Life in Hanoi

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Night auditor

Working as night shift was first interesting to me but then boring as the night manager seems indifference to my existence. I started to realise when I first started with a bleeding incident. A guy slipped over the bath tube and had blood in his head. The hanger was felt and when I came, every towel in the bathroom was filled with blood. The blood of the guy had been stopped and we gave them some bandages just in case and asked the room attendant to clean up the area. On the way to and back from their room, the night manager seldom say a word to me and he was far front of me despite I walked quite fast. And during the night, he kept silent. Even I started to ask him some questions concerning the night shift, he just plainly past through with simple phrases. I was pissed and find it hard to be working with him.
Luckily he was disappeared for nearly two hours starting from three in the morning. I guess that’s the time for him to get a nap. I am still regret that he didn’t show me the way of patrolling: walking around the hotel. Instead, I believe he didn’t do his job quite well.
Did he know the way in training? Undoubtedly I am still new in the night shift and he should be willing to teach me. Of course, it is also my responsibility to observe what he did. Alas, it is controversy; especially yesterday I attend the importance of training meeting, hosted by the human resources. I will write in more details later about the entire training course I have enrolled.
To be honest, what I did for the two night shift was acted as operator, listening to guests requests and playing around with my lap top. One more “detrimental”, as some may regard, is guest calling for girl. Once I received such a call, the guest said, “I want a girl…”. “I said, what, a girl, what’s a girl” as I can’t hear quite well for his Dutch English accent. He then said, “I am so boring, I need somebody to accompany”: Then I realised his needs. I told the night manager and he said in an indifference mood, you can handle it by yourself.
Diu him. Well, I then told the guest we do not provide any girls in this hotel. But if you really want somebody to accompany, you can call the Fortuna hotel. The guest then claimed that he want the girl to be coming in his room. I continued, convincingly, well, Mr. xxx, if you go to Fortuna hotel, you can have a wide selection of girls and then you can relax by having massage. In addition, if you want to bring the girl back to here, we will charge you 30++ USD for one joiner and we need to keep her ID card for security reason. He then thanked me happily and after a few minutes, I saw him calling taxi towards that hotel. I guess he did have fun with those Vietnamese girls.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Dog meat evening

I joined the dog meat dinner with all the cashiers, around 10 guys. We went to the famous dog’s meat zone, in the middle road of the north of West Lake. Though I know Chinese eat dog’s meat, I have never tried personally. So it’s good to have a try. The restaurant was in fact a local house. We sat on the floor, with table clothes scattered on the ground, and the waiters put everything there. We had one type of sauce, the shrimp sauce with squeezed lemon juice, and we ate steamed dog and marinated dog dipped in the sauce with dog’s meat leaves. Truly, it is difficult to explain the taste of dog, sometimes it’s like eating beef and sometimes like the fat of pork.
Westerners can’t stand of eating dog as they pretend to be “kind” and “generous”. They can eat all kinds of animals with different types of cooking method but can’t stand of dog because dog’s is the man’s best friend. Nonsense, huh. It’s just that dog hasn’t been regarded as a common cuisine.
After on, we had the second activity: singing karaoke. I already had a feeling that I am going to be bored during the singing as most of the songs are in Vietnamese. There were lots of traditional English songs which I have never heard of. What stroke me was that they ordered some girls to play with. You can imagine what they did. I will post some pics afterward. I refused for those girls as I don’t know...Was I afraid of the inexperience in handling girls or the later that I regard myself as somebody who do “ the right thing” or afraid of them spreading rumours about me of playing with girls as well? Who knows…

Tuesday, January 25, 2005


I was training as cashier for the past four days and I started to do treasure hunting or searching everything related to this Department. One of the funniest parts is reading the refund files.
1. In low season, our hotel will have a hot deal promotion to attract guests in a relatively low price, but the condition is that no amendment and modification could be made after confirmation. However, there are lots of special cases that change this rule. For instance, a lady was sick with breast cancer and so she cannot stay in our hotel. She wrote many letters describing her conditions and finally we only charged her 1 room night only.
2. Another case is guests booked with a package but they don’t know that the package include rooms so they reserve a room, meaning that they booked twice for the same period in different methods. After continuous complaining, we waived the no-show fee on this occasion only.
3. Sometimes, guest blamed the media that the hotel didn’t receive their cancellation on time. In particular, guests want to cancel their room but due to email problem or telephone communication problem in Halong Bay. The results are: refund to them, “waive this no-show charge as an exceptional case”.
4. If you want to get some refund from the hotel, complain with details please!!! Mr. Robinson, John Nicholas is a typical case. He complained about the food in spices garden. In his letter, he said that chicken was not fully cooked, fish was greasy, the staff was tire and lack of direction, there were no explanation on food, the waiters did not clear debris from the table and so desert were served in messy table. Result: total refund of that meal.
Of course there are more cases, such as credit card companies ask the hotel to refund with different reasons or the hotel made mistakes on guest accounts, you name it.
Exchanging money
The most unforgettable part as cashier is exchanging money from guests. Sometimes guest will give us travellers check or other currencies for exchanging local currency. The point is that we do not have electronic machines and so we put all the money in one large drawer, in which money were placed disorderly. The trouble I face all the time is getting the correct amount as Dong is so large. Imagine, for 100 USD, you can get 1 million 40 thousand 5x dollars

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Hotels planner and an old french lady

No matter when I start, whenever I am working as a receptionist, I have to escort guests as well. The fun of escorting is that guests are different and depends on things you say to them.

1. Hotel planners
This morning an old couple came. As the normal practise of this hotel, ppl started to up sell rooms and so I had to show them to all these rooms. Before doing so, I asked about the promotion price of those room (as we do not practise RM, so every rate is according to the promotional rate, which is far easy to follow but less challenge), but as in a hurry, the tiger, yes, she gave such a case to me as she knew they are difficult guest (before another receptionist already showed them two rooms in the old building and they were not satisfied with that). So now it's my turn.

