Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Intercontinental Asiana - Staff attention make it a little gem in Saigon


Club Room at the Intercontinental Asiana Saigon - towards the bathroom

We stayed at the Intercontinental Asiana Saigon for one night on our way to London.

This is just a teaser. We had a longer 5 night stay on our return. I'll post a full review later.

Club room - towards the window, showing easy chair.

A layover of 9 hours is not something I look forward to - especially in a not great airport lounge - but its the price you pay for low business class airfares. Instead we decided to break our trip, get a good nights sleep, relax by the pool, check-out late, and then wait at the hotel in comfort until we trundled off to the airport at about 10pm the next day for our 1am departure for London.

Now, there are some truly great hotels in Asia - in Singapore and Bangkok especially, but until now, I had not associated Saigon (officially Ho Chi Minh City) as one of these. The Asiana has changed that opinion.

From the moment we got into our transfer car at the airport (Mercedes E class USD67 one way) until we were deposited back at the airport about 36 hours later the next day, I couldn't fault the service.

I'm a member of the Intercontinental Ambassadors Club, which costs USD200 a year, but has some great benefits including:
  • Guaranteed room upgrade 
  • Fresh fruit on arrival 
  • In-room mineral water
  • Welcome gift
  • Single room rate for double occupancy
  • Extended check-out until 4pm
  • Dedicated Ambassador check-in area
  • Complimentary pay-TV film per stay (with conditions)
  • Complimentary newspaper, delivered daily
  • Instant check-out 
  • Complimentary weekend night certificate (with conditions)
  • Elite status in IHG® Rewards Club and 5,000 points
  • Redeem points for rewards, including free nights
On the room upgrade and club access alone - this membership nearly paid for itself in one night. Here is the welcome letter:
Welcome letter, and we took advantage of almost all of the perks,
but the most important part was the lounge club access.

We were booked into a Superior Deluxe room, and the hotel upgraded us to the club floor, which meant we could stay in the club from our late checkout time through until our departure for the airport about 10pm the next day.


Bathroom from the corridor, towards the bedroom.
Bath to the right, shower and toilet to the left.
From the bathroom - shower to left, and door and wardrobe
across the corridor on the right.
Toto toilet, at what I think of as Asian squat height,
rather than european sit height.
Wish most toilets were at this height.
Too much information?

Our flight from Sydney arrived around 4:45pm in Saigon, which to us - still on Sydney time - was about 8:45pm.  By the time we had checked in at the club, made it to our room had our suitcases delivered and unpacked our overnight cases, it was time to return to the club for a few drinks and snacks, and a very warm welcome from the club staff.

The General Manager James Young dropped by and introduced himself - in fact he spoke to everyone in the club. This was a lovely touch. You can see why he's in hospitality - easy conversation, and a charming way of extracting himself to complete his rounds.

To celebrate our holiday, we stayed too late, drank too much, and then poured ourselves into the lift for the one floor transport to our room. Straight to bed for us. Tired but very happy.

Hotel room desks are often my bête noire - glass desks you can't use a computer mouse on,
chairs that do not support you properly for hours of work.
This setup avoided both those sins. And we go yellow orchids as well!

We surfaced about 9:30am to make breakfast before it finished at 10:30. We headed for the club lounge and consumed some fruit salad, cooked eggs to order, and flat white espressos.  We took our time, and the staff gave us more than fair warning that the buffet was about to close.

The rest of the day we took pretty quietly.  We went for a walk down the main drag (Dong Khoi) to the hotel we stayed at the last time we were in Saigon, 11 years ago - the Hotel Majestic, right on the river.

We also dropped into the ground level foyer of Saigon's newest five star hotel The Reverie. The concierge even helped us locate a couple of lacquer ware shops - even walking us to the first one, he asked us where we were staying, and then good naturedly said next time we should stay at his hotel.

The downstairs foyer demonstrating the restrained palette, and minimalist style of the rococo The Reverie.
That's what you get when you put too many Italian designers in one hotel!
Our afternoon was spent by the pool - enjoying the heat, the sun and the cocktails until about 3pm when we needed to sort ourselves out for check-out.

Water, sun lounge, cold towel, drinks, snacks and sun block. Perfect.

Back up in the club, the staff were aware we had a very late flight, so they set us up in a virtual private room, and fed us afternoon tea, followed by evening drinks and snacks. They were very attentive while we read, watched, and I caught up with a bit of work. Staff would pop by to check on our drinks, and then have a bit of a chat. Plenty of staff with plenty of time. At about 7:30pm the official drinks service was over, and the food was cleared, but one of the staff popped in and told us not to worry. We should just ask if we needed anything.

Afternoon tea in the club. mini bagels, prawn rolls, scones, strawberry tarts,
opera cake and chocolates, while we whiled away the afternoon.


Our own Christmas tree in our private little den in the club lounge
while waiting for our departure to the airport.

Well even with all that hospitality, food and drink, 6 hours of waiting between check out and when the hotel car was ready to take us to the airport, is a long time. A little after 10pm, they very professionally transferred us and our luggage, and took us to the airport, where of course there was a long wait for security before we reached another airport lounge. More about the Vietnam Airlines lounge later, and our unexpected 2nd visit the same morning.

View to the rest of the club lounge from our little nook.
We were sad to leave this oasis of a hotel, but excited to be on our way to see friends and relatives, and for me to have my first northern hemisphere Christmas. We weren't that sad really, as we knew we would be back in about 4 weeks to spend 5 more nights at the Asiana Saigon. In a way we were relieved - knowing that it was the right urban resort to chill out in on our way back to Sydney.

Saigon has changed in the 11 years since we last visited. New hotels, new skyscrapers and a superior level of hospitality expertise in this new - yet very old country.

Next stop London - well nearly. . .

More stories from this trip

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