I do love a travel debate – this one for those visiting the beautiful Hoi An in Vietnam. Do you stay in Hoi An itself with its charming, colonial hotels or do you stay nearer to Danang on a fab stretch of beach in a glossy resort? Earlier in the week, I brought you a review from the ever popular Victoria Resort, Hoi An. Today, a huge thanks to Caroline for her Hyatt Regency Danang report. For all travelling parents, you’ll love sentence two!
My husband and I don’t talk about ‘holidaying’ or ‘vacationing’ in our family. We talk about ‘parenting in a different location’. We have four young boys, aged 1, 3, 6 and 7 – so, we don’t board a plane expecting to have a relaxing week away with long lie-ins, lazing by the pool and leisurely spa days. ‘Parenting in a different location’ is hard work. But it’s fun. And if the family head count on our return flight tallies with the head count when we left, we call it a roaring success.
Having ‘done’ Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, we wanted a different Asian destination – and we wanted a short, direct flight. Thank you Dragonair for providing that. It’s only 1 hour 45 mins from Hong Kong. Barely enough time to annoy the neighbouring passengers on board.
Most nationalities will need a visa. You can get a visa on arrival (which is another queue and some time wasted), or get a visa in advance at the Vietnam Consulate in Wanchai, Hong Kong. A painless one-page form, HK$500, a four-day wait.
Danang itself is a fairly unattractive city, but 15 minutes from the airport, this stretch of Central Vietnamese coastline boasts beautiful beaches and a long strip of luxury hotels: The Pullman, The Vinpearl, Fusion Maia, Furama… I researched them all and chose the Hyatt Regency because it was new, got great Tripadvisor reviews, was child-friendly and offered a 3-bedroom Residence, perfect for our needs.
We booked everything through FlightCentre, as they got a better rate on the room (including buffet breakfast) than the Hyatt’s website offered. They also arranged airport transfer in a large minivan – perfect for our large family, car seats, pushchairs and suitcases.
TIME OF YEAR
With some trepidation, we went in Golden Week (first week of October) – but surprisingly the hotel wasn’t swarming with guests. We often had the pool and/or the beach to ourselves. The weather was reasonable – about 26-28 dec C, but often overcast. It was the beginning of rainy season, and was also windy (which was actually quite refreshing) – but the few hours of rain didn’t spoil the holiday.
The grandly named residence was a spacious apartment that surpassed our expectations (the Grand Hyatt website does it no justice). Having lived too long in Hong Kong, we immediately calculated the square footage at over 2500 sq ft. The design was clean and contemporary, and the living/dining area was vast – plenty of space for our four boys to run around. The ‘kitchenette’ was much better equipped than we expected, with a 4-ring halogen hob, a built-in oven, a Bodum toaster, a dishwasher, a huge island unit with bar stools.. No microwave, surprisingly.
If you want to cook for yourselves, you can buy basics like pasta, cheese, meats (at premium prices) at the Hyatt’s chi-chi delicatessen. Or it’s a 10-min taxi ride to the well-stocked Lotte supermarket on the outskirts of Danang.
The baby’s cot was a very new and clean Pack’n’Play-type travel cot. Housekeeping also quickly brought a high chair to the apartment. And they covered over the sockets with tape, when we pointed out that the baby kept poking his fingers in them.
(By the way, no straps on the high chairs – take your own harness. Necessity being the mother of invention, we made do with the luggage strap from the suitcase!)
Our fussy children enjoyed the typical Western kids’ menu of hot dog, fish and chips, chicken and potato wedges etc. The room service pizza and pasta was top-notch; the Asian wok-fried garlic prawns were delicious; the Vietnamese spring rolls were perfect. The quality of the cuisine was generally excellent, and we looked forward to the breakfast buffet every morning. The service also made it a dream, as we didn’t have to hang around the egg station waiting for Eggs Florentine. We placed an order with the chef, and then one of the serving staff would bring it to the table when it was ready. This makes life so much easier when you’re trying to keep a one-year old occupied in his high chair and trying to stop a three-year-old from continually raiding the crispy bacon station.
The hotel has 6 swimming pools. For young kids, the best one is the semi-circular pool surrounded by sand. The depth graduates from 10cm to 1m. The hotel sent a gift of buckets, spades and sand toys to our room on the first day – nice touch. One of the deeper pools has a good waterslide (kids have to be 80cm to use it), but the water depth is 1.3m, so if you have a small non-swimmer, be ready to catch at the bottom.
Camp Hyatt, the kids’ club is staffed by very enthusiastic, sweet Vietnamese girls (who unfortunately speak poor English). There’s a small jungle gym at the back of the club, and inside there are board games, books, Wii and Xbox, TV, playdough etc. You can pick activities from an extensive list and the girls will happily play hide-and-seek or treasure hunt or face painting with your children. Kids aged 3 and up can be left unaccompanied, but it costs 110,000 Vietnamese Dong (US$5) per child pre hour.
Outside, there’s a huge rock-climbing wall, a volleyball court, tennis courts, basketball hoops, boules.. plenty to do.
And the beach which adjoins the hotel is gorgeous – acres of clean white sand. The water was too rough for swimming (red flag every day), but I don’t know if that is because the rainy season had just started in October.
For adults, there’s a beautiful spa (I sneaked away for a pedicure one evening) with plenty of treatments to choose from.
OUTSIDE THE HOTEL
What? You mean people leave the resort? Why would they want to do that? Well, I braved the 20-minute taxi ride to Hoi An one morning (leaving the kids in the care of my valiant husband). It’s a beautiful UNESCO heritage town, full of photo opportunities and a plethora of tourist shops to satisfy my need for bags and placemats and lacquerware and silk scarves.
We also took a taxi to the Furama for lunch one day. It’s much older than the Hyatt, and has a very different feel – more typically tropically Asian (whereas the Hyatt is sleek and contemporary and feels ‘colder’).
For us, this was one of the best family holidays we’ve experienced. Extremely family friendly, very service-oriented, plenty to keep the children (and adults) occupied. The Hyatt Regency was lovely – modern, clean, new – but if you are looking for lush and tropical, then it’s probably not for you. It’s very manicured and ‘artificial’ – not to everyone’s taste. We felt that our ‘parenting in a different location’ had come as close to being a true vacation as we are likely to get until the boys are off to university!