Perfect respite from eight million mopeds and motorbikes: Inside the Park Hyatt Saigon –


‘Welcome to Saigon Water Park!’ cries Hong, beaming through the torrential downpour as we clamber briefly off our scooters to be swathed in serious waterproofs.

With eight million mopeds and motorbikes – 15 for every car – there’s only one way to do Ho Chi Minh City in a day, according to my husband, and that’s to join the two-wheeled swarm speeding through its streets while clinging onto a woman who knows all the best restaurants.

Thank Uncle Ho then for XO Tours, the first all-female motorbike company in Vietnam, which combines an exhilarating four-hour sweep 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, meets us at the lobby of our hotel, the colonial-style grande dame Park Hyatt Saigon, which sits in the historic heart of the city.

With its chandeliered lobby lined with works of art, lacquered bureaux and giant vases of flowers, I look rather out of place dressed for adventure in Zara combats and trainers. Not so Hong, who arrives in a stylish uniform of white silk tunic and smart teal trousers along with a helmet and megawatt smile.

MailOnline Travel's Fiona Hardcastle checks in to the Park Hyatt Saigon in Ho Chi Minh city

MailOnline Travel’s Fiona Hardcastle checks in to the Park Hyatt Saigon in Ho Chi Minh city

The colonial-style hotel's pool is set in 'the middle of lush, landscaped gardens'

The colonial-style hotel’s pool is set in ‘the middle of lush, landscaped gardens’

'Historic heart of the city': Fiona checks in with her husband and three children

‘Historic heart of the city’: Fiona checks in with her husband and three children

The five of us are paired up with a female guide each – freckled Felix, 11, causes quite the stir – while my daughters Rose, 17, and Evie, 16, are soon chatting and laughing with their young drivers like old friends.

‘Mummy,’ whispers Evie urgently as I try to arrange myself behind Hong. ‘They know where all the discount cosmetics stores are.’ And boy, do they.

They also know where to find the best street food and as we fly around, shedding our rain cloaks to squat on a series of plastic chairs, we are amazed by the quality of dishes that emerge from the most basic kitchens.

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

By the time our ladies deliver us back to our hotel, we are soaked with Saigon spirit. All that’s needed now is a piping hot bath in our luxurious marble en suite, a nightcap Negroni in the hotel’s swanky 2 Lam Son bar, and a world of sleep in king-size white linen, while an old-world ceiling fan whirs softly overhead.

Of the hotel's breakfast, Fiona says it's 'easily the most expansive and artistic buffet' she's seen. Pictured above is Opera, the hotel's open-kitchen lounge where breakfast is served

Of the hotel’s breakfast, Fiona says it’s ‘easily the most expansive and artistic buffet’ she’s seen. Pictured above is Opera, the hotel’s open-kitchen lounge where breakfast is served

The hotel's chandeliered lobby is 'lined with works of art and giant vases of flowers'

The hotel’s chandeliered lobby is ‘lined with works of art and giant vases of flowers’

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

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

We wake refreshed and ready to explore the rest of our palatial pit-stop.

Breakfast is so elevated – easily the most expansive and artistic buffet I have ever seen – that it seems only right it’s served in a restaurant called Opera. High ceilings are graced with elaborate installations – a confection of delicate glass clouds hovers over the bar while outside in the conservatory, large lotus flower fans revolve above the early morning pho.

‘Is it raining?’ asks Felix, looking up from his bowl.

It isn’t. Which means only one thing: time to get wet again. This time in the pool.

Set on the third floor in the middle of lush, landscaped gardens and artfully lined with cream, four-poster cabanas, I could lie here all morning boring my daughters with tales of Graham Greene and his love affair with the country.

‘They say whatever you’re looking for, you will find here,’ I say, quoting a line from The Quiet American, which he wrote in this city.

‘He must have stayed here then,’ smiles Rose.

TRAVEL FACTS 

Fiona is hosted by Park Hyatt Saigon, where rooms start from around £285 ($360) a night, correct at the time of writing. Visit www.parkhyattsaigon.com.

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

PROS: Colonial elegance in every corner.

CONS: Rainy season made it hard to take full advantage of the pool.

Rating: *****

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

Visit www.xotours.vn.



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