Hotel Review: A Premier Classic River View King Room at Le Méridien Saigon
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To The Point
A last-minute visit to Ho Chi Minh City presented the perfect opportunity to check out one of the city’s newest hotels, Le Méridien Saigon. The Pros: new rooms and facilities, friendly staff, great location. The Cons: the property doesn’t feel especially Vietnamese.
Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here: Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express,Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express, Chase Sapphire Reserve
On a recent trip to Vietnam, I realized I had an unplanned extra day in my itinerary before I had to be in Ho Chi Minh City. Since I’d only visited the city one time several years ago, it seemed like a good opportunity to get there early and spend the day exploring. Plus, I’m gunning for Starwood status again this year and wanted to earn double Starpoints through SPG’s Double Take promo, which ended March 15, 2017. The two options I looked at were the Sheraton and Le Méridien Saigon. I was considering the Sheraton since staying there would mean I’d have club access thanks to my Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express, however Le Méridien looked nicer, was newer (it opened in 2015) and room rates were lower, so I went there instead.
Here’s where I admit something embarrassing: The reason I had to stay in Ho Chi Minh City in the first place is because I made a mistake with my travel dates. I thought I would just be connecting there, taking a flight in the early morning from Nha Trang, then meeting up with the transport from a cruise I was planning to take at a hotel in town, leaving directly from there. However, I’d somehow miscalculated my dates and was off by a day, so it turned out I had an unaccounted-for night and needed to figure out what to do — and I only realized my mistake that morning!
Before checking out of my hotel in Nha Trang, I looked at the SPG site to see how high rates were running at the Sheraton and Le Méridien for that same evening. Though comparable, the rooms at Le Méridien were about $10 cheaper, and since the hotel was newer and centrally located, like the Sheraton, I decided to book there. It was just going to be a one-night stay so I selected a Premier Classic King room in the starter category and figured I might get an upgrade thanks to my Starwood Gold status. The rate I got was $139 for the night, plus taxes and fees. This is an SPG Category 3 property so award nights are 7,000 points, which would have been a decent value, but I opted to save those points for something else.
Between the paid rate, the Double Take promo, my Gold status bonus and the option to receive 250 Starpoints as my welcome amenity, I ended up earning 1,060 points, or nearly eight points per dollar for the stay. I could have earned another two Starpoints per dollar by paying with my Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express or the business version I also carry, but I chose to use my Chase Sapphire Reserve instead so I would earn 3x Ultimate Rewards points per dollar for the travel purchase.
Check-In and Lobby
I landed in Ho Chi Minh City at about 9:00am on a Sunday, waited for my checked bag and took a taxi to the hotel. With light traffic, I arrived at about 10:00am. The hotel is located in a central part of town right on the river in a tall, glass building with a bluish tint to it. It’s also close to other major properties like the Park Hyatt Saigon, the Sheraton and the Sofitel, and about a 10-minute drive from major sights like Notre Dame Cathedral and Reunification Palace. There are a total of 343 rooms here, including 26 suites.
As my taxi pulled up, a doorman was right there to open my door and help me with my suitcase before pointing me toward reception. The lobby felt large due to its open floor plan and the fact that it was two stories high with an enormous chandelier hanging over the central area. To either side of the doors were a variety of chairs, sofas and stools. The gold-colored reception and concierge desks were dead ahead. No one was waiting in line so I walked right up to the Starwood Preferred Guest counter.
The check-in agent took my passport and pulled up my reservation. She thanked me for my loyalty and informed me that I’d been upgraded within the category to a Classic Premier River View King room, which would have cost $159, so my Gold status got me an extra $20 in value there. As for my check-in amenity, when I asked for the 250 Starpoints, the agent said she’d throw in free premium high-speed internet for me as well. She also gave me two certificates for free coffee drinks from the cafe, which came in handy that morning and on the following day.
I headed past the hotel’s cafe counter to the elevator bank to check out my room. The elevators themselves deserve a word — they’re key-card activated and floor-specific, so my key only worked on the 17th floor, where I’d be staying. There was also a plaque inside that described the hotel’s soundtrack, dubbed “A New Wave,” created by Marc Collin and Olivier Libaux. There was a sort of light show of changing colors to accompany it, with the aim of “activating moments of musical discovery throughout your stay.” It reminded me of the W’s music programming, but it wasn’t quite as in-your-face. In keeping with the hotel’s name and theme, the latitude and longitude were also written in the elevator and on various other surfaces throughout the hotel as discreet reminders conveying a sense of place.
