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Please click on the countries below to read more about your desired destinations in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. These pages provide first-hand local travel information regarding transportation, accommodation, attractions, food & drink, entertainment ... together with some suggestions on ready-made tours to and from those places.
Ho Chi Minh City, also known as Saigon, is frenetic Asian city of markets, street clogged with scooters, street side food stalls, as well as foreig…
The name Nha Trang is a Vietnamese pronunciation of a Cham word Eatran or Yjatan. Ea or Yja means river, and tran means reed. According to the loca…
This is one of the best laid-back getaways in Vietnam. The town of Phan Thiet itself is a bustling little fishing port -- quite picturesque and goo…
120km (75 miles) W (over sea) from Rach Gia (Rach Gia is 250km/155 miles S of Saigon by road). The same size as Singapore, the island of Phu Quoc l…
Hanoi is relatively small and runs at quite an unhurried pace for a capital city. Resting in the Red River delta region, the centre is a mixed of t…
Taking a cruise on Ha Long Bay -- or the Bay of the Descending Dragon -- for many represents the pinnacle of their experience in Vietnam. eas…
The ancient town of Hoi An is located 30 km south of Da Nang on the banks of the Thu Bon River. Occupied by early western traders, Hoi An was one o…
Siem Reap Siem Reap is a cluster of villages with a French colonial centre, and the gateway to the Temples of Angkor. These majestic temples in…
A small market town that has been a gathering spot for many local hilltribes for nearly 200 years. Hmong and Dao people, among others, still come h…
Vietiane With a troubled recent history, Laos has only recently openned to the outsite world and is one of the most untouched countries in Asi…
Set on the banks of the Perfume River, Hue was the capital of Vietnam between 1802 and 1945 under the Nguyen Emperors, and later French colon…
The fourth-largest city in Vietnam, is one of the most important seaports in the central region, and the current booming Vietnamese economy has see…
Located 173 kilometres from Saigon, Can Tho is considered as the heart of Vietnam's Mekong Delta. The city, regarded as "Western cap…
Known as "Le Petit Paris" by the early builders and residents of this hillside resort town, Dalat is still a luxury retreat for city dwel…
Quy Nhon was officially founded more than 100 years ago, although its origins stretch backs much further to the 11th-century Champa culture, the T&…
Luang Prabang Luang Prabang is regarded by many as the most attactive cities (or town would be more accurate description) in Asia, if not the …
Phom Penh Cambodia’s capital city is awakening from a turbulent recent past to become a busy and fernetic Asian city of Southeast Asia. …
Vung Tau is the tourist and commercial center of Bà RịVũng Tàu (an industrial province in Southeastern Vietnam). The whole city ar…
Sihanoukville is all about the ocean, located on the Gulf of Thailand. The pristine beaches, the sparkling clear water, the cooling sea breeze, the…
Hanoi is relatively small and runs at quite an unhurried pace for a capital city. Resting in the Red River delta region, the centre is a mixed of tree-lined avenues, maze like back streets with lively merchants stores, temples and lakes and has many fine colonial buildings.
A village existed here at least as early as the 3rd century. century AD, and a defensive citadel was established in the 8. The official origins of this great capital city go back to the year 1010. According to legend, while the new king, Ly Thai To, was in his royal barge on the river, he saw a golden dragon flew up towards the heavens. This was a good omen, so he moved his court from Hoa Lu to here, renaming his new capital city, Thang Long, “City of the Rising Dragon”. The heart of Thang Long Citadel was the king’s sanctuary in the ‘Forbidden City’, but a growing collection of villages of commoners grew up around the walls.
More name changes over the centuries, and in 1802, the Nguyen dynasty moved their capital from here to the central city of Hue. In 1831, Emperor Tu Duc changed the name of the former royal capital to ‘Ha Noi’ - “City in a bend of the River”. While Ha Noi was no longer home to royalty, it was destined to soon become an important political centre again. The French colonialists occupied Hanoi in 1883, and it became their main administrative centre for all of French Indo-china (Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos). Hanoi became the capital of their new colony of Tonkin (northern Viet Nam). Cochin-china (the southern 1/3rd of Viet Nam) had become a French colony in 1862. The Nguyen dynasty continued to rule from Hue, nominally at least, until 1945, but the French ‘pulled the strings’, dethroning any patriotic kings who opposed them.
