What promised to become a relaxing 2 night stay on Tuan Chau island near Halong Bay, became one of our worst experiences as travellers. Indeed, the remote location of the lodge secures quiet nights in a merely hectic Vietnam. But we experienced that this remoteness is exploited by the owners in a very unsympathetic way. Firstly we should have been warned by the fact that this was the only hotel in Vietnam where we were charged for drinking water, about 1 USD for 500ml. In all other places in Vietnam we were offered free drinking water in the room. In this matter it is relevant to know that it is hard to find a supermarket on the island, if any.
The lodge is being run by a family of 3, of which the mother and daughter are Vietname but spent decades in Europe. The mother sold us an 'exclusive', 'all inclusive', boattrip in Halong Bay, which afterwards appeared to be far too expensive. 120 USD per person for the 6 hour boat trip is -in the end- extremely overpaid. The sold 'exclusivity' of the trip was the length of 6 hours instead of the 'standard' 4 hours. Well, in reality these exclusivity was achieved by the low speed of the vessel...... We noticed during the trip that we visited no additonal sites compared to the 'standard' trips.
During the trip coffee was presented to us and also a (good) bottle of wine with the lunch. Because the trip was sold as 'all inclusive' we obviously considered the coffee and wine to be part of the package. However, after we checked our invoice balance on the night before we left (we had to leave next day very early for Haiphong airport), it appeared that the drinks of the tour were yet charged to our bill. Apart from the fact that this was against the deal we made, it caused a practical problem, since the lodge does NOT accept credit cards and no ATM can be found nearby. After we saw the drinks charged to our bill, a very unpleasant dispute followed with the daughter, who was relentless in her attitude. The worst aspect of the discussion was her threat to cancel the private car to the airport early next morning they had arranged for us, in case we would not pay for the drinks. Also for this car we were dependent from them, since the island has no regular taxi services etc. The way the daughter approached us during this discussion was despicable and she will need a long, long training in customer care. She was only 'helping' us with driving us to an ATM late at night so that we could pay the -unjust- full bill, in order to secure our transfer to the airport early next morning, which she had threatened to cancel.
For this car to Haiphong airport, by the way, we were charged the same price we paid earlier for a private car from Hanoi to Ha Long, which is twice the distance.
Another detail which proves these people rip you for every penny, was the fact, that the towels were not replaced after the first night. It should be mentioned though that the male owner was most customer friendly. This could not compensate though for the greediness of the females in the house.
The food in the lodge was well above average standards in Vietnam, but so are the prices.
The location indeed offers quietness, but in this case it was used against us. So, do not book your Ha Long trip here and anticipate the dependency of these people. They earned an awfull of money on ours. The fact that a crew member of the boat (the cook) tried to trick us at the end of the day by presenting us a bill of USD 95 for the same bottle of wine, proves that they cooperate with crooks. The only reliable person in this story seemed to be the the skipper of the boat.
Fortunately Ha Long Bay itself fully compensates for this horrific experience. And in the end that's the memory that will linger from these 2 days.
The island of Tuan Chau by the way will not remain quiet much longer, The number of large scale hotels that are being constructed, is overwhelmng and the island wil be fully exploited within a couple of years. What a shame.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Viethouse lodge is located halfway up the hill, next to the road leads to the highest peak of Tuan Chau Island, one of the thausand of small and medium island in Halong Bay. Viethouse lodge consists of a number of houses on stills with the ages of at least 15 years, the houses reflect a typical architecture of Viet ethnic. They have been transformed into a showcase of authentic and traditional living in a moderm environment. the houses located at different heights on the hillside. Nestled in green gardens which draw you to a natural relaxing and romantic atmosphere. ... more less