I showed them two types of room: the deluxe room and the classic deluxe room, which there is a difference of 100 USD per night. And on the way, I knew that Mr. Schokman, the old guy, who had been building luxurious hotel targeting the rich elderly in Australia for 19 years. He was shouting and complaining all the way about the design of this hotel. Actually this time he was here to observe the Vietnamese French architecture style, and that's why he is here. So when we entered the classic deluxe room, his wife requested for the price. As the room was not checked-in yet, the phone was blocked and so I had to use the HSKP tell to ask for the rate. (Sign, I should have INSISTED for the price beforehand). The couple was stunned about the price and said they are not much difference except for the size. I then said it was the difference of the view, garden view and street view. But then they were pissed and the guy told me to have a look at those hotels he built. So we went back to the hotel, not saying that much, though I still tied to continued with the conversation by stating I really want to know what the most important factors were for them in deciding a good hotel, with the lady constantly telling her husband to shut up of not complaining.
When we came back to the lobby, he shown me those pictures and immediately I said "Well, I guess I know what you are looking for: sufficient lighting and the ambiance of home feeling. He was amazed with my answer and was glad to offer me a job in Australia. (Well, I am still training in here and I still do not have the vision of working with the elderly...)
So we went back to the first room they saw in the old wing and they agreed to settle down.
2. Old French lady
An old French lady came from Ha Long Bay for 5 days stayed in our hotel for the second time. I, as usual, escorted her to her room and in b/t spoke with her in French. As she brought some red roses and other type of flowers, I requested the HSKP to bring in a vase for her. We chatted quite a bit and once the vase came, she just put all the flowers into the vase, which is a mess to me. So immediately, I got those flowers out, which in case she was, surprise, and afterwards I helped her to set up those flowers.
That is why I always declare that flower arrangement is important in the hospitality industry and EHL should have at least provide one semester for western flowers arrangement, especially the French style, as well as music, like organising some singing classes and music appreciation instead of only WESTERN fine arts appreciation with old Strebel, who is, in fact, an historian.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Impolite staff

So far seems like I am having a great time in the hotel with all the staff. But in fact it is not. No matter how you behave, you can't please everyone and that's life. So it's time for me to describe about those people.

First of all, the ladies in le club bar. I don't even recognise her appearance; just remember I was being insulted by her in the early morning. It was 5 30 in the morning, I took breakfast in le club (the only place that all the staff in their own suit can take breakfast in) and asked for that girl to give me a check to sign in. She seemed nice and asked if I want coffee or not. After having breakfast in my room, I brought back the tray to le club. I then asked the lady where can I place the tray as it definitely will safe their time (at that time I don't have a chance to enter the kitchen, even now!!!!). She was furious and got angry with me and claimed that there is no need in doing so. She needed the forks and the tray back and immediately grasped my tray and left, w/o saying good bye.

Second dude working in Met Pub. He had been working in here for a long time but are still in that low position. So I guess he was envy on me and become to hate me. Once I ordered food from that pub in the evening and he agreed to call me in around 15 mins. But after 30 mins he didn't call me yet. So I came down and realised the food was already there. He then said he forgot to call me and I smiled at him, no problem, that's fine for me and I left. (He was the guy who always “REMINDS" me to bring back my tray after eating).

It seems like there is at least one dude hate me in each restaurant. Now turn to the spices garden, the typical Vietnamese garden. After finish eating today, I came down to the spices garden, walked straight to the back of the house and asked a dude where to place those plates. He reluctantly, with a insult voice, pointing the stewarding place. In addition, there is the spices garden manager, a typical Vietnamese lady, who had been working there for a long time but she seems so indifference on me. Sometimes she smiled at me, but I can sense that vague smile (I am not familiar with westerner vague smiles, but definitely is an expert in figuring vague smile of Asian people). I don't understand why can't she be real....At first, I quite appreciate this lady, thinking that she should be a good manager. Hope things run well when I work in her restaurant for TWO DAYS in Feb. Hopefully she won't find some ways to torture or give me a trap to step in.

Now turn back to the reception. So far everyone is nice except two people. One of them was a 29 yr old lady, who in first sign looks like 40 yr old. Everyone call her "tiger" in her back and she knows that. She is those people that love to order others to work and being lazy once her supervisors are gone. Like yesterday morning, I was the sufferer. Worked as M2, morning shift guest relations, my task is to print out two lists to check all the VIP silver covers and guest names and their corresponding letters, French or English, first come or second call (return guest within two weeks) and check the welcome letter. Also I have to inform the business center the number of copies of French and English info news and then the remaining tasks is to escort guests. Of course, no matter where I AM WORKING, I have to check the today's arrival list and have a look at each of those guests with guest history and check out their comments if any and to make some modifications to minimize their complains or in other words, enhance their satisfaction.

So that tiger suddenly gave me 170 envelops and welcome letters, in which all were in a mess, not in aphetically order. Oh, I think immediately, Ha, you wanna challenge me. COME ON IN. At that time the FO Dir was not far from me and looking at what I was doing. So I first asked for the list of this 170 guests and asked if they check in the same time or not. And the answer given were that they check in different times. So I started to work in that messy, narrow, chaotic back of FO, with continuous telephone calls. I first fold all the welcome letters. (It's not that easy at first, the quickest way is to fold with 8 to 9 letters at the same time and there are certain folding specification. If you do not fold it appropriately, those letters won't fit in the covers and then trouble exist. As the GM has to sign in each of these welcome letters)And then put them in a side. Actually I mixed them all up as they were already not in order. Then I put those welcome letters into those 170 covers. The question now is where can I place those letters and should I put them in aphetically orders? While thinking where to place those covers, I saw there was an empty fruit basket and so I made use of that. I put those cover with welcome letters into the fruit basket, tending to place from A to Z. Afterwards, I checked all those letters and collected those people that come in a smaller group, which in this case was the earlier group. At that time, Karoi came and helped me a bit. This welcome letter activity last 45 mins, which I know the FO Dir and the tiger were surprised. (Imagine during this activity, another gal came and put some irreverent welcome letters into my welcome letters to FAKE ME. But hey, although I did not do such a thing before, but if you have an organised plan to do things, for sure you can finish it effectively. This reminds my old days in EHL, mp1 in the kitchen, of first pealing boxes of onions and then slices them. Do one thing at the same time and be sure your workstation is always tidy.

In addition, that tiger also requested me to replace the staff in the new wing for lunch, which normally should only be taken for 30 mins but they usually take it for an hour. Of course some other staff saw that and smiled. I knew they are playing on me but I went there straight w/o hesitation. At least I can sit in that station.

