When you think of Vietnam, you probably wouldn’t think of luxury and exuberance. When you think of lodging options, many will be familiar with Vietnamese motels that offer basic rooms and shower facilities for as low as USD$10 per night. But what if I told you that you can get a luxurious 5 star accommodation run by a globally renowned hotel chain for as low as USD180 per night? Yes, for those who are willing to fork out “normal” hotel room rates, you can actually get a room at Sheraton Saigon Towers in Vietnam’s largest city, Ho Chi Minh city! However, many tourists, especially those new to the Sheraton brand will have their doubts about how good can a 5 star hotel in a developing country be, and I am sure that there are certainly some readers who have had negative experiences at “5 star” hotels in such countries. Now, we at HotelSider take you for an in-depth tour of Sheraton Saigon Towers in Ho Chi Minh city.

Date of stay: January 2013

Address

88 Dong Khoi Street, Bến Nghé, Quận 1

Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam

Location

Sheraton Saigon Towers is very conveniently located and is within close distance to many of the top attractions in Ho Chi Minh city. However, public transport is non-existent and getting to the hotel from the airport can be a problem especially for first time visitors to the city without prior transport arrangements. Tan Son Nhat Airport is pretty close to the hotel, at just 7 kilometres away and a car ride can take you to the hotel in just 30 minutes. The reason for the slightly longer than expected travelling time is due to the road and traffic conditions of the Vietnamese city, which is often spotted with motorcyclists riding in all directions, resulting in an almost always congested traffic situation. Sheraton Saigon Towers offer airport transfers via various vehicles, ranging from luxury vehicles to buses that can fit large groups of up to 40 guests at a small fee. For those who prefer a more budget friendly mode of transport, try going for taxi services as those can cost as low as USD$8. However, do take precaution in choosing a driver and tourists should try to only hail legitimate taxis from recognized taxi companies, or try to negotiate on a fixed price of around 200,000 – 250,000 VND from private drivers for a one way trip.

The hotel is conveniently located for both tourists and business travellers as it is proximate to both corporate offices, government consuls and tourist attractions. Jardine House, Saigon Metropolitan Towers, OSIC Building, Hai Tanh Office Building, Saigon Trade Centre and Kimdo Business Centre are all within a one kilometre radius of the hotel compound and guests can easily get to work on foot. For government officials, a plethora of government offices and consuls are located near the hotel, making Sheraton Saigon Towers a hotspot for for those on official duties. Examples of the close-by offices are the Japanese, Republic of Singapore, Canadian, Belgian, Italian, United States, Chinese and French Consulate Generals, which are all within a one kilometre walk from the hotel. This list is almost non exhaustive and there are many more corporate and governmental offices within close proximity to Sheraton Saigon Towers.

Tourists will also love the convenient location of Sheraton Saigon Towers. In fact, it is even possible to travel without public transport as most of the nearby attractions are located at very walk-able distances from the hotel. For art lovers, head to the Saigon Opera House, also known also the Ho Chi Minh Municipal Theatre which is just a 5 minute walk from the hotel. Over there, you can appreciate the beautiful French Colonial architecture of the building and for those who wish to take a look of the interior, the theatre is closed but you can purchase tickets for a show if available and they come at pretty affordable prices as well. Other popular cultural places nearby include the Reunification Palace and War Remnants Museum, both of which offer an enriching insight into Vietnam’s rich history. Tourists can also take a 10 minute stroll to the famed Notre Dame Cathedral, another iconic spot of Ho Chi Minh. Guests can also take a relaxing stroll to the 225 kilometres long Saigon River, where you can book a cruise to take you around the secret city canals, scenic waterways and even a riverside market.

For those who love picking up affordable goods in Vietnam, Sheraton Saigon Towers will not disappoint. By walking for a mere 800 metres, you will arrive at Saigon Centre, a large mall offering up-scale products such as electronics, handicrafts and clothing. The complex is currently undergoing a renovation and retail stores open in 2016 but with almost 36,000 square metres of retail space available, it will surely not disappoint shopaholics. Slightly further away is Diamond plaza, another up-scale mall with a large department stall and a wide variety of shops suitable for all tourists. Ho Chi Minh is also well known for bargain shopping and bargain hunters will have a good time haggling for goods at the Ben Thanh Markets, a maze-like complex with an endless number of vendors selling all kinds of goods. Over there, tourists can get cheap T-shirts and DVDs, traditional Vietnamese food items and even imitation goods all at low prices. The trick is to practice and perfect your haggling skills in order to purchase items for great value. Ben Thanh Markets is indeed an iconic tourist spot in Ho Chi Minh city and no trip there will be complete without paying a visit to the bustling market. Thankfully, you can actually walk to the market from Sheraton Saigon Towers, giving you no excuse not to visit this lively hub. Finally, for those who find it tiresome to walk a distance for shopping, the hotel lobby houses a few luxury boutiques of iconic brands like Gucci and Milano.