On September 2, 1945, the free and independent nation of Viet Nam was proclaimed in Hanoi by Ho Chi Minh, before a huge crowd gathered in Ba Dinh Square, near Ho’s mausoleum today. The August Revolution had seized power throughout the country. The last king, Bao Dai, abdicated power to the new revolutionary republican government, led by Ho, thus ending the feudal monarchy. This independence was short-lived. The French eventually fought their way back to reclaim their colonial power, with increasing support from the U.S. The Viet Minh had to fight a bloody 9-year war against the French, finally culminating in the historic victory at Dien Bien Phu, which ended French colonialism in Indo-china. In 1954, after the Dien Bien Phu victory, Ho’s government returned to Hanoi, greeted by excited crowds. But yet again, foreign interference conspired to deny them the victory they had won on the battlefield, and in Geneva. So began the 21-year American War. In 1965, US aircraft began to attack Ha Noi, culminating in the infamous B52 bombing campaign of 12 days and nights of Christmas, 1972. Even this could not defeat Ha Noi’s fighting spirit, any more than the many earlier invasions by feudal Chinese, Mongols, Japanese, Nationalist Chinese or the French. Finally, on April 30, 1975, Viet Nam won its independence and reunification, as the Ho Chi Minh Campaign liberated the south.
In July 1976, Hanoi was officially declared the capital of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. Ha Noi – the heart and soul of Viet Nam - was named City of Peace by UNESCO in the year 2000. Now, Ha Noi has recently celebrated its 1000th Birthday, in October 10, 2010 – the oldest continuing capital city in S.E. Asia.
Airport:The international airport is Noi Bai International Airport and is located 30 km from the capital city. You can exchange currency or withdraw your Vietnamese money (Vietnam dong) from ATMs for your taxi fare at the airport, however, some drivers accept U.S. currency. The exchange rate is about 20.000VND to $1 U.S..Hire a metered Airport taxi outside the terminal. The journey should cost roughly $15U.S. including toll fee. It takes about 45 minute drive to Hanoi city center.
Clothing: Lightweight cotton and linen clothing is advised for much of year, although warmer clothing is needed during the chilly winter between October to March. Rainwear is advisable in any season.
Electricity: Electricity: 220V, 50 Hz AC (some 110V, 50HZ AC). Two-pin plugs are in use, however sockets are different from those found in most countries and an adapter socket may be needed. Outlets for 110 volts for small appliances are found in most hotels. Yet your own converter is always convenient.
Health: A yellow fever certificate is required from travellers over one year of age arriving within 6 days of leaving or transiting countries with infected areas. For the latest immunisation requirements please contact your GP.
Language: Vietnamese, English, French are widely spoken in hotels and tourist/shopping areas. Chinese, Japanese, Russian, German, Italian and other languages are available on demand.
Tipping: If you are happy with services provided by your local guides and drivers, a tip, though not compulsory, is highly appreciated. While it may not be customary to you, it is of great significance to the people who will take care of you during your travels, it inspires excellent service, and is an entrenched feature of the tourism industry across destinations. Here are our suggestions;
- Meals (restaurants): the average amount is $1
- Guides: We recommend $2-$5 per day for local guides (depending on group size),
- Drivers: You will have a range of drivers on your trip. Some will be with you for a short journey while others may be with you for few days. We would recommend a higher tip for those more involved with the group however a base of $1 to $2 per day would be appropriate (depending on group size).
- Bellboy: the average amount is $1
- Chambermaid: the average amount is $1 per day. For larger groups and adventure trips you may want to increase this. But please remember that it’s totally up to you, these are guidelines only.
Visa Requirements:Almost all visitors to Vietnam need a visa to enter the country, although some qualified exemptions apply for citizens of those countries with bilateral reciprocal agreements with Vietnam. Depending upon the nationality and passport of the applicant, a tourist visa may be granted for either a fifteen (15) or thirty (30) day stay in Vietnam.Click here for more details…
Best Buys: The list of bargains is endless, but to what your appetite, here are a few examples: Silk painting, silk sheets, silk shirts, t- shirts, coffee filters, ground coffee, tea, ceramics, embroidered pictures, and table cloths, marble carvings, lacquer-ware, rattan furniture, beaded bags and shoes and so much more…
Best known shopping places in Hanoi are Hang Gai street, Dong Xuan Market, Hanoi night market along Hang Ngang & hang Dao street in weekend nights. For upmarket shopping: Trang Tien Plaza, Ruby Plaza and Shops around the Sofitel Metropole Legend Hotel are the popular places.