One last thing which is about the food. The quality of food is excellent but there exists a problem of the place to eat. Usually I will take the food to my room instead of eating in the staff canteen. As I said before, I feel strange of eating other types of food while others eating food in the staff canteen, which is in insufficient quantity to feed my appetite. If I have time, I usually will order three cones of vanilla ice-cream. The problem is that there are no special way for staff to walk from the restaurant to my room. So as usual, I have to take a tray and walk around that common area where all the guests will pass by. I as well do not want them to see me bringing the tray so I try to find some time where there aren't that much guests walking around in those public space. But it is impossible to ignore guests. Just like today when I brought back the tray to the restaurant, I met two guests. The male said " Ah, having a good dinning in the bed". I smiled and said yes and ignored him. At that time I was wearing in casual. But how will those guests think of me?

Another issue is the feeling of loneliness. Eating in the room is lonely. I tried to eat in the staff canteen, but unfortunately, always in bad timing that I have to eat with some ladies that I hate, like the tigers. We have nothing in common and SOMETIMES I have to find something to chat with her to lessen the weird feeling. I hate being so vague but I can't as Vietnamese strongly regard it as impolite if you do not chat with others while dinning.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Morning with Vu

This morning I went out with another trainee, a vietnamese from Ho chi Ming city, to travel a bit in Hanoi. At first I don't know what to do as he told me to get on his back in a bicycle. OMG, there is no way that I can get on that bicycle. Well, finally i gt on it and was still afraid to fall down as both I wonder can this bicycle have that tolerence for both he and me. So we went to had breakfast, vietnamese Wu Tong noodles and then we ate rice flour with vietnamese source in a street store. It is the first time I sit in the street and eat. My parents always warn me not to do so but with friends, it s fine.

The best part of that morning is when he brought me to a dvds store, which in front they sell music video and vcds and inside, where you have to open the door and go to a small room, which is another world. Inside, you can find all types of recent films, English and French, most imported from china with good quality, costing on 1 USD each. I was surprised and brought five dvds in 5 USDS. Luckily they all work well for my lap top and so I will purchase more next time. Of course after watching those dvds, I ll contribute them to the front office dvd files for customers to rent. It s useless for me to keep that much dvds and I don't think it's possible for me to bring them back home.

After having lunch the spice garden, this time with pho and a plate of fruits. I chatted a bit with Phong Ahn, now working in the guest relation counter in the new wing. She told me some special way in greeting ppl and taught me how to count 1 to 100. Actually it s not that difficult but there are still some weird way in pronouce.
Well, now I m off to work and I do preceive this afternoon I won't have much to do. So it s a good time for me to read the night manager log book and plug in some to the guest history file.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Cases of guest relations

1. There was a lady came past by and claimed that she lost her luggages in the airport. Remember to call the concierge and check for the missing luggages and mark down all the important information including the luggages color, size, brand name, name of the owner and the room number.

2. A guest wanted to buy a picture shown in the new wing. The blue mountain with a large piece of grass land in front. Called the Red River Gallery and asked for the price. It turned out that picture costed 1700 USD. Expensive though. Of course in this case, the guest didn’t buy the picture. Good for me as I quite like that picture to be placed in here. In another note, I hate the picture depicting a Vietnamese girl placed behind the guest relation counters. And as boring as now, I found out that there is a small scratch of the picture. That’s means that we need to give a discount price for selling this picture.

This afternoon I had the second training lesson conducted by the FO Dir at 1430. It lasted for an hour and all the junior staff have to attend. This lesson we learnt more about the guest history and how important is adding accurate guest history into their history. Actually, guests arriving today do not have the guest history as most of them are first time visitor. Of course, for leisure tourists, they seldom visit Hanoi for a few times in a year.

It seems like I will be in charge of plugging in the guest comments and have to ensure that guests arriving will be treated according to their preferences and beware of incidents happened on them.

Unfortunately the system we are using now is relatively old, the HES one I mentioned a few days ago, so you can imagine, the way in looking at the guest history. I don’t know the aim of getting used to this HES system in case every hotel is now using Fidelio or even more updated, with opera. Will I be using that in the further? Anyway, it is still a good opportunity for me to learn about this system.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Guest relation desk (morning shift at 0600)

I now realise what guest relation desk do. The first time I saw was the internship offers from sis, I wondered how great and interesting would that be. But once I started, I am lucky I am not working in this Department for 6 months. If so, I m gonna die. Guest relations desk actually is a close branch of the reception, when the guests check in; the guest relations people will escort the guests to their room. During which, the staff have to start the conversation with the guests. The most simple way is ask them where are they from, how long are they staying in here and recommend them to some others places and as well descript a bit of hotels facilities to them on the way to their room. That is what I did for last week. But from now on, I have to change slightly to make the conversation more lively and unforgettable to the customers and yet contribute to the consumer loyalty from a hotel’s operators’ view. Bull shit huh????

The first two days started at 0600 in the new wing. In this case, I can sit all the time. The new wing was built in 1996 and all the rooms had only been renovated for 2 years. Usually this wing is catered for leisure individual and group guests. Though the hotel regards the old wing as adding extra value to the guests, I personally prefer the new wing. So here we have the task list:

1. Check everything at the lobby, ashtrays, flowers and lightings
2. Take care of outside guests, especially if they want to go to guest rooms
3. Take care of fax, package for guests
4. C/I and c/o for group (before c/I, check room status, ensure that the keys, cover, group list, meals are ready. If 2nd call, make sure luggage are ready in rooms
5. Then have to confirm with the tour leader with everything on the special request. If there are any changes, inform the reception and bellboys.
6. Collect all passport, check the quantity and fill in all the information in the group c/I list

