Planning A Trip To Vietnam (And Maybe Beyond)Introduction: Vietnam, Laos, & CambodiaPark Hyatt Saigon ReviewCu Chi TunnelsNam Nghi Phu Quoc Island Review
We knew that we wanted to incorporate a few days of beach time into this trip, but had been cautioned that Da Nang and Hoi An would be far too cold to enjoy the beach in February (this ended up being far from the truth, but weather is like that sometimes). To be guaranteed at least a few warm sunny days, we started looking at hotels on the Southern Vietnamese islands, along with beach towns like Kep in Cambodia, before deciding on Phu Quoc as much for logistical ease as anything else.
I had hoped to book at the new JW Marriott, but they were playing games with availability, Bonvoy doesn’t have a pathway for getting benefits on two rooms anyway, and while I was trying to get all that resolved I ended up finding an alternative option.
Almost by happenstance — literally, I logged in to the Hyatt website to book the Park Hyatt Saigon and noticed there was suddenly a third hotel listed in Vietnam — I came across the Nam Nghi Hideaway, which was just added to the Hyatt portfolio in October, and only added to the website in late January. At the time I was (attempting) booking, everything was in flux, to the point where it took several rounds of calls from my Hyatt Concierge to actually secure reservations.
Turns out that was perfect foreshadowing for our actual stay, but that’s getting ahead of the story.Notes on Phu QuocHyatt Nam Nghi Phu Quoc isn’t ready for prime-time eitherNam Nghi Phu Quoc IslandNam Nghi Phu Quoc Ocean View SuiteNam Nghi Phu Quoc Resort and AmenitiesAnmai Spa & GymHyatt Nam Nghi PoolNam Nghi Phu Quoc BeachRock Island Beach ClubHyatt Phu Quoc RestaurantsBreakfast at Ocean ReflectionDinner at Ocean ReflectionDinner at Tree HouseNam Nghi Phu Quoc Tet CelebrationsHyatt Nam Nghi Phu Quoc overall thoughtsNotes on Phu Quoc
Before I get into the details of the resort, I want to talk a bit about Phu Quoc.
I didn’t have a ton of information about the island beforehand — adding it to our itinerary was a quick decision based on it looking warm, beautiful, and with great opportunities for hiking and snorkeling. By the end of our trip we had a better sense of the island, and knowing what I know now I would still choose to go, but it’s honestly not for everyone at this moment in time.
Phu Quoc in general is over-marketed, and frankly under-prepared.
If you go to the south of Phu Quoc, by the JW Marriott, the scene is reminiscent of pre-recession Abu Dhabi. Beautiful (but not necessarily well-constructed) hotels, plentiful international restaurants, debris-covered beaches, and construction as far as the eye can see.
The north has been developed for a bit longer, so has less active construction, but is less fancy. It’s a bit more convenient to the national forest, but less convenient to the more popular beaches.
There is not a ton of English spoken on Phu Quoc compared to other parts of Vietnam, and the majority of the tourists are coming from China and Russia. The south seems to be closer to meeting Western tourism standards than the north, but in general I think you need to go in understanding that Phu Quoc is still figuring out what kind of destination it’s going to be.
The people are lovely, and seemed generally enthused to be building up their hospitality industry. But the logistics and communication were definitely complicated at times. This is all in contrast to the resorts and travel providers marketing Phu Quoc as a luxury destination.
In talking with people since, both in and out of Vietnam, I’ve heard things like “Phu Quoc is like Phuket 15 years ago” or “it reminds me of Cancun in the 90’s”. I’m slightly too young to have been to either of those places at those times, but I can appreciate the sentiment regardless. I suspect that Phu Quoc will be a more-traditionally fantastic vacation destination in maybe 2-5 years, but it’s a little bumpy right now, and perhaps a more authentic/less-sterile experience than one might expect from the big brands that are moving in to the island.
That said, we still had a fantastic time, and will absolutely return, but I love seeing places on the cusp — others find them irritating.
So just a heads up on that.
I want to address this in the context of the background on Phu Quoc, because to be blunt, this was not a great stay by the typical standards you’d have of a major hotel group.
I’m sure that it didn’t help that we were coming directly from the impeccable Park Hyatt in Saigon, but if you’d asked me to grade the Nam Nghi Hideaway in the first four hours of our stay, it would have been a D, at best. By the end of our stay, and as we gained a better understanding of Phu Quoc, I would give it an overall B-.
The grade inflation, to be clear, has nothing to do with any efforts made by the property to improve the stay — individually, everyone was extraordinarily nice, but fundamentally the staff just has absolutely no clue what is going on or how to run a hotel that caters to Western guests.
But that is who Hyatt is marketing the property to, so they’re going to have to figure it out.
To give a minor example, we had all kinds of issues with the showers in our rooms (two rooms, each with two showers, all with problems ranging from not having hot water to not draining and thus flooding the room). After the latter adventure, we called housekeeping to ask for more towels, given that ours had been donated to a damming operation:
The person on the phone didn’t understand the request, so I went down to the front desk, and talked to three different people in an attempt to communicate the situation. I have no idea if they ever talked to housekeeping, or if the maid just figured out the towel situation when they did turndown service. The next morning, someone from maintenance came by and said he was there to look at “the water problem”. He walked into the powder room, flushed the toilet, watched it drain, nodded enthusiastically, and left.
