HCMC Dining Guide

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A Grand Weekend

Apologies again for not posting in forever, I'm sure I've lost most of my readers. I started a second job so that's kept me busier, plus I've been spending a lot of time with Abbe, my new girlfriend (no, she's not Vietnamese, as everyone here assumes when a white guy says he has a girlfriend.). Anyway, time for a rare new post!

This past weekend I stayed at The Grand Ho Tram Strip, which is on the coast north of Vung Tau. I was there to cover the grand opening of The Bluffs, a new Greg Norman-designed golf course, which I'll discuss in my next post. I've heard a lot about The Grand over the last few years - it is one of the most ambitious hospitality developments in the country, and many wondered if it would ever actually happen. MGM was the original name behind the project, but when they pulled out a couple of years ago there was a lot of uncertainty. Another developer came through, and the end result is stunning. Although I shouldn't actually say end result, as the project is only halfway done.

The Grand experience begins in Saigon, where a luxury bus picks you up for the 2.5 hour drive to Ho Tram. The ride includes a stretch along the high-speed HCMC - Dau Giay expressway, which is part of an eventual ring road around the city. I appreciated the fact that the bus driver had obviously been instructed not to drive like his compatriots, who act like complete psychopaths on the road.

Arriving at The Grand, it was hard not to be impressed. The lush, sprawling grounds and opulent architecture wouldn't look out of place in Las Vegas. I was lucky enough to score an ocean view room in the 541-room hotel tower, which provided a stunning view of sunrise over the East Sea.  
This was easily the nicest room I've ever stayed in, and at $350 a night isn't something I could ever dream of actually paying for. The bed was incredibly comfortable, the bathroom had a shower and bathtub, and there were all sorts of electronic gadgets scattered about. I really didn't want to ever leave.
I also had a view of the two enormous pools between the hotel and the beach.
The pool area features all kinds of seating, including chairs in the water and private cabanas, all surrounded by verdant greenery.



The resort's luxuriant hallways lead to numerous restaurants, bars and shops, as well as the casino and a VIP area that requires an obscene amount of gambling. It is still illegal for Vietnamese to gamble in their own country, so many of the visitors come from Hong Kong and China.

I had access to breakfast and lunch at one of the restaurants each day, and it offered an eye-popping buffet spread of so many dishes I won't even bother mentioning them. Suffice to say I absolutely stuffed myself, making sure I got my money's worth (even though I wasn't spending a single dong). The staff was fantastic as well, by far the most professional and courteous of anywhere I've stayed in the country. Some serious training hours must have been put in before this place opened.




Normally I'm pretty critical of resorts like this, as I don't see the point in flying all the way to a fascinating country like Vietnam only to wall yourself off behind a private gate and amenities that most of the population can't even dream of. I honestly just about forgot I was in Vietnam while staying here. However, when you're confronted with such ambition and luxury in person, it's hard not to be amazed. I have a decent understanding of how hard it can be just to carry out small projects here, thanks to red tape and corruption, so it's fairly shocking that this ever got off the ground. The empty land in the below picture is actually for a second, identical hotel tower, as well as residential  condos and villas. That entire beach, a 2.2 kilometer stretch, is owned by the project. The resort that is already in place is unlike anything I've seen in Vietnam, and if the proposed additions come to fruition it will truly be unique. Now it's back to budget traveling and living for me.

7 comments:

  1. Hi mike, I am still reading, so keep on posting.
    Thank you

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  2. Are there any cheap hotel around the resort Mike? This is for people who wants to use the casino but not the resort. Thanks

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    1. There were one or two 'nha nghi' guesthouses down the road but they looked pretty basic. I'm sure cheaper, decent hotels will pop up eventually but right now it's pretty much all resorts.

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  3. how busy was it? how many of the 541 rooms would you guess were full. The pictures make it look completely empty. Though you're right, it wouldn't look out of place in vegas at all but if there's nobody there then wouldn't be much fun.

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    1. No idea how many rooms were full, but since it was a big event weekend there were a fair number of people there. At the moment it's definitely pretty empty since they are still getting their feet on the ground. If Vietnamese are ever allowed to gamble that would make it way more busy.

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  4. I'm still following as well haha. Looks interesting...is there a time estimate of when this project will be completed? I really enjoy reading your new developments in vietnam entries..It just really interesting to see a emerging country building new things at such a fast rate. You know anything about the new binh duong city by any chance Mike?

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    1. I think they're hoping to have everything done within the next two or three years, but I'm sure it will take a little longer. I've heard of the new Binh Duong City but don't know anything about it. Could look into it though!

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