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The Guardian of Vietnamese Hospitality: Park Hyatt Saigon

Published 06 January 2011   

In Ho Chi Minh City, VE HANDOJO almost got mugged. He survived the chaotic capital elegantly with  help from Park Hyatt Saigon – the most preferred address in town.

A regular cab fare from Ben Thanh Market to Park Hyatt Saigon shouldn’t have been more than 50,000 Vietnamese Dong (VND), or around US$2.50. The short distance was only around 20 minutes of healthy walking. That day, my hands were full of plastic shopping bags from the tourist-oriented market, and all I wanted to do was drop them in my hotel room as soon as possible. So, I hailed the first cab that came to my sight outside the market.

The cab driver pulled up outside the hotel, resisting dropping me in front of the lobby. He then showed me a whopping great VND 400,000-something on the meter! Oh boy, this guy was messing with the wrong kind of tourist. He didn’t know I came from Jakarta, a city full of taxi scams. I was born and trained to deal with tricky cabbies. I refused to pay that much, and gave him VND 100,000 – just to avoid further bloodshed. He was very upset and tried to grab my wallet. I swung the door wide open, and screamed like a lady to the passers-by, “Help! He’s robbing me!” The macho trick succeeded and the cabbie took off at great speed.

I went inside my hotel, and reported the incident. My photographic memory could still recall the number of the cab. The lady concierge was as calm as a lotus floating on the pond of tranquility, and as effective as an ordinary Singaporean. She investigated the origin of the cab by making a few phone calls. Five minutes later, she told me that I was indeed taking one of the many illegal cabs parked sweetly and nicely outside Ben Thanh Market, ready to scam the tourists. At that point, I hated Saigon wholeheartedly.

The lady concierge calmed me down, and gently reminded me that one should never, ever take any cab outside Ben Thanh. I told her that my business with the market had ended on a sour note. But she understood my bad mood, and suggested that I might want to ease my mind with a simple treatment in Xuan Spa.

Xuan Spa, which means ‘spring’ in Vietnamese, is on the third floor of Park Hyatt Saigon. Each of the seven treatment rooms have private showers, changing areas, and natural lighting. One of them has a Vichy shower, and three are complimented with private terraces overlooking the tropical garden pool area. My 60-minute treatment did not only beat the hell out of my mind, but also knocked me out and I had a good nap. Xuan Spa revived my faith in a five-star spa that is not just about luxury, but actually really works.

After having my mood cured, I decided to give the streets of Saigon a second chance. I strolled around for some good food in this capital of the Land of Phó. Just across from the hotel, tucked away quite discreetly, was The Refinery, a popular bistro that was too crowded. Another option was the fine dining option called KFC. My adventurous tummy couldn’t find any street-side food stalls as appealing as the ones in Hanoi. On top of it all, the streets were filled with motorbikes. The riders didn’t seem to understand what a zebra crossing was.

I decided to get back to basics with a wood-fire pizza in Opera – the casual and modern Italian restaurant in the Park Hyatt Saigon with  its large show kitchen and alfresco terrace overlooking the Opera House. I needed wine, and Opera understood this. The wine library had more than 1,500 bottles of fine Italian wines from Toscana, Veneto, Sicillia and Umbria.

Done with the sin of gluttony, I placed my evening in the hands of the famous Hyatt standard of a good night’s sleep. This ritual of cozy slumber started with a warm dip in the bathtub inside one of the 252 guestrooms. Award-winning Italian brand Comfort Zone provided perfect bathroom amenities that made me stay in longer than I needed. After a long bath, I dialed room service, asking them to kindly serve my breakfast en-suite, very early in the morning, as I had to catch the first flight. Then, I enjoyed my plush four-poster bed with duvets in fleur de lys print.

Park Hyatt Saigon first opened its doors on July 15, 2005 in a prime position in the city. The hotel overlooks the elegant Opera House, and is within easy reach of the international airport and business district. Designed by Kuala Lumpur-based firm Damansara Architects and EDC Design, Park Hyatt Saigon’s aim was to bring back the nostalgic feel of the city’s French colonial history. With frontline technology and comfort, the bright ivory-toned building of Park Hyatt Saigon features an elegant and stylish French façade, while the lobby exudes an elegant residential atmosphere. Design details include original antique-glass ceiling panels, inspired Indochine furniture, teak wooden floors, and Oriental rugs. The harmonious blend of French colonial and authentic Vietnamese has resulted in a pretty and fabulous interior composition.

The next morning, I got a knock on the door from room service. They delivered breakfast to my table, and assisted me in an express check out. My transport to the airport was flawless.

If it wasn’t for Park Hyatt Saigon, I would remember only a little about this city. In a city that is becoming too much like Jakarta, true hospitality service is crucial. Amidst the tricky streets, and chaotic backdrop, Park Hyatt Saigon is a safe haven that preserves Vietnamese hospitality.

At that point, at that Hyatt point, I loved Saigon with all my heart.

Park Hyatt Saigon
2 Lam Son Square, District 1,
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Tel: +84 8824 1234