1. Start computer and get back the phone to the guest relation desk (it s hard to start the computer as there are so many procedures to follow)
2. Read the logbook
3. Check if any group c/o and the time
4. Print out all the reports:
A. Departure report, including group, in room sequence for c/o letter make by the business centre. From the report, first cross out the one night stay as we do not offer c/o letter for them. Then highlight the Japanese guests with their name and room number and cross out their names only. Afterwards, check each guests if they are from any French speaking country, if so, mark down F next to the guest list, which means French c/o letter is required. Finally, find the joiner of the room and cross out the joiner from the list
B. Arrival report, for next day arrival, include group, print VIP only, include special, in report format. The use of this is for making the welcome letter. This again is done by the business centre. Check each guests name in the computer. First check their names from reservation and chose change reservation and then check if they have been staying in our hotel before or not. If within a week, mark 2nd stay, if they are from French speaking countries, write F 2nd. Then check with the guest history and observe if the profile of the guests is linked to the guests’ history.
C. Arrival report of each group arriving of the next day. Click inquires and then group profile and then type in the date of the next day. Then the list of group with the reference will shown. Mark down the reference number so as to print out this report. When each group report is print, prepare the cover for them, including the cover, the normal welcome letter and the name card. Check if breakfast is included or not.
D. Arrival report: Individual VIP for preparing the covers with registration card, welcome drink, key card and cover.
E. Individual report: cross out all the VIP guests, prepare their covers. Normal guest cover with welcome letter, name card, registration letter.
F. Prepare the Japanese special cover: map, Japanese welcome letter, welcome drink card, Japanese fan, name card, registration card, promotion cards…
5. Print out the food and beverage activities of the week and the special promotions list of all the outlets. Ask the concierge to prepare the sideboard of function names, meeting time and place next to the meeting rooms.
6. If all these reports are done, just wait for the group to c/I and c/o and answer all the incoming calls and guests requests.
7. Actually there is only one person working for the guest relation desk in the new wing and thus if there is nothing much to do, it is quite boring and so normally people will bring with them some books and newspapers to read discreetly as nobody will supervise them.

That’s all for the morning shift in the morning. Sometimes the tour leaders are really difficult to handle with. They would request you to keep all the group passports from the customers instead of themselves. People coming from the new wing will treat you as the concierge and you have to always be prepared for lots of Hanoi map. Some people might be in the group and consume something during meal time and they are reluctantly to pay in the cahier far away from the new wing, so in this case, you have to call the cahier and bring the invoice to here and ask the guests to pay. Some guests ask you to post envelops with them w/o the stamp. So you have to estimate the price and give them an option of paying in USDS or DONG or EURO. Of course we should charge them a little bit higher just in case the cost is not enough to pay for those envelops.

If it is rainy days, some guests might ask for the weather outside and want to borrow the umbrellas. So be prepared for some umbrellas.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Front office dance Posted by Hello

Mr. Franck Lafourcade, the GM, who will leave at the end of Jan to Sofitel Shanghai (gd luck as the ppl are definately much harder to deal with...CHINESE....) Posted by Hello

Mini game: the winner is the one who can pull out the most paper!!!!!! Posted by Hello

(from left to right) Phuong, night auditor manager; xxx casier, Kaori, guest relations, me and xxx, front ofice ass (sorry if I forgot those names, there are just so many. I ll put them down asap)  Posted by Hello

Saturday, January 08, 2005

HSKP dance. Can you see a "charming" lady on the far left? Actually she was the focal point, dancing in the center, as she is the GM's wife Posted by Hello

Annual staff party

As the climate of Hanoi change dramatically these days, a lot of staff were sick, including me. I did not bring with me any medicine as if I would not be sick for the following six months. Luckily kaori gave me some of her Japanese medicine and I felt much better afterwards.

I slept 2 ½ hours after working and went to the staff party, which was held in the largest ballroom, decorated with hundreds of balloons, in the Sofitel Plaza Hanoi, with 50 tables, 12 people per each. The party started at 1600 and followed up with lucky draw and mini games. I can’t imagine the Vietnamese were so willing to participate with those games and had that much energy in playing. This is amazing as many others enjoy watching them playing. Then at 1800, we had 10 minutes talk for the General Manager and then continued with show by each department. Normally most were dancing and the most intrigued one was the managemer's show. First came the three beautiful ladies and then with all the guys dressing like ladies flying around those ladies with their helmet (a symbol of Vietnam).

As for dinner, we had Vietnamese-Chinese style. My favourite dishes were the signature spicy soup and the tasty tiger prawn with fabulous sauce. At around 2130, we had disco, house music and slow love songs simultaneously. It is my second time to dance with a lady for this kind of slow music. It was kind of weird but still refreshing.

Every Vietnamese are good dancer. They dance and party hard. They even sang loudly during the party. Everybody is the same and there is no superior or inferior among them. I once again feel the team cohesiveness of the subordinates in this hotel and enjoy being as part of them.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Self-stress and Hanoi life

Before sleeping, I made a wake up call. A guy replied and I told him the time and room number. Then he said " Yes Mr. Chan. Oh, Eudo, you don't know how to make a wake up call?". Oh shit, it 's Mr Chevet. I then replied, I don't and he told me how to do that.

I slept at 0035 and exactly an hr later I woke up, believeing it was six sth in the morning. Gee, my shift for today starts at 600, so that means I am late. I don't know how can I misread the watch but I hurried up to get change and rushed to the FO. Those night auditors were all surprised to see me at that time. And soon I realised I was not late...Perhaps I put too much stress on working and always stay in the hotel, so I better go outside.

Afterthat, I twisted and turned in the bed for the following 45 mins and then I woke up at 0500 relunctantly. When I came to the reception, those auditors made joke on me for a while. Well...let it be to make sth that many will remember...

There aren't that much to do today and there are so many receptionists. So I started reading the Sofitel loyalty program and the terms of the sofitel privilage gold and silver card. I first photo-copied some with the old machine in the reception and unexpectedly, a gal recommended me to use the copying machine in the business centre, which is much better. At first I wondered could I do that but then turned out no one meddle in wt was I doing and the business centre lady is so nice.

There were two French jounalists who wanted to take some pics of the hotel and there I am obliged to show them the room. On the way, I stressed that I only speak a little bit of French, "Je juste parler un peu Français!!!" but then that two French continued to speak. Luckily I did understand most of the dialogue, so I continued and I even convinced them to dine in our French restaurant for lunch.

It's true that the FO and HSKP do hv clash, like today, those receptionists were busy assigning rooms for four groups coming in the morning and unfornately lots of room were still dirty, So u can guess, they urged the HSKP to clean the rooms faster in VIETNAMESE. Wt I heard all the time are Hai Hai Hai, Hei, Hei, Hei (Hai means 2) That's y I can do nth about it. Well, normally it takes me 22 mins to clean a room but I hate being urged as there aren't any bonus if I clean room faster. And doing the same thing for a long time is really boring....

