Saigon is a beautiful city in the south of Vietnam, formally known as Ho Chi Minh City. One thing I quickly learned: residents, locals and everyone else there call it Saigon. I found myself in Saigon after a two-week Asian adventure and although tired, I wish had more time to spend there as I instantly fell in love with the city. I also happened to be there on Christmas Eve, which made the whole experience a bit bizarre.

For my hotel in Saigon, I chose the InterContinental Asiana Saigon (Corner Hai Ba Trung & Le Duan Blvd., District 1) and found the service and accommodations lived up to the standard I expect when staying at an InterContinental property.

InterContinental Saigon
The see-thru pool


The hotel’s location is ideal, right in the heart of Saigon. I was in easy walking distance from some of the city’s main tourist sites, like the Reunification Palace, the War Remnants Museum, Ben Thanh market, the Post Office and Opera House buildings and more. It was also an fast bus ride from the cruise ship port and only an $8 taxi ride to the airport.

The author on his balcony

My 12th floor Club room had a beautiful view overlooking the city skyline and the Notre Dame Cathedral. The furniture was very stylish and upscale, with a great Eames-style leather chair and ottoman. There was a large desk and also a nice big 42″ flat-screen HD TV with a DVD player and surround sound system. As with other InterContinental hotels, they featured a “pillow menu” offering pillows of different sizes, fillings and firmness. The room was nice and quiet, even on Christmas Eve I heard no outside noise, nor noise from adjoining rooms.

Intercontinental Saigon
My room overlooking Saigon

The bathroom was big and luxurious, with a large glass shower and a huge stand-alone bathtub. Travelers should note the bathroom is designed in an Asian style and the door slides closed, but does not lock. Also the wall separating the bathroom from the bed and room itself has opaque windows, but it’s not soundproof.

As a Club InterContinental floor guest, I got a lot of extra amenities that really made the stay enjoyable. Club amenities included free Wifi in my room and in the Club lounge, soft drinks and juices all day, along with a wonderful full breakfast each morning. The lounge, on the 19th floor with great city views, also featured afternoon tea each day and happy hour each evening with canapes and free wine. The lounge had iPad2s for loan and Club floor guests even get two pieces of clothing pressed for free. All hotel guests can enjoy a full gym, health club, spa and pool, all open 24-hours. The pool is beautifully designed with a wall of glass allowing viewing of swimmers.

Scooters on the streets of Saigon

Not only does the hotel sit on top of a shopping mall, the Kumho Asiana Plaza, there is also a food court area with numerous restaurants. Travelers missing American-style food will find both a Hard Rock Cafe and a Subway. I really liked visiting the small market and convenience store in the food court, filled with all kinds of unique Asian products.

Saigon war museum
A captured American jet at the War Museum

The InterContinental Asiana Saigon has two main restaurants, Market 39 and Yu Chu. Market 39 is an upscale buffet place, featuring a wide selection of really good food. There’s an Asian section, a Dim Sum section, an Italian section and a range of other rotating flavors. This is not a Las Vegas buffet, this is fine dining, but offered in a range of cuisines and served buffet-style. The buffet style is very popular in Asia. The other restaurant is Yu Chu, featuring authentic Chinese food; Cantonese- and Peking-style delights cooked in an open kitchen. Meals at Yu Chu also feature a formal tea service and some of China’s finest teas are served. The hotel also features an Italian trattoria called Basilico and a bar / nightclub called Purple Jade, home to one of the world’s top bartenders. His name is Duc and if you go there, you need to try the Duc-tini.

For one of our dinners, knowing the hotel is owned by Koreans (the hotel is owned by a Korean company, Asiana Airlines), we chose Myung Ga, the Korean restaurant in the food court area of the Kumho Asiana Plaza, part of the hotel complex. This was an excellent choice and the food was amazing. We shared beef bulgogi and a spicy pork sausage hot pot with noodles. Dinner for two with sodas was $25.

Extended stays
For travelers looking to stay a few weeks or a few months, the hotel has the InterContinental Saigon Residences, housed in a 31-story tower next to the hotel tower. The one, two and three bedroom apartments are luxurious and stylish like the hotel rooms but larger, with a mini-kitchen as well. Apartments get 24-hour room service and full access to the hotel amenities like the gym, pool, spa, laundry and maid service.