My room was right off the elevator bank. Normally, I’d ask to be moved down the hall so as to avoid the noise of people coming and going, but since it was just for one night and I was in a hurry, I didn’t really care. The rest of the rooms ran down two open halls along the edges of a central skylit atrium.
I have to say, I was impressed by the room. It was large, at about 400 square feet, with contemporary furnishings and a lot of natural light. Did it feel especially Vietnamese? Not really, but it did feel fresh and new. Just inside the door on the left was the closet, complete with a safe, enough room for a suitcase and plenty of space to hang up my clothes.
The bathroom was just to the right of the door. The floors and one wall were clad in black marble, while the sink had metal legs and a white-marble counter top. The main portion of the bathroom held a freestanding tub and there were two separate glassed-in compartments, one for the toilet and one for the shower. The wall that separated the bathroom from the bedroom was just a big transparent glass window, though there was a shade you could lower for privacy.
The bathroom had a streamlined, sophisticated look thanks to all that marble and the shiny metal sink and shower fixtures.
The hotel partners with Cinq Mondes for bath amenities, and each product was labeled with its own number — they all smelled nice and fresh without being overpowering.
I really liked that there were two complimentary bottles of water waiting in the bathroom and another two on the desk.
The mini-bar also held a hot water kettle and some tea, but not coffee.
I also saw, though I’d literally made my reservation just hours before, that there was a little welcome amenity for me including some fresh fruit, chocolate cookies (unfortunately, they were quite bland) and a signed note from the hotel’s general manager.
The desk and mini-bar ran along one wall, with a 42-inch LED TV mounted above them.
There was also a little panel that held universal adapter plugs and USB ports for charging everything.
The king-size bed was dressed in all-white hypoallergenic bedding. It was a signature LM Bed — this brand’s version of the W Hotels’ Bed or the Westin’s Heavenly Bed — and I have to say, it compared favorably to those two. It was comfortable but not overly cushy, while the linens were plush without being too heavy.
On one side of the bed was a round marble table with a ceiling light suspended over it. On the other was a simple nightstand with a universal adapter plug and room controls for the lights and the window shades.
Next to the bed was a mod-style recliner chaise in bright red with a side table and a lamp behind it. The most eye-catching feature in the room, however, was the art installation behind the bed, which was gold and black and resembled a map of the city, with whorls representing the topography and the flow of the Saigon River that were then continued in the patterns on the carpeting. There was also a red dot to denote the location of the hotel itself on the map. I really liked this particular touch since it was easily recognizable as a map, but artistically rendered and visually engaging.
The windows ran along the exterior wall of the room and were nearly floor-to-ceiling, but not quite. The curtains and shades were controlled electronically by the buttons near the bed. I would like to say the river view was lovely but I’ll let you look at the pictures and be the judge of that.
It wasn’t bad, but was a lot more industrial than picturesque. I’d much rather have a City View room next time around.
I thought it was interesting to find an in-room menu of Instant Awards for which you could redeem Starpoints, including bottles of wine, buffet lunch and dinner at the hotel’s Latest Recipe restaurant and even in-room amenities like rollaway beds and late check-out. An upgrade to a Club room with full Club benefits was available for 4,500 Starpoints, while an upgrade to a suite was 9,000 Starpoints, both of which seemed way too high, especially considering you can normally get a suite upgrade at a Category 3 property for just 7,000 Starpoints.
Food and Beverage
Saigon is such an interesting foodie city, and I had such a short time there, so I made an executive decision to skip eating at the hotel. However, there are several dining outlets here worth noting.
Just off the lobby, the Latitude 10 Lounge is like a casual all-day cafe, open from 10:00am to 12:00am. In the morning, it serves coffee and espresso drinks as well as Le Méridien Signature Éclairs and other pastries. In the afternoons and evenings, you can enjoy on-tap beers from the local Pasteur Street Brewing Company and glasses of wine from bottles in a wine-serving machine. A contemporary version of high tea is also served here in the afternoon.
On the other side of Latitude 10 across from the elevator bank is a coffee and pastry bar called Art Cacao. This is where I got my free coffee drinks in the morning, along with a chocolate muffin, which was good but not great. There are truffles, macarons, croissants and éclairs here as well. It’s open from 8:00am to 7:00pm and was convenient for quick snack on the go.
One floor up from the lobby is the hotel’s flagship restaurant, Latest Recipe, which is overseen by the hotel’s executive chef, Frederic Meynard. It’s open for à la carte and buffet breakfast, buffet lunch and dinner — the restaurant had also started a new weekend brunch buffet the Sunday I arrived. Because the service is buffet, and there are eclectic choices ranging from Vietnamese and other Southeast Asian cuisines to pizza, there are several food stations guests can browse. It looked good, but not enough to tempt me away from trying some street food in the city instead.
