May 2018. As a travel veteran and committed blogger I’ve got countless hotel stories from my years exploring the world. Some of these colorful experiences have found their way into my short stories and travel reports. As tales of woe go, Ho Chi Minh’s Phuong Van Hotel is a good one, so here goes! Located on Hem 84, just off the city’s bustling Bui Vien backpacker street, my initial impressions were pretty good!
May 2018. The girl at reception was bright and breezy, spoke excellent English and swiftly checked me in with a “we’ve been expecting you!” shtick. And then she was whisking me off upstairs to my room, the dim stairway so narrow I almost couldn’t fit through with my backpack.
May 2018. I knew it was going to be a rough and ready kind of place and, frankly, for the price I’d paid I wasn’t expecting much. But actually my double ensuite turned out fine. A little cramped I supposed, but in the grand scheme of things I had everything I needed. Even the wifi worked!
May 2018. In fact, the only complaint was that the bathroom shower was pissing water out of its tubing and the ridiculously sensitive temperature knob veered wildly between polar-bear cold and burn-your-fingers-off scalding hot at the slightest touch. “Oh I’m so sorry!”said the perky receptionist with genuine concern, “we’ll send someone tonight to fix it”. Lovely, I thought, can’t say fairer than that.
The next day I was at the very cool souvenir shop Saigon Kitsch paying for a few bits when I got an unexpected call:
“Mr. Thomas, where are you? Are you near the hotel?”
“Um… not really, what’s up?”
“Can you please come back, we have a problem”.
I told her I would return right away, but what exactly was this problem? “Don’t worry!” she said, sounding very worried,“I will explain everything when you arrive”. That moto taxi home was an excruciating one. Was I in some kind of trouble? Had the shower killed the handyman? Had someone broke into my room? Please dear god not my passport, not my Mac.
On arrival there were a bunch of confused looking people at reception all backpacked-up to leave. “This hotel is finished!” the girl told me, her cheeks a crimson red. “There is ownership dispute, everyone must leave”. With a thousand apologies she located me to a grubby building next door that had all the charm of a morgue. Luckily I’d been a bit savvy and only booked a three-night stay, figuring I could always review my options later if Phuong Van turned out to be crap. And that’s exactly what I did, checking myself out of Hotel Crapville and treating myself to the comparatively luxurious Lotus Boutique Hotel. The next day the hotel was totally shuttered up, a ghost building in effect. I often wonder what happened to all those people who’d been due to check in the next day!
For another of my nightmare hotel tales, check out my short story The Shithole from Agra, India.
For more on my experiences in this Vietnamese city, have a wade through my many articles on Ho Chi Minh.
Like these? Take a look at more of my pieces from all across Vietnam.
I’ve been living, working and traveling all over the world since 2001, so why not check out my huge library of travel reports from over 30 countries.