WHAT’S IT LIKE? Ho Chi Minh City’s District 1 has evolved in recent years to become known as the epicentre of economic activities in Vietnam, stealing the spotlight from its sister city and the Vietnamese capital, Hanoi. Many landmarks of the business city have retained their French colonial architecture, including the famed Saigon Opera House, Notre Dame Cathedral, Central Post Office and Hotel Continental, all built during the 19th century, as well as the Caravelle Hotel, originally comprising only one tower when it opened in 1959 and now has two tower wings.
A two-year refurbishment completed recently at the hotel, which celebrates 50 years of business next year. Guests can look forward to the revamped Nineteen for all-day casual dining, the signature restaurant Reflections and new Sealy Posturepedic mattresses in room.
WHERE IS IT? On Lam Son Square, which is an ideal starting point for history and culture buffs looking to explore the city on foot. The hotel is close to a host of attractions such as the Opera House (located opposite) and Ben Thanh market (five minutes on foot). Besides Caravelle, other luxury hotels in the vicinity include Park Hyatt, Sheraton and Renaissance Riverside. The Tan Son Nhat International Airport is 15 minutes away by car.
HOW MANY ROOMS? 335 guestrooms with views of the city and Saigon River.
ROOM FACILITIES: The Caravelle Touches service invites guests to fill up a form prior to their stay, specifying their room amenities (such as a choice of pillows, adaptor and extra hangers), restaurant bookings and other needs, like meeting room or car rental, a massage or city tour. A nice gesture making guests feel taken care of.
Lifts in the tower wing take customers up to the guestroom floors, which are marked by signages indicating rooms either on the left or on the right. But we chose instead to use the original-wing lift (which is to the right of the main lobby on the ground floor and opposite the lobby lounge) to go up to our Signature Deluxe Room on the ninth floor, then take a right. All the rooms are located to the right as you step out of the lift. Next to the lift is a staircase leading to the roof-top Saigon Saigon Bar and the Signature Lounge is also on the ninth floor.
Guestrooms are furnished with Sealy mattresses, satellite TVs, IDD phones, broadband internet connection, coffee/tea-making set, safe (as big as two A5-size notebooks), minibars and tiled bathrooms with showers and bathtubs (complete with a rubber duckie on the side).
A fax machine and bath amenities of the aromatherapy product brand THANN are a bonus, as is the wall-mounted hairdryer, which eliminates the hassle of locating one during those rush morning hours.
RESTAURANTS: Nineteen Restaurant serves buffet and à la carte all day (a wine trolley is available onsite), while Reflections opens from 4pm to 11pm for Western and Asian selections.
BARS: The open-air Saigon Saigon Bar, still boasting the best view of the city, is at its most charming at night and admits all guests of all ages, including children (ice-cream is served here). Other options are the Pool Bar and lobby lounge.
BUSINESS FACILITIES: Small- to medium-size groups can be hosted in facilities ranging from a 63-square-metre function room to a ballroom with pre-function area totalling 500sqm. The Signature Lounge provides guests staying on the premium floor with complimentary Wi-Fi and large windows allow natural light in and offer views of the city below. Office-type requests can be easily fulfilled at the business centre, which opens from 7am to 11pm. Staff are always helpful.
LEISURE FACILITIES: Guests can avail themselves of a fitness centre, which overlooks the swimming pool. There’s also a salon and spa.
PRICE: From US$280 nightly for a stay in January.
VERDICT: Both business and leisure travellers will benefit from its superb location and cosy offerings.
CONTACT: 19 Lam Son Square, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, tel 84 8 823 4999, www.caravellehotel.com