Victor Seow: Asia

Mr Seow

I met him last year when he organized the most amazing holiday in Indochina for me and my family. Since then we are constantly in touch. I took the habit of emailing him for my every Asian related question. Each time I go to the area I ask his advice on anything from hotels to types of laksa. And one thing I know for sure: Victor is always on the other side of the computer, always happy to answer and help. Victor Seow is a hotelier in Vietnam, an Asian tourism connoisseur and a great friend. I asked Victor to answer some questions about him and Asia for my blog. And here is what he had to say. Should you have any more questions I’d be happy to pass them on to Victor.

Why tourism? How did you choose your job?

Tourism? I was then 18years old after finishing high school (in Singapore) and did not know what to do? Being a Teacher – NO?  So, I joined one of the oldest Travel Agencies in Singapore at that time (EVERETT TRAVEL SERVICE) and from thereon I did not look back.

I also had experiences in the Airline Industry – 6 years Malayan Airways from the early  60’s (now Singapore Airlines) in their flight operations section; and 2 years with EL-AL Israeli Airlines as Manager for Singapore but mainly, I was with several Internationally recognized DMCs until 1981 when my hotel career started as a Sales Manager with the Peninsula Group of Hotels in Singapore 1980. I climbed up the ladder up to the position of Assistant GM and it was not until 1994 when I embarked on to a great challenge and left Singapore to take up a General Manager’s position in Hanoi. Since then I have been in Indochina (mainly Vietnam)


Colonial Hanoi

The world economic recession is a well-known fact. Did you encounter such hard times in the course of your career?

Hard Times during recession?  MOST certainly. Every 10 years or so………

a. The Iraq War

b. SARs in Asia

c. Recessions every 10 years since the mid 70’s, repeating every 10years is a big obstacle especially for the Hospitality Industry. The industry saw visitor arrivals falling down and every supplier has to curb their spiraling costs and forced to accept a reduced slice-of-the-cake. Every 10years, we recuperated and recovered just to experience another recession. It was tormenting for the “sellers” industry but things go on!

d. Plus see write up regarding the most recent hotel industry situation in Hanoi. (THEN AND NOW!)


Asia as a destination is relatively new for Romanians. What are the greatest hits of the region?

The Romanians are very interested in Asia (I believe especially Indochina, taking Thailand as a spring board to fly regionally into Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam) The main interests are the people, ethnic groups in respective countries, the culture, traditions and the various places of interests (UNESCO preserved areas) and the food-shopping.

And now there is a new emerging market – Myanmar


Traditional Hanoi

Any emerging markets and so called next hot spots?

The latest emerging market is Myanmar! Now that the country is going into reform and adopt a change from their current Military Junta. But like any emerging countries, Myanmar’s tourism related infrastructures are not ready to curb an ‘insurgent’ visitor arrivals and their government is now taking steps to vastly improve these infrastructures.


Soon you shall open a new hotel in Hanoi. Tell me something about it.

Since my arrival into Vietnam in 1994, I have been vastly involved in the setting up, opening and managing hotels and resorts.

Golden Silk Hotel

This new property (the 8th hotel) that I will be opening is in Hanoi – an exclusive 55Room Boutique Hotel – focused on “Elegance in Exclusive Luxury”, captivating vistas of Hanoi’s old quarters. For the 1st time in Hanoi, we provide “Snacks and Beverages in all our room mini fridges (replenished daily)” apart from the exclusivity in the rooms’ amenities and toiletries. For more details please see website


Golden Silk Hotel


Many foreigners rent or even buy commercial properties in Asia and start managing guest houses and hotels. Do you have any advice for them?

All I can advise them is that please be wise in choosing your local joint venture partners, to ascertain that terms and conditions are also fair to both parties and to ensure stability in the venture. Also be sure as to what is the foreigners’ investment on-with or without controlling interests?


What is your favorite holiday destination in Asia?

Myanmar in the winter


Asian cuisine is amazing. Do you have a personal top five of Asian dishes?

Of course, I being a “PERANAKAN” Please see website: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peranakan

I will also send you an article written by my sister and her French husband when they moved to Makassar (Sulawesi) for a hotel assignment

It’s called “Caught between the Wine Route to the Spice Route” It’s very interesting about we – The “PERANAKANS”


1. obviously, my top Asian Dish is “Peranakan Cuisine” as I cook them myself

2. Next is Indonesian and Thai

3. Indian

4. Chinese (Cantonese, Teochew and Hokkien)

5. Japanese


Is Asia a safe holiday destination?

Yes, it is most certainly a Safe Destination for both holiday-makers and commercial visitors


And now for some gossip: is it true that Vietnamese eat anything (including cats, dogs and snakes)?

