by Anh H. Nguyen
The year of the Rat is coming to an end. I believe that I speak for all of us at Palexy when I say, good riddance! Our year-end celebration, which fell on the last weekend of January, was not without some misgivings either. True to form, it nearly coincided with another wave of Covid-19, just like our Quy Nhon trip last July. It was a close call, but ultimately, we escaped the brunt of it. Our getaway, short as it was, was full of laughter and excitement. As a member of Palexy, I was glad we had some quality time to bond and forget about the outside world for a while, literally. The hotel we picked, the Grand Ho Tram Resort provided abundant distractions, and we never even set foot outside at all!
The Grand Ho Tram Resort was a wonderful option for people looking for a getaway near Ho Chi Minh city, especially beach aficionados. It was easily accessible, the ground was beautifully kept with plenty of flora, the rooms were big and well appointed, and the list of activities was endless. The Grand Ho Tram boasted five restaurants with a wide range of cuisines, several swimming pools, a park, some boutiques, a cafe with a bakery attached to it which had sumptuous pastries and cakes, a casino, a spa (which we did not have time to try out), a bunch of karaoke rooms, a cinema, even a racy nightclub! There were also a giant golf course and a mini putt one, a water fountain show with synchronized music and light which ran daily from 6pm to 9pm, a diverse sport selection which included kayaking, body surfing, banana boating, soccer, volleyball, tennis, and bowling. Needless to say, everyone was pleased. What we lacked in adventures this time, we definitely made up for in enjoyment.
One of the 10 elegant rooms that we Palexians occupied. Luxe!
How pretty were these flowers? And they smelled heavenly too!
No trip to the Ho Tram could be complete without some serious beach time. After a good lunch at Ginger, a Vietnamese restaurants that served up chicken rice and caramelized pork in clay pot, the team retreated to our inviting rooms for a quick rest (and for some of us, an irresistible nap). At 3pm, it was off to the beach!
A touch of summer: even the beach towels were decorated with those cute frangipanis that seemed to grace every corner of the hotel's property
From dusk 'til dawn: shades of the sky, the sand, and the sea at Ho Tram
We spent the whole carefree afternoon on the beach, just swimming, playing soccer, frolicking, and simply enjoying ourselves. Time flew by quickly, but not before some snapshots were captured.
Season in the sun: more than 50% shirtless!
Girl power: the women of Palexy (except for Thu, who was still on her maternity leave)
Just another one: we could not resist another photo op at the golden hour
Even as the sun was setting, we were still lingering by the pool, sipping cocktails, watching the pretty twilight, and basking in the warm breezes of the tropics. After debating restaurant choices, we decided to dine at Khoi BBQ Seafood, one of the on-site restaurants. It turned out to be the right decision: the atmosphere was relaxed, the services were attentive, and the seafood taken from the six live tanks were super fresh and delicious. Furthermore, our tables were situated right next to the huge windows which offered spectacular views of the aforementioned light show. Throughout our dinner, we were entertained by the striking spectacle and rousing music. That moment sealed the deal for me: I then became reasonably sure that the Grand Ho Tram was inspired by Caesars Palace in Las Vegas!
A moment in time: the music was swelling along with the water jets to the tune of Coldplay, if I was not mistaken
The team at dinner: well-fed, well-rested, and happy
After dinner, we took a long, blissful walk around the garden, still enveloped in the fragrant air of the ocean and the music. At 9pm, we came inside, and were delighted to see that the hotel had came alive! The grand hallways were bustling with people, all of whom seemed to dress for a night on the town. We decided to have some post-dinner snacks at the Grand Cafe before calling it quits, but fate had other plans.
Yummy in the tummies: tempting treats from the Grand Cafe, where we had our nightcaps, which then turned into... something else.
It turned out that the little cafe was strategically located right across the nightclub, which then opened its door. The reason for the dressed-to-the-nines people became clear: they were partygoers, and the nightclub was their destination. Throngs of visitors went inside, greeted by a group of hyper-attractive, scantily-clad performers at the entrance. After some deliberation, the whole team actually decide to give it a shot, too! I shall not divulge too much, but suffice to say it was a wild ride. Many drinks were had, many light sticks were waved around, and I was still not sure when/whether some team members left the club that night...
Someone was getting hammered
It was a rave, all right
So it was a small miracle that everyone was ready for breakfast and some last-minute sport time the following morning. In our haste to sample as much of the Grand Ho Tram had to offer as possible, we tried swimming (again), soccer (again), bowling (first time), and even some badminton.
Everyone was properly worn out by 11am, which was when we gathered for one last time by the pool and had some well-deserved drinks. Almost everyone ordered coconut juice, which took forever to arrive. The staff actually pulled up with a rolling cart full of coconuts, which they told us had to be picked from the trees just then! That explained the long wait, and the sublime freshness of those coconuts' sweet, sweet nectar. At noon, we went back to our rooms to shower and pack our belongings, and met up for lunch. Then the bus that came to fetch us back to Ho Chi Minh rolled up, and it was time to bid Ho Tram good-bye.
The trip was 31 hours in total, not long by any means, but it was perfect. As we brace for another, probably challenging year ahead along with our fellow countrymen, memories like this are to be treasured more than ever. Here is hoping to more to come in the year of the Ox!