Friday, September 16, 2011

Tokyo/Vietnam July 2011 - InterContinental Asiana Saigon

***This post is part 19 of a full trip report. The index can be found here***

Let's start by saying I had fairly high expectations for the InterContinental Asiana Saigon. Virtually every review I read about this hotel had high praise for it, and it's ranked #2 on TripAdvisor for hotels in Ho Chi Minh City, right behind the Park Hyatt Saigon... not too shabby.

I compared a number of different booking sites trying to weigh my options when planning this 3-night stay. There were a couple of different factors at play here, first of which was cost, of course. Being a Priority Club Platinum member, I logically reasoned that I should book directly with the hotel so I could earn points on the stay, though I also had enough points to book a "points + cash" stay. But if I did that, they probably wouldn't honor any status benefits... although there wouldn't be any status benefits anyways since I'm not even an InterContinental Ambassador. Then to make things even more complicated, I had just received an email offering me an Ambassador challenge... I only had to stay 3 qualifying nights at any InterContinental Hotel within the next 3 months, and I would earn Ambassador status. Man was I in a pickle.

Ultimately, I narrowed my choices down to 2 options: book the best available rate directly with the hotel (which was close to $200/night) and earn both points and Ambassador status, or book the Friends & Family rate (which was the cheapest anywhere at $140/night) and not receive any points nor Ambassador status since it wouldn't be a qualifying stay. It was a tough choice, but I finally went with the cheap rate since I didn't feel like it was fair to put the extra cost burden on my friend (nor did I want to pick up the cost difference myself). Either way, I didn't expect to receive any benefits with my lowly Priority Club Platinum.

Wow, was I wrong on just about every front!

We arrived at the InterContinental Asiana Saigon by taxi, and I was immediately impressed with the service. There was a gentleman in traditional Vietnamese garb who opened the door for us, then several bellmen took our luggage and directed us to the front entrance, where a well-dressed woman opened the doors for us. It certainly felt excessive for me, but in a very good way. I was still in my local hotel do-it-yourself mode I guess. The lobby was beautiful, extremely modern and very personal, but not really grand in any way... though I preferred this to a grand, opulent entrance I must say. We were directed to the check-in counter and I was helped by a friendly gentleman. After taking my information, he called up another woman and told us to follow her. I was confused.

So follow her we did, up to the 14th floor, then down a corridor and finally into our room. When I looked in, I realized we had been upgraded one category to a deluxe corner room with beautiful views of the city. Then I also realized we were completing the check-in process inside our room... and not only that, I had been given most of the Ambassador benefits as well, including free breakfast or internet (I chose internet, which I later regretted), fresh fruit at arrival, 2 pieces of complimentary laundry per day, and also late check-out. I was blown away, having expected none of this at all. It was definitely a great way to start the stay! The only thing I was slightly bummed over was not being able to try the club lounge, which I've read great things about.

The room itself was very nice, with spectacular views of the city and the Notre Dame Basilica two blocks away. The bed was probably the most comfortable out of all the hotels I stayed at on this trip. There was an efficient work area, large flat-screen TV, and a very spacious bathroom with a large soaking tub and separate shower.

Everyone at this hotel was very friendly and welcoming, and service was top notch. I used the concierge desk a number of times to set up tours to the Mekong Delta and for other recommendations, and the lady could not have been any nicer or more helpful. Unfortunately, we didn't get to try the restaurant since there were so many places to eat in Saigon... but I definitely regretted not choosing the free breakfast earlier. The place was packed all day, so I assume the food there must have been pretty good.

I also tried out the gym and pool, which were decent, but not as nice as the Sheraton Nha Trang. Unfortunately I didn't take any pictures of the pool, but it was interesting in that it's elevated, and two of the sides are made of clear glass... so you can see everyone swimming in full view. That definitely made me feel a little self-conscious while doing laps :)

I must say the InterContinental Asiana Saigon was an absolutely spectacular hotel, from the front door service to the check-in process to the concierge to the beautiful room to the super-convenient location (walkable to all the major tourist sites in Saigon), everything was virtually perfect. I can't recommend this hotel highly enough.

View from the room

And as if all that weren't enough, I have a small postscript to add. About 2 weeks after I had returned from my trip, I was randomly checking my Priority Club account, and I literally shrieked like a little girl. I noticed that I had achieved Ambassador status with InterContinental! So not only did I book the cheapest Friends & Family rate, but apparently it also qualified me for the Ambassador challenge! I was definitely not expecting this at all especially since I had called in prior to booking, and it was confirmed to me that the F&F rate would not qualify for the Ambassador challenge. I guess the InterContinental Asiana Saigon is just full of surprises! :)

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