Currency Exchange:US Dollar is widely accepted. We recommend some USD in change for your everyday petty shopping. Valuable shopping cn be easily paid by credit cards. ATM can be found in all tourist attactions. Please make sure with your bank that your credit cards work well in Vietnam.
Communication:Most of hotels now offer 1 or 2 computers for free internet access to their residents, and wifi internet in rooms for those who have their own mobile devices. Internet calls such as Skype or YM are popular in Vietnam.
Mobile phone sim cards and prepaid cards are available all around hotels. We recommend simcards from Vinaphone, Mobifone, Viettel for their best service and voice quality. Prices are pretty much the same.
Places to see
HoanKiem Lake “Lake of the Restored Sword
The name refers to a famous legend of the great Vietnamese hero, king Le Loi, who led a successful uprising against the Chinese in the 15th century. The Lake is still famous for its rare species of very large turtles , that occasionally appear!
Ngoc Son Temple, “Temple of jade Mound”
Founded in the 14th century, and dedicated to Van Xuong, the God of Literature. Also worshipped here are the national hero General Tran Hung Dao, who defeated the Mongols in 1288; the physician La To; and a martial arts practitioner, Quan Vu. The red bridge was constructed in 1875
The Old Quarter “36 Streets”
Known as “Venice of the Far East” by early explorers and traders, due to the constant flooding. From the 13th century, 36 distinct guild areas set up. Streets are named after the original merchandise - ‘Hang’ means selling. While the various streets started out as villages, usually specializing in one particular craft or product, today the Old Quarter, with some 100,000 people in only 100 h hectares, has one of the highest population densities in the world.
Under feudal law, houses were limited to 2 storey and could not be taller than the Royal Palace. Note the typical tube houses, which can be as little as a couple of meters wide, but extend back as far as 150 meters! Hang Bac (“Silver Street”) is perhaps Vietnam’s oldest urban thoroughfare. Hang Ma Selling paper products for at least 500 years burnt offerings to the ancestors. Hang Quat - Bright red prayer flags for funerals and festivals.
The outdoor Night Market is very different from workaday Dong Xuan, mostly because it's more of a social event. Locals stroll the streets shoulder to shoulder, perusing inexpensive goods sold at the lighted stalls. It's fun and colorful, and definitely not about the shopping.
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum (Vietnamese: Lăng Chủ tịch Hồ Chí Minh) is a large memorial to the Vietnamese leader in Hanoi, Vietnam. It is located in the center of Ba Ðình Square, which is the place where Ho read the Declaration of Independence on September 2, 1945, establishing the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.
Temple of Literature
Ha Noi’s most revered temple complex and Viet Nam’s principal Confucian sanctuary, dedicated in 1070. Viet Nam’s first university was founded here, in 1076, but most of the buildings were destroyed by French bombs in 1947, leaving few traces among the weeds. One of the few remnants of the Ly king’s original city, despite past reconstructions. Many reconstructed buildings rose from the rubble as part of Ha Noi’s 990th birthday celebrations in 2000.
Hoa Lo Prison
Located in the French Quarter, the Hoa Lo Prison, later sarcastically known to American prisoners of war (who called themselves “Pilot in Pijamas”) as the "Hanoi Hilton", was a prison used by the French colonists in Vietnam for political prisoners and later by North Vietnam for prisoners of war during the "American" War.
Museum of Ethnology
Located on Nguyen Van Huyen Street, about 20 minutes by taxi, this museum features about 15,000 artifacts made and used by the 54 ethnic minorities of Vietnam, and is highly recommended.
Museum of Independence
(48 Hang Ngang) Uncle Ho’s first house in Hanoi, where he lived for a short time after the success of the August Revolution, and where he wrote Viet Nam’s Declaration of Independence in 1945. Significantly, Ho Chi Minh used the opening words from the American Declaration of Independence, and referred to the French Revolution principles of liberty, equality and fraternity.
There are some other places of interest for historical and cultural lovers, or those who do a bit of research such as:
Temple and Pagodas: Quan Thanh Temple, Tran Quoc Temple by the West Lake; Quan Su Temple on Quan Su street, Bach Ma Temple on Hang Buom street. In the festival time after Tet, Phu Tay Ho temple is the place for Hanoian. Besides, other small temples and pagodas cattering around Hanoi looks quite the same from the outside, but each has a story to tell.
Museums: Vietnam Museum of history is at the end of Trang Tien street, opposite to Vietnam Revolution Museum, and by Tran Quang Khai street. Hanoi Fine Art Museum is on Nguyen Thai Hoc street, behind the Temple of Literature. Women Museum is on Ly Thuong Kiet street. Vietnam Military Museum is on Dien Bien Phu street, baside Hanoi flag tower. Hoang Thanh Thang Long (Thang Long citadel relics) has recently granted as a World Heritage on Hoang Dieu street.
URBAN EXCURSIONS: There are a few great places for full day or half day excursions out of Hanoi. Here are some of our suggestions:
Bat Trang Ceramic Village: An hour drive away from Hanoi, lying by the Red river. This village is almost 1000 years of history and they still keep and develop their traditional handicraft job. Great place pho photographers and ceramic lovers. A half day tour to Bat Trang village is recommended.
Tho Ha Village: A rice paper (for rolling spring rolls) maker village nesting on in island form by Cau river in Bac Giang province. The scenic drive there is about 2 hours, and the village itself is really inspring thanks to their life style, produces and history left on the village walls of houses. Tour to Tho Ha village take half a day.
Duong Lam ancient village: This village has been here continuosly for over 1000 year! Brick roads, ancient houses , beautiful rice paddies, scenic drive and its hospitality make a day trip there worthwile.
Perfume Pagoda: More than 1 hour drive, one hour on rowing boat and another hour trek up hill to Huong Tich cave home to Huong Tich Pagoda will take you to one of the largest Bhuddist center in Vietnam. Beside the breathtaking scenery, things you learn about culture and religion on this trip. Perfume pagoda tour takes the whole day.
Hoa Lu and Tam Coc: This place is ideal for both a full day historical, cultural and landscape explorer. You can do both a classic easy tour or a biking excursion in this picturesque area. This will be a long day tour.
From the airport: Taxis to downtown Hanoi can be hired at Noi Bai at a cost of 20USD/car and be supposed to drop you and your hotel in the city center. (Be specific about hotel name and hotel address to avoid unnecessary scams). However, it is advisable that you pay in dong, given the prevailing USD/VND exchange rate. In Vietnamese Dong, the rate for 4 seat taxis is about 350.000
Public buses to the city center from Noi Bai airport take about an hour. Bus 07 crosses the Thang Long bridge and goes to the Daewoo Hotel on the western part of Hanoi, then makes it final stop at Kim Ma Bus Station (walk able to the Temple of Literature). Bus #17 crosses the Chuong Duong bridge and goes close to the old quarter. There is also a bus that can drop you off near Hoan Kiem Lake. The price is 5,000VND.
Shuttle-vans from the airport to Hanoi stop at the Vietnam Airlines Office on 1 Quang Trung (see above). Make sure you go on Noi Bai or Viet Thanh shuttle 16 seater minivans. Tickets are sold in the building in front of which the minibuses park, or you can give the fare directly to the driver. The cost is US$2 or 30,000 VND. The shuttle service often offers to take you direct to your hotel for an extra US$1 once they reach the office. This is purely voluntary, but experience says the drivers are fairly trustworthy and for the new arrival is a good way to get direct to the door. Check however, that your hotel isn't less than two minutes' walk!
Taxis are the best way to travel long distances, but the cyclos, or Pedi cabs, are a cheap way to make shorter trips. Taxi fares are not always consistent, and the rates for each taxi company have not been standardized. For lone travelers, rides on the back of motorbikes (actually low-powered scooters) are popular too (known as xe om, literally meaning hug-motorbike).
By taxi: Some meter taxi owners in Hanoi will attempt to negotiate a flat fee in advance rather than use the meter. If you have a fair idea of how far you're going or how much you're willing to pay, this is probably a good idea.
