Our stay at the Essence hotel was a bit chaotic and happened during a flood in November. Because of the circumstances, it's a bit difficult to give a fair assessment. In any case, I strongly advise you NOT to stay in the Essence Hoi An Hotel in November (or any other month with a risk of heavy rain). If you are still hesitant, read the story below, you will know what risks you are facing.
We had booked a normal room in the hotel for 4 nights. We knew November was not the best time to visit Hoi An but we thought that the hotel location was "safe". How wrong we were!
After a flight and a transfer from Danang, we reached the Essence hotel in the middle of the afternoon. We were welcome by a lady at the reception and we were served welcome drinks. She ran the usual introduction, gave us maps, told us about the hotel amenities, etc. We asked about the spa and she told me us it would open the following week. I am not sure we would have gone to the hotel spa - they are usually way more expensive than their equivalent outside - but it was a bummer. If you call yourself Essence Hoi An Hotel & Spa, you should have a spa, shouldn't you? That was not a good start.
When she had finished her explanations, the lady told us she needed a "small favor" from us. It turned out that our room was still occupied by a family whose daughter was sick. At least that was the story we were told. As a result, we needed to spend the first night in a different hotel. We had traveled for several hours and just when we thought we were about to be able to finally relax in our room, we had to take a taxi and leave to some other place. We did not really buy that moving story of a sick child but are you gonna do? We said fine and as a "compensation" she told us we would have a better room for the other 3 days. The better room was supposed to be what we booked, but with a balcony... which is quite useless when it rains so often. The worst thing was that the hotel was obviously half empty and they could have accommodate us easily. We probably should have said something but we did not and we were sent to the Hoi An Hotel, which was not bad. We were supposed to take a taxi back to the Essence hotel the following day as soon as we were ready.
End of chapter 1. No spa, no room.
As planned, the following day around 9 AM, we called a taxi to drive us to the Essence hotel. After a few hundred meters, the taxi had to stop: The road was closed. From the distance, we could see water on the street. There was a flood. At first, we thought it was not a big deal. The Hoi An hotel where we had spent the night was not affected at all, and we had the impression that the Essence hotel was not particularly lower than the rest of the city, nor was it close to the river. Anyway, the taxi drove us back to the Hoi An Hotel. There, the reception called the Essence hotel. We were told to wait in the lobby. We did wait for more than 2 hours and we were starting to get really angry. Finally we talked to the Essence hotel on the phone. The conversation was not easy. They said they had a flood and they sent someone. After more waiting and more talking, the guy from the Essence hotel took us to the Essence Hotel... by boat ! We had completely underestimated the magnitude of the flood. It was not only a little water on the street. Only when the water had completely receded, did we realize that there had been a good meter and a half of water in the street !
The hotel is not on a street level, but the lobby was also under water. In order to get to our room, we had to jump in the water. At this point, we wondered what we should do. Some other guests were leaving, but they had had time to find an alternative solution in the morning. We had already paid our room, the Hoi An hotel seemed to be fully booked and we were not feeling like taking the boat back to the city center, and go... where? So we stayed and were given a suite.
We spent the rest of the day in our suite, wondering what we should do. The suite was nice for sure, but we were trapped. There was nowhere to go. We could have taken a boat and gone back to the city where the streets were clear of water but it was already too late and we were afraid of what would happen if there were no boat to take us back to the hotel in the evening. That was a long afternoon. In the evening, we asked if there was any food available. The kitchen seemed to be somehow still functioning but the cooks had water up to their knees. They prepared a simple meal (no choice) for everyone and they delivered it to our room. Under the circumstances, that's the best they could possibly do.
That evening, we noticed a note to all guests dated from the previous day in the morning. It said that they were expecting a flood and that there might be inconvenience. So it seems that they knew what was coming when we checked-in and were sent to the other hotel ! This made me quite mad. They should have informed us. We could have organized ourselves, maybe found another place and avoided this whole mess.
