Short Breaks

Stylish short city break

World Travel Magazine - - Contents - WORDS AND PHO­TOG­RA­PHY BY VIN­CENT SUNG

Saigon: The El­e­gant Lady of In­dochina Saigon is on a con­stant jour­ney of re­fine­ment which brings a sense of endless pos­si­bil­ity in it’s un­ex­pected nov­el­ties and tra­di­tional charms.

SAIGON IS A THRIV­ING LADY, BURST­ING WITH EN­ERGY AND HAS MUCH TO OFFER WITH SOME­THING NEW POP­PING UP EV­ERY MONTH

If cities had a gen­der (mas­cu­line/fem­i­nine), Saigon would be fem­i­nine (‘elle’ or ‘she’) and Hanoi would be rather mas­cu­line (‘il’ or ‘he’). Hanoi, Viet­nam’s ad­min­is­tra­tive cap­i­tal could be pic­tured as a grumpy old man with the con­ser­va­tive seat of the govern­ment and tired teach­ers with foggy glasses in the city renowned for learn­ing and keep­ing tra­di­tions. Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), for­merly named Saigon un­til 1976, is a racier younger lady. A very el­e­gant one, lo­cated some 1,100 kilo­me­tres away from her ‘hus­band’.

Viet­nam has opened up sig­nif­i­cantly fol­low­ing the Doi Moi pol­icy and econ­omy re­forms since

1986, fol­lowed by its en­try into the World Trade Or­ga­ni­za­tion in Jan­uary 2007. Af­ter years of trade, em­bar­goes and marginal­i­sa­tion, the coun­try is re­con­nect­ing to the world, thanks in large part to an in­creased ac­cess to the in­ter­net. Saigon is nur­tur­ing a creative, free-think­ing young gen­er­a­tion which has de­signs for its fu­ture, while Viet Keu (Viet­namese who lived over­seas), are re­turn­ing, bring­ing with them money, ideas and skills much needed in the new econ­omy.

The largest city in Viet­nam, Saigon is a thriv­ing ‘lady’, burst­ing with en­ergy and has much to offer with some­thing new pop­ping up ev­ery month: bars and craft beer houses, in­dus­trial style or well-hid­den gal­leries, hip­ster hos­tels and ren­o­vated lux­ury ho­tels.

Af­ter a smooth lux­ury Mercedes car trans­fer from the air­port, head to District 1, the ob­vi­ous choice for its cen­tral lo­ca­tion and stylish bou­tiques lin­ing Dong Khoi Street. Check in at Park Hy­att Saigon, a colo­nial-style ho­tel, an el­e­gant French ‘lady’. A sanc­tu­ary of peace in the mid­dle of frenzy dy­namic Saigon, more like a ‘home away from home’. Af­ter the com­ple­tion of ex­ten­sive ren­o­va­tions dur­ing the sum­mer of 2015, Park Hy­att re­opened with a fresh new look to redefine its per­son­alised, ur­ban lux­ury ex­pe­ri­ence. While the ho­tel main­tained the sig­na­ture French-colo­nial feel, a pal­ette of white and ivory had bright­ened the pub­lic areas and el­e­gant Park Lounge. Nu­mer­ous crys­tal chan­de­liers have been added, re­flect­ing the sun­light that streams in through the ceil­ing-height win­dows. The ho­tel’s 245 rooms and suites have been com­pletely ren­o­vated, re­freshed with lighter tones, hand­crafted fur­ni­ture, Viet­namese tex­tiles and lo­cal art­work. Tech­no­log­i­cal up­grades in­clude in-room ipads; Ne­spresso machines; and a sen­sor light­ing sys­tem. The Park Lounge is the ren­dezvous place to meet and con­nect dis­cern­ing trav­ellers with the lo­cal Viet­namese haute-so­ci­ety.

saigon.park.hy­att.com

Start the day with a stroll down the wide boule­vards of the city’s main com­mer­cial thor­ough­fare and ad­mire the heady mix of old and new. Walk down Dong Khoi to­wards the Saigon Opera House, an ex­am­ple of flam­boy­ant French ar­chi­tec­ture and home to a num­ber of cul­tural per­for­mances. Fur­ther away stands the 130-year-old Notre Dame Cathe­dral, fea­tur­ing clas­sic ne­oro­manesque ar­chi­tec­ture with its red brick façade and stained-glass win­dows. Op­po­site the an­cient basil­ica is the Saigon Post Of­fice; though it func­tions as a mod­ern post of­fice, the mag­nif­i­cent colo­nial French ar­chi­tec­ture in­side and out will trans­port you back to French In­dochina. In­ter­spersed with these his­toric mar­vels are plenty of high-end shop­ping malls, bou­tique out­lets, a street ded­i­cated en­tirely to books and, of course, nu­mer­ous cafés (khafe)

brew­ing aro­matic Viet­namese cof­fee and food stalls of­fer­ing up the iconic Viet­namese baguettes (banh mie) and steam­ing bowls of pho.

