As COVID-19 wreaked havoc on the global travel market, hotels got desperate for cash. Rooms might be sitting empty, but staff and suppliers still needed to be paid, and the lockdowns and border closures were leading to an unprecedented cashflow problem.
The solution? A spate of fire sales, with customers promised big savings on future stays…if only they’d part with their money now.
Over the course of 2020 and 2021, we saw discounts on gift cards and stay certificates with Anantara, Marriott, Club 1, SLH, Park Hotel Group and various independent hotels. Even snooty chains like Belmond (which would normally never dream of stooping to something as vulgar as discounting) got in on the action.
And now that borders have mostly reopened, it’s time to pay the piper. Here’s my game plan for a trip to Vietnam, where the Banyan Tree Lang Co awaits.
|🇻🇳 Let’s Go Lang Co|
Back in April 2020, Banyan Tree launched a sale on gift certificates, offering 3D2N breakfast-inclusive packages for up to 78% off.
|Banyan Tree Ultimate Getaways|
|Banyan Tree Phuket||9,900 THB||Afternoon tea for 2|
|Angsana Laguna Phuket||4,999 THB||Afternoon tea for 2|
|Cassia Phuket||2,499 THB||Mookata set dinner for 2|
|Banyan Tree Bangkok||7,650 THB||Upgrade to Serenity Club room|
|Banyan Tree Bintan||S$480||60-minute massage for 2|
|Angsana Bintan||S$240||60-minute massage for 2|
|Cassia Bintan||S$140||Afternoon tea for 2|
|Banyan Tree Lang Co||US$380||60-minute massage for 2|
|Angsana Lang Co||US$180||60-minute massage for 2|
|Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru||US$750||Return speed boat|
|Angsana Ihuru||US$500||Return speed boat|
|Angsana Velavaru||US$600||Night fishing for 2|
|All rates include daily breakfast for 2|
There were some excellent deals on offer, and I snapped up a Banyan Tree Lang Co certificate for US$380, which included two nights’ accommodation, daily breakfast, and a 60 minute massage for two.
Vouchers were initially valid until 20 December 2021, and I said at the time that if we couldn’t have a vacation by December 2021, we’d have bigger problems to worry about. Turns out, Vietnam kept its borders closed until March 2022, but Banyan Tree extended all gift certificates until 31 October 2022 anyway.
While Vietnam wasn’t at the top of my to-go list, the MileLioness had a five-day break which was way too short for the USA or Europe (goodness knows you don’t want to fly there now anyway), and a little too tight for Australia. This looked like the perfect opportunity to utilise my voucher then, with a couple more nights in Da Nang to round things off.
Travel to Vietnam: Pre-Departure Checklist
Vietnam has dropped all testing and quarantine requirements, regardless of vaccination status. Travel insurance is not required (though you’ll probably want to purchase it anyway), nor is outdoor masking.
Singaporeans and other ASEAN nationals can enjoy visa-free entry to Vietnam (as well as nationals from Denmark, Italy, Japan, Germany, South Korea, Spain and the UK, among others), so for all intents and purposes it’s pack your bags and go.
|✈ Let’s Go Lang Co: Flights|
Cost: 15,050 miles + S$52
Cost: 8,750 miles+ S$31
Da Nang has featured in the last few Spontaneous Escapes, and I decided to book a Business Class award out (15,050 miles) and Economy Class award back (8,750 miles) in order to review both cabins on Singapore Airlines’ worst aircraft: the B737-800.
These planes were inherited from SilkAir, and don’t feature in SIA’s long term plans. Hence, they received nothing more than a cursory refurbishment- while the upholstery is newish, there’s no seatback entertainment or inflight Wi-Fi. Business Class features tired old recliners with sticky manual controls and malfunctioning footrests, and Economy Class seats are little different from Scoot’s.
In a macabre sort of way, I was looking forward to this. What can I say; I once deliberately booked SIA’s oldest B777-200 to Bangkok, just so I could try out the circa 1998 Ultimo Business Class seat.
But it didn’t happen. About two weeks before my flight, I received an email alert that the aircraft had been swapped to a B737-8 with SIA’s latest narrowbody cabin products, i.e. flat bed seats in Business Class.
Most people would consider that an absolute win, and I guess I shouldn’t complain. Still, I should probably make a point of checking out the B737-800 before it disappears into the great boneyard in the sky (or more accurately, the desert).
|🏨 Let’s Go Lang Co: Hotels|
|1-3||Banyan Tree Lang Co||US$380 + AMEX voucher|
|4-5||Hilton Da Nang||US$220|
The whole purpose of this trip is to visit the Banyan Tree Lang Co, where I’ll be spending the first three nights.
Two nights come from the Ultimate Getaways voucher, with a further night from my AMEX Platinum Charge. Cardholders receive an annual complimentary night’s stay at selected hotels across Asia Pacific, a list which includes the Banyan Tree Lang Co.
Both vouchers are for the lead-in 131 sqm Lagoon Pool Villa, with breakfast included. I’m not the biggest fan of Banyan Tree’s back-to-nature-and-yoga-everyday vibe, but Lang Co offers a champagne breakfast. Sold!
I’ll head back to Da Nang after this, where I’ve got two nights at the Hilton Da Nang planned (in retrospect, I should really have stayed in Hoi An instead). This is a relatively new property which opened in September 2019 with 220 rooms. The deign template follows the “new Hilton” style which I quite fancy, having experienced it at the Hilton Munich City, Hilton Sydney and Hilton Singapore Orchard.
Points redemptions would have cost an average of 30,500 Hilton points per night, but cash rates were a better deal at US$100 per night (the rule of thumb is to try and get at least 0.5 US cents per Hilton point redeemed).
As a Solitaire PPS Club member, I’ll have access to the SilverKris First Class Lounge when flying out of Singapore, which I’ve already reviewed previously.
When flying out of Da Nang, eligible passengers (including those with Priority Pass) get access to the Orchid CIP Lounge, which looks serviceable if nothing else.
It’s not often that I travel somewhere specifically to stay at a hotel, and I’m somewhat skeptical if Banyan Tree Lang Co will join the ranks of the Post Ranch Inn and W Maldives, resorts that you plan a trip around.
That said, Vietnam is one of the easiest countries in region to visit right now, and it’s certainly much better than the travel meltdown holiday goers in Europe are currently experiencing!
Lang Co, let’s go.