Smiles are Free

Trip Start Feb 12, 2011
Trip End Nov 19, 2011

Loading Map
Map your own trip!
Map Options
Show trip route
Hide lines
Where I stayed
Tran Ly Hue
Read my review - 5/5 stars

Flag of Vietnam  ,
Monday, May 9, 2011

Erica Writes: I had approximately 30 minutes to find an ATM, withdraw enough cash to pay for our stay in Hoi An, and eat some breakfast.  A seemingly sufficient amount of time given the ATM was a 5 min. bike ride away and breakfast was a lackluster buffet spread at the hotel.

 At 7:00am the sun was already blazing and the air was steaming with humidity.  I grabbed a rickety bike from Grassland and made the longer than anticipated ride to the bank only to find it not working.  Not having a clue where the next one was located, I headed in the general direction of downtown Hoi An, caught in the middle of rush hour traffic as scooters and bikes honked their horns in reaction to my quick lane changes and general erratic riding, as I was feeling the time crunch.  Ten minutes later, I felt a sigh of relief as I happened upon another ATM…only to have my hopes crushed as it was also not working.   Where the hell was a working ATM?  Another ten minutes passed, and drenched in sweat I pulled up to a bonafide ATM, dispensing real Vietnamese Dong!  In my haste and excitement, I mistakenly took out 10,000,000 Dong instead of 1,000,000…not really adding up all of the 0's.  This was a difference between $500 and $50.  Ironically, no other ATM in town had ever let us withdraw more than $100 at a time so I assumed this was the case with all.  Oops. 

Not really understanding where I was in relation to where the hotel was, and having just withdrew way more money than intended, I sped towards the general direction of what I thought was the hotel.  Another 15 minutes passed and I started noticing that the landscape was completely unfamiliar.  Naturally, I was lost.  I pulled over and hailed a cab, hoping he could somehow carry both me and my bike to the hotel in his Smart car size vehicle.  He pointed me in opposite direction and wished me luck as I must have looked like I was in a state of disrepair.  As I was finally nearing the hotel, I saw John from afar, standing almost in the middle of the street, craning his neck to make sure I was real and not an apparition.  Assuming we had completely missed the bus to Hue, I slowed down and with a head hung low, pulled up to John.  The conversation went something like this…

"What happened??  You are covered in sweat and your face is bright red!"

“Words do not do justice to my little bike excursion I just had.  Let’s just say the only working ATM in this town apparently has an unlimited amount of cash in it.”

“How much money were you able to get out…$100?”

“I withdrew $500, accidentally.”

“What?  We don’t even need half that, we are leaving Vietnam in a few days.”

“Don’t get me started….I assume we missed the bus?”

“No, it’s not coming for another half hour.  They gave us the wrong time AND it’s late.”


Needless to say, it felt like the day was half over and it was only 7:45am.  Given we had some time to kill, I headed over to the buffet for some coffee to add to the baguette John had saved for me.  I was abruptly stopped by the “breakfast Nazi”, who demanded my voucher.   I explained that all I wanted was coffee and that my husband had given him the vouchers already.  He huffed and hummed a bit, gave me a lecture about 'voucher procedures’, and watched with wary eyes as I poured my coffee. To top it off, we paid to have the hotel wash our laundry and some of my clothes were still missing as I had reported the day prior.   Just as the bus pulled up, the remaining laundry was handed over, the bill was paid and we were happy to be on the short 5 hour bus ride to Hue.

To my delight, the Tran Ly Hotel in Hue was a short walk from where the bus dropped us off, and it welcomed us with signs advertising, “Smiles are free!”  The staff was the friendliest we had encountered in Vietnam as they were brimming with excitement to take our bags up 3 flights of stairs to our room.  They also handed us a refreshing welcoming drink while introducing the attractions their city had to offer.  It was a convivial reception in dark contrast to where we had just come from and it just reminded me that any hotel is capable of great service despite an inexpensive stay; i.e. $15. 

We spent the afternoon wandering around the city, snacking on ice cream and coffee, lazily taking in the sights.  Our evening finished off with several beers, decent Italian food, and in true John Gascon form, heavy conversation about the state of the world. 
Slideshow Report as Spam

My Review Of The Place I Stayed

Loading Reviews
  • Your comment has been posted. Click here or reload this page to see it below.

  • Please enter a comment.
  • Please provide your name.
  • Please avoid using symbols in your name.
  • This name is a bit long. Please shorten it, or avoid special characters.
  • Please enter your email address to receive notification
  • Please enter a valid email address


Maura on


Use this image in your site

Copy and paste this html: