Simon Stanley spends a night at Fusion Suites Sai Gon, an ‘all-suite’ hotel in District 1 where the chaos of the city is replaced by the tranquility of the ocean. Photos by Vinh Dao.
City life is tough, especially in Saigon. For my partner and I, massages work wonders; sometimes it’ll be a nice meal, maybe a few glasses of wine and a movie at home. When time and money allows, a Friday-night jaunt to the airport offers any number of weekend getaways. Recently however, as we prepared to welcome our first child into the world, we checked in to Fusion Suites Sai Gon for a staycation with a difference, for a babymoon; a final ‘hurrah’ still within reach of the hospital, just before our lives are changed forever.
Opened in July 2016, this is the latest addition to the Fusion portfolio, a range of suite-only hotels and contemporary beach resorts bringing a fresh approach to hospitality in Vietnam. As tourists turn more and more to the likes of Airbnb for personalised travel experiences, Fusion’s team is, in many ways, rewriting the rule book on the hotel industry.
Where so many chain hotels offer little more than a place to sleep, in a space that so often feels quite disconnected from the world beyond the lobby doors, Fusion Suites actively integrates itself into that world to become another memorable part of each guest’s overall experience. They even have a dedicated concierge team on-hand to tailor-make your stay, from booking excursions to organising tai chi lessons in the nearby park. As my partner and I found out soon after stepping into our room on the 10th floor, relaxation is also another key element here.
“We want our guests to feel like they are at home,” says Fusion Suites Sai Gon General Manager Vu Thi Thuy Mai. “We want it to be a space for living, somewhere you can enjoy your travels as if you were at home. We would also like our guests to be healthy, [so] we are the first company to include spa treatments in the room rate.”
Yes, for every night stayed, there’s a spa treatment included for every guest. We’ll come to that later. First, check out this room…
Design for Life
Good design sits at the heart of the Fusion concept. For their first Saigon property, the firm’s design team aimed to bring the beauty and serenity of Vietnam into the heart of the city. Each suite is built upon a calming palette of natural tones, from gentle greys and creams of stone and sand, to the warm natural timbers wrapped along the walls and up and over the pitched ceiling. It’s not a huge leap to imagine the space opening out onto a glistening beach with coconut vendors pacing the sand.
Through the floor-to-ceiling windows, the immense colonial-era trees that line the street outside are seamlessly incorporated into the colour-scheme; the natural light pouring in through the greenery subtly shifting the tone of the room with each passing hour. It’s simple, it’s clean, and, I imagine, would be just the kind of sanctuary a sun-beaten tourist might need after a day exploring. Why opt for yet another bland ‘bed in a box’ link in a corporate chain when you can surround yourself with contemporary, site-specific design like this? Fusion Suites Sai Gon is, as their in-house newspaper states, ‘a hotel for those who do not wish to stay in hotels’.
Rest and Relaxation
Even after taking a short walk to the nearest convenience store, worming my way through the motorbikes using Cach Mang Thang Tam’s sidewalk as an additional traffic lane, my head is spinning. Yet, having slipped back into the cool calm of our room, the deafening bedlam of the city dissipates into nothing but the swirling of the wooden ceiling fan.
A larger-than-life mural, spread across one entire wall of the room, shows a fisherman casting his net over sparkling waters. Chipmunks and birds dance around the tree tops outside, and the sedate jazz we’ve channeled through the provided blu-tooth speaker sets the tone for an afternoon and evening of relaxation.
At 3pm we indulge in our complimentary spa session in one of Fusion’s beautiful wood-clad treatment rooms. In addition to the talented hands of the therapists, chromotherapy is also utilised to boost energy and happiness and restore balance. We opt for foot massages and quickly drift into a twilight of consciousness.
Fresh, Fusion’s ground-floor cafe diner, looks as funky as you’d expect, with vintage accents of old Saigon merged with 21st-century Ho Chi Minh City. Even if you’re not a guest, this is a great pin to stick into your map for chilled downtown cafe action in a bright and airy space.
From breakfast to dinner, with snacks, soups, sandwiches and salads in between, the Fresh menu gathers up a range of local delicacies like pho, bo kho and banh mi, and places them alongside international choices from Asia and beyond. Burgers, pastas and continental breakfasts, for example, are guaranteed to keep that ‘homely’ feeling going
With a perfect panorama of downtown Saigon wrapped around us, we take a table in Zen, the hotel’s rooftop bar and restaurant. One of the last few tropical storms of 2016 is moving in on the city and the skyline is electric. Thunder booms around us as we enjoy what will no doubt be our last romantic meal out for some time. Zen’s tapas menu is a pure delight, even more so when accompanied by one of the superb cocktails (or mocktails) and wines.
While the atmosphere is casual and relaxed, the lobster on brioche (two pieces, VND180,000) looks so high-end, topped with gold leaf, that it’s quickly apparent that we’ve stumbled on somewhere quite special – an as yet undiscovered gem sitting right under everyone’s noses. The lobster tastes as good as it looks. Next comes two pieces of taco-shimi (VND80,000), a seared tuna and Mexican salsa ensemble that makes a perfect entree to the main courses we’ve ordered from the Fresh menu (which is also available on the top floor).
Fresh’s beef taco (VND190,000) is a knockout, with tender, juicy squares of steak tumbling from a fresh tortilla wrap. For mum-to-be, the homemade banh canh, a light noodle soup brimming with seafood, vegetables and mushrooms, is a hit of goodness that could reverse the fatigue of Saigon in just one spoonful.
If dressing for dinner seems like too much effort, room-service is available at no extra cost. Crash out on the sofa, put on some music or a movie, sit and watch the cityscape shift hour by hour through the window, and let the seaside vibe drift over you. City life is tough, travelling is tiring; family life too promises some hard times ahead. So for now, Fusion Suites is our cocoon to escape the whirlwind. Returning to our room, the downpour has settled to a simmer and the raindrops pattering the window quickly lull us into a deep and restful sleep.
The next morning, the included breakfast becomes a relaxing 90-minute grazing session back-and-forth along the sweet and savoury buffet stations. With an a la carte menu also available, this is so much more than a token ‘free breakfast’ or cornflakes and long-life toast.
Two weeks later and 10 days overdue, our baby arrived, and we’ve already got our eye on Fusion’s beach resort in Nha Trang for a quick January getaway. It looks incredible.