Stylish ladies like to shop for gifts to bring back home, and Authen­tique home of­fers a wide se­lec­tion of fine hand­crafted fur­ni­ture, ce­ram­ics and tex­tiles spread across three floors on 113 Le Thanh Ton (D1).

au­then­tique­home.com

For ladies who pre­fer teas and an­tiques, highly rec­om­mended Villa Royale of­fers a wide TWG tea se­lec­tion dur­ing lunch or high tea, which can be en­joyed along with fresh pas­tries and selected de­lights on the menu. While en­joy­ing chit-chat over tea, guests can browse through the lux­u­ri­ous vin­tage col­lec­tion, an­tique fur­nish­ings and bric-a-brac dis­played thor­oughly all over the restau­rant, in the hall­way, in the semi-pri­vate sa­lon and even in the bath­rooms. vil­laroyale­trea­sures.com

Art en­thu­si­asts can con­tinue on Dong Khoy street and head to Ga­lerie Quynh, for a mo­ment of respite. The spa­cious gallery is housed in a for­mer in­dus­trial

fac­tory and reg­u­larly hosts ro­tat­ing ex­hibits from some of Viet­nam’s up-and-com­ing tal­ent as well as in­ter­na­tional artists. Ad­mis­sion is free. Open Tues­day-satur­day 10am-7pm. ga­leriequynh.com

For an af­ter­noon cho­co­late stop, head to Marou,

a world-renowned Viet­namese cho­co­late com­pany, where you can in­dulge in all your guilty plea­sures. Take home some of their award-win­ning Viet­namese choco­lates. Their eclair and cho­co­late mousse cake is an­other must try. marou­choco­late.com

The best op­por­tu­nity to take a short break is dur­ing a long week­end hol­i­day. Try to stay over un­til Sun­day with a late check-out, and book the not-to-be-missed ac­claimed Brunch Club ‘Above Saigon’ at Ho­tel des Arts Saigon - Mgallery col­lec­tion.

With an ex­cel­lent se­lec­tion of cooked a-la-minute seafood, three kinds of freshly shucked oys­ters, freeflow cham­pagne and three cock­tails sug­ges­tions, the vibes are fes­tive and en­ter­tain­ing from 12 pm to 3 pm with a DJ spin­ning chill lounge tunes over­look­ing the cityscape. hotelde­sarts­saigon.com

While ladies will in­dulge with French cham­pagne and fine food, leave some space for the cheese buf­fet and a range of de­li­cious desserts. Why not stay over amongst friends or on a date in a Grand Deluxe room, with its spa­cious 30 sqm, all nat­u­ral rose­wood floor­ing, set­ting the stage for a re­gal king-size bed with pure Egyp­tian cot­ton sheets? Con­tinue the pam­per­ing with an aroma ther­a­peu­tic mas­sage at Le Spa des Artistes, spe­cialised in us­ing only 100% nat­u­ral in­gre­di­ents. Rec­om­mended is Gar­den of

Deep Calm 75min. body mas­sage. Ex­pert ther­a­pist com­bined the heal­ing effects of Thai and Swedish tech­niques with Yt­sara French prod­ucts.

