It may be officially Ho Chi Minh City, but the most populous city in Vietnam is still known by its former name — Saigon. That designation is used in the title of the Northern Saigon Hotel, 11A Thi Sách, Bến Nghé, Quận 1, Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, where I stayed last fall. (Yes: as the sign over the front door proclaims, it’s also known, simply, as the Northern Hotel.)
Located in the central downtown of the city, the four-star hotel is convenient (especially for those traveling for business) but also for those of us who are tourists. The hotel can arrange a variety of tours, from a full-day’s exploration of Can Gio Forest (recognized as the first mangrove biosphere reserve in Vietnam by UNESCO in 2000) to half-day excursions, including the Saigon citycenter, filled with French colony architecture, and Chinatown — “Cho Lon” — where the highlight is the flower market.
I spent a couple of hours just wandering on foot. Well within reach of the hotel is the Saigon River, for example, and (in the other direction) is the Saigon Opera House, built in 1898 in the flamboyant style of the Third French Republic.
Because Saigon attracts many expats — including Americans — there are restaurants to suit every taste. One evening, for example, I had a great meal at Jake’s American BBQ, rated first on Tripadvisor’s list of barbecue restaurants in Saigon.
More than 13 million people live in the metropolitan area of Ho Chi Minh City. From 1955 to 1975, Saigon was the capital of the Republic of Vietnam, commonly known as South Vietnam.
As a major gateway to Vietnam, Saigon welcomed more than 8.6 million international visitors in 2019 (just about equaling its population). It’s easy to get a cab to the Northern Saigon Hotel from Tan Son Nhat International Airport, the busiest airport in Vietnam handling over 40 million passengers in 2019.
A buffet breakfast was included with my room. Available from 6:30 to 9:30 a.m. each day, it had a wide variety of offerings, including both European and Asian specialties. I was there three nights, so I got to sample the rice noodles, yellow noodles, and beef pho. They also had a bounty of tropical fruit, including my favorite — dragon fruit.
I tend to spend my time in a new (to me) location by wandering the sights, but those looking for leisure activities in the hotel won’t be disappointed. On the roof, there’s an infinity pool (and a bar, of course). A fitness center entices those who might miss their daily workouts.
All of the rooms and suits have IDD telephones, cable TV, WiFi, tea/coffee making facilities, and either a bathtub or a rain shower stall.
You can make a reservation on the hotel’s website or via one of the usual booking sites. When I was there, I paid about $70 for my single room, which also included breakfast. The more elegant singles (with a sitting area and city views) started about $120. Note: in the current coronavirus panic (late winter 2020), rates are far, far lower.
Go to Trip Advisor to check rates on multiple booking sites.
Flowers — both real and artistic — perfumed the lobby (below).
(Photos courtesy of the hotel and by Susan McKee)