Home Travel Perfect respite from eight million mopeds and motorbikes: Inside the Park Hyatt Saigon – a colonial-style grande dame in the heart of the historic city

Perfect respite from eight million mopeds and motorbikes: Inside the Park Hyatt Saigon – a colonial-style grande dame in the heart of the historic city

by Merry
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MailOnline Travel's Fiona Hardcastle checks into the Park Hyatt Saigon in Ho Chi Minh City

‘Welcome to Saigon Water Park!’ shouts Hong, smiling through the torrential downpour as we briefly step off our scooters to wrap ourselves in sturdy raincoats.

With eight million mopeds and motorcycles – 15 for each car -, according to my husband, there is only one way to get around Ho Chi Minh City in a day, and that is to join the swarm of two wheels that run through its streets clinging to a woman who knows the best restaurants.

Thanks to Uncle Ho then for XO Excursionsthe first all-female motorcycle company in Vietnam, combining an exciting four-hour tour of the city (it was called Saigon until the communist victory in 1975) with an insider’s guide to the best local food.

Hong Tong, the leader of our group, welcomes us in the lobby of our hotel, the grand colonial-style lady. Park Hyatt Saigonwhich is located in the historic heart of the city.

With its chandeliered lobby filled with artwork, lacquered desks and giant vases of flowers, I look quite out of place dressed for adventure in combat and Zara sneakers. Not so Hong, who arrives in an elegant uniform of white silk tunic and stylish teal pants along with a helmet and a megawatt smile.

MailOnline Travel's Fiona Hardcastle checks into the Park Hyatt Saigon in Ho Chi Minh City

MailOnline Travel’s Fiona Hardcastle checks into the Park Hyatt Saigon in Ho Chi Minh City

The colonial-style hotel’s pool is located “amidst lush landscaped gardens.”

'Historic heart of the city': Fiona talks to her husband and three children

'Historic heart of the city': Fiona talks to her husband and three children

‘Historic heart of the city’: Fiona talks to her husband and three children

The five of us are paired with a guide each (freckle-faced Felix, 11, causes quite a stir), while my daughters Rose, 17, and Evie, 16, are soon chatting and laughing with their young drivers as if They were old friends.

“Mom,” Evie whispers urgently as I try to get behind Hong. “They know where all the discount cosmetics stores are.” And boy, do they do it.

They also know where to find the best street food and as we fly around, shedding our raincoats to crouch on a series of plastic chairs, we are struck by the quality of the dishes emerging from the most basic kitchens.

Felix and I count chicken, beef, shrimp, scallops, crab and, yes, goat, among our evening menu, while non-meat eaters are equally satisfied with vegetarian versions of the national broth, pho.

By the time our ladies return us to our hotel, we are already soaked in the spirit of Saigon. All you need now is a piping hot bath in our luxurious marble bathroom, a glass of Negroni in the hotel’s elegant 2 Lam Son bar, and a world of sleep in king-size white linens, while an old-world ceiling fan hums softly on the ceiling. .

Of the hotel’s breakfast, Fiona says it is “without a doubt the most extensive and artistic buffet” she has ever seen. Pictured above is Opera, the hotel’s open kitchen lounge where breakfast is served.

The hotel’s chandeliered lobby is “filled with artwork and giant vases of flowers.”

XO Tours is the first all-female motorcycle company in Vietnam

XO Tours is the first all-female motorcycle company in Vietnam

XO Tours is the first all-female motorcycle company in Vietnam

We woke up refreshed and ready to explore the rest of our palatial stop.

The breakfast is so elevated (certainly the most extensive and artistic buffet I’ve ever seen) that it seems only right that it should be served in a restaurant called Opera. The high ceilings are adorned with elaborate installations: a confection of delicate glass clouds hovers over the bar, while outside in the conservatory, large fans of lotus flowers spin over the morning pho.

‘It’s raining?’ Felix asks, looking up from his plate.

It is not. Which means only one thing: it’s time to get wet again. This time in the pool.

Located on the third floor, amidst lush gardens and artfully lined with cream-coloured four-poster cottages, I could stay here all morning boring my daughters with stories of Graham Greene and his love affair with the countryside.

“They say everything you’re looking for you’ll find here,” I say, quoting a line from The Quiet American, which he wrote in this city.

“He should have stayed here then,” Rose smiles.

TRAVEL DATA

Fiona is staying at Park Hyatt Saigon, where rooms cost around £285 ($360) per night, correct at the time of writing. Visit www.parkhyattsaigon.com.

Telephone + 84 28 3824 1234 or email saigon.park@hyatt.com.

PROS: Colonial elegance in every corner.

CONS: The rainy season made it difficult to fully use the pool.

Classification: *****

The ‘XO Foodie’ tour starts at £64 ($80) per person.

Visit www.xotours.vn.

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