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32 hours Saigon tour: A visit for investment and charm

Follow Lilian, Senior Marketing Manager of International Residential from Savills Hong Kong, on her jaunt to Ho Chi Minh City to discover the upcoming “Vinhomes Golden River” and experience the original “Pearl of the Orient”.

With just a day to enjoy the town, Lilian and her team pack into the Savills Vietnam office for formalities, quickly move along to residential developments including Golden River but ensure time out for the true attractions – local flavours, sites and heritage. Surprises, investment opportunities and charm abound!

 One night  in Saigon

While I’m sitting at the airport waiting to board the flight to Ho Chi Minh City, I cannot help but think of the show “The Layover with Anthony Bourdain” as our own International Residential team prepares to undertake a whistle-stop tour of Ho Chi Minh City to see some of newest residential developments while taking the opportunity to get to know the city from the street level.

The next 32 hours did justice to HCMC by proving every bit as busy as the city itself.

 09:30 AM  Arrive in Ho Chi Minh City

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We arrived in Ho Chi Minh early Monday morning to be greeted by our friendly Vietnamese colleague Diego who accompanied us from the airport to our “newly opened” City Centre hotel. During the journey from the airport, as we drove from the outer suburbs to the centre of HCMC, I started to get the feeling for this bustling urban metropolis and its blur of activity.

Beleaguered by winter weather clad scooter drivers fight for space with taxis, trucks and luxury German cars, I see first hand evidence of a city that’s frantic yet functional, from humble beginnings yet increasingly prosperous.

As I was told, HCMC is home to around 8 million people (and almost as many motorbikes) and whilst 10 years ago it was common to see one family sharing a motorbike, this is no longer the norm. Cars used to be the ultimate luxury, now however, something as a Mercedes Benz fails to grab even the occasional glance.

 11:00 AM  Visit to Savills Vietnam

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Having stopped briefly at our hotel, we quickly make way to the Savills Vietnam HQ in the heart of District 1. We are immediately introduced to a rather lively Timo Schmidt (Head of International Residential Sales and Leasing) and Neil MacGregor (Managing Director, Vietnam).

Our tour reveals a large and well air-conditioned office with approximately 100 employees, many looking up for a quick glance at the “tourists”. Following our walk around we sit down for an introduction to the local property market and the city. Timo highlights items like the young, steadily increasing population and workforce, comparatively low labour costs, improvements in design and build, infrastructure changes and a thriving economy as reasons for investment.

 11:30  AM  Timo’s tour of Districts 1 and 2

We make our way out for a bus tour of Districts 1 and 2, which Timo reliably informs us will form the centre for much of new development and are likely to garner the interest of international purchasers. With Government policy recently formed allowing foreigners to own homes in Vietnam, new developments across the country are on the up and up with foreign investors now a focus (limited to 30% in all instances) demographic for developers.

Across Districts 1 and 2 features include modern skyscrapers, traditional shops, high-end residential plots and basic low-rise housing in equal measure alongside busy streets and marketplaces.

 12:30 PM  Visit to Vinhomes Golden River and The Nassim

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While touring the districts we stop at two new developments, the first being Vinhomes “Golden River,” a prime site in District 1 on the edge of the Saigon River that will form part of an extensive regeneration scheme featuring sleek glass residential towers with full facilities, commercial and retail space, an international school, a marina and a Metro Line 1 station.

The on-site marketing suite is very impressive, a shiny boutique which resembles a 5-star hotel reception crossed with a French fashion store in a glitzy mall. Moving on we proceed to a site developed by Hong Kong Land (in conjunction with SonKim Land) in District 2 named The Nassim, presumably a nod to the high-end road of the same name in Singapore. Their suite is equally impressive, albeit a little more understated and set in an old colonial villa featuring a full model flat upstairs. Having viewed show suites for new developments across the world, one thing was clear – the HCMC offerings are on a par with top investment locations like London, Tokyo and Sydney.

The main difference we noticed between Districts 1 and 2 was the availability of land and a shift towards residential accommodation in the latter, whereas the more central District 1 was very much more about mixed-use with commerce and retail.

 01:30 PM  Vietnamese coffee power-up for a full afternoon

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It had made for a busy morning, turned afternoon so we made our way to a late lunch on the Saigon River in District 7, another popular residential area. Here we ate a mixture of authentic Vietnamese dishes recommended by our local colleague Christine.

Lunch was greeted by a typical wet season downpour, though it didn’t manage to tame our appetite. Following a Vietnamese coffee (coffee, ice and condensed milk, think very sweet and highly caffeinated) we were ready to continue our afternoon exploration. After a brief return to the office for further sales training on local rules and regulations (this is where the coffee did its job) we had some spare time to explore before dinner, during which time I took the liberty to make a visit to Ben Thanh market.

Here I watched as some of my colleagues bartered for everything from Rolex watches to Pashmina scarves and the speciality local coffee; while I assume most knew the watches not to be the real deal, I’m not sure all fully understood the lifecycle of the “weasel coffee”! From Ben Thanh we made our way to Saigon Square, then got an aerial view of the city from the Bitexco Tower, the city’s most iconic high rise (for now) and then had a quick and inexpensive foot massage in a kitsch wooden surrounding before dinner.

 07:00 PM  Seafood dinner

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Dinner took place in a city centre seafood restaurant, my first impressions being that it was basic, unlike much of what we’d seen earlier in the day, however the food and the bill proved to be anything but! Clearly there is a premium to be paid for high quality seafood wherever you reside in Asia.

This was followed by a quick nightcap in the Park Hyatt hotel, a favourite of Neil’s, before making our way home in anticipation of an early start on Tuesday.

 09:00 AM  Finally, some Pho!

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Tuesday consisted of meetings with three further Vietnamese developers interested in selling overseas, including one from Da Nang, an altogether different proposition as the area is home to many luxury holiday villas.

We then accepted an invitation to lunch on the condition that we got to sample a basic local restaurant and the illusive bowl of pho (traditional Vietnamese noodle soup in chicken/beef broth) we’d been craving since arrival; sadly it’s much better than the HK version we pay so much more for! We ate in a tourist friendly restaurant called Pho 2000 which rose to prominence because of a visit from Bill Clinton in the year (you guessed it) 2000.

Despite the popularity, there was nothing to detract from the local feel. Unfortunately this spelled the end of our trip and we made our way to the airport with a quick stop off at the War Remnants Museum and Independence Palace en route to learn a little more about the city’s deep history and rather unfortunate recent past.

Given it’s proximity to Hong Kong, ease of access and wide variety of activities, I couldn’t recommend this as a weekend destination; I would have loved to have spent another 24 hours as I feel like I’d only just scratched the surface of what HCMC has to offer.

Images source from Internet


The same could perhaps be said about it’s investment potential and should you have any interest in Vietnam, HCMC or Golden River specifically, please do not hesitate to get in contact with the team via IRS@savills.com.hk or +852 2842 2272.



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