Sheraton Saigon Towers is located at a prime location that has lots to offer regardless of guests’ purpose for travel. Tourists will enjoy the numerous activities and attractions that are available and accessible, and even business travellers will enjoy the convenience of being able to walk to numerous close by offices and even the ability to pop by nearby shops to purchase some gifts for family members back home. The one and only problem is the lack of public transportation, making it impossible for guests to venture far out to attractions like the Cu Chi Tunnels or for an island hopping adventure without the need to get a taxi or hire a private driver. Given the state of transportation in Ho Chi Minh city and the rampant illegal driver touts, guests will feel glad that the hotel staff are capable and dependable when it comes to assisting in making transport arrangements.

Foodies will not have to be bothered by transport issues because Ho Chi Minh city is popular for its street food. Head down and take a stroll along the streets surrounding the hotel and you are bound to discover countless local delicacies from road side stalls selling rice paper snacks to small eateries selling pho. Trying their local food is recommended and Sheraton Saigon Towers is situated in a location where there are no limits to how much you can explore and discover.

Check In

Arrive in style should you opt for Sheraton Saigon to pick you up at the airport. With a large fleet of luxury vehicles and vans, you will be able to arrive in style, to the sight of a friendly doorman greeting you and helping you unload your luggage at the hotel’s main entrance.

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Image from tripadvisor.com

Step in and you will be greeted with a grand sight. The main lobby of the hotel is a huge circle shaped area with expensive looking marble tiles covering the entire floor. Towering over the lobby area is a gargantuan lamp with warm orange light. One look and you will be convinced that though Vietnam might not be as developed as countries like Japan or USA, Sheraton Saigon still packs a strong punch of quality and luxury. The main lobby also bears a nice clean scent that acts as a stark but pleasant contrast to the Vietnamese streets. Checking in is also a very simple and swift process, partly due to the presence of numerous counters and staff at the front desk. For starters, checking in is a good start to the entire experience at the hotel because the warm and friendly staff make guests feel very welcome. Guests do not have to worry about any language barriers as Sheraton Saigon Towers have an international team of staffs and all of them are fluent in English.The staff are also quick to introduce the hotel to you and brief you about the surrounding area. That is probably how you will learn about most of the surrounding attractions and your transport options. Should you require a tour around the compound, just put up a request with the receptionist or the bell boy and they will be glad to oblige. Furthermore, the staff are also quick to advise on procedures for getting a taxi or a personal driver, and you can easily make transport arrangements through the reception. One tip for SPG gold members is to ask for a free room upgrade. These upgrades are awarded based on availability and if you are a lucky SPG gold member, a booking of a Premier Deluxe Room can even land you in a Grand Tower Junior Suite! With this being said, do keep in mind that upgrades are non guaranteed and such a lucky occurrence is pretty rare especially during peak periods.

Room

The rooms in Sheraton Saigon Towers are split into two towers, being the Main Tower and the Grand Tower. Sheraton Saigon Towers offers one of the most varieties of rooms in all sizes and there will be room for guests regardless of your needs and requirements. For tourists or businessmen travelling alone, a simple premier deluxe room will suffice but for small families, head for the Presidential Suites which offer tons of space and 3 bedrooms. Even the smaller rooms are not tiny by any measure, with the smallest room at 37 square metres, it is pretty decently sized for a hotel in such a prime location.

For my stay at the Sheraton Saigon Towers, I put up in a Grand Tower Suite and I must say that I was very impressed. The Grand Tower Junior Suite is a 65 square metres room located in the Grand Tower of the hotel. For my suite, it was located on the 18th floor and navigating to the room itself was simple.

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Walking to the room is not only easy but pleasant as well. Guests are treated to a display of numerous pieces of artwork that depicts Asian tradition. It is rather entertaining and art lovers might find themselves frequently distracted while walking around the hotel. With that being said, I must note that the interior of the hotel is not as luxurious looking and feeling as I had expected, even though there is still a certain level of standard that is maintained as a result of the Sheraton brand.

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Upon entering the room, you will be greeted with a living room that is rather spacious. In fact, it is somewhat similar to the living rooms of many affluent apartments in Asia. The living room has a neutral colour tone and the muted colours of the furniture, carpet and walls make for a somewhat cosy but yet dull environment. What impressed me was that even though the carpets are of a lighter shade than what is used in most hotels, it showed no significant signs of wear or dirt, hinting to me that the staff at Sheraton Saigon Towers do an excellent job in tidying the rooms.