I don't know if I am the guy that can easily be deceived by others. Whenever I went out of the hotel, I am always being ripped off!! Like this afternoon after work, I got on a motortaxi, while strolling on the street for only 10 seconds. Tell you guys onething, as I am so bad in counting large numbers, I gt stuck with the Vietnamese currency, dong. 1 usd can exchange approximately 1,1450 dong. And it turned out I hv to give 100,000 to the driver. At first we agreed 200,000 as I though it was 20,000. (IN FACT, I am really bad in counting). He brought me to a few places and at last I realised I was being RIPPED OFF. During this two months, I hv already been ripped off for 4 times!!!! Damn it!!! Normally 1 km only costs 1000 dong...

Visited two temples, one temple of Literature and the other is the one pillar pagoda. Both of them consisted of chinese pillars and chinese statues with Vietnamese touch. I guess I should go to the southern part of Vietnam once as most of the ethics chinese are settled down over there.

After these two visits, I watched the water puppet show at 1715, which is one of the top visiting list in Hanoi. People playing traditional Vietnamese music with ppl hidden underneath the water to control the puppets. I ll now post some pics for u guys to hv a look.

These are the water puppet. The one on the far right is riding a cow irrigating the paddy land Posted by Hello

People playing traditional vietnamese music in the water puppet show. I was so sleepy that I slept in the middle of the show. Posted by Hello

A snapshot inside that temple as well Posted by Hello

My love this pic with four loctus Posted by Hello

One Pillar Pagoda Posted by Hello

Special word in the One Pillar Pagoda Posted by Hello

Front garden of the Temple of Literature Posted by Hello

Typical taoism decoration with two birds (phonex??) Posted by Hello

KungZi, inside the temple of Literature Posted by Hello

Evening view of Hoan Kiem Lake Posted by Hello

Thursday, January 06, 2005

First time in charge of group file

When I came to work this morning at 0800am, the FO Ass told that I was in charge of the LV group. So I had to check with the group list, prepared the file with welcome letter, hotel name card, welcome drink, LV file (LV welcome letter, procedure for tomorrow LV grand opening, information in detailed of Hanoi...that's why I made two copies, one for myself and the other one for Mr Chevet, in which he requested me to do so). Then I prepared for some special notices, highlighted those VIP Bronze and circled VIP silver and put all the journalists in the old wing as most of them are important (another hotel policy). If we do not treat them well, they can easily write bad things to our hotel. Or simply miss out some gd things over here. Afterwards, putting them in differnt check in time, like those are supposed to check in bt 1030 to 1230 in one group in alphetical order, so on and so on. Of course the japanese guests have to be seperated and put in larger folders with all japanese documents. This seems easy but in fact it is not as I was first told to put those letters in order, then welcome letter were given randomly, where some were missing and the list they gave me was incorrect. In addition, some welcome letters were printed out in double. And suddenly all the LV files were given in a bag and I hv to put them together with those letters. What is the worst is the working desk. The back of FO is a tiny narrow place where all the documents and chairs are already occupied. I had to squeeze inside and share the space with others.

Finally everything was done in an hr (which means I am efficient) and my second task is to wait for the LV group to come. We created a special counter in the lobby especially for the LV group. The first group came and they were all Asian. Well, a lot of guys are sizzy, especially from their tones and expressions, which is so easy to recognise. I hv to highlight in here that I am not gay, but I do hv the ability to sense gays. So I escorted (I hv to as I speak maderin) one of them and in bt, I hv to show his, specifically, to the fitness center...

The afternoon was the peak time for LV guests to ci and other normal guests as well. So you can imagine how the reception looks like, papers and visa cards were everywhere with some missing room number and a lot of ppl were moving around. But no matter wt, we still need to smile and promise to ourselves that the guests shouldn't be waited for a long time. An old man was looking weird when he saw us behaving like that, so I told him, "everything is fine, sometimes it s like that, but we ll trying our best to getting it over. Things are getting from time to time. Well, sir, are there any one helping you?" And then he said" It's all right, I didn't mean anything. That guy is now helping me".

Three Italian women: There were three italian women re-checking in. They went to Hai Long Bay yesterday. My colleague helped them to check in and found out that the room assigned were still dirty. So he called the HSKP to clean, with a reply of being done in 30 mins. He did nothing and kept the guests waiting. I remembered that this three italian. I did escort them when they first arrived two days ago and they were impressed that there were three beds in the room, with two twins and one mini bed next to it. The ambiance of the room was well-decorated, with garden and pool view. I remembered they said "Wonderful!". And one of the Italian woman did remember me. I chatted a bit with her and told her to sit down in the lobby for a few mins after knowing that she was exhaused at the moment. After a min, I made another decision, I personally made three welcome drink cards for them and offered them to chill out a bit and hv a drink in Le Club. They enjoyed and accepted it. After five minutes, one of the italian ladies came to the reception and asked whether their train tickets are ready or not, she said that the travel agency had promised to send them the train tickets. So I asked the concierge and unformately there were only two tickets received at the moment with the last one supposed to be sent in this afternoon. The concierge wanted to speak with those ladies but I told them I will handle that. So I went to Le Club and told wt was happening with their train tickets and promised that the ticket will be arrived this evening and asked whether they would like to pick them up in the concierge or simply received them in their room when all the tickets are ready. They were gladed that I did things promptly. I do hope the ticket will arrive on time or the latest by tomorrow morning. They ought to as they are leaving tomorrow!!!!

In addition,I also learnt how to print out all the reports from the computer. It s not that I am a dummy, it s just that this is HES system and we hv an old printer in the reception with holes/pins!!!! One of the Ass FOs was so kind, he told me wtever I asked and I learnt more about how to quickly search the group list, mark special in the group history and retrieve the room history in particular.

After finishing at 1630pm, I went to hv a walk along the lake and tried to search for the famous Pho shop. Unexpectedly it was an untidy place with lots of Vietnamese sitting. I don't mean I am unique among them, But my parents had warned me in advance that I must never eat in those street-stalls. Being as a gd child and for my own safety and to avoid communication problem, I turned out eating in a Frech restaurant for my dinner, with Vietnam Spring roll, crab meat corn soup, Chicken Tandori and water. (Wt a mix!!!)

After that, I sat in the lobby, listening to my japanese songs and reading books from the library (there is a small bookcase in the lobby) and afterwards asked for information of the waterpuppet show and nearby cinemas in the concierge. I will be working in there in a few weeks and so I should know more about everything in Hanoi.

