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Exploring Vietnamese Culture at the Renaissance Riverside Hotel Saigon

Saigon’s Central Post Office, while often erroneously credited to French architect Gustave Eifel, was actually designed by Marie-Alfred Foulhoux at the end of the 19th century.

Its roof features Khmer art, while its Neo-Baroque facade and plaques dedicated to visionaries including Descartes, Morse, Ampere and Ben Franklin aim to champion the essence of scientific and technical advancement. A guide explained these fascinating details to a group of guests participating in Renaissance Riverside Hotel Saigon's Global Day of Discovery.The event, which was held in coordination with 160 other Renaissance Hotels around the world as part of Marriott International Inc., imparted stories and little-known knowledge about Saigon landmarks. It served as an embodiment of the hotel’s holistic commitment to fostering curiosity about Vietnam.

While leading guests to noteworthy places in the city including the Hung King Temple, the Petrolimex Building, Notre Dame Church and Independence Palace, guests learned about the city’s architecture, important historical events, the contributions of notable residents and the cultural values that helped develop the city into what it is today. The event ended with a shared meal of traditional Vietnamese food so those in attendance could taste a unique aspect of the country. This all-day experience achieved on a large scale what the hotel does every day through its design, restaurant, bar and events.

Back at the hotel, the Renaissance Saigon’s lobby subtly evokes intriguing aspects of Vietnamese culture. The geodesic patterns covering the front desks are inspired by the traditional fishing nets used in villages along the coast, while the lamps on top of the desks are modeled after the tangled power lines that once crisscrossed above Saigon’s busy streets. The walls behind the desks call to mind the nation’s famous nón lá.

These iconic nón lá are also featured on the walls of the sleek Viet Kitchen, alongside an abstract image of a bicycle loaded with market goods and Sapa’s terraced rice fields. The restaurant’s logo itself incorporates traditional Đông Sơn drums, while two large tapestries depict specific concrete walls from District 2 and District 5, bringing the country’s modern, colorful textures to more placid elements of the past. While seated in the calm, cool interior that is arranged to resemble a neighborhood market, large street-level windows reveal the chaotic, motorbike-filled streets that consistently thrill those new to the city.

Beyond presenting visual elements of Vietnam to guests, the Viet Kitchen restaurant allows people to learn about indigenous flavors. Its menu highlights some of the country’s signature dishes, such as bánh mì, bún chả and phở, with detailed descriptions. Large tables accommodate “family-style” sharing for visitors to have a chance to enjoy a meal the way Vietnamese typically do. A core philosophy of the Renaissance, however, is independence - the freedom to decide what to explore and when - so Vietnamese dishes are offered beside Japanese and Western meats and seafood which some travelers may be more familiar with.

Thanks to its convenient location and world-class amenities, many of the guests staying at the Renaissance Saigon come to the city on business trips, and therefore do not have the same amount of time as other tourists to explore Vietnamese culture. The hotel makes it easy for these busy guests to get a glimpse of the country when the day transitions from “business as usual” to what they describe as “business unusual.” Every night at 6 pm, Rbar, located in the lobby, serves special punches made with local ingredients and Saigon craft beers. Rather than familiar peanuts, the drinks come accompanied by bánh tráng - traditional rice paper crackers, staples in cities and rural villages across the nation for centuries.

When seated in the chic Rbar, guests will notice the colorful tiles depicting popular retro patterns used for trendy áo dài worn in 1960s Saigon. The pattern also appears on the special mooncake packaging sold at the hotel beginning August. The Renaissance Saigon spotlights áo dài through more than just design, though. In March, a special áo dài night invited guests to get an intimate look at the iconic dress in the hotel lobby. Renaissance Saigon team members wore the traditional garb alongside guests for a fashion show that gave visitors a chance to learn more about the attire’s heritage.

While it brings aspects of Vietnamese culture directly into the hotel, the Renaissance Saigon understands that the best way to learn about the country is to go out and explore. They help facilitate this through their Navigators. Their team members, prominently stationed at a special desk in the lobby, are local experts dedicated to introducing guests to ‘4 S’s’: see, savor, shop, sip. Part of their job includes exploring the newest restaurants, bars, food stalls, stores and sights so they can give accurate and well-researched advice on the best and most unique places to visit. Every quarter, they update the hotel’s Navigator page to share their first-hand knowledge.

The prominence of Vietnamese culture featured in the hotel’s restaurant, bar, lobby and hosted events will soon extend throughout the hotel. In the first quarter of 2019, 85 club guest rooms will be redesigned to reflect the unique, contemporary style. People won’t have to wait that long for a glimpse, however, with two mockup rooms set for completion this year.

Guests choose to stay at Renaissance Saigon because of its great downtown location that is perfect for business trips and the finest accommodations one expects from a Marriott property. The hotel goes one step further by satisfying visitors’ interest in the country’s culture and history. Through their design, drink and dining options, special events and recommendations, the Renaissance Saigon inspires intrigue of Vietnam and offers insightful events and experiences.


Renaissance Riverside Hotel Saigon's website

+84 283 8220 033

Renaissance Riverside Hotel Saigon | 8-15 Tôn Đức Thắng Street, Q.1