Cool luxury will transport you to a bygone era
After a heartbreaking 1pm delay that turned my late afternoon arrival into a late morning in Ho Chi Minh, I was shown to a seat at reception and treated to a refreshing welcome drink after the staff rushed to collect my luggage. It goes without saying that friendly and professional staff are part of the Sofitel MGallery experience, and the mood is instantly soothing when you enter the hotel‘s grand lobby, which sits alongside a lounge housing a grand piano and overlooking a leafy courtyard. The central hotel is not far from the airport – about six kilometers – but the traffic in this city of almost nine million people means that you have to crawl slowly through the city to reach the hotel (this usually takes between 15 and 40 minutes).
This luxurious hotel is a respite from the bustle of the city outside its doors. Paying homage to the French Indochina era of the 1930s, the hotel combines glamour, mystique and comfort with modern touches, such as dramatic light fixtures and modern Vietnamese art.
I was delighted to step into the room after my unglamorous flight, starving and deprived of caffeine, to discover a mini-high tea consisting of a tiny cheese and sun-dried tomato focaccia; tropical fruits and petit fours – irresistible little pieces of light and tangy cheesecake and variations of French chocolate pastries. The Nescafé pod machine was less than perfect, but did the job nonetheless. After I took my leave of my room to explore for the afternoon, the cleaning fairies came in and replaced my towels, water and coffee pods and hopefully forgave the mess Hurricane Kylie had left in his rush to explore the city during a lonely afternoon.
But I digress: the beautiful art deco rooms have distinctive curved windows that offer city views. Similar in style to other Sofitel properties, the bathroom and bedroom with king-size bed are separated only by a curtain, with separate shower and toilet cubicles, marble benches, and tile and ware toiletries by Balmain Paris.
FOOD + DRINK
This is one of those hotels where it would be perfectly acceptable to spend every meal dining within its walls. Breakfast is impressive, with an array of homemade breads and pastries and jams, bright tropical fruits, baby banh mi and a signature salmon pho, served on colorful Vietnamese crockery. Mesmerizing views of the city await you from the crowded rooftop bar of the Social Club on a Friday night, but I feel most at home in the speakeasy-style bar downstairs, with its glorious vintage bar, its mismatched upholstered chairs, dim lights and teak cabins. I order a Vietnamese mango bourbon cocktail and it arrives topped with flowers and a sprig of rosemary resting on a bed of dried pineapple and a drizzle of raspberry. The snacks at the Eurocentric bar are just as beautiful and just as delicious.
OUTSIDE + ABOUT
You’re right in the heart of the city here, with some of the city’s top attractions just steps away. Food vendors line the streets, and there are also numerous cafes and markets, as well as the city’s most iconic tourist attractions such as the Post Office, the Reunification Building, Notre-Dame (heavily covered in scaffolding when visiting, try the pink Tan Dinh Church instead). As a regular visitor, I was happy to prowl the streets to sample the city’s excellent street food.
The beautiful French Indochina design of this hotel will transport you to a bygone era.
Deluxe rooms start from $175 per night. 78 Nguyễn Thị Minh Khai, St, Quận 3, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh 070000, Vietnam; hoteldesartssaigon.com
The Social Club’s speakeasy and rooftop pool are must-sees.
Missing one of my two nights stay thanks to a ridiculously long delay on a budget Australian airline.
OUR SCORE OUT OF FIVE
The writer stayed as a guest of Accor hotels.