On my way back to my home, I met the other trainee from Hague, Netherland,who are training in here for 9 months, He had been working in here for 2 months and there are still 7 months going. And that means: even I left, he will still be working in here for another month. He is a graduate from the Hague, after 4 yrs, and now training as the Ass F/B manager. What surprised me is that these days he normally worked for 13 hrs and yesterday he even worked for 16 hrs. (WOW, Lucky me!!!! Right now I only work for exactly 8 hrs, or sometimes even less!!!)

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

3 rd day of work in the reception

Today I printed out a more detailed job description of every single post in the reception. Bascially I can print out wtever I want, no one is willing to be a busy-body in getting involve in wt I am doing.

I learnt a few more vietnamese: 1 to 10 and how to say how much does it cost, which is really easy. I also learnt a bit about the nearby ATM stores and famous shopping district (It's a pity tat I still didn't hv the opportunity to discover Hanoi. But I promise to myself that I ought to do some sign seeing.)

It's amazed that some guests love the hotel name (Sofitel Métropole Hanoi in their diary, either in blue or red ink) whereas some want free hotel postcard.

Again, the phrase I heard most often in the reception is Dear Mr. xxx, we are glad to upgrade you to our hotel experience full occupancy.

The loby had a strong taste of French colonial style but the restriction stated in the loby are only in written form. Nobody, including the security guard, receptionists will dare to put into practice, like smoing in the lobby. Another issue is a little boy was playing with his electric motor car and elephant with sound moving around the lobby, where his parents didn't care about it. This, at first, intrigued me, but later made me lost controll The noise from the elephant is so loud, I can't bare with this mono noise for more than a min. Of course, some guests walking pass by viewing this boy (a french kid) as something fun. A japanese mother and daugher was chatting with the boy and played with the elephant. But I am sure there should be some guests who dislike this noise, like ME.

I am glad that the FO Dir already encouraged me to read the Duty Manager log book when the reception is a bit free in my 3rd day of work. Well, the same as when I preceive I am a bit free. Indeed, I can read any articles, or paper-like material while working w/o ppl telling me not to do so. According to the book, there are really a lot of complains to deal with, for instance, heating was not hot enough; ppl complained the price of their rate was too high; noise from LV, laundry made them feel sick; guests lost sth in the room or outside...

It's the first time for me to unlock the safe lock by the master code. As for the Métropole wing, we only need a user-friendly hand-size machine. But for the Opéra wing, it's relatively different. I have to find the letter corresponds to the room number. Like for room 145, I need to get the letter 6 and then retrieve the password.

Donation incident: While I was reading the Duty Manager logbook in the evening, a British lady came by and requested wt type of cheque do the hotel accept as she wanted to donate money to the Smile, one of the communities that Accor sponsor (Gd public relation indeed). However, she don't hv that much money. The FO Dir was called and she don't know how to handle with that (of course, they only know how to upsell and upgrade guests!!!!!). So the Deputy GM is called to slove the problem. I should hv asked how the problem was sloved...

The physical layout of the reception is tidy, though not spike and span, but at least it is acceptable. But once you open the drawers, wow, it's another world, everything could be find in those drawers: food, scattered papers, coupons, comb..... you can name it.

Generally the team of the reception is the best I ever worked with. Despite Vietnam is less prosperous than HK, ppl in here are more friendly and like to work in a team. They do not blame on others, they do not rush and they chat a lot all the time. It's not like in HK that ppl are always afraid that their subordinates will spread some bad words on their back and they always hv to stand straigh in the reception. (Gd for me!!!)

One pt to praise of the receptionists is their attitude towards the guests and the follow up. As the Australian doctor group is checking out tomorrow, a lot of them already made their early check-out this evening. So the casier suddenly was packed with customers desperately wanting to c/o while the reception is so empty that I chatted with an Austrlian couple in Cantonese. Well, they are originally from Malaysia and emergrated to Australia. It's like being at home whenever I chat with ppl in Cantonese. That's why I would never miss a change in doing so.

Wt happened in b/t was two guys, who SHOULD BE GD FRS, wanted to check out. My colleaguge helped them but she suddenly forgot the whole thing as she had to c/o for many other customers. So that "couple" started to get upset and after 6 mins, they left, claiming that it is our problem, they already did wt they are used to and tomorrow they will just hand in the key. After 15 mins, when the c/o was done with that Asu doctor group, the gal came and I told her wt had happened in a serious tone. I said that they were upset and angry, felt lack of care and disappointed with wt we did. They probably won't come to our hotel again. So WE better do something to overcome their dissatisfaction. (One should never use you or individual form as the Vietnams are distressed with this tone). So she called them and wrote a regret message to them about the incident. The letter is acceptable but it still has potential to make it better in a way to further calm down the guest. But I didn't say that when she asked me to give comments on that message. (Another pt to note, one should never pt out Vietnamese mistake individually as they believe they lose FACE. In fact, if it is really important, do it discreetly or use the GROUP form).

The drapery are old, the files are not properly placed and inside the drawers, the teabags are tored, which appears that they haven't been touched for a long time. Posted by Hello

The bedroom of the EK. I wonder why the HK (Heritage King, the best and most expensive in the hotel and the EK are all hv normal street view, instead of hotel garden view!!!!) Posted by Hello

The living room of the executive suite. It's better to take it w/o flash. Posted by Hello

A weird lotion is put in the centre of the plate, wrapped with an overlong chinese style decorated tiny bag Posted by Hello

Unforgettable day

I met a vietnamese guy on the street while strolling along the Ngoc Son Lake. He brought me to a typical sauna place for massage. And there I had my first vietnam massage. Personally, I prefer the chinese and the thai oil massage than that.

As for lunch, I gt some lunch ticket and start eating the same type of food as the other guys. I don't want to be different than the others. I want them to treat me as I am part of their team. And I do think it works. I was sitting in a table with the whole family. The husband is the chief security, his son is the manager of the storage room, his first wife is the senior chef in the kitchen, his second wife is the junoir chef and his daughter is working in the HSkP. It's so nice to meet them and I was amazed that the husband had been staying in China for 30 yrs. And that's y he spoke maderin (Hokin style....well, i don't really understand the Hokin intonation).

