Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
In October 2014, I flew to Phnom Phen via Bangkok, on the invitation of my dear friend Luc Lejeune, who owns an architectural firm in Ho Chi Minh City with his partner David Hodgkiss (www.noordesign.net) specializing in hospitality design and architecture.
I was invited to the launch of the first luxury cruise ship on Mekong river, Aqua Mekong (www.aquaexpeditions.com) which is completely designed by Noor Design, both architecture and interiors. We took the boat in Phnom Penh, cruised to My Tho in Vietnam for 3 days. Aqua Mekong is amazing, better than a luxury hotel with 20 suites. The scenery around the river is stunning and you enjoy the best of everything in the ship. By the way, Aqua Mekong used GAIA&GINO re-chargeable LED lamps in their restaurant and bar. It was great to see our products in use, first time in a luxury cruise ship. When we landed in My tho in Vietnam, Luc’s driver met us and drove 1,5 hour to Ho Chi Minh City to Luc’s apartment which is in the District of Phu Nhuan. The apartment is in the top floor of a beautiful colonial building and designed so tastefully by Luc himself. You feel like you are in a mixture of Aman and Six Senses Hotels. Buddhas are everywhere. My room was blue, which I love. I stayed for 8 days in Ho Chi Minh City in that apartment and every day I visited different lacquer factories around the town. I really fell in love the attention of women and men who are gathered around tables to draw amazing pictures on lacquer wood and also apply egg shells in small pieces to the products or large panels. They even can do the most beautiful Japanese lacquer. I have been told that all the Japanese lacquer is done nowadays in Vietnam,
Apart from going to the factories, I also had time to discover Ho Chi Minh City. My favorite lunch joint is L’usine (www.lusinespace.com) where they use only organic produce to create delicisous dishes. The restaurant is connected to a concept store, mixed with mix century and Asian furniture with some eccentric pieces like sewing and textile warp/weft machines. They have the edgy European fashion and design brands along with the local Vietnamese designers which is the coolest hangout of the city. The other store I fell in love with is Gaya, an interior design store where all the Vietnamese designers’ products with a contemporary touch are sold (www.gayavietnam.com)
In the evenings we are invited to fabulous houses of Luc’s friends, who are mostly from France and England. Another night, we went to Temple Club restaurant, which is owned by Luc and his partner (www.templeclub.com.vn) which I highly recommend for authentic Vietnamese food. The other restaurants I had Vietnamese food are SH Garden (www.shgarden.com.vn), having a fantastic terrace overlooking to the Saigon skyline and The Deck (www.thedecksaigon.com) by the Mekong River. The Vietnamese food is my favorite and in all these restaurants it was so fresh, delicious and healthy.
The must see architectural buildings in Ho Chi Minh City are Presidents Palace where the last helicopter after the war has left from, Central Post Office and Thanh That Chu Lou Temple.
I actually did not like any of the bazaars, however there is an Antique Street in District 1 where one can find very interesting jewelry and antique pieces.
Apart from walking in Ho Chi Minh City and visiting the lacquer factories, we spent 3 days in Luc’s country house which is a heaven. It is 20 minutes far from Ho Chi Minh City in Long Phuoc, District 9. The house is in a huge land with natural pools, wild green and it has its own pool, personnel, beautiful interior décor (better than Aman I must say). I had my own small villa in the gardens with the bedroom, bathroom and kitchen but we spent all our time in the main house with many guests of Luc’s. I met amazing creative people, enjoyed the muson rain, the tranquility and zen. The country house is available to rent as well from Air Bnb if everyone is interested.
As a whole, I my trip to Ho Chi Minh city was a dream, I would always like to go back. Maybe it is because I had friends there, or maybe the weather was fantastic. But Vietnam is a must see country with its culture, people, history and food.. There is a lot to discover…