Af­ter a re­lax­ing and re­ju­ve­nat­ing af­ter­noon, head for din­ner to one of the best Can­tonese restau­rant at The Royal Pavil­ion, where sig­na­ture à la carte dishes offer a lav­ish culi­nary jour­ney through China’s most pop­u­lar cuisines, em­pha­sis­ing on Can­tonese del­i­ca­cies such as bird’s nest and abalones amongst oth­ers. therever­ie­saigon.com/restau­rants-bars/theroyal-pavil­ion

One of the most lux­u­ri­ous ho­tels in Viet­nam,

The Reverie Saigon is a pala­tial sky-high re­treat with op­u­lent in­te­ri­ors and top class hos­pi­tal­ity. All the rooms and the lobby are dec­o­rated with works by some of Italy’s most ac­claimed brands, brought to­gether to pre­sent an eclec­tic se­lec­tion of rooms with de­signs that cater to a wide range of lux­u­ri­ous tastes. The en­tire ho­tel is a true cel­e­bra­tion of the ex­cep­tional skill and beauty be­hind Ital­ian artistry and crafts­man­ship. therever­ie­saigon.com

Ladies may change their mood and not feel like eat­ing Chi­nese tonight? An­other al­ter­na­tive for the even­ing, Café Car­di­nal of­fers a fine din­ing af­fair, with à la carte and prix-fixe menus fea­tur­ing dishes that leans to­wards fine French cuisine. Wine din­ners are reg­u­larly or­gan­ised with wine­mak­ers com­ing from all over the world. On Sun­days, the brunch is sump­tu­ous with the op­por­tu­nity to pair a wide range of seafood with Dom Perignon cham­pagne, which may fur­ther tempt you to stay longer and re­lax on the lounge chairs by the out­door pool. therever­ie­saigon. com/restau­rants-bars/cafe-car­di­nal

Un­der the moon­light, the most ro­man­tic views are avail­able from one of the rooftop bar op­tions in the city. SHRI de­liv­ers all with its un­ob­structed view and a ver­tig­i­nous sky bridge link­ing Cen­tec Tower and famed So­cial Club (Ho­tel des Art – Mgallery). An in­sti­tu­tion in the city’s ever-grow­ing culi­nary scene, Shri is famed for its con­tem­po­rary Span­ish menu cre­ated by ex­ec­u­tive chef Javier Gomez. Highly rec­om­mended is the shar­ing Paella Va­len­ciana com­ing in an orig­i­nal Paella cook­ing pan. For more pri­vacy or se­cret ren­dezvous, ask to be seated at the Whisky Li­brary, tucked away be­hind a slid­ing door. En­joy crafted cock­tails from the in­ven­tive menu cre­ated by ac­claimed Bri­tish mixol­o­gist Richie Fawcett. Over­look­ing all the op­er­a­tions, Richie, a self-pro­claimed ‘bartist’ has in­vented a new di­men­sion of drink­ing artistry which tan­ta­lises all the senses for the per­fect In­sta­gram mo­ment. In his book ‘Cock­tail Art of Saigon’ that re­place old fash­ion menus, forty-one orig­i­nal recipes are all avail­able to be tried out (in no par­tic­u­lar or­der). Each recipe is ac­com­pa­nied by his own cock­tail il­lus­tra­tions, with fine-art street scenes of the cap­i­tal and fas­ci­nat­ing sto­ries of the city’s his­tory. shri.vn

Next morn­ing, es­cape the city for a day and get on a bi­cy­cle alone or with a cou­ple of friends with

NEXT MORN­ING, ES­CAPE THE CITY FOR A DAY AND GET ON A BI­CY­CLE ALONE OR WITH A COU­PLE OF FRIENDS

HO CHI MINH CITY IS A RACIER YOUNGER LADY. A VERY EL­E­GANT ONE, LO­CATED SOME 1,100 KILO­ME­TERS AWAY FROM HER HUS­BAND This Page, es­cape for a day by bi­cy­cle to dis­cover the green coun­try­side Op­po­site, en­counter lo­cals while bik­ing along the Mekon

Grasshop­per ad­ven­tures, to visit ei­ther the Mekong Delta (full day tour – ap­prox. 25kms ride in to­tal) or ‘Bike the Cu Chi Tun­nels’ (full day tour – ap­prox. 30kms ride in to­tal). The scenic roads me­an­der along rice fields or rub­ber plan­ta­tions, lo­cal markets, rice pa­per fac­tory or co­coa beans plan­ta­tions and en­joy lunch at fam­ily farms or home-cooked food at a lo­cal home. Ferry back on a small wooden boat along the Mekong river with new friends from all over the world. grasshop­per­ad­ven­tures.com