I gave two packs of sweets from Germany, one pack of chocolate biscult from Poland and wong wong, japanese rice cracker to all the staff working in the reception. And they all like that. Afterwards, the Resisdent Manager even came towards me and congradulated me of knowing the vietnamese style of giving gifts and this pleases my boss, the FO Director a lot. That's y she gives me to attend the staff party this Saturday, during my working time.

The first task of today is to allocate the key to the Australian doctor group, with 74 participants, of customers from Singapore, Malaysia and Australia. It is amazed that the ci process is so efficient. The ci was organised in the largest conference room, with three tables, red, green and blue, where all the rooms that are in the old building were all packed in the red counter. After ci,the tour operator told me (as I am the only one who wear differently) that there should be 25 participants in the red counter list instead of 24. So I doubled check with him and then I went to the Reception to get the list in detail. Finally the solution is solved, with three ladies in a room instead of two.

The second task happened at 2220, when I am supposed to finish in 10 mins. A guest from the World Bank would like to stay in our hotel for a few more nights. However, we are expected to obtain a full occupancy for tomorrow and so he was put in the waiting list. He asked me the procedure of the waiting list and told me that he and his wife will be coming back in our hotel on the 14 jan. At that time, I told him to wait for a minute and went back to find the Ass FO. Unfornately she wasn't here so it s time for me to make my decision. I deceived him by saying that the waiting list is accordance to the first come first served based and of course the VIP guests will hv the priority in that list. Then I pretended to do sth with the computer and informed him that there are approximately 5 or 6 ppl in our waiting list. The guest then questioned when will they be notified for the room and will they need to pack their luggages. I then told him, frankly speaking, as we have a high occupancy rate for tomorrow, we cannot guarantee you another room. However, you could stay in the Sofitel Plaza hotel Hanoi for the following nights.

The guest then asked wt's the rate offered by that hotel. As I know that despite the Sofitel Plaza Hotel has the same ranking as the Sofitel Métropole Hotel, the rate is much inexpensive comparing to us. So I called the reception of that hotel and requested for the special rate of World Bank. However, as the guy on the phone said that he did not know the rate until tomorrow as the Sales and Marketing Dep is closed . Well, he's really deceiving me but I don't care, my guest is now waiting for me. So bascially I hang off, of course by saying thank you and told the guest "Well, it s kind of communcation problem. They couldn't give us the rate at the moment but you can call them tomorrow. I then supposed him to co tomorrow and leave their luggages in the concierge and they will send them to the destinated hotel. (At that time I just make such a decision automatically. wt I believed is: if we can't provide a room for the guest in our hotel, it would be nice to offer them to our sister's hotel and provide free transportation, it doesn't cost much for that). And then I insisted as I am working in the reception for the second day, so I need to confirm that with the concierge right now. And he said, "Well, you did a good job!" Great!!!¨

So the concierge agreed and the guest left. I then told the Ass FO Mang and leave a message to the co counter about this and further checked with the concierge , together with the guest's name and the room number. After that, I made a reservation for them, with same type of room, deplex double, two nights. And hoepfully, it runs well for tomorrow. I will later confirm to ensure that the luggages will be in that hotel and the guest have checked in.

Another issue is the opening of LV store in the hotel. As the LV will be opened this Sunday, the workers are busy working even in the evening and this triggers guests to complain. Disappointed, the staff's reaction was inappropriately. They can't tell when the noise from LV will be stopped and they hv no say about the compensation and ways in sloving, except with the depressed facial expressions. After that, I told the Ass FO and see wt could be done. She marked that and said we could upgrade their room (see, they really love upgrading!!!!, but then I emphasised the guest will be leaving tomorrow, if we told them to pack their luggages NOW, they definately will be reluntant to do so and are getting dissatisfied). So she left a massage for the FO Dir...Well, possibly nth could be done as they are already vip guest and hv all the special offers we can provide. I wonder if the concierge hv earplugs, at least we can give them free earplugs and as well offer them a discounted rate for their second visit (lower rate from Varini's view)...

TV problem: Two guests complained about the blurr effects of their tvs and they would like us to fix it for them. I told the Duty Manager (I am still training to be the Duty Manager, so tonight it is the chief of Engineering acting this post) and he followed up immediately. Unexpectedly, after 30 mins, he highlighted that there is a problem with the system that things will only be done by tomorrow. So bascially, those customers can't watch their tv properly tonight. And let's see how will they complain to us tomorrow morning!!! (So far the reception is still the only dep that receive the most complain from guests. But that's fun to me, I love to slove these problems and make them feel at ease and be satisfied with our prompt service).

I know this post is a bit long, but doesn't matter, it s my style. So now it s about the tipping policy. The staff manual had once mentioned the no tipping policy. I did follow this and refused the tips from Mr Pace, an american guy, who love chatting with me and will be staying in this hotel for four nights. But when I escorted another Austrian couples, this thing happened. The bell boy brought in the luggage and accepted the tips of 30 usd, smiling at me. This couple is staying in a junior suite and I was at that time helping them to fill in the privilage sofitel card, as I forgot to do that at the reception! Well, I wonder, should I in first hand accept the tips or not. This issue is such a dilemma and I am now struggling with it. I guess I should rather accept them to compensate for the zero wage!!!!

Dinner: I was sitting with four other FO gals and picked up a few simple vietnamese. Ca on is thx you and Xin chao is Hello. In fact, Vietnamese is easy for me to learn as their pronounication is originated from China.

Further chat with the japanese gal. Impressed she was the only one who can speak japanese in the hotel and most importantly, there are so many japanese guests staying in this hotel. She actually worked in the Hilton in somewhere in Japan for a few yrs and she desperately hopeing to work in a foreign country. And there she is, just been working in here for 8 months and of course, she doesn't speak vietnamese.

Actually the Ass fo is really kind, she voluntarily teach me further functions of the HES and the night shift processes. She even accepted my request of observing the SK (senior king room). Well, I will post those pics soon.

One last pt, I put my 10 t shirt in front of my door and they were all given in later this evening. Satisfed with their speed and in addition, I was glad that they cleaned my room again, supposedly my room should be clean on every Tuesday and Saturday. Perhaps they can't stanf for a untidy room....This should be a gd strategy for me to utilise in bt tue and sat as my laundry day. Of course I shouldn't do that quite often as they will notice that later.

