Cat Ba Blackouts
Cat Ba Town (Cat Ba), Vietnam
Mysterious blackouts, and Huyen Hhung Hotel-Hell.
It was our first morning Cat Ba Town. Tatiana had woken up before me and showered. Only moments after she exited the tiny bathroom, the electricity to our room cut out—no water heater, no air conditioning, no power. I woke up shortly thereafter, as the room was getting stuffy.
She walked her six-month pregnant belly down three flights of stairs to go talk to the staff, who said the blackout was island-wide. He started up a generator, and she returned to the room. Upstairs, the telltale sign of an irregular power source was illustrated by the quivering light bulb, continuously surging and drooping. There was power, but no air conditioner or water heater. I hate cold showers.
What is going on here? This island is huge and populated—isn't it on power from the mainland? It makes no sense that there would be blackouts here, unless they're bringing down the power for scheduled repair, etc. …It wasn't like this yesterday at the same time (when we were hunting for hotel rooms), but the attitude of the staffer made it seem like it's a common occurrence.
Mid-day showers were once again cold. We had power in the room, but no A/C and no hot water heater. Confusion turned to anger when we came downstairs to go out for lunch and discovered the washing machine, television, and fan all running in the hotel lobby.
I was pissed. The hotel clearly had power, but for some reason they'd turned it off to our room. We thought it was another blackout, but perhaps it's some sort of money-saving procedure—turn off the A/C and get the tourists out of the hotel type stuff. As far as we can tell, we're the only guests in the multi-story place.
Angered at the discovery and just off the cusps of second day of cold showers, I questioned the female Vietnamese staffer watching TV.
"Why isn't there electricity in our room?"
"You want motorbike?", was her reply, with the stupid shit-eating grin on her face.
"STOP SMILING!", I barked at her. "Turn on the power, now!" (pointing to the circuit breakers behind the desk)
I was sick and tired of these hotel staffers and their tours or rentals they push on you every time you entered or exited the hotel. No, I'm not going to rent a motorbike. No, I'm not going to buy your inflated tour package or hire you shuttle/show me around. No, shut the f**k up and let me go to my room in peace.
Just last night I doing something in our bathroom and one of the guys hanging out in the hotel lobby who constantly attacks us for tours or bike rentals actually opened the closed door to our room so that he could solicit us again before going home for the evening. Tatiana was out of the room, and I thought it was her coming back in. The guy actually opened the door (without invitation) and entered just so he could try and get us on an 8 a.m. boat ride or motorbike tour the next day. Unbelievable.
The woman walked over, flipped the circuit breaker for our room, and I went upstairs briefly to turn the A/C back on for our return.
I'd boiled over, and for good reason. I won't stand for this kind of persistent begging and casual neglect/abuse in my own home.
We had an early morning at the beach, and when we returned to our room to take a shower the hot water heater wasn't working. We had power to the room and A/C, but no hot water.
Tatiana went downstairs, had them flip the circuit breaker they'd turned off, AGAIN, and all was well.
This morning it was my turn to go downstairs and tell them to flip the hot water breaker. This was the absolute final straw. I would tolerate the Huyen Hhung Hotel no longer.
Normally, I would have been out of this place after the intrusion into the room and the verbal lashing given to the staffer on the 24th, but it's a real ordeal to get Tatiana's gear packed up and moved to a different hotel. Her 80+-liter backpack is almost always emptied and spread out when we get to a hotel, which would require her to spend a two or three hours packing it back up. I let some things go on her account, but I would stand for this hotel no longer.
The Huyen Hhung Hotel: Where the television is useless because the only movie channel in English looses contact with the satellite every evening, just after dusk, until dawn (when we want it the most); where the staff constantly annoy you by asking for tours or motorbikes; where the front doors are locked at night (requiring me to one evening start knocking on the doors on the second-story rooms to see where the staff lived so they could let me out); where the A/C unit blows directly on you as you sleep; and where the circuit breakers to your room are always off.
Tatiana needed to pack, and I needed to find a new place for us to live.
Ultimately, the winner in town was the Rong Bien Hotel, for US$7/night. Although it lacks a useful mini-fridge, the room living space is twice that of Huyen Hhung Hotel, for only a dollar more per night.
My patience for this country has officially run out. Tatiana tells me she used to be against the Vietnam War, until traveling here. I counter by adding: "I don't think three million [dead Vietnamese] was enough."