Another eatery, Bamboo Chic, is up on the ninth floor and is rather colorful, with tables surrounding the central bar. The menu here is Cantonese-Japanese fusion, with specialties like miso-braised beef cheek and Canadian lobster served over udon noodles. The cocktail menu focuses on sake and Japanese whiskeys.
The other restaurant up here is the pool and spa bar, Explore Bistro, which offers a light, healthy menu of fresh dishes including fruit plates, vegetarian options and a juice bar.
The hotel’s ninth floor also holds its other three main amenities: an outdoor pool, a fitness center and a spa.
The space is… interesting. It’s two stories tall, with skylights, a bright red-tiled wall, an undulating wooden installation, UFO-shaped overhead lights and a small bridge across a reflecting pool (also with bright tiles).
To the right of it is the outdoor pool area, which has an open sundeck on the periphery of the building as well as one underneath the same ceiling that covered the pool. The pool itself is long and narrow, like a lap pool. The views of the river were nice, and a lot of folks seemed to be spending the day here.
On the far side of the floor is the reception desk for the Explore Spa. On the menu were a few signature treatments, including a four-handed 75-minute “Choreography” massage and a “Youth Intervention” 90-minute anti-aging facial. These sounded great but I wanted to spend my short time in Saigon out exploring the city so I decided to skip the spa visit this trip.
Next to the reception desk was the entrance to the gym, which was pretty well-equipped and bright, thanks to the windows along the two walls.
I got a good workout in here the following morning, and there were only two other guests using the gym while I was, so there was plenty of space for everyone.
The hotel also has a Club Lounge on its top (22nd) floor that serves breakfast, afternoon tea and evening hors d’oeuvres, though I didn’t have access.
I’d like to make one final note on amenities. Though my stay was short, at just over 24 hours, I felt like I got a good sense of the hotel and its offerings (aside from its food outlets anyway). I spent some time in my room in the morning and evening to take advantage of its features, but it was talking to the staff about the various bars and cafe areas that really helped me to get a sense of the place.
In that respect, I have to give a quick shout-out to one staff member in particular who helped me on a number of counts. Because my stay was short, I wanted to make the most of it, and I was only able to do so with her help. Right after I checked in, I stepped over to the concierge desk, and within minutes, the young woman there helped me plot out my day.
I wanted to dine at a restaurant I like called Cuc Gach Quán — yes, I know it’s a bit touristy now since it was popularized back in the day by Brangelina, but the food is still good! — and she was able to score me a reservation that night at 8:00pm — prime time.
Second, I said that if possible, I wanted to get a jacket tailor-made for me, and while she suggested one particular store, she also helped me look up several others that I could walk by on my way in case any of them looked better. I stopped by a few but ended up going with the one she originally suggested because the shop knew exactly the style I wanted and could get it done for me overnight.
She also pointed out that Pasteur Street Brewing Company would be on my walk in case I wanted to duck in there to try one of its famous beers, like the passion-fruit wheat ale or the jasmine IPA. I did, and it was the perfect little rest stop.
Finally, I had wanted to check out a little area nearby called 3A that’s known for its art galleries, stores and cafes, and she laughed, saying it was right next to the hotel, even suggesting a couple of specific stores to go into. When I returned to the hotel with some souvenirs for my family, she also priced out how much it would cost to mail them home if I didn’t have room to bring them with me in my suitcase.
All in all, her help in particular helped me make the most of an unplanned stay in Saigon and made my experience at Le Méridien that much better. I’m planning to give her one of my SPG Elite Thank You certificates — as an SPG Gold member, I have four of them to use before the end of this year.
Though I wasn’t planning on a stay in Ho Chi Minh City, when I found out I’d be spending a night there, Le Méridien Saigon turned out to be a great option. I was impressed by the hotel’s art and design focus as well as the variety of food outlets it has, even if I only got to try the cafe and the bar. The rates were reasonable even at the last minute, and the rooms were stylish and felt very new. My SPG Gold status scored me extra perks like bonus points and high-speed internet access, which helped me get a lot of work done while I was there. But it was the friendly service — and especially the helpfulness of the concierge — that set my stay apart. If you’re looking for a contemporary hotel in the mid-level budget range in Ho Chi Minh City, this should definitely be at the top of your list.
Have you ever stayed at Le Méridien Saigon? Tell us about your experience, below.
All photos by the author.
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