Monday, January 03, 2005

First day in the reception

So, as for the first working day in Vietnam w/o having wandering around in this country, I started working at 1000. First I had a guilded tour by the Human Resources Director, in getting familiar with the hotel. Then I gt briefing from the FO Director Mrs Huynh, who is a nice lady, wearing long Vietnam long dress. She gave me a trainee file with all documents and explained in details about the room types, different rates and job description of each post. Vietnamese are really early bird as the morning shift starts at 0600, whereas the HK early dim sum chefs start working at 0730. That's one of the issues I doubt whether I can manage or not.

After reading, w/o any supervision, I started to be learning how to be a casier, trying to exchange rate. As for lunch, I went to the Spices garden. Basically I can hv my lunch in this restaurant or the club med, but the thumb rule is that I hv to eat in the staff canteen. It s such an embrassement to me in a sense that I am the only one who brings food in that restaurant while all the other staff eat in the staff canteen. I guess it is advisable for me to be eating with them with the same type of food as they have to create a closer relationship.

Well, the afternoon started by more detailed information secession by the FO Director, from the use of HES, a program to restore guest history and do c/i and c/o (despite this is an old program, in which fidelio is more commonly used by hotels these days. Well, the Resisdent Manager argued for a few times to bring in this program but fail owing to the its huge investment cost. I hope he could get that in a few months as I am more familiar with this program. The computer used in the FO are so old in a way that it takes ages to get things through).

Afterwards, I was staying in the c/i (check in) counter for the whole afternoon, trying to make keys, filling in the information for the guests as this hotel is semi-automated, meaning that we have to fill in guest info (birth date, passport number, and most importantly, visa number and expire date to send to the police), ecorting guests to the room by explaining the restaurant around, getting their credit card info by moving harshly with the specific machine (it's so much fun in doing that), getting in those details into the HES system and sloving customer's complains. I kind of already grasped the organization culture of this department. Whenever you write down the information of guests, a few of us will do it at the same time to fasten the speed. Whenever there are complains, staff normally deal with them inappropriately, even the FO Director. I was stunned when I saw how they dealt with them. Bascially the FO Director only cares about upselling and filling up the rooms. So she doesn't really know an effective ways in dealing with the customers complains.

For instance, this afternoon I experienced two customers complains, there should be more coming onwards as whenever guests had problems, they will undoubtedly go to the FO, poor us no? The first one was a couple who slept in cold yesterday. Their heater wasn't working and the engineering Dep didn't do that job well. So harsh complain this morning and the Resisdent Manager had to slove that by promising this will never happened again. However, it is only a verbal commitment. So the couple, for sure and they did, complained again this afternoon. The FO Director came and immediately she said WE'll upgrade you to a Classic suite, which is 50 dollars more than their original room type, the Premium Room. The lady then said, THEY ARE GIVING US A LARGER ROOM!!!! in a scarastic way, meaning she is dissatified with this offer. The point is that she don't care for a larger room or not. If you want to upgrade the guests for compensation, you should at first slove the problem. The way of talking is another critical issue that fail to satisfy the guests. And of course, at last the Resisdent Manager came, speaking with his French English accent to this American couple.

Another case that struck me was a guy who reserved a room in the old wing (there are two wings in this hotel, the new wing/the opéra wing is recently renovated, whereas the old wing has a more French taste and more expensive) two months ago. It turned out that he didn't get the room in the old wing once I escorted him to his room. He was a bit mad and emphasised that he should be staying in the old wing. So we went back to the reception and the lady who was responsible just simply said, "We are sorry, but the room used to be you had late check out guests. As the occupancy of the old wing is full, unfornately we have to move you to the new wing but with a upgrade room (see, upgrade room again)".

So the man said, " Do I need to pay extra?".

The lady said confidently, " Yes, you have to pay 40 usd extra".

Yo, the man was mad and he said, " That's impossible, I had that reservation two months ago" (I chatted a bit with that guest and knew that he had been to Vietnam two yrs ago, n this time he will be staying in here for four days).

The lady then continued, "Err, err, you can stay in the new building for the first night, and then you can move back to the new building the second night onwards". (Wow, wt a solution!!!!!!) This doesn't calm the man down definately.

At this moment, I felt the tension b/t them gt worser and so I told the FO Director and she approached the guest. Unfornately, she was still behaves in the same way, we are sorry, but there aren't any room available in the old wing. Then I suddenly said, " why not wait until the late check out guests c/o and at the mean time, we offer a welcome drink for this guest". Of course they accepted this solution and there we go!!!! Actually, if this case exists, another alternative is not to charge the guests for that extra generated by that room in the new building and promise to the guest that everything will be moved in the same order as it is placed in the old room . (This is wt the heating issue couple had requested).

I am glad that there are at least two maderine speaking ladies working in the FO and one and the only one japanese lady, Igarashi, who is pretty and cuty is working in the FO as well. I love japanese stuffs and possibly I can learn some simple japanese from her. The general ambiance is well-done, you didn't feel pressure from the FO team and everyone is helpful whenver I ask them questions. I do feel the team spirit and it should be fun working with them, especially for them to know be a bit better as days pass.

As for dinner, I went to the club med and had vietnamese fried rice. While eating in the staff canteen, I met Tu, the Banquet Sales Manager, who is only 28 yr old and we chatted for an hr. After that, he brought me to a local supermarket and recommened me to buy some foreign chocolates and biscutes for the FO ppl. This is really a gd strategy to get a closer relationship with the FO staff. And he even told me to give them at 1430 where most ppl are hving their breaks.

Well, I ll start working tomorrow at 1400, same post with different issues to deal with. Despite the c/i procedure is a bit boring, the customer complains' issues are dynamic, changing all the time. And that's the reason I was employed, as supposed to be a well communicator in dealing with all these things to gain the expectation from guests and make them more than satisfied.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Washroom view 2 Posted by Hello

Washroom view 1 Posted by Hello

Little corner with some fresh flowers for me to read novels Posted by Hello

The room 170 Sofitel Metropole Hanoi Posted by Hello


So it's my first time arriving in Vietnam. At first I was a bit freak out after reading the culture shock vietnam, especially they mentioned the harsh customer declaration that they will check every single thing in your luggages and pornographics and political sensitive materials are all prohibited. Luckily nth happened to me and I past through the check-out easily w/o any difficulty.

The room is spacious, French colonial style (even though I am unclear of exactly wt is French style), make use of wood which gives a solid and home-feeling.