7 Learn­ing to live with out­landish ho­tel style

The Sunday Telegraph - Travel - - Front Page -

It seems coun­ter­in­tu­itive to check into a ho­tel you strongly sus­pect you’ll dis­like, but be­fore my re­cent visit to Ho Chi Minh City I was told that overnight­ing in the Reverie Saigon was “a must”. Vaunted as Viet­nam’s most lav­ish city ho­tel be­fore its late-2015 de­but, after open­ing it was de­scribed more dis­qui­et­ingly by guests as Ver­sace and Lib­er­ace’s love child. Lurid colours, gar­gan­tuan fur­ni­ture and as­sorted faux-Euro­pean flour­ishes – all have been churned in a gold­plated tombola to con­strue some of the most un­fet­tered in­te­ri­ors you’ll find east of Dubai and west of Ve­gas. Mor­bid it may have been, but of course I had a sense of cu­rios­ity.

With the ho­tel oc­cu­py­ing the up­per­most lev­els of the 39-storey Times Square Build­ing, the sev­en­th­floor lobby sets the tone nicely. There, a £350,000 cus­tom-made clock by Floren­tine brand Baldi is em­bel­lished with emer­ald-coloured mala­chite, hand-chis­elled lead crys­tal and 24-carat gold ac­cents.

I meet Christina von Wrede, the charm­ing ho­tel man­ager, for a tour. We scut­tle across floors de­pict­ing pink cherry blos­som; else­where, a golden pea­cock ren­dered as a mo­saic saun­ters across a liv­ing room wall; in the Ro­mance Suite the 15ft-wide head­board that dwarfs the king-size bed is sheathed in hand­wo­ven fab­ric by Vene­tian weavers Rubelli. We side­step maids smooth­ing silk cur­tains in the two-storey Reverie Suite – guests are soon due at the $15,000-a-night (£10,500) pent­house. When I com­ment on the abun­dance of mar­ble Chris­tine tells me: “There’s none left in Italy now; it’s all in The Reverie.”

The in­te­ri­ors are di­vi­sive, cer­tainly, but also re­mark­able and mem­o­rable, and the prop­erty’s sig­nif­i­cance to the coun­try can’t be over­stated. Seven years in the mak­ing and con­structed with­out any ex­pense be­ing spared – “at no point did we stop and say ‘We’ve spent enough money’,” Chris­tine com­ments – the Viet­namese-owned ho­tel was con­ceived as “a gift to the city. This coun­try has more to give than the his­tory sur­round­ing the war, and The Reverie proves Viet­nam is able to pro­duce world-class lux­ury.”

With a staff of some 700 Viet­namese and an oc­cu­pancy level of 80 per cent on the day of my ar­rival, the prop­erty clearly makes a hefty eco­nomic con­tri­bu­tion to the city along­side that sym­bolic im­port. While I’m not con­vinced by The Reverie’s os­ten­ta­tion, other guests revel in it. I de­cide it’s churl­ish to fix­ate on pe­cu­liar dec­o­ra­tive el­e­ments when The Reverie has never claimed any­thing other than an out­landish style; as time goes by, I find I be­come ha­bit­u­ated.

That ap­proach helps, and I find it’s a plea­sure to watch the Saigon River flow as I sip gin in the 39th floor ex­ec­u­tive lounge. I make time, too, for an ex­cel­lent dim sum lunch at Chi­nese fine-din­ing restau­rant The Royal Pav­il­ion. Later I have an un­ex­pected op­por­tu­nity to test Chris­tine’s claim that her team go the ex­tra mile when it comes to pro­vid­ing ex­em­plary ser­vice.

En route to the air­port on a na­tional hol­i­day, my driver takes a wrong turn and we find our­selves

Gilt trip: The Reverie Saigon, Viet­nam

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