IF YOU like hotels with history then Saigon is the place for you. Stately properties – the Rex Hotel, Caravelle Saigon, the Hotel Majestic, Hotel Continental Saigon, the Grand Hotel – carry the delightful design flourishes of a bygone era, tell interesting tales, and have been welcoming guests since long before the “American War’’.
These colonial-era properties are still popular and most have had recent renovations, several adding a new wing to complement the original structures.
But smart new hotels are also being unveiled with everything expected of a new build – abundant technology, big windows to frame a view, assorted places to eat and drink, swimming pools, state-of-the-art gymnasiums – while creatively harnessing the spirit of eclectic, vibrant and historic Saigon.
Australian Frank Bochmann, general manager of Le Meridien Saigon, which welcomed its first guests in April, says the city is enjoying a hotel boom with four luxury properties opening last year and another 27 projects – including nine five-star addresses – set to be revealed in coming years.
“Saigon’s hotel scene is becoming very dynamic because people want more from a location than just a bed and shower and are looking for cultural exchange and a sense of place,’’ he says.
“At Le Meridien Saigon everything references the Saigon River which we’re beside – we celebrate how the river formed the culture of Saigon during the past 500 years – and we train staff to talk about the things guests can’t read in guidebooks because they’re experts born and raised here.’’
Here are five of Saigon’s newest hotels, everything from a glitzy skyscraper and diminutive boutique properties to savvy sanctuaries wearing international brands.
Le Meridien Saigon
Le Meridien Saigon mixes signature Vietnamese hospitality with the trimmings of a sophisticated French hotel brand while providing guests a sense of place by referencing the Saigon River just across the road in everything from building design to the art dressing the walls.
Each of the 350 guest rooms and 26 suites enjoys a view, with all bathrooms positioned so those standing in the shower or soaking in the tub can continue gazing across the city, and infinity pool is on the ninth floor above the never-quiet waterway.
A two-year renovation, completed in 2014, turned a riverside compound in District 2 from an ostentatious private house into a smart boutique hotel that embraces the fading allure of the country’s colonial era with no two of the 23 guest suites the same.
Villa Song is 30 minutes from the heart of Saigon, and a shuttle bus makes the journey into District 1 several times a day to transport sightseeing guests. Bistro Song Vie is beside the waterway and a 25m swimming pool in the “backyard’’.
Hotel des Arts Saigon
The newest member of Accor’s graceful M Gallery collection embraces a time when “a voyage to the Far East was a luxurious privilege’’.
Set in a quiet neighbourhood only blocks from Gustave Eiffel’s Central Post Office and the retro Reunification Palace, the Hotel des Arts Saigon opened in October.
The 168 guest rooms exhibit “traditional Indochine elements’’ that mix the best of modern technology – complimentary Wi-Fi, 125cm LED televisions – with indulgent comforts such as goose-feather comforters and crisp linen.
On the rooftop, a swimming pool is a lofty refuge to recover after a day exploring the lively streets below.
The Reverie Saigon
The city’s most decadent new address officially opened for business on September 1 last year with The Reverie Saigon occupying high floors in Time Square Tower – between central Nguyen Hue and Dong Khoi streets – to offer 12 room categories that are characterised by opulent leather couches, mosaic tiles, silk wall coverings, and chandeliers.
The blinged-up hotel took seven years to complete, and the tower it occupies is one of the evolving city’s biggest construction projects, and The Reverie Lounge sprawls across the top two floors to present a remarkable view similar to what floor-to-ceiling windows frame in each guest suite.
Pullman Saigon Centre
The Pullman Saigon Centre celebrated its second anniversary last month. The modern 306-room hotel – which was built to cater to the needs of “bleisure’’ travellers – is on Tran Hung Dao St in one of the city’s most vibrant neighbourhoods where lanes are packed with restaurants, bars, shops and tailors.
The hotel was designed to provide every guest with a view of the city and there are floor-to-ceiling windows in every suite.
The Executive Lounge is positioned on the 30th floor, and the Cobalt Rooftop Restaurant – described as an “urban loft’’ – features an open-air terrace where guests can savour a “grazing menu of selected dishes and designer drinks’’.
This story appeared in Escape on Sunday, February 21, 2016