At the InterContinental Asiana Saigon, concierge Cung Hien Thieu has spent seven years advising visitors about what to see, do and eat in this beautiful and historic Vietnamese city. Here he offers expert advice for business travelers.
What should business travelers have on hand when visiting your city?
Ho Chi Minh’s weather is hot and humid, with a rainy season from May to November and a dry season from December to May. Pack light, comfortable clothing. Casual attire is acceptable most places, although businesses and upscale restaurants require “smart casual” dress: collared shirt, trousers and shoes, rather than sandals.
What are your top restaurant recommendations for a business lunch or dinner?
Mandarin (11A Ngo Van Nam Street, District 1; Ph: 84 8 3822 9783) specializes in Vietnamese cuisine and uses only the finest ingredients, herbs and spices. A wine bar adds to the experience. Xu Restaurant & Lounge (Floor 1, 71-73-75 Hai Ba Trung, District 1; Ph: 84 8 3824 8468) is a modern take on local specialties. Described as one of Saigon’s best restaurants by the New York Times, Xu offers an adventurous tasting menu, inventive small plate and lavish décor.
What’s something that surprises guests about your hotel?
Visitors who aren’t familiar with Vietnam’s colonial history are surprised to find our historic Notre Dame Cathedral, with its beautiful statue of the Virgin Mary, right in the center of the city.
If business travelers only have a few hours for leisure, what must they see?
If you have one hour, tour Notre Dame Cathedral, designed by a French architect and completed in 1877. Beside the cathedral is another piece of classic colonial architecture—the Saigon Central Post Office, designed by Gustave Eiffel and constructed from 1886 to 1891. It’s the largest post office in Vietnam. If you can sightsee for two hours, stroll along Dong Khoi Street—formerly Rue Catinat—which was fashionable during the French era, and was the meeting place of foreign correspondents and political operatives during the Vietnam War. If you have half a day, visit the Museum of Vietnamese History. Built in the 1920s, it’s a shining example of Chinese-influenced architecture from that era. The complex houses artefacts from the Bronze Age, Buddha statues from around the region and local curiosities such as a perfectly preserved mummy from the late 1800s. After touring the museum, walk along Mac Thi Buoi Street and see work by local artists on display at the Apricot Gallery and Ben Thanh Art & Frame.
What’s the best option for outdoor exercise?
Jog or walk through the city’s open spaces; 30/4 Park, Le Van Tam Park, 23/9 Park and Le Thi Rieng Park are popular areas. In the mornings and evenings you’ll see residents of all ages exercising, dancing, relaxing and chatting under eucalyptus and tamarind trees. Old men fish in park ponds, and students play guitars and sing, giving our green spaces a campus vibe.