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As many of us in the hotel-credit-card game know, getting a free-night award is only half the battle. Finding a good place to use it before it expires is a whole other matter. With so many programs shuffling desirable properties into categories that are out of reach, the sweet spots are few and far between.
Fortunately, I came across a very sweet spot to use my Chase Hyatt free-night certificate, an anniversary perk for paying the $75 annual fee on my Chase Hyatt Card, when I booked a trip to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
And, happily, I could use my Chase Hyatt certificate for a free night at the Category 4 Park Hyatt Saigon, a five-star hotel.
The Park Hyatt Saigon was in the heart of the Ho Chi Minh City’s District 1, just minutes from popular landmarks such as the Opera House, Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica and Reunification Palace. As the central part of the country’s biggest city, District 1 is the hub of Vietnam’s commerce, and you could easily spend your entire visit in this one neighborhood.
My friend and I got into an Uber at the airport at 9:45pm and arrived 24 minutes later for a fare of 94,000 Vietnamese dong ($4.15).
The property immediately stood out thanks to its French Colonial theme. We were greeted at the entrance and helped with our bags.
At the check-in counter, I was thanked for my Discoverist status (a humble perk of the Hyatt card), which got me 15% off of spa services. I asked if a room upgrade were available and was told we were already on a higher floor but could get a suite for an additional $200 a night. I declined. I was also offered breakfast for $30 a day. I declined that as well.
Like magic, the lighting in the room came on as we entered. This didn’t look like any Hyatt I’d ever been in. The 245 rooms (including 23 suites) had gone through a complete renovation, and the place looked great.
The room decor was the least corporate I’d seen in any chain hotel. On the room’s elegant rug sat the two twin beds, a short dresser with flat-screen TV, a small desk (with iPad for guest use), two chairs and a small round table. On that were two fresh dragonfruits and a welcome note from the general manager. (Fruit was refreshed later in our stay.)
The hallway’s wood floors led to a spacious marble-clad bathroom on the immediate right, with a closet whose doors opened on both sides.
The bathroom was well-lit, with an enclosed side-by-side tub and shower. The water temperature and pressure were excellent, as were the big towels. My friend assured me the complimentary cosmetic products were also high-quality.
In the corner was a hutch with hidden mini-fridge and snacks (110,000 Vietnamese dong — about $5 — for a Coke), topped with a Nespresso machine and stoneware tea set. In almost every piece of furniture, tiny compartments held everything from Ethernet cables to sugar packets. On the nightstands were Bose speakers and analog alarm clocks.
The windows let in plenty of light, with views of the pool below.
The free Wi-Fi was slower than I hoped, but never proved to be a problem, though there was a short outage at one point.
Not only did the room look great, the functionality was outstanding. It was as if the people who designed this room had asked me in advance what my pet peeves were and addressed them all. Just to highlight what was near the bed: outlets (universal electric and USB), well-marked light switches and bottled water.
There may be a storage room in the basement with hundreds of identical clocks, lamps and coasters, but it felt like this room was uniquely decorated. Few things seemed mass-made or chosen on the corporate level, and it was a great pleasure being in a room that had a sense of place, that felt it belonged to the city it was in.
Food and Beverage
At Opera’s entrance, it was hard to resist the offerings of the Pastry Boutique, beautifully crafted sweets lined up like jewels in a glass case.
I did not stay away from Park Lounge, a sophisticated tea lounge-cum-nightspot just off the lobby that offered strong cocktails and desserts under crystal chandeliers. The piano player was great. Even better were the house-made sorbets.
Around the corner, 2 Lam Son was a dark and stylish bar worth a visit at happy hour for its half-priced drinks and appetizers, many inspired by local flavors and cultures.
Square One, the hotel’s notable Vietnamese-French restaurant, was closed for renovation (or as the sign put it, “luxury redefinition”). It’s reopened since I was there.
The outdoor swimming pool area was brilliantly clean. Upon our arrival, an attendant immediately brought us bottled water and offered us board games. About 30 chaise lounges surrounded the pool, and I never saw more than four used at a time.
The pool was wonderful. The only downside was that it was only open until 8:00pm (I was told some guest rooms opened directly to the pool and needed the quiet).
The fitness center was better equipped than many health clubs, with a full suite of cardio and weight machines and fresh fruit.
The Xuan Spa down the hall offered a full range of services, but with $8 massages available elsewhere in the neighborhood, I did not enter.
A well-appointed business center offered two computer set-ups in a library setting, handy for printing boarding passes. Several meeting rooms, in various configurations, were available to rent as well.
To the Point
Sorry to tell you this after you’ve gotten this far, but this review could have just been one sentence long: My stay at the Park Hyatt Saigon was flawless.
It’s my nature and my job to have a critical eye, but I found virtually nothing to complain about. When I did have an issue (late checkout request, temporary Wi-Fi outage), it was addressed quickly and courteously. Even without having to ask, accommodations were made throughout the stay. Workers turned off their vacuum cleaners when I approached, so as not to disturb me with the noise. I returned home from my first day out to find my toiletries neatly placed on a linen cloth. I wouldn’t have noticed if these courtesies hadn’t happened, but I sure appreciated that they did.
It made me feel like this place wanted me to come back. And the feeling was mutual.
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