The most common way is to use the meter. The meter will show the number counting for “thousand Vietnam Dong”, NOT dollars. Our recommendation is to only use the reputable and reliable taxi companies. These are Hanoi Taxi (Tel (04) 38 535353), Taxi CP (Tel. (04) 38 262626), Mai Linh Taxi (Tel. (04) 38 616161).
Most taxi drivers speak limited English, so it's a good practice to get your hotel to write the name and address of you destination in Vietnamese to show the taxi driver, and get your hotel's business card in case you get lost.
By motorbike driver: Motorbike drivers can be found on virtually every corner, especially in the Old Quarter. Expect to be offered a ride every half-block (or more). You should absolutely negotiate a fare in advance and pay at the end of the trip.
Sometimes you can meet really fun and kind motorbike drivers who speak reasonably good English and can give a great insight of Hanoi. Spend a day touring the city with such people will be a memorial experience. Yet again, be careful of any possible scam.
By cyclo: A reasonable fare for cyclo in Hanoi is about 5USD/hour/person. It’s a great way to tour the city in a slow pace while you can see a lot! Most of the cyclo drivers will be very enthusiastic once they agree to take you on a tour. They would voluntarily paddle and explain things on the street for you. Even their language is a bit limited, it’s a great fun to learn about the city via its true residents. If you have a good cyclo driver, we would suggest a little tip for his work and service.
By bus: Scam free, cheap but a bit difficult to comprehend at first, the buses in Hanoi are relatively fast and surprisingly comfortable. Pick up a map with printed bus lines at the Trang Tien street (the book street by the Opera house) and spend a few minutes to identify the over 60 bus lines, find your bus stop, wait for the bus, pay 3000 dong and off you go. If lucky enough, you will meet some fine locals who speak your language, and the chatting is fun! If you are unfamiliar with the city, make sure to inform the conductor where you want to get off.
Yet in the rush hour when the bus is packed, be aware of pickpocketers. It does not always happens, it does sometimes!
By car: If your budget allows this comfort, it’s best to hire a car with a driver. Those driving tourist car normally have very good manners and speak a little English. They are very careful, need, on time and the car is clean and comfortable. Work with us or your hotel to rent such a car, and price depend on time and distance you would travel in a day.
Hanoiway of participating the traffic is very different from what you do at home. As such, driving yourself around is not recommended, and you should leave your transportation needs in the hands of professionals.
Shop till ya drop !!!
Hang Bong/Hang Gai - silk street and lots of souvenirs. The Old Quarter - there’s just too much to list! Dong Xuan Market –Hanoi’s biggest covered market- on Dong Xuan Street, Citimart (Hanoi Towers on Hai Ba Trung) Hanoi Marko (649 Kim Ma) or Western Canned Foods (66 Ba Trieu) should satisfy most requirements.
Area around Hanoi Sofitel Metropole Legends Hotel features some high-end shopping for world-class branded original products. Trang Tien street is best for Art Galleries, Book Store and Ice Cream. Trang Tien Plaza is a 4 storey commercial center with supermarkets and up-market shops. Cameras and digital products flood over Hang Khay, Trang Thi and Hai Ba Trung streets.
The world of footwear is on Hang Dau street, but do not expect any of such genuine Nike or Adidas here. Most of shoes and sandals sold on this street is locally made or imported from China. In return, their price make it worthwhile for a fun shopping experience and a touch of “instant fashion”!
Travel bags are popular on Lo Su street and area around the Water Puppet theatre.
Baby milk, candies, snacks, coffee and tea are popular on Hang Buom street. You can find some shops selling good wine here too.
If you are interested in making a seal (stamp) as a souvenir for yourself or for your beloved kids at home, go to Hang Quat street, spend about 20 minutes sitting and watching the artist carving the seal upon your requests.
Ruby Plaza is a new place for jewelry, gem stone and other fine products. It locates on Le Ngoc Han street.
Still have some money to spend? Step your feet on Hanoi street and you'll find every goods is inviting. Have fun shopping!
Eating and drinking
For value for money, atmosphere and some great Hanoi specialties head to Tong Duy Tan Street, Cha Ca St or Bao Khanh Lane where you will find the famous “Pho” noodle soup, “bun cha” (bbq pork patties & herbs on rice noodles) or “cha ca” (fried river fish Hanoi style) served at all hours of the day.
