My husband and I stayed at the Sammy Hotel for one night, during last week's 3-day sojourn to Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) which included a one-day/night trip to HCMC's beach town of Vung Tau.
I found Sammy Hotel via Tripadvisor -- by looking up Tripadvisor's list of hotels in Vung Tau. Overall, it was difficult to find any online reviews of hotels in Vung Tau, on any website. I guess Vung Tau is not the biggest destination for international travellers. Having said that, it is incredibly popular with the locals (ie, Saigonese). Vung Tau is PACKED on the weekends with day-trippers from HCMC.
I got scared off Vung Tau's Rex Hotel (not to be mistaken for another Rex Hotel in HCMC) after reading unfavourable reviews that included headlines like, "Stay Away!" I once stayed in a crummy, DIRTY serviced apartment (dead cockcroach on the bed sheet, dirty bedsheet, hair and dirt in the bathroom and kitchen) in Malaysia's Cameron Highlands (what was it called again? I really should write a Caveat Review about that Awful Place... sorry for digressing....), and I never wanted to repeat that experience.
Luckily, Sammy Hotel, although Spartan, was Acceptably Clean and comfortable. Remember: This is Vung Tau. It is not the Cote d'Zur.
The hotel was located on the Back Beach. The Back Beach is where the locals go to enjoy the sand and water. There are deck chairs galore, all organised by beach operators that also provide you (seafood) meals -- like a mass beach cafe.
Next door to Sammy Hotel was the Imperial Plaza, touted as, "Vung Tau's newest luxury shopping plaza". It was still under construction, but Highlands Coffee (a local coffee chain, akin to Starbucks or Gloria Jeans or Coffee Bean) was open for business.
The Front Beach does not have the beach per se. Front Beach meets the water as a pier. There are old, creaky fishermans' row-boats dotted alongside Front Beach. A wall separates the sea water from pretty parklands along Front Beach.
The Hydrofoil jetty/port that links Vung Tau and HCMC is located on the Front Beach. Front Beach is also where the cafes, bars, nightclubs (still quaintly referred to as "Discos") are located. There is a Red-Light industry in Vung Tau, catering to the large number of men who work for the nearby oil rigs and power plants.
Due to the proximity to the food, music, and night life, the bigger hotels are located on Front Beach, for example, Palace Hotel. I noted that the Rex (forever known in my mind as the Stay Away Hotel) was also on Front Beach.
We arrived at Vung Tau on the Hydrofoil ferry from HCMC. The jetty/port where we docked at Vung Tau is a newly-completed building (construction started 2 years before) housing KFC, yes, that stands for Kentucky Fried Chicken. The building looks like a shiny grey Mobius Strip.
We were told that Vung Tau has a lot of wealth from the oil industry, and has been developing at a rapid rate in the past 2 years. The population had apprently risen from 15,000 to 300,000 in a handful of years. (These are unchecked figures... I'm only quoting what I was told.)
On arrival, there were countless motorcyclists and taxis waiting for customers. Trying to shrug off the motorcyclists (who take customers on pillon) was near impossible. One was very persistant and followed us for 15 minutes.
We found out it was too far to walk from the jetty/port to Sammy Hotel. The taxi ride between the jetty/port and Sammy Hotel is approximately 30,000 Dong.
Our Standard Room cost USD 35 per night, inclusive of taxes and fees.
The Check-in staff kept our passports for the duration of our stay (Hotel policy, they said).
We were initally given a room on the 4th floor facing the back of the hotel. View: Construction zone, very ugly. As the hotel did not look full, we asked for a room facing the beach. We got moved to the 6th floor, into a larger room, with a lovely view of Back Beach.
The floors were tiled.
Rubber thongs were provided by the hotel.
There was a Safe Box.
The Aircon and Refridgerator were efficient.
The bathroom had a tub. It was clean.
There were no nasty smells.
Decor? Well... let's just say, the people running the hotel do not have an eye for design or style. Did I say this is not the Cote d'Zur?
What was the restaurant like?
For dinner, the Peony Restaurant operated as a Chinese restaurant. Ordinary dishes cost 55,000 Dong, some were 70,000 Dong. Corkage was charged at 100,000 Dong. (Yes, it's strange that corkage costs more than a single dish.) The food was OKAY. We only ate at the hotel restaurant because Back Beach does not have restaurants/cafes (unlike Front Beach), and we were too tired to take a taxi to Front Beach for a feed. I'm sure there were food-places on Back Beach, but.... we really were too tired to go looking for them on foot.
The complimentary breakfast was also served at the Peony Restaurant. The choices were small and simple. Vietnamese Pho, rice broth with condiments, bread/toast, jam, cured meats. It was befitting of a budget-priced hotel. (ie, don't expect more than what you are paying for.)
Compare Sammy Hotel to Hai Au Hotel, which is located opposite the hydrofoil jetty/port. Hai Au Hotel 's rooms started at USD 20 per night for a Standard Room. The Deluxe Room was the same as Sammy's: USD 35. We asked to have a look at it -- for future reference. I'll only say one thing: Horribe. Or to use another reviwer's memorable phrase: "Stay Away!"
Comparing Apples to Apples (ie, For The Same Price), I would not choose Hai Au's convenience and assessibility to Front Beach (ie, where the food and bars are) over the cleanliness and Minimal Comfortable Standard of Sammy.
(Hai Au reminded me of That Awful Place in Malaysia's Cameron Highlands!)
Would I stay at Sammy Hotel again?
Yes, if the purpose of visiting Vung Tau is to visit the beach, and lie on the sand, etc. Sammy is cheap and spartan; you'd have to turn a blind eye to the lack of aesthetics.
If I want to be near the food and drinking holes and overall nightlife, I'll try out the Palace Hotel on Front Beach. Palace Hotel will not make it to the next edition of Hip Hotels of the World, but I can overlook the tragic veneer of allusions to grandeur, as long as it's clean and comfortable. You are not going to get a Hip Hotel in Vung Tau. Not yet. Does anybody want to build one?
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