An­other in­sti­tu­tion to stay for one or two nights, lo­cated along the tree-lined Le Duan Boule­vard, Sof­i­tel Plaza Saigon is ideally lo­cated min­utes away from the Re­u­ni­fi­ca­tion Palace, nu­mer­ous Em­bassies and deluxe shop­ping malls. Book a Su­pe­rior Room with Club Sof­i­tel ac­cess to en­joy com­pli­men­tary teas in the af­ter­noon and even­ing cock­tails and wine se­lec­tion while meet­ing fel­low trav­ellers in a cosy lounge over­look­ing the city lights. De­signed by ar­chi­tect Pierre Ma­ciag, who brought a flair of French-ness com­bined with the best of Viet­namese el­e­ments, the ho­tel opened in 1998 and went un­der sev­eral ren­o­va­tions to stay up-to-date. With its 286 rooms and suites in the mid­dle of an en­vi­ron­men­tal friendly sur­round­ing, the in­te­ri­ors blend grace­ful Asian tex­tures with mod­ern-clas­sic style, show­cas­ing mar­ble floors in the bath­rooms with Lanvin ameni­ties, hard­wood fur­nish­ings and floor-to-ceil­ing panoramic win­dows that look out to breath­tak­ing views of the city or the Saigon River. Over­look­ing the city, the rooftop swim­ming pool is a quite and re­lax­ing place to en­joy a drink with the best night views over Saigon. sof­i­tel.com/en/ho­tel2077-sof­i­tel-saigon-plaza

An­other top five Sun­day brunch ad­dress, Mezz

is an in­ter­ac­tive restau­rant which pro­vides guests with new culi­nary dis­cov­er­ies, of­fer­ing in­ter­na­tional dishes, Viet­namese food sta­tions and Asian spe­cial­i­ties, along with im­ported prod­ucts from France. The home­made pates are to die for and the oys­ters are fresh out of the sea.

The sec­ond pre­ferred cuisine in In­dochina, French cuisine can be tasted at L’olivier. The restau­rant was named from its Mediter­ranean ori­gins and is well-known in the city for the quar­terly Miche­lin star chef pro­mo­tions. Seat­ing up to eighty pa­trons, the restau­rant em­u­lates the am­bi­ence of South­ern Europe.

Drink­ing op­tions are count­less but stand­ing out and of­fer­ing the best mar­ti­nis in a stylish bar, 2 LAM SON at Park Hy­att, is a meet­ing play­ground for Saigon movers and shak­ers, of­fer­ing an in­no­va­tive as­sort­ment of sig­na­ture cock­tails. Dra­matic wood, steel and glass in­te­rior with sub­dued light­ing add to the vi­brant set­ting of the bar en­hanced by the res­i­dent DJ mix­ing old school, elec­tro and deep house mu­sic dur­ing week­ends. Watch Saigon’s nightlife un­fold at the ground level or en­joy the view perched above in one of the in­ti­mate booths. saigon.park.hy­at­trestau­rants.com/ lam­son/

Next day, get a com­pli­men­tary shut­tle bus pick up from any­where in the city to check in at Wind­sor Plaza Ho­tel. Also part of the WMC group (which owns The Reverie), this busi­ness ho­tel is the ideal lo­ca­tion for day tours of Cholon his­toric Chi­na­town and in­tense fash­ion whole­sale shop­ping. District 5 is con­sid­ered as the her­itage quar­ter of old Saigon.

Start your shop­ping spree at the ad­ja­cent An

Dong shop­ping plaza or get dropped off at one of the fash­ion streets for re­tail ther­apy. Com­pli­men­tary daily shut­tle bus gets you to city land­marks and restau­rants (owned by WMC group) or take the hop on/hop off shut­tle bus to visit Cholon (nick­named Chi­na­town) herbal medicine shops, cheap art-filled street, cof­fee beans re­tail­ers and whole­sale markets. Din­ing op­tions are di­verse and range from Chi­nese at Ngan Dinh restau­rant to an in­ter­na­tional buf­fet (spe­cialised in live seafood) at Café Cen­tral An Dong, or din­ing with a stun­ning view at TOTT

(Top of the Town bar & restau­rant) with its spec­tac­u­lar 360-de­gree views of the cos­mopoli­tan city. Over­look­ing the rooftop pool and two Jacuzzis, the open air ter­race brings a wel­com­ing breeze and makes it hard to leave this stylish lady of Saigon. wind­sor­plaza­ho­tel.com

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This Page, vin­tage pho­tos printed on fab­ric dis­played at Saigon Kitch Op­po­site, a night out at 2 Lam Son (Park Hy­att Saigon)

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