You are right and it’s NO gossip……

a. Dogs’ meat is a truly great eating habits (which is a must to “almost 90%” of Vietnamese eat dog meat, monthly usually after the 15th of the lunar calendar. Basically, after the 20th right up to the end of the lunar month. It is a tradition and I have not asked why after the 15th? So all the dog meat restaurants are full of people for about 10-14days of the month

b. Snakes – are a delicacy, especially “cobras” One full grown cobra meat is sufficient to cook and produce some 5-6 different dishes, sufficient for 4 people to consume. The blood is drained into rice wine (so it does not curdle) and drink it together with the bile. The “still beating” heart is swallowed by anyone who wish to eat it? It’s quite an experience and I have these meals only thrice during my years here? But never the “beating” heart!

c. Cats – well, in the earlier years that I was here, they used to sell “wild or mountain” cats’ meat. But now, I am not so sure where to get them anymore as the wild sanctuaries became modernized or gone?


Does the future look bright for Asian tourism?

Yes, I am very sure that Asian tourism is indeed very bright as all the Governments’ Department of Tourism are guaranteeing a good, safe and steady growth, especially, for the eleven countries in the Asean Region. But as for me, I am steadily concentrating in Indochina, especially the up and coming Myanmar

Ha Long Bay, close to Hanoi.


Suddenly Kathmandu

I would rename Doha International Airport – Doha Central Bus Station. Because they shuttle you between planes and terminals in tons of buses on seemingly never-ending distances. Not fun… only if you thrive on the thrill of always being on the verge of missing your connection. Otherwise, getting from Bucharest to Kathmandu seems such a breeze now that Qatar Airways connects the two cities in less than 10 hours with a stop over in the above mentioned bus station.

Where them touts at?

I found Kathmandu different. Less of that happy hippy glare to it as years go by. Unchanged was the slowness of the passport control/visa on arrival people who never stop to amaze me (and thick rows of other tourists) with their inadequacy for the job. Certainly the airport has been modernized since my last visit three years ago. But the touts outside were few and traffic on the way to Thamel really tamed. The fact that it was a Saturday morning maybe helped. Still it was the beginning of the high season and I counted no less than four just arrived planes at Tribhuvan.

Looking good

Towards Thamel

Restaurant with cabin?

And to fast forward it a bit: left the luggage at the hotel, went out for daal bhat and a white coffee, back at the hotel, shower and some two hours of rest. I’m back in Kathmandu expecting nothing. That’s just a strategy of mine thinking that when you don’t expect anything, surprising things happen. Namaste!

Ex-royal palace

Thamel, everyone


Later the same day

Slept the whole afternoon only to be brutally woken up by the guy from the agency who called my room to remind me of the official Nepali Traditional Dinner. Food was diversified, bad and little spiced but went perfectly with the lack of enthusiasm the dancers and singers in charge with entertainment displayed. Everest beer though was exactly how I remembered it. The first taste always makes me think that this beer is made with sour water.

On my way to the hotel I looked for some photocopied editions of Lonely Planet guide books. No luck – they say they don’t sell photo copies in Nepal. Anymore, I think. In Cambodia and Vietnam they are a big business, here you can find only original copies at original high prices.

In Thamel the bars were all there, The Bamboo, Tom and Jerry, Le Bistro, Sam’s Pub, Irish Pub. Tourists were few and by 9 o’clock shops were closing. Tour of the city tomorrow and my biggest dilemma tonight is should I or shouldn’t I wear shorts tomorrow in case we visit Swayambounath and the monkeys are in a playful mood.

Some guys from the group had their luggage lost by the airline. Still no sign of them but here’s hoping for tomorrow. I’ve been in that situation many times and not always I got it back. Damn you, Alitalia.

Always a pleasure watching Asian channels in my hotel room before the internal clock tells me it’s time to sleep in my country.

Morning update

Great breakfast at hotel Vaishali. Glorious sunny day. Re-reading the above… I must have been in a pretty bad mood yesterday after the sleepless night on the plane. Wearing shorts for the temple, folks. More photos when the internet connection allows it.


Inapoi pe blog toata lumea

In realitate nu i-a trebuit chiar mult lui Adi Hadean sa ma convinga sa mergem in Asia de sud est. Acest proiect este prea tare. Urmariti blogul incepand de duminica pentru povesti si poze de la fata locului. Sunt convins ca o sa ne distram si o sa muncim cu placere si mai ales, cu un asa tovaras de drum stiu sigur ca n-o sa mor de foame. Intre timp nu uitati ca Bazar continua pe TVR2 in fiecare miercuri de la 21.00. Trebuia sa fac reclama emisiunii. :)

As vrea sa multumesc si eu sponsorilor pentru incredere. Sunteti foarte cool!


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