If you’ve been to Naga World in Phnom Penh (or almost any casino in the world), you’re probably familiar with HotShot. It’s a slot machine which gobbles up your coins (or bills), spins some dials and offers you the chance of getting a HotShot (free triple spin) if you line it up correctly. I have to admit, it’s somewhat addictive.
This weekend, I found HotShot on the border of Cambodia and Vietnam, about 40 minutes from Kep, in the Hà Tiên Vegas Casino and Entertainment resort – a brand new (four-month old) nine-storey, 160-room, $50 million, four star property plonked down in the middle of nowhere.
Surrounded by dirt roads, rice fields, a couple of small two-bit casinos and a lot of farm animals, Hà Tiên Vegas made itself known to my husband and me during our weekend in Kep when we saw it advertised on the back of a tuktuk.
Several hours and a phone call later, we’d been offered free transportation from Kep (in a dusty, rickety minivan) and a hotel room for $40, which included all meals. I have to admit we were somewhat skeptical, but the room turned out to be gorgeous – king-size bed, fluffy bedcovers, flat-screen plasma TV and a huge bathroom complete with tub and ultra powerful shower.
It’s somewhat confusing, however, when you check out the resort’s website, as the same room is advertised online at $180. It’s also listed at $60 (“promo period rate”) $20 (“junket rate”) and $45 (“travel agent rate”).
The casino offers 200 slot machines, 75-plus table games, internet gaming and sports book with a couple of bars and coffee stands scattered around the floor. Our host, “Tim” (the marketing VIP services manager) met us at the door, checked us in and presented us with dining coupons for our stay.
And that’s where the “mystery meat” came in. We were almost the only people in the dining room at 8pm on a Saturday night (and the only westerners in sight) and the buffet consisted of about a dozen shiny chafing dishes containing interestingly-scented meats and vegetables of various shades and aromas.
Since the dinner was “free”, we couldn’t complain and, since neither Skip nor I eat meat, we filled our plates with lots of rice, a pile of salad, green beans, grilled tomatoes and a tasty meaty-looking concoction that adorned the vegetables. I have to admit it was delicious, whatever it was. Oh, and we invested in a $17 bottle of wine to wash it down. It wasn’t the best meal we’ve ever had but it was one of the most amusing…..Two barangs sitting in a brightly-lit, almost empty dining room above a casino floor blaring out sounds of slot machines while the executive chef stopped by our table to ask if we’d like anything different to eat.
The hotel also contains a spa offering massages ($10 for body; $6 for foot), live music daily (except the day we were there) and a “Presidential Suite” which comes with its own karaoke system, massage parlour, living room, dining room, two bedrooms and Jacuzzi, for a mere $380 per night (or $50 at the “junket rate”)
The good news is you don’t need a visa to visit.
The bad news is, while it may be only a short drive from Kep, it feels like a world away.