I often felt the pangs of jealously while watching some of the popular travel shows. The show host stays at the best hotels, visits the most exquisite restaurants and the best that destination has to offer. I always wondered how nice it would be to experience such luxury,specially when you don’t have to pay for it, rather you are getting paid for.Aren’t all of us dream of replacing those travel show hosts! Alas! Seldom does such dreams materialize.
Well last year I got an opportunity to be a part of such a trip to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam .3 days trip organised as a part of the Reward and Recognition program,by the company I work for. Being a part of the event organising team, I represented India and that’s when all this started.
My rendezvous with Luxury!
To be honest, Ho Chi Minh City or Vietnam was never a part of my dream destinations list. Infact when the destination was announced, I had to take help of Google to know about this place.I had only read about Vietnam in history textbooks and visited a near by Vietnamese restaurant before. Never the less I was excited at the prospect of visiting an unknown place and adding one more stamp to my Passport.As a trip organiser, I had to reach 2 days before the rest of the group. There is no direct flight to Ho Chi Minh City or Saigon, as it’s popularly known. I had to fly Bangalore via Bangkok .Being my first trip all alone, I was little anxious about reaching the Hotel on my own and meeting other organisers for the first time. But this trip turned out to be so much fun and a new experience all together.
We stayed at Intercontinental Asiana, a 5 Star luxury Hotel at the City Center. The famous landmarks of the city are at a very short distance from this place.After 2 days of preparations for the award night, where we worked through the day and relaxed during evenings exploring local restaurants.It was time for action to begin!
Before the arrival of Indian delegates, one of major task, I has in hand was to find an Indian restaurant and organise lunch for the group. To my surprise I found an Indian Restaurant “Tandoor”, very near to our Hotel and I must admit the place was economical and food here was quite good.
Our formal trip started with a welcome cocktail dinner at Pullman Hotel Rooftop bar and Terrace. Located on the 30th and 31st floor, the Cobalt Restaurant and Bar offers an amazing view of the City. Perfect for a romantic evening or fine dine experience. This place offers modular cuisine with delicacies like nitrogen ice-cream, oxygen foam cocktail etc.
Second day it was time for Saigon traditional Shopping tour at Ben Thanh Market. This market is one of the earliest surviving structures in Saigon and one of the city’s liveliest areas. Here you can get any thing and everything that Vietnamese use. This is the place to buy suviniours, local handicrafts etc. So if you are a shopping enthusiast, you can spend hours at this place. Do not forget to Bargain as much as you can !
After spending almost all the money at Ben Thanh market, we visited the Cho Lon Market in China Town, yet another market where you can shop and off course Bargain.
After the tiring day of Shopping, it was time for Dinner at yet another beautiful Restaurant called Cham Charm gallery. The first impression of this restaurant is a pure white color castle, which is highlighted by the green trees leading to stairs. Build on the concept of “preserving the traditional Champa Culture”; Cham Charm is almost a mini-museum of artifacts and sculptural works .The highlight of this upscale restaurant is the Cham Charm special seafood buffet .Errazuriz wines are also included in the buffet at Cham Charm. You should definitely visit this place just to get a different feel all together.
Day 3 in the invite was called as “Saigon Rolling Adventure tour” and true to the name it was a city tour on 2 wheeler bikes and rickshaws the most popular mode of transportation here.
Morning started with a visit to Independence Palace; also know as Reunification Palace, which is a landmark in Ho Chi Minh City. Independence Palace was the home and workplace of the President of South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. The Palace offers an intriguing spectacle, ground floor is arranged with meeting rooms, while upstairs is a grand set of reception rooms, used for welcoming foreign and national dignitaries .In the back of the structure are the president’s living quarters; check out the model boats, horse tails and severed elephants’ feet.
From Independence Palace, it was time to get the feel of Local transportation, Yes, the two wheelers and Rickshaws, we had an option to choose either of them. Off course I choose Rickshaw as they are different from what we have in India. Once you sit on them it feels like you will fall upside down. But it was fun!
Rickshaws took us to our next destination, Golden Dragon water puppet theatre. A must visit to get the feel of traditional Vietnam. You will see no puppeteer, no machines or instruments, and even no controlling strings and poles. You only watch the puppets on a shimmering water surface. This was one of the memorable experiences.
After the puppet show, it was time for Lunch. We were welcomed by local Vietnamese children dressed in traditional attire singing in their language. To our surprise, Lunch was arranged at the deck of Bonsai, a large cruise sailing in the Saigon River. You can see the city while enjoying your lunch at the cruise.
As the trip was coming to an end, we made most of the time available by strolling through the streets of the city, tasting the local delicacies sold by street vendors, purchasing suviniours etc.
Our Farewell Dinner was arranged at a place called The Deck. I must admit this is one of the most beautiful and romantic restaurants I have visited so far. Situated along the Saigon River, the Deck has amazing view especially during Sunset. You can reach here either by the road or through the Ferry. There are glass doors and an outdoor wooden deck where tables can be set up for meals as well. Highly recommended place for an unforgettable fine dinning experience.
Well this was all about my Rendezvous with luxury.A truly delightful experience that I would remember for years, all thanks to the company I work for. Although I missed out on some of the must visit places but that can be planned during my next visit some time.
As informed to us by the hotel, don’t carry your phone and purse in your hand ,as there are lot of pickpockets here.
The official currency is the Vietnam Dong (d), which comes in denominations of 500d, 1000d, 2000d, 5000d, 10.000d, 20.000d, 50.000d, 100.000d, 200.000d and 500.000d. Again its very confusing!