The spacious living room is also home to various amenities that the hotel provides to its suites, such as a 42 inch LCD TV set, complete with a DVR and DVD player. There are many TV channels to choose from and cable channels are included as well, thus presenting a wide choice of entertainment for guests. A pamphlet placed on the TV console provides all the information that you would need including the channels available and movie showtimes. Those who wish to relax in their rooms and watch some movies can rent DVDs from the front desk, or better yet, head to the nearby Ben Thanh Markets to purchase cheap movie titles. Young guests, especially, will also enjoy the Bose speakers and the iPod docking station, which enables them to play their favourite tunes throughout the room. The speakers are solid and the sound is of excellent quality, producing crisp and clear tunes, unlike many of the speakers and docking stations of poorer quality provided in many other hotels.

As a welcome gesture, guests can expect to receive a basket of fresh fruits upon arrival and I thought that this is a practical gift to guests. After all, a day of touring around Ho Chi Minh city can be quite tiring and what better way is there to recuperate your sore legs and sunburnt body than to dig into some refreshing fruits upon returning to your suite. In fact, the fruits and TV set goes well together with the spacious, soft and accommodating sofas. Guests can look forward to ending a long day in the living room enjoying a show while snacking on some fresh fruits. The only thing lacking would be the availability of magazines and brochures that can possibly help guests in mapping out and planning trips to the local places of interest. After all, it is common practice for hotels to include informative material in their rooms and unfortunately, this is not the case in Sheraton Saigon Towers. However, make a call to the front desk to have them delivered to your room or pop by it while you are downstairs and you will be able to pick up these brochures and maps from the lobby.

Located by the sofa is a small balcony with a view. Put simply, guests can indicate if they prefer a view of the city or of Saigon River. Fortunately for me, my suite had a room of both the city and the river, offering me the best of both worlds. The view is pretty good in the day and at night, the city lights are a nice contrast to the somewhat peaceful looking Saigon River and the view becomes more pleasant. However, the balcony is really small in size and you will unable to fit any sort of chair or stool on it. Thus, there will be instances where guests do not actually enjoy the view due to a lack of comfortable seating positions. Also, there are two large potted plants on the balcony and they seem to take up about half of the already limited space, resulting in any usage of the balcony being a selfish one. Not only do the plants compete with guests for space, they also do impede part of the glamorous view. Thus, I feel that the balcony is indeed a place that Sheraton Saigon Towers can work on and perhaps some redesigning of the area is required.

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Given the hotel’s superior location and proximity to a plethora of office buildings and government consulates, it is on normal that Sheraton Saigon Towers has a constant inflow of business travellers. As such, it will be imperative for the hotel to have an impressive work desk in the rooms so that business travellers can complete their work in the rooms in convenience and ease. Thankfully, I do think that Sheraton Saigon Towers has managed to accomplish this objective.

The work desk is a simple looking glass table top located right by the entrance of the suite. It is nicely tucked in a corner of the room and is flanked by a hard wooden top that acts as storage for some office items and also doubles as a cavernous space for guests to place their work documents. The total combined space of the glass table and wooden side table is more than sufficient for the average guest and even the busy businessman. There is ample room to place documents and a laptop, and guests can make use of the side table to store the documents that they do not require at the moment. The chair is surprisingly ergonomic and provides ample support for working long hours. On the desk is also a bright reading lamp that is adjustable so you can find the sweet spot for the light to shine on, without it being too harsh or too dim. The adjustable lamp is a great addition to the work desk arsenal as it serves an important purpose and it is a piece of equipment that other luxury hotels often miss out as well. On the glass table is several brochures about the hotel, the services they provide and the room service menu. The real office supplies are found on the side table, where guests will find a pen and notepads of various sizes stored in a separate box. This helps keep the place organize and the hotel is able to provide more amenities without making the station seem messy and untidy.

Guests can also use the business telephone at the work station to make teleconferences and even overseas calls albeit at a small fee. The functional telephone also has numerous functions that the busy businessman will find useful, although it will probably be underutilised by most average guests. The work station is also a very comprehensive and well appointed placed for all guests. For instance, there are international power sockets on the wall by the work desk, making charging your electrical devices a breeze as you will be able to avoid the hassle of having to purchase or borrow adapters. Also, there is VGA and HDMI connectivity, making it possible and also easy for businessmen to hold small discussions or meetings in the spacious suite. Even tourists will be able to make us of these functions as you will be able to bring a laptop loaded with movies and enjoy them on the large LCD TV as and when you wish. Finally, free wifi is available to all SPG members who book a room through the hotel’s official website. Otherwise, wifi or Local Area Network able is available at the work station as well albeit at a fee of 316,500VND per day.

