

The Old Quarter provided some of my favourite street photography shots of this trip; I was particularly struck by how happy these workers looked, enjoying the simple pleasure of lunch in the back of a van.

Last edited by Genius1; Jan 30, 20 at 12:03 pm
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