Continuing in the occasional series from my husband about his various business trips, here's a piece on his visits to Vietnam.
I travel so much for work and am hardly ever in Singapore or ‘at home’ so I thought I’d write a review of the hotels I've stayed at in Vietnam to help readers if they are planning a trip to this wonderful country. Although they were a business trips I visited both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City (or is it Saigon, many locals do not use the new name).
In Hanoi, I stayed at the Hanoi Hilton Opera, located reasonably centrally, near the Opera House (as the name suggests). It is a standard business hotel the room rate was $155 (US) for the room and brekkie (an extensive selection), but there may be deals for a weekend adventure, it had the usual facilities, including an outdoor pool (not used this trip, it was freezing outside).
On a brief walk around the city on arrival I observed that the city is very European in feel. France was the former colonial power, and there are huge wide open boulevards and grand colonial buildings. It was cold too (well it was about 12 or 13 degrees) with dank overcast drizzly weather.
Dinner the first night (of my first stay) was at a local place near the Movenpick hotel called Quan An Ngon (15 Pho Phan Boi Chau). I have actually been to Hanoi again since and am still as captivated by the colonial French buildings, so unlike any other Asian city. I dined at this place on both of my visits to Hanoi and on my second visit also stayed in the Movenpick Hotel. A hotel with a lovely boutique feel with well appointed rooms and comfy beds. The restaurant though is a collection of hawker type stalls, offering an extensive selection of Vietnamese food, ordered and served to your table by an array of efficient waiting staff. The food is excellent, including my favourite Pho Bo (the Ha Noi beer comes with ice in the glass, request it without if that is your preference).
On my first visit there we had a feast of spring rolls, wraps and the aforementioned excellent Pho Bo (my new favourite food), sitting on shared tables. The second night (of my first stay) was at Green Tangerine, a quiet French-Asian fusion place in the Old Quarter (48 Pho Hang Be), serving great food. Again I had the Vietnamese banquet but my travelling companions had French-inspired dishes, the duck and the lamb looked fab (it was a tad expensive for Hanoi but worth it).
In Saigon, we stayed at the Intercontinental Asiana Hotel, near the Reunification Palace and Notre Dame Cathedral. Again a standard business hotel but connected to the best food court in Saigon (called The Link). The rooms, or more specifically the bed in the room, were excellent with good working facilities. I dined at Bobby Chinn’s restaurant (in The Link), which was excellent (my first dining experience in the restaurant of a celeb chef) with a truly lovely ambiance (there were rose petals on the table, not great for solo dining perhaps). I had roast chicken with roasted veg and wasabi mash (I know, not Vietnamese but sometimes we are tourists) with a complimentary dessert (a chocolate mousse parcel) and a couple of excellent Saigon Beers (Hanoi Beer was equally great).
As my meetings were in the hotel we made the buffet lunch in the hotel’s Pier 39 Restaurant. The Pho Bo was the best ever (perhaps I need to sample this from the dodgiest street vendor too) but the other choices were extremely extensive. The hotel is next to the Hard Rock Cafe if you crave a burger or nachos.
In Saigon, the roads are chaotic but it is fun to watch the flow of traffic with all the mopeds, constant taxi horns and disregard for traffic signals. I’d hate to actually drive here.