The miracle happened overnight: The water level had decreased significantly. There was no longer water in the hotel itself and the staff had cleaned almost everything already ! That's pretty remarkable. What we heard later is that they kept monitoring the water level the whole night and started cleaning immediately with extra staff as soon as they could, even if it was in the middle of night. We had left a lobby filled with 40cm of muddy water in the evening and at 8 AM the next day, it was spotless. Very impressive. That day, the breakfast was served in our room, and we could only order from a small selection. That was understandable: Even though the hotel was now mostly dry, the street was still under water and the access to the hotel still difficult.
We went to the city walking. First it was easy (maybe 30/40cm of water in street). As we continued to walk, we reached a part of street that was clear. But a bit further away, it was again flooded, this time a bit too deep to walk easily so we took a boat. Although that was much better than the previous day, it can be actually quite tricky if you need to get to the airport with your luggage. No taxi can reach the hotel. If there is lots of water, you take a boat from the hotel to the city center and take a cab there. But if there is too much water to walk and not enough for a boat to pass, then what do you do?
We spent the day in Hoi An - part of the historic center was underwater but we could visit the rest of the city. Later when we headed back to the hotel, the water had further receded and we could walk to the hotel without needing a boat (there was still water though). In the morning we had asked whether the restaurant would be open in the evening and we got a positive answer. Our plan was to eat in the hotel restaurant. Therefore, it was quite an unpleasant surprise to show up in the restaurant that evening and learn that they had only two set menus to offer. We declined and ate some snacks we had bought at a convenient store (I guess the flood experience made us a bit more cautious). Again, we felt misinformed if not misled.
The following morning, we went down to the dining room for our first real breakfast in the Essence Hotel, only to learn that again they could not serve us the usual breakfast. Like the previous day, we only could order from a limited menu what we wanted! I found this hard to understand: The hotel was clean for 24 hours, we could walk to the city the previous day, and certainly they must have had still food in their stock. After all, the flood situation only lasted for 24 hours. A limited buffet would have been perfectly understandable, and fine with us. But just a few things to choose from? Sorry, but that's not quite what we were expecting, even considering the circumstances.
A large part of the staff was still refining the cleaning of the premises, like the pool area. Their priority seemed to be to make any trace of the flood disappear, rather than take care of their actual guests. Personally, I would have preferred a breakfast buffet over a spotless pool area. I think that could have waited another 2 hours, especially when the weather was rather adverse.
That was the last day when we had to suffer the consequence of the flood. For our last breakfast in the hotel, we could at last experience the Essence hotel in its normal capacity. It was much welcome, and very good ! Unfortunately, we had to leave shortly after.
Unless you want to take the risk of living such an unpleasant experience, you should not stay at the Essence hotel in November. I received an email from the hotel later, explaining that the flood was caused by a water discharge from a hydroelectric plant. Whatever the reason was, the hotel is simply too much exposed to floods. This is likely to happen again, and as a matter of fact, they seem to be quite used to this.
I would also not book any hotel close to the river. I think it's even worse there. Maybe the best is simply to choose another period of the year. In the dry season, I would not have major reservation against the Essence hotel. It's a bit far away from the city center (15/20 minutes), and there is not much to do in the direct neighborhood. Our major issue was the poor information. Otherwise, from what I can tell, it's a very nice hotel.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Located on Hung Vuong Street, on the edge of Hoi An’s old town and not far from the Japanese Covered Bridge, this brand new 4 star boutique hotel nestles on the edge of quiet lush green paddy fields away from the crowds of the old town. Set in a tropical garden, the style embodies authentic, ancient Hoi An charm mixed with modern influences. Our guest rooms have either balconies or large windows bringing you close to nature in a Vietnamese comfort of modern settings. A couple can enjoy their stay in a Deluxe room or a Suite while a family of 4 - 5 people can share a large Family balcony room or take a luxurious Pool view Connecting room. We provide private transfers from Da Nang airport or rail station, daily buffet breakfast, afternoon tea and sunset cocktails as well as many other complimentary services and amenities. The hotel is operated and managed by renowned Hanoi Elegance & Essence Group. Our team of professionals brings a fresh breeze with a new trend of simply comfort and highest quality of customer service to Hoi An. ... more less
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