This city’s climate can be tiring, but it also means any time of year is perfect for a refreshing dip in a pool. Ruben Luong dons his swimming cap and finds the best places around town to cool down. Photos by Nguyen Nguyen.
The Caravelle Hotel recently completed renovations to their seventh-floor freeform pool, making it a fresh, luxurious oasis that’s worth checking out. The revamp of the outdoor pool cost VND 2.7 billion and three weeks of the summer. Not surprisingly, its latest metamorphosis is elegant and beats other hotel pools in the area aesthetically. In keeping with the Caravelle’s environmental priorities (it received a Green Lotus Label and a Silver EarthCheck certification last year), the 30-metre, conch-shaped pool now features a modern and efficient LED system for night swimming, so I recommend taking a dip then. There’s also plenty of planters and tropical trees to keep it earthy, but among its best features are new eco-friendly and locally fired deck tiles and indigo-blue pool tiles that make the water majestic, romantic and alluring.
VND 500,000 for a one-day package (pool, gym, and sauna access)
19-23 Lam Son Square, D1
08 38 23 49 99, ext. 27020
Atop the fifth and sixth floors of the historic Rex Hotel are two outdoor swimming pools. The sixth-floor rooftop pool is a simple 20-metre rectangle that’s suitable for hanging out poolside or for an hour-long wade in an afternoon of blistering heat. Meanwhile, you can order food and drinks from La Cochinchine bar, adjacent to the pool area. Near a mini-garden, a procession of wooden deck chairs line in parallel formation opposite the pool. It keeps socialising mostly away from the water, allowing for productive swims. The urban panorama that paints the sky is perhaps one of the best perks to swimming here. It’s a sight that’s continuously evolving at the Rex, which was originally built as a French garage in the early 20th century.
VND 175,000 for one person (includes sauna access)
141 Nguyen Hue, D1
08 38 29 21 85
Lan Anh Club
Lan Anh sports club is better known as a daily haunt for tennis buffs — the entrance of the club boasts an oversized tennis ball that you can’t miss. But its 42-metre circular outdoor swimming pool is just as fun and recreational, and it generally brings in more locals and some foreigners. From one end of the pool, a blue slide cascades down from the second tier deck area, a favourite activity for children at the pool. In fact, children tend to frequent this pool often, especially when school’s out or on weekends. If you’re looking for a swim with minimal splashing, it’s best to go during school hours or later in the evenings. Towards the deeper end of the pool, an island whirlpool lined by a canopy of palm trees resides at the centre. There’s seating along its outer edge, so it’s nice to linger, watch other swimmers, and chat in the water. At the other end is a poolside bar and underwater stools, so you won’t have to get out to order a meal, a drink or ice cream. For additional diversions, swim gear — including goggles, an assortment of toys, and swimwear — is also available for purchase at the entrance.
VND 35,000 weekdays, VND 50,000 weekends (+optional VND 10,000 for towel)
291 Cach Mang Thang 8, D10
08 38 62 74 20
Van Thanh Pool
The best pool to go to if you’re looking to escape from the central hub is Van Thanh pool. It’s about three-kilometres east from the city and is located in a well-known tourist park that’s home to a large lake, peaceful pavilions, and beautifully manicured lawn areas along a bank lining the Thi Nghe canal. Not only does Van Thanh provide a rare breath of fresh air, it’s perhaps one of the most relaxing and verdant places to visit and go swimming. The park often holds cultural festivals and events at night. But during the week, the sparsely-populated pool area is a quick getaway for city dwellers to decompress. Morning sojourns there are especially restorative. Guests can sunbathe amidst lush scenery or wind down with loved ones under the park’s tranquil shade.
VND 40,000 weekdays, VND 50,000 weekends
48/10 Dien Bien Phu, Binh Thanh District
08 35 12 30 25
Lam Son Swimming Pool
Tucked down an alley full of locals and corner cafes in Cho Lon, the Lam Son Swimming Club has an Olympic-size outdoor swimming pool (50 metres) that is appropriate for general fitness swimming and freestyle laps without any fuss. The Lam Son facilities surrounding the pool were constructed in 1994 and are fairly old, but the spacious pool area retains a vintage, bygone charm. It opens early at 5am and remains a clean, accessible, and practical swim alternative for those who live nearby and who also want an affordable spot for regular swim workouts. Divided into seven lanes (with one larger one), people swim comfortably throughout the morning and late evening. The outer lanes of the pool separate men and women, so it’s important to be mindful of which lane you choose before you dive in. Separate from the main pool are two smaller pools exposed on a lower level — a small one for children and a 25-metre rectangle for casual swimming, but they are mediocre compared to the crystalline lap pool that resides above.
VND 18,000 adults, VND 15,000 children
258 Tran Binh Trang, D5
08 38 35 17 26
5am-12pm; 1pm-4.20pm; 4.30pm-6.30pm
Yet Kieu Club
Neighbouring the Saigon Zoo on the east end of downtown, Yet Kieu Club is another affordable place for outdoor lap swimming, but closer to the city centre. Aptly named after a 13th-century Vietnamese general who was known for his swimming talent, Yet Kieu Club is one of the better-known competitive sports pools in the area. The club features one Olympic-size pool and one 25-metre pool — both popular with athletes, students, and locals, but they’re also expat-friendly. It’s best to call in advance just to make sure the pools haven’t been reserved for athletes or students, though. With that in mind, avoid visiting here if you are merely looking for a pool to cool down. This should be reserved for mornings or temperate evenings in which you want to achieve serious exercise. The facility is limited to two-hour blocks throughout the day, but the brief hours will encourage you to keep your swimming practice to a strict regimen.
VND 17,000 (50-meter pool), VND 12,000 (25-meter pool)
1 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, D1
08 38 29 69 17
5am-7am; 11am-1pm; 4pm-6pm