It would be a big miss if you would not sit down for a street side BIA HOI. It’s a kind of Hanoi draught beer served with awesome local food. It’s good, and it real cheap!
If you come in the winter, spring time, a hotpot(also known as steamboat) dinner on Phung Hung street is highly recommended. It’s an absolute local indulgence, a great meal and an amusing experience.
Fresh BBQ seafood can be found at dinner time on the pavement of Cau Go and inside Tong Dan street.
Intrepid eaters can find also a wide range of bizarre food in Hanoi, ranging from meat of “woof woof barkers” to slithered. For this special order, please contact us in advance or discuss with your tour guide for the best picks.
In the Old Quarter you will find a whole range of cuisine, from traditional Vietnamese dishes to salads, hamburgers, Italian, Indian, Thai.
Feeling homesick? Comfort food can be found at Pepperoni’s (29 Ly Quoc Su & Bao Khanh Lane), No Noodles (20 Nha Chung), Café Moca (14-16 Nha Tho), Little Hanoi (25 Ta Hien), Al Fresco’s (23 Hai Ba Trung). Bia Minh (7 Dinh Liet Street), Viet Cuisine (20 Hang Can Street).
To sample fine Vietnamese cuisine in pleasant décor, try one of Hanoi’s up market restaurants, some housed in charmingly renovated colonial villas. Our favorites include Club Opera (59 Ly Thai To), Green Tangerine Restaurant and Bar (46 Hang Be) Indochina (16 Nam Ngu), Le Tonkin (14 Ngo Van So), Wild Rice (6 Ngo Thi Nam), Brother’s Cafe Emperor (18B Le Thanh Tong), Nam Phuong (19 Phan Chu Trinh) and Seasons of Hanoi (5B Quan Thanh). (26 Nguyen Thai Hoc).
Vietnamese coffee, Hanoi style is best known at Café Nang at the tri-junction of Hang Bac and Hang Be street, Café Lam on Nguyen Huu Huan street, and other with the logo of Trung Nguyen coffee together with name of the Café. Hanoian prefer strong filtered coffee with condensed milk and drink slowly.
Cheap, good and local fun ice cream are Thuy Ta by Hoan Kiem Lake and West Lake, Trang Tien in the middle of Trang Tien street. Fine ice cream is at Fanny Ice Cream on Le Thai To street. Some good western restaurants serve fine home made ice cream too.
Nightlife and entertaiment
The liveliest venues are undoubtedly the “bia hoi” outlets which are a fun, friendly and above all cheap way to enjoy a beer, some food and soak up some genuine Vietnamese culture. The most popular places to try "Bia Hoi'' are Ta Hien and Luong Ngoc Quyen Streets. Try the Old Quarter and streets west of Hoan Kiem Lake. For something a little more western, head to the Polite Pub (5 Bao Khanh), Funky Monkey (15b Hang thung), or Le Pub (31 Hang Be). For Nightclubs, head to Apocalypse Now (5C Hoa Ma), Ho Guom Xanh (32 Ly Thai To) and Hale Club (64 Nguyen Du)
The Tet holiday (Lunar New Year’s Eve) is in the Spring. Flowers are the most beautiful during this time of the year. The weather starts to warm up with light rain here and there during the week. Hanoians believe that these light rains bring prosperity and luck for the New Year.
The Summer, on the other hand, is quite intolerable. The heat alone would be alright but there is the humidity which would start to manifest in the air since Spring. In this season we recommend you supply enough water and electrolyte to your body, especially when you participate in physical activities or travel out door.
There is something unique about Hanoi’s Autumn. The weather is perfect with less humidity in the air. The temperature would drop by now, offering people a chance to take out their fleece and jackets. Moreover, there is this type of tree – “cay hoa sua” which only has flowers in Autumn. The flower has a very distinct smell. If you have the chance to visit Hanoi during Autumn, make sure you ask the local people about this type of trees and where you can experience their distinct aroma.
Winter can be quite brutal because it is not only cold, but also very humid. The winter in Hanoi feels even colder due to the fact that Vietnamese houses typically don’t have a central heating system. Some people laughed at the 16 Degree Celsius, then well wrapped themselves in blanket in the hotel.