Windsor Plaza is an “eating” hotel – that was my first thought! With the spread in front of me, I was in a happy quandary of having to decide what to eat first. I suppose it’s par for the course as this hotel lies smack in the middle of Ho Chin Minh City’s (HCMC) Chinatown. And the establishment has brought what can be found outside the property into the building.
The Windsor Plaza Hotel has a great location in District 5 – the authorities have partitioned the city into districts – where many of the ethnic Chinese Vietnamese have set up home and businesses. Most Malaysian visitors might be more familiar with District 1 of the city where the shopping and some of the well-known sights are located. But then they would be missing out on some other delights that the city has to offer if they do not venture outside this district.
But first, let’s look inside the hotel for some tantalising treats …
The main F&B restaurant here is Café Central An Dong on the 4th floor, right next to the lobby. It serves buffet (and à la carte) breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s a big area with many choices. I found the choices more overwhelming at lunch time and there were even some Malaysian dishes (if you’re feeling homesick – here’s a local connection, the general manager Adwin Chong is Malaysian, and so is the head chef).
But I was here for Vietnamese food – and it didn’t disappoint. The signature Vietnamese noodles are served at every meal, every day. And there are lots of dessert options too. Try the Hu Tiu Nam Vang noodles – and Banh Khot, the Vietnamese mini pancake, if they have it.
So tick off Vietnamese, Malaysian, Chinese, Japanese and other Western dishes when you dine here.
The breakfast too is pretty good (can’t beat lunch, though). If you’re a seafood aficionado, there is an abundance of that for dinner. Oysters, crabs, prawns, squids and all manner of fish and shellfish. I’m not a huge fan but the venue was packed with hungry guests/diners who ate like there was no tomorrow.
The keyword here is: Fresh! Did I mention that the chef here has also started their own vegetable and herb garden just outside, on the balcony?
If you are hankering for some Chinese pickings, then Ngan Dinh Chinese Restaurant is the place for you. The decor is luxurious and in ornate Chinese style. And the Cantonese cuisine there matches that of any good restaurant in Malaysia. Dim sum is available at all meals.
If you want a more al fresco experience at night, you can try the Top of the Town Bar & Restaurant on the 26th floor (this is the highest building in District 5). There you can enjoy a 360° view of the city and the district while you dine or partake of the great wine, liquor and cocktail selections. On Friday nights there is a live band, while Saturdays is for partying with a deejay.
The venue is right next to the hotel’s swimming pool and Jacuzzis – soak and swim with a view!
Windsor Plaza is a favourite venue for MICE and other customised events because of the presence of large ballrooms and meeting rooms of different sizes. There’s always something going on and the hotel plays host to what they say is the largest one in South-East Asia – the Oktoberfest Vietnam. Yes, it’s a German thing, but it’s very popular with the locals; this is the 12th year in a row that they have hosted it (Reuters even placed it in their Top 10 Oktoberfest celebrations outside Germany. Prost!).
You can lose the calories you have piled on at the well-equipped gym, or opt for a gentler and more soothing way at Windsor Spa. For women there are full body massages, vitality massages, Thai massage, hot stone massage and foot reflexology. For the men, try the Thai massage (take it from me, the treatment is really good) or a back, neck and shoulder massage. There are even rooms for couple massages.
Or go the facial, body wraps, scrubs or mani/pedi route. There’s also an in-house hair salon and gift shop.
Don’t forget to enjoy some time in your room or suite. My Club room was really big with all the amenities you would expect in a 5-star hotel. It was a bit difficult getting connected to their WiFi but once you’re on, it’s quite fast to surf. There are 376 rooms at Windsor Plaza, ranging from deluxe rooms to presidential suites. I found the rooms generally bigger than those at properties in District 1.
Those on the Club floors can opt for buffet breakfast at the Club lounge (or a Chinese set menu at Ngan Dinh) and have complimentary day-long refreshments, pre-dinner cocktails and hors d’oeuvres. They can also use the workstations and meeting room facilities. This was heaven-sent – complimentary laundry service for four garments, and pressing service for three items per night. A late checkout at 4pm is subject to availability.
I’m sure at some point you might want to get out and explore the area that’s affectionately known as Cholon. Windsor Plaza has actually come up with a simple walking tour guide of the district. You can also opt for the free shuttle services that cover most of those stops.
You can start just next door, at An Dong Plaza – which is connected to the hotel – that has hundreds of retail stores selling reasonably priced clothes, accessories, jewellery, furniture, souvenirs and more. Further down the road is An Dong Market which is an indoor wholesale market that sells clothes, fabrics, handicrafts and souvenirs, dried food and other goods. Sometimes the prices here are lower than at the famous Ben Thanh market in District 1.
There’s also the famous Binh Tay or Cholon Market, the biggest market in Vietnam, which has an extensive range of fresh vegetables, fruits, seafood, meat products from just about everywhere. Unfortunately, it was being renovated when I was there but there were makeshift areas to cater to the sellers.
There is a herbal street market, a fabric market and even a wholesale market for motorcycle parts (after all, HCMC looks like a city where motorcycles rule).
There is even an Art Street – Tran Phu Street – which is great for arty types. And there are many boutiques on another long street here.
As this is “Chinese central”, there are a lot of temples (sometimes called pagodas) to explore, from the Thien Hau Temple to the Quan Am Pagoda. What’s unusual is Father Tam’s church, which is a Catholic church nicknamed after a popular priest. Even more quaint is that his statue is at the top of the bell tower.
Foodies can go crazy and indulge because a lot of the well-loved Vietnamese dishes can be found at every nook and corner.
If you still must visit District 1, don’t fret, the hotel has free daily shuttles to take you there and back.
What more do you want?