Posted by: sharemore1 | December 13, 2010

Remotely Controlled

“Too cold,” the night clerk at our apartment complained when I left Hanoi, as he shivered in his tank top, cutoffs and flipflops.  At the end of October the temperature was in the 70s during the day and in the low 60s at night.  “Refreshing,” I thought, wearing a light cotton jacket for the first time in six weeks.

Seoul, where I had a 12-hour layover before my flight to Seattle, was more than refreshing with temperatures in the 40s.  I hadn’t gotten much sleep on the short middle-of-the night flight from Hanoi and was glad I had booked a day use hotel before the long flight to Seattle.

I checked into the Hotel Queen near the airport, got my key card and after a little fumbling opened the door.  The lights in the room went on.  There were slippers in the small foyer, indicating I should slip off my shoes.

As I put down my pack, I began to survey the room.  Then the lights went out, with only a little sunlight coming in through a partially opened window.  I looked for light switches, with no luck.  I did find some buttons near the door, but they didn’t respond to my touch.  I was tired, groggy and in the dark.

I wandered around the room, growing desperate, when the phone rang.  “Put your key in the [unintelligible] to the left of the door and everything will work.”  The front desk clerk repeated himself when I didn’t respond.  In my stupor I imagined that a surveillance camera was monitoring me.

When I stuck my key card in the slot near the door the lights magically came on.  Then I studied the instructions that came with the three remote controls for operating everything in the room.  The large flat screen television was also a computer monitor and there were instructions for switching back and forth between the two.

Collapsing on the bed, I decided to tackle the electronics after I’d had a few hours sleep.  When I awoke, I went to take a shower.  A sign indicated that the shower was also a sauna, but given my problems with the lights I decided I didn’t want to risk being somehow locked in a steaming shower stall.

Toilet Remote

The toilet beeped when I sat down on it and beeped when I got up.  The seat was warm and beside it was a keypad with little icons.  Looking closely I saw a figure that represented buttocks about to sit on a toilet.  The second picture was of a woman smiling.  The third was a jet of water.   Finally I figured that pushing the buttons must convert the toilet into a bidet.

All this technology was intimidating, so after my shower I went in search of something to eat.  As I walked out of the hotel I knew I wasn’t in Hanoi anymore.  No motorbikes clogged the wide, well-paved streets and no raucous honking came from cars, whose drivers stopped for pedestrians.

The desk clerk directed me to a local shopping center where I was able to convert dollars to South Korean won.  I rode an escalator to the food court on the second floor, where I picked out a seafood dish from a display case of plastic food.  I paid the cashier, who sent my order to the kitchen electronically.  When my number came up on a screen, I picked up my lunch.

I enjoyed an excellent egg drop soup, a crunchy pickled yellow vegetable and the stir fry, which was delicious except for the half dozen tiny octopus with their heads on.  I have friends who won’t eat anything with a face.  I’m not that strict, but just couldn’t eat a baby octopus that was staring at me.

Still a little hungry, I went down to the bakery to indulge myself in a chocolate croissant.  Although they came three to a bag, the young man in the bakery accommodated me when he found out I wanted only one.  I stared in disbelief as he put on plastic gloves before he took one of the pastries out and put it in a separate bag.

In the four hours it had taken me to fly from Hanoi to Seoul it was as though I had traveled into another century.

My experiences in Seoul happened during my trip home in late October.  I am now back in Hanoi until Dec. 23.


  1. Sharon, great story. Funny thing though – I think I must have spoken to the same man when I was in a similar hotel stumbling around in the dark.

  2. Got to go back and use all options, highly recommended.

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