After a mission of a journey to get to Vietnam (that’s a whole other story – think lost case and no spare knickers), we landed in Ho Chi Minh City and were escorted to the Pullman Hotel in one of their mini buses.
You can’t help but be completely overwhelmed when you arrive in the city. It’s packed with bikes. It’s common to see who families packed onto a tiny little moped (5 was the most that I spotted) and we even saw a guy with a sofa on the back! With the government charging 200% tax on cars though, it’s easy to understand why.
Whilst the Pullman was comfortable and fairly well located, I’m not convinced that it’s the best hotel in the city. Unlike every other place that we stayed in Vietnam, the staff seemed to prefer to say ‘no’ to requests rather than trying to find a way to help us, so I can’t genuinely say that I’d recommend them. I’m sure that with only a little digging around, you’d be able to find better.
I personally adored the city, with such a juxtaposition of cultures. You can be eating street food with the locals, praying for your life as you cross the road (just keep walking at a steady pace) and then consuming some of the most amazing cocktails and food in modern luxurious skyscrapers the next.
We enjoyed drinks at the Chill SkyBar just an hour before David Beckham personally hosted the launch of his whiskey, Haig Club. I wanted to wait, but the boy seemed less keen on this idea 😉 This is the perfect place for sundowner cocktails though – watching the lights as dusk hits is really magical. Get there at around 5pm to stay for an hour of so and you won’t be disappointed.
From there, we enjoyed dinner at Shri which is another of the city’s rooftop restaurants and lounges. I personally much preferred it here – offering amazing food and drink but without the ‘showiness’ of the Sky Bar, this is much more intimate and find you surrounded by shrubs in a little oasis in the sky.
The War Museum is a must visit… be prepared though, you’re likely to need tissues as the tragedy of the ‘American War’ is recalled. I found it totally incredible that the locals hold no animosity towards the Americans – they consider it to be in the past and a war between Governments rather than between the people. Vietnamese people really are amazing.
Unfortunately, we only had a short time in the city and didn’t get to experience half of the stuff that we’d have liked to – the Pagonda is definitely something that I’ve heard rave reviews about and would be top of my list if I went back.
After leaving Ho Chi Minh City, we headed to the paradise island that is Con Dao. The island is only small and houses only a few hotels and only one 5 star – which is the Six Senses Resort – the resort that we were lucky enough to experience.
I really loved that we split our time between city and beach to fully appreciate all aspects of each – not exhausting ourselves and not taking the breathtaking beaches for granted.
Con Dao is truly stunning – a natural beauty that’s been protected for decades as a national and marine park. Six Senses offer small trips around the island, which I highly recommend as it’s packed with history – occupied by prisoners up until the 70s and the location of schools for many of Vietnam’s leaders. Be sure to take your SLR…. And a spare memory card!
The resort itself deserves every single one of those 5 stars. We chose to stay in two of the resort’s bungalows (there were quite a few of us) and they’re amazing if you’re planning a trip as a family; benefiting from a huge shared communal lounge area looking out onto the ocean and a well equipped kitchen (although we only used this to chill our booze!).
Each of the bungalows has two really decent sized bedrooms with double bathrooms and an outside shower (hello – favourite thing ever!). There is also another twin/double but it’s probably where you’d want to put the kids (and the au pair, natch)! They also come with their very own 24 hour butler, schweet.
The island is renowned for it’s diving and I was gutted not to be able to dive (just simply because it wasn’t the right time of year). Be sure to keep an eye out though as there are tons of turtles nestled around the island. There’s plenty of other stuff to keep you busy – from the fish food golf (yes you actually hit fish food balls into the ocean – genius!) to star gazing in the resort’s very own observatory and cookery lessons. I can now make a mean Vietnamese roll. Really.
The variety of food available is vast and I don’t think I realized just quite how good it was until I ate in other hotels and restaurants – it really was second to none. Definitely try the Pho for breakfast and the fish dishes are amazing. We got to experience a private dinner at the villa where we were treated to our own chefs who made meals on a couple of BBQs that most chefs wouldn’t be able to make in the most well equipped kitchens. It was definitely a highlight of the holiday for me. Being surrounded with all of the people you love, good music (the villas have amazing sound systems), beautiful wine and amazing food. Life was pretty damned sweet.
Prepare to relax as you’ll be treated to a free half an hour treatment each day. Somehow (and I don’t know how) I’d never had a foot massage before…. Since experiencing the massage there, I’m converted for life. The only difficulty that you’ll have is deciding what to go for each day.
As if that’s not enough to get you chilled, the resort has a two hour “slow hour” which us Brits would also refer to as a happy hour – 2 for 1 cocktails. Given the nature of the resort, the drinks are relatively expensive and so it’s well worth taking advantage of this! We certainly did. Although there are bikes available to get around the resort during the day, there are also plenty of manned buggies waiting to pick you up and to drop you to the restaurant/your room/the bar again, so you don’t have to worry about drunk cycling!
I left Con Dao with a heavy heart – it was such a beautiful island, the resort was so well thought out and the staff so lovely, I easily could have stayed another week – but with so much on offer in Vietnam, I genuinely think it would be a waste to do a beach resort only. If a rest from the hustle and bustle is on your itinerary, I can’t imagine anywhere I’d rather be.
Be sure to check back for the next instalment of the itinerary… Hoi An… my favourite place in the world.