If you’re in the mood for a little mystery the next time you visit Vietnam, the Myst Dong Khoi hotel will pique your curiosity.
Just off the end of Ho Chi Minh City’s Dong Khoi St, The Myst not only fills a gap between small tourist-friendly hotels and international corporate brands, but adds a spice of old Saigon in a very modern setting.
From the outside the hotel looks like bits have been added over the years. In fact, it only opened in May this year (2017) and the quirkiness of the exterior is deliberate, enhanced by plants and foliage appearing as if at random.
From the moment you escape the bustle of the street, you know you are somewhere special. The broad reception area sits under a ceiling constructed from materials reclaimed from the old Saigon shipyards. Ancient roof tiles, iron beams and metal grills make the ceiling a work of art in itself.
However, in a very modern touch, you don’t go to reception … it comes to you. A tray with a cooling towel, rose water and crystallised ginger arrives at the sofa you have been allocated, just before a guest services operator comes to check you in.
Upstairs the corridor ceiling looks unfinished, to replicate Saigon alleyways which are open to the sky. The twists and turns of the hallways are certainly quirky.
The doors are solid timber, to create the sense that you are coming home, and tiny stained glass windows let you know if the neighbours are home.
The hotel restaurant is up on the 12th floor, and for the next year or so you can enjoy sweeping views of the Saigon River … at least, until the Hilton group builds next door.
The rooftop has a decent sized lap pool and bar, with plenty of sun loungers and a well-equipped gym (if the climb up the spiral staircase to get to it hasn’t exhausted you).
My Saigon City room was, at 40 sqm, larger than some Sydney studio flats but still the standard size in the hotel. The room was both modern (free high speed wifi and Japanese hi-tech toilet) and traditional with a raked ceiling and a recycled timber sofa, based on the traditional platform bed.
The bed was huge and ridiculously comfortable and the desk had a chair that allowed me to work at the right height (a common failing in even the best hotel rooms).
Oh, yes, and the spa bath was on the balcony – hence the copious greenery and the “single-use” swimsuits in the wardrobe for the painfully shy.
Breakfast was a combination of copious amounts of Asian food – curries, rice and, of course, pho (the famous noodle soup). For less adventurous Westerners, there was an egg station as well as patisseries and smallgoods.
Built into most packages, there’s free afternoon tea every day, including an astonishing variety of Vietnamese nibbles as well as tiny fruit scones, little cakes and shot glasses of mousse. I cheated and skipped lunch.
In the evening the dining room runs an a la carte menu, and the hotel is in the throes of opening an additional restaurant next door. That said, you don’t go to Vietnam to eat every meal in your hotel.
You appreciate the cultivated calm of the hotel when you hit the Saigon streets. You can expect your fair share of street hawkers amid the souvenir shops as you turn right and walk straight up past the Opera House to Notre Dame Cathedral and the wonderful old Central Post Office.
Turning left takes you past cute cafes, ‘hostess’ bars and a string of iconic restaurants.
This is almost double the cost of the hotels where I usually stay in Saigon but it would break my heart to have to spend a night anywhere else in the future.
Asked what happens when the Hilton steals the view, one of the staff said “we will simply make the experience inside the hotel better.” With friendly, attentive but not intrusive staff, that’s probably easier said than done.
A Saigon City room with king bed costs from $170 plus taxes per night. The Myst Dong Khoi, 6-8 Ho Huan Nghiep St., Ben Nghe Ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City. Phone (+84) 28 3520 3040. Website: themystdongkhoihotel.com