Ho Chi Minh City. The largest metropolis in Vietnam filled to the brim with motorbikes, historical remnants, and luxuries fit for any discerning travelers. Formerly known as Saigon, the city changed it’s name following the Vietnam war in commemoration of general Ho Chi Minh. Tourists and locals alike have their choice of premium accommodations, but many westerners feel the law of attraction towards consistent quality and select the French stalwart, Sofitel.
Sofitel Saigon Plaza, preserving the name of yesteryear, is equal parts substantial as it is boutique in experience. The towering 20 floor sky rise, appears a touch worn on outside facade, but upon entrance, you’re experience is nothing less than French artful touches and Southeast Asian exceptional service.
Deep purples, rich stained woods, and antique Parisian inspired birdcages are just a few common themes, along with the iconic Sofitel emblem delicately placed about. Brushed golds and muted khaki’s also round out the palette with select jewel tones strewn about. The hotel’s decor is definitely French modern with a hint of Vietnamese showcasing through as seen by various black & white photo prints and local flora amidst the public areas.
A short stroll to the Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens, stands the towering Sofitel Saigon Plaza. The location of this hotel lends itself to business types and tourist seekers alike due to its close proximity to the commercial pulse of the city, District 1, and its various national attractions. The drive from Ho Chi Minh International airport is a pleasurable 30 minutes, yet may take a bit longer during peak business hours. The hotel offers the opportunity to arrive in style by booking a private Mercedes Benz E250 transfer.
A hearty mix of two accommodation types, Superior and Luxury, makeup the 286 rooms across 15 floors. The main differences of the two room types are bed configurations, desk types and more so the views are properly panoramic on the Luxury level. Amongst the top floors of the building sit the 10 Prestige suites, equipped with a separate living room, bedroom, and walk in closet. Topping this is the largest suite in the city, 231 sq. meters to be exact, the Imperial suite is a two-bedroom apartment equipped with dining for 8, separate tub and rainfall shower, HERMES bath products, and dedicated elevator all to yourself – oo, la la. You’ll heavily contemplate just moving into the place!
Of course the property oozes a certain Sofitel je ne said quoi, but it’s two discerning factors that take the property to it’s noteworthy status: The rooftop pool and the Sofitel Club Lounge service.
Perhaps one of the most favorable views in Ho Chi Minh, the Rooftop pool is the truest sense of the definition. Blue chaise lounges, rolled towels, full pool bar with light fare (fresh rolls pair well with the heat!), and a moon shaped pool with side tub makes for body quenching bliss. You won’t find a pretentious, over the rooftop bar scene here, just merely a relaxing oasis amongst the high-rises of Ho Chi Minh.
If you are considering upgrading to a Superior or Luxury Club room, you’ll be welcomed to find the additional Club services and lounge is well worth it’s price. At club level (which starts at level 16 and upwards) guests are checked-in upstairs in the lounge, away from the hustle and bustle of the lobby. A beautifully lit apartment style lounge awaits guests, along with complimentary beer/wine and soft drinks, and of course snacks for the weary time confused traveler’s stomach. The quiet charm of the space has travelers coming up for a dedicated breakfast, not nearly as extensive in offerings as the downstairs Mezz restaurant (another not to miss is their dumpling station), yet fully satisfying and the panoramic view from your table doesn’t hurt. Wifi, business services, evening canapé’s and complimentary alcohol, complete with a nightly Vietnamese specialty hot dish so a weary business traveler can eat his/her charcuterie, drink a cocktail, and have dinner without ever leaving their laptop.
The extra level of attention in the Club Lounge went exceedingly far. Whether it was putting together more fresh rolls (they are too dam tasty), preemptively brining another Tiger beer, or even just saying, “Good Morning, Ms. Nastro,” you really are made to feel like a special guest.
By the time you have your last breakfast in the Club Lounge, every attendant will know your name, and will have helped you plan activities you didn’t even anticipate to find. This I find can make a hotel experience. A knowledgeable staff is faster and I believe to be more reliable sources than doing your own online search…unless it’s through NET, of course!
Even if you decide against the Club Lounge status, the staff at Sofitel Saigon Plaza is of course quality Sofitel. Most of the staff is fluent in English, and even if they didn’t, they were always gracious with hand gestures, attentive, and very aware of their presence, often times doing a task with such speed you barely noticed the action even occurred. I wish my sanitary workers back at home had such grace!
With such a bustling city filled with one too many culinary experiences, finding the time to dine at the restaurants was a bit tricky. But, thank goodness for breakfast in Mezz, which was such a splendid representation of the quality and presentation of chef Stephane Postoyan and his team. Hot and cold dishes galore ranging from traditional french charcuteries, poached with hollandaise, to the complete opposite end of the flavor spectrum in which guests can indulge in Pho, Banh xeo , and even the 100 year old egg for those really looking to experience a traditional taste of Vietnam. I stuck with a fresh soft boiled instead. The upscale L’Oivier Restaurant is quintessential french fare from Provence in a colorful, yet subdued space for the travelers looking for refinement and a bit of familiarity with their dining.
If you do anything at the Sofitel Saigon it would be indulging in a proper Vietnamese iced coffee (bitter espresso with sweet creamy condensed milk on ice) and taking a walk through the neighborhood of Da Koa and down to the winding river. Cross the street with groups, but do walk side by side, not one ahead of each other — a trick one of the staff at the property instructed us to do!
A larger property that has been a stalwart in the area, great for a jet-lagged business traveler looking for no guessing on quality. Sofitel does it’s best to provide quality across all of it’s properties, but I do have to say the Vietnamese properties are particularly acclaimed for their service. Large groups will also find this property a good choice due to it’s impressive plethora of meeting rooms. Couples may find the property a bit lacking in the “romance” department, but really any traveler looking for consistency will do just fine.
*some images supplied