Being a suite, the bedroom is located separate from the living room. It seems rather small and cramped at first sight, perhaps due to the large king sized mattress in the room. However, it has a cosy feel and I am sure that many guests will find it hard to resist the urge to jump onto the bed immediately. The bedroom also has the same 42 inch LCD TV that is present in the living room, allowing guests to catch a late night movie from the comfort of the bed as well. Generally, the design of the bedroom carries the same theme as the living room and though it is not the most luxurious looking or feeling, it is homely and certainly meets expectations. The only one issue would be he cabinets and the small TV console in the room, as the mahogany coloured wood used for those structures makes the bedroom feel slightly old and traditional and though this is not a bad thing, it just might not cater to the tastes of all guests. The wooden TV console also seems a little out of place and unnecessary, as it does not offer much storage space and merely narrows the small walkway to a greater extent.

The bed itself is extremely comfortable, as the room is equipped with Sheraton’s signature Sleeper Bed which is designed for  maximum comfort. The bed has the right hardness and is not too springy and the the clean, crisp, perfectly pulled sheets makes the bed looks just so inviting. Guests get a choice of two pillows – a larger, firmer one and a smaller, softer one. Though there is no pillow menu explicitly available, guests who feel that the pillows are unsuitable for themselves can try ringing the front desk or housekeeping to enquire about pillow options. The backing of the bed is also luxurious and practical. The textured and soft surface makes it comfortable for guests to lean against while reading or watching TV, while the wooden “frame” seems to draw all attention towards the majestic king sized bed just like a piece of art. Guests also get the privilege of having a small reading light which is placed at an appropriate height and is very flexible. As such, it is a breeze to create an excellent lighting condition for bedtime reading. By the bed is a small sized bedside table with an iPod docking station with alarm clock function and a cordless phone. The cordless is a great addition for those who wish to make long phone calls as you will not be fixed to a spot throughout the call. There is one issue though, and it is that the iPod docking station is only compatible with the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4s. Android users or holders of newer iPhones will not be able to enjoy the use of the docking station. Even so, it is a small flaw and it does not reduce the comfort of the bedroom in anyway. The light switches are also conveniently located next to the bed, and the switches are clearly indicated so guests know exactly which lights they are controlling, making this an idiot proof activity. Next to the bed is a large window that gives guests a city view. Though the view isn’t magnificent, it does allow in for lots of sunlight which brightens the room and adds some life to its muted colours.

I must also commend the wardrobe in the suite. For a suite, the wardrobe is pretty small in size but it has a good offering for guests. Open it up and you will find an ample amount of hangers. For ladies with delicate clothing, you can pick the soft padded hangers that will not damage your clothing and men with shirts and jackets can utilise the sturdy wooden hangers. There are also two bathrobes available, with one being a conventional bathrobe and the other being a Japanese Jinbei styled bathrobe – an interesting addition. The amenities are also very well organized and neatly kept, which reflects the attention to detail that the staff has. Businessmen will also find the shoe shine kit particularly useful for ensuring that their  attire is pristine for work.

There is one extraordinarily unique place in the bedroom and it is a circular extension of the bedroom. This circular space is a very special and versatile place that is one of a kind. It actually doubles as a second living room of the suite and the circular couch is a very comfortable seating set up. Guests can use the small coffee table for dining purposes, enabling you to dine while taking in a view of Ho Chi Minh city. Otherwise, have a heart to heart talk over some drinks as the rounded shape makes for a very private location with a communal feel to it. Those who wish to enjoy a lazy day in the room can also read in the extension as the encompassing large windows welcome in tons of natural sunlight. This special feature of the suite definitely ups the ante and guests can experience an unconventional setting from Sheraton Saigon Towers Ho Chi Minh.

The room is equipped with a pantry that is well stocked, but that is nothing special as most hotels of this class provide the same goodies. Bottled water is complimentary, but do take note that premium bottled water is chargeable at astonishingly high rates. Guests can also freely use the coffee and tea makers and the boiler comes into great use in preparing hot water as the tap water is non-potable. There is also a decent selection of juices, carbonated drinks and beer. Hard liquor is also available as well, though I must say that purchasing alcohol from the city’s numerous convenience stores is much more economical. Doing so will allow guests to enjoy drinks together with the television sets in the suite fully without having the break the piggy bank.

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