Cranes soaring towards the sun, a symbol of good fortune.

Centrally located, surrounded by shops and attractions and Muslim-friendly, Le Meridien Saigon is the place to stay, writes Hanna Hussein

OUR journey to the hotel from the Tan Son Nhat International Airport is delayed. And it is due to many reasons, from the long line at the airport’s immigration counters to rush hour in Ho Chi Minh City.

It is past 5pm when we arrive at the Le Meridien Saigon, and my husband and I are starving after the travel. All I want now is to head straight for dinner.

After a swift check-in, we decide to dine at Latest Recipe. Located on the mezzanine level of the 22-floor tower, the restaurant offers halal options for Muslim tourists.

MUSLIM-FRIENDLY SELECTIONS

“Xin chao” (Hello), a staff member in a white shirt and dark vest greets us with a smile and bow at Latest Recipe’s entrance. We bow back and tell him that we have reserved a table, citing our room number. He ushers us to our table at a corner near the window, overlooking the city.

A waiter hands us a menu and explains that we can order a la carte or opt for the buffet.

“Every evening we serve the Seafood Market Buffet, featuring the freshest catch from the sea,” he says.

Latest Recipe offers Halal options for Muslim tourists.

Just pick our choice of seafood from the buffet, tell the chef how we would like it to be cooked, and select the sauces.

Indeed, the buffet is a perfect choice for our hungry stomachs. We head for the buffet line to check out the options.

To our delight, the Seafood Market buffet offering is extensive. It has everything from crab, prawn and squid to a more fancy selections such as lobster, octopus, scampi, salmon, and even snails. The seafood is grilled or steamed.

My favourite cooking method is to grill them with garlic butter and pour Vietnamese chilli on top of them.

There are other food options, which are mostly local dishes. All are halal and are marked with signs, which make it easier for us to choose what we can eat. The food is delicious too and reminds me of home.

The price for the Seafood Market Buffet dinner starts from VND1,100,000++ (RM195) per person, inclusive of non-alcoholic drinks.

The next morning, we also have our breakfast at Latest Recipe. The buffet choices are limitless, and despite our dietary restrictions, we fill up our stomachs before embarking on a day-long excursion in the city.

You can also order from the breakfast menu. You can choose egg dishes (omelette, sunny side, over easy, scrambled, poached and boiled), signature items such as eggs benedict or egg royale with smoked salmon, fluffy pancakes and Belgium waffles.

The seafood options are extensive!

ARTISTIC INTERIOR

What I love most about the hotel is its Insta-worthy interior. Every floor has a different artwork showcased at the elevator corridor, which portrays the city vibe. Our floor, for example, has an intricate artwork of Saigon River done by a local artist.

Chic lobby at Le Meridien Saigon.

Walking towards the rooms, you will notice wire sculptures on the wall, depicting cranes soaring towards the sky. What a stunning sight. They symbolise good fortune and grace.

Our Premier Classic River View room features a colour palette of red, white, and black. There are also modern artworks of the Saigon River. The room’s interior is sleek and contemporary, and spacious too.

It has a breathtaking view of the river. Since the hotel is one of the tallest buildings in the area, guests enjoy unobstructed views of the city.

COUPLE INDULGENCE

On our last day, we indulge ourselves at the Explore Spa, located on the 9th floor, along with the swimming pool and the fitness centre.

The spa offers aroma therapy massages to signature treatments using marine-based products and local ingredients for exfoliation.

My husband and I are exhausted after our city excursions and just want to pamper ourselves with massages. The therapists suggests the Oriental Tui Na Therapy (VND1,150,000 / 60 minutes).

Pronounced as twee-nah, the massage is originated from ancient China and is based on the theory that imbalances of qi — the body’s vital life force or energy. It will stimulates the flow of qi, promoting balance and harmony.

Indulge in a spa treatment with your partner

The treatment is similar to acupuncture, whereby the therapists target specific acupoints, but they use fingers instead of needles.

It starts off with a relaxing move, but as it progresses, the pressure becomes stronger and more intense. There are a lot of pushing and bending. The most surprising technique is when the therapist bends my back by lifting up my legs up, while I was lying face down. My verdict: Painful but very satisfying.

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Spacious room with great view of Saigon River

FAST FACTS

LE MERIDIEN SAIGON

WHERE 3C Ton Duc Thang Street, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

TEL +84 28 6263 6688

WEBSITE lemeridiensaigon.com

STAY Each of the 343 rooms and suites offersablend of style and technology for sophisticated travellers. Each rooms has Le Meridien signature bed, 42-inch smart LED TV, HiFi stereo player, high-speed wired and wireless Internet access, as well as spacious bathroom that features rainforest shower and a separate soaking bath tub.

EAT Latest Recipe features a buffet and a la carte menu inspired by global cuisines, as well as Saigon roots, while Bamboo Chic serves flavourful, contemporary Asian dishes and craft cocktails. Latitude 10 is an electric bar and lounge that offers craft beverages along with snacks and desserts with a local twist. For those on the go, Art Cacao offers the perfect alternative toarestaurant meal.

DO Pamper yourself at the Explore Spa, chill by the pool, or work out at the gym. Coffee lovers, head down to the Latitude 10 Lounge + Bar and redeem your free Vietnamese coffee (vouchers in room, given daily).

GO From the hotel, walk down to nearby Bui Vien Street, do some shopping, or visit the bustling Ben Thanh Market. The area surrounding District 1’s Dong Khoi Street includes fashionable shops and art galleries, along with examples of French-colonial architecture like the Saigon Opera House, Notre Dame Cathedral and the Central Post Office.

HIGH The location, at District 1,where many city attractions and restaurants are located.

LOW The traffic, but hey, it’s Ho Chi Minh. Grab and taxi are easy to find.

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