And that’s how pretty much every interaction with hotel staff went.
Hyatt and hotel management know about all these issues, and in talking with the new GM it sounds like there are plans to help bring the staff up to speed. An English teacher is being brought in (and even the role-playing of guest conversations and potential issues will probably help tremendously, regardless of the language those convos ultimately take place in), they’re trying to get a better mix of international staff, and the maintenance issues are supposedly being addressed.
That being said, there’s a long way to go. To directly quote a remark from the General Manager during a casual chat about our stay when another guest shared some of the hilarity surrounding (unsuccessfully) ordering what should have been an uncomplicated drink at the pool — a mocktail listed on the menu, but with rum added:
“Please, for the love of God, I beg you — don’t order anything off-menu. You have no idea how many difficult months it has been to get anyone to even comprehend what is on-menu.”
So, there’s that.
It’s worth noting that I don’t personally think that remark is necessarily as astoundingly arrogant as it sounds. The GM has previously been at the Park Hyatt St. Kitts, and the Park Hyatt Maldives prior to that, so perhaps the tone comes from being someone quite good at his job and having eyes as big as saucers given the to-do list.
Though, to be fair in the other direction, none of the issues that we communicated to hotel staff and management were ever properly followed up on, much less compensated for, so it’s thoroughly possible that they’re all just resigned to the operational goat rodeo.
I’m going to try not to dwell on the comical assortment of issues we had during the review, because for one, that gets tedious, and two, I’m hopeful that the property is able to get it together quickly.
The heart and spirit of the hotel are incredible, the location is stunning, and the staff seemed to have a lovely familial relationship, and were really trying extraordinarily hard — they just haven’t been trained properly. But I do want anyone considering going in the next 6-10 months to know the lay of the land, so will try to find that balance.Nam Nghi Phu Quoc Island
We arrived at the Phu Quoc airport around 5:30PM, and were met by a driver with a sign for the hotel. The drive took about 35 minutes, despite “traffic” as we went through the local market preparing for the holiday — charmingly set up on an old airfield.
The portico set the stage for the design of the hotel — a more modern feel, balanced with natural materials.
A grand staircase led to an open-air lobby, accented by Vietnamese art pieces and bright yellow floral arrangements.
The front-desk staff was welcoming, and invited us to take a seat while they worked on the check-in formalities. I had booked two rooms, one with points (20,000 World of Hyatt points per night) and one under a package rate that included some meals and cocktails, for ~$300/night. That’s right about where I value Hyatt points, and since we were planning to spend the bulk of our time at the resort I figured we’d spend quite a bit on food and beverages anyway.
The “Hideaway” rate supposedly included:Daily complimentary one meal of three-course lunch or dinner for adults.Complimentary airport transfers and shuttle service to downtown as resort’s schedule.Daily breakfast for two persons / four persons based on room type at Ocean Reflection.Free access to Rock Island Club and free Signature Cocktails per stay (two / four drinks based on room type).Welcome drinks, fruit basket upon arrival.Daily in-room four bottles of mineral water.Use of kayaks and bicycles for kids and adults.Nightly turndown service.Wired and wireless internet access throughout the resort.Complimentary yoga classes and meditation at the Resort Garden or Spa Yoga Studio, subject to availability.Complimentary access to outdoor Pool, Fitness Centre and Business Lounge.
It was tough to get any information ahead of time, so for reference, everything I’ve listed in green seems to be available to all guests, regardless of your room rate. The items listed in red we never received, and the execution of the lunch/dinner benefit was awkwardly obnoxious to where we just gave up on it, so in retrospect I wish I hadn’t bothered.
Check-in took about 40 minutes (the package and multiple rooms situation was very complicated for them, to put it mildly), after which we were shown to our rooms. The hallways are lined with photos of the resort:
With the occasional break for open-air windows to look out at the views.
It is worth noting that the hotel has taken an almost eco-lodge approach to evening illumination, and many of the walkways and staircases were not lit, or lit poorly. That’s also why many of my photos are mediocre — the lighting was really challenging.
The overall effect was charming, though if you have issues seeing terrain in the dark I would probably avoid the villas, and request a room closer to the center of the main building. There is one elevator on the property, which is over by the lobby, so we mostly used the stairs.Nam Nghi Phu Quoc Ocean View Suite
I’d upgraded both rooms to suites using my Hyatt Globalist upgrades. According to my Hyatt Concierge, the hotel is using two different room types for tier suite upgrades:1 Bedroom Ocean View Suite2 Bedroom Ocean View Suite
I selected the two-bedroom suite for both rooms, since it seemed like we might enjoy spreading out after spending the previous days in closer quarters. For others deciding on suite options, the second bedroom of the two-bedroom suite wouldn’t be considered a legal bedroom in the U.S., as it’s an internal room with no window (though it does have a closet).
On the flip side, there are two full bathrooms (both with showers, with the master having a tub as well). Had I known about the bathroom situation, I would probably have kept all four of us in one room, since that’s usually the breaking point for four women sharing a room.