One of South Vietnam’s most exciting, top tourist destinations, The Grand Ho Tram Strip, is an expansive property with five-star facilities and is coming to be regarded as Vietnam’s entertainment capital.
By: Usman Riaz
Posted on: August 9, 2023
LF Says: ★★★★.5
Coming back home after a vacation is a bitter-sweet feeling. On one hand, you’re dreading coming back to a reality where a million things need your attention, while on the other, you’re looking forward to going back to your loved ones and telling them every detail about your vacation. As you recollect and share the little details of your experience with others, the tiny house you spotted that looked straight out of a movie, the way the sun dimmed right before setting, or the way a stranger went out of their way to help you – you realize that telling the stories is another way of relieving it.
Writing about The Grand Ho Tram Strip is my way of re-living the experience. For those unfamiliar with the name, The Grand Ho Tram Strip is one of South Vietnam’s most exciting tourist destinations. An expansive property with five-star facilities, it is coming to be regarded as Vietnam’s entertainment capital.
Reaching The Grand Ho Tram strip
The Grand is situated in Ho Tram, a small coastal town roughly a hundred kilometres from Ho Chi Minh City. After getting my e-visa (which takes less than a week to obtain), a 5-hour direct flight took me from Mumbai to the Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City or Saigon (as it was earlier known). From there I was chauffeured to The Grand in one of the property’s fully equipped fleet of vehicles. The distance, combined with the city’s traffic, meant that I could enjoy a light breakfast on the go, catch up on sleep, and still be able to watch the scenery change from the buzzing metropolis to small towns with blue skies, green fields, and hills.
There are 15 restaurants and bars, eight swimming pools, a nightclub, a cinema hall, and the most exciting of all - The Grand’s casino...
As you approach closer to Ho Tram, you see the pristine coastline lined with white sand shoring the magnificent South China Sea. One long turn on the picturesque expressway and voila! You’re transported into the realm of The Grand.
The Grand - a small city in itself
Detailing everything in The Grand would need an encyclopedia, but it should suffice to say that the property is a small city within itself. Boasting over 1,100 rooms in Holiday Inn and Intercontinental, a walk through the property is somewhat like a fast-paced tour of the small city. There are 15 restaurants and bars, eight swimming pools, a nightclub, a cinema hall, and the most exciting of all - The Grand’s casino, which is open 24 hours for you to try your hand at classics like Baccarat, Blackjack, Poker, and Roulette. Or if you’re a novice, go test your luck on the 500+ slot and electronic gaming machines.
The cinema hall at The Grand, which plays movies all day.
Apart from this, there are gaming arcades, numerous retail stores–even a motorcycle showroom, The Bluffs - an 18-hole golf course designed by the “Great White Shark” Greg Norman and one of highest rated in Asia (along with a mini golf course too for non-serious players), water sports facilities, fitness centers, and two award-winning spas to cater to all kinds of travelers.
Now and then, The Grand hosts performances and entertainment events. Over the weekend of my visit, I got the chance to witness the mixed martial arts scene in Vietnam with the Angel’s Fighting Championship where players from all over South-East Asia came to compete.
The two towers of The Grand
The Grand is divided between two twin towers, each with over 500 luxurious rooms and royal suites. The older tower houses the Intercontinental while the newer one houses the Holiday Inn Resort. Entering The Grand through the expansive lobby area, which the two hotels share, is like stepping into a world where contemporary design is flecked with Vietnamese culture.
Ceilings are lined with design elements that mimic traditional Vietnamese buildings and their roofs, the lobby features installations of lantern art, and the walls are lined with lacquer and oil paintings which are popular in the country. Both the Intercontinental and Holiday Inn maintain a distinct yet synergic decor and design that reminds you that you’re in two different hotels, yet on the same property. This design sensibility is maintained across the different restaurants and bars, even in their menu. Despite the vast size of the property, this same synergy is also reflected in every member of the staff, who go out of their way to ensure that you feel right at home.
The suite offered such an inviting panoramic view of The Bluffs – the 18-hole golf course – that I also decided to go to for a few rounds. After all, how often do you get to play in a championship course designed by Greg Norman?
I stayed at both hotels during my four-day stay. At Holiday Inn, my ocean-view room on the lower floors meant I had access to the balcony area that overlooks the pool. Despite the warm humid air, I spent a lot of my quiet time here, watching the spectacular sky and ocean changing colors. Once or twice in the day, my reading sessions were interrupted by furious rain. But in a few minutes, just as suddenly as it started raining, it would stop and the sky would clear up again. I took the rain as a sign that the sea was calling me and tried my hand at a guided session of Kayaking and Paddleboarding.
The Bluffs - an 18-hole golf course designed by the “Great White Shark” Greg Norman.
Over at the Intercontinental, I stayed in an even more luxurious suite on the 20th floor. Although I had set out with the best intentions of not working at all, I couldn’t resist after seeing the workplace and the view. The suite offered such an inviting panoramic view of The Bluffs – the 18-hole golf course – that I also decided to go to for a few rounds. After all, how often do you get to play in a championship course designed by Greg Norman?
A gastronome’s adventure
Lemongrass serves regional specialties and Western favorites. It also the site of a massive breakfast spread in the morning.
I knew beforehand that The Grand has 15 restaurants, and I was ready to try as many as I could. I had my first meal at Lemongrass, which served several regional specialties and most Western favorites. I tried the fresh and fried variants of spring rolls, a Vietnamese specialty found on every corner in Ho Chi Minh City. After the chef learned that I was coming from India, he served a dish of samosas, which, along with the accompanying chutney dip, passed all checks. Another favorite was the raw mango and tofu salad. Overall a great start to my gastronomic adventure with the bar set quite high from the beginning.
The poolside restaurant Khói turns the freshest sea produce into delicacies. Although I tried quite a few things, the wok-fried baby squid in onion & fish sauce, and steamed lobster in butter garlic sauce, were my favorites. Famed for its Cantonese specialty delicacies, the Ju Bao Xuan was where I tried the exquisite pecking duck – served in different forms over three courses. Another favorite that I’d recommend trying as a dessert was the sweet black sesame glutinous rice dumpling with crushed peanuts.
The poolside restaurant Khoi turns the freshest sea produce into delicacies.
I had a ball at the expansively huge breakfast spreads at Ginger and Lemongrass where every day would be a chance to try something new and novel. The Grand’s Food Court was another favorite. It serves a range of foods from the famed Vietnamese classics like Bahn Mi - a baguette sandwich available in a choice of meats and pickled vegetables, Phở - a comforting noodle soup that appears to have magical hangover-curing properties, and Cà phê đá - the famed Vietnamese iced coffee that can probably raise the dead, to international-standard pizza, burgers, and fried chicken.
The Grand Food Court serves Vietnamese classics like Bahn Mi, Phở, Cà phê đá, and international-standard pizza, burgers, and fried chicken.
The Phở certainty comes into use the morning after if you’ve been to Fuel, the sports bar at The Grand, which, among other local and imported spirits and cocktails, also serves a mean cocktail called ‘the Ghostrider’.
Fuel - the sports bar. When here, make sure to fuel yourself with a ‘Ghostrider’.
A haven for party enthusiasts
While Fuel prepares to close at around 11 PM, that is just when Roxy, The Grand’s bar and lounge, has started to stretch its legs. Over the weekend, Roxy stays open till 2 AM and, with its fiery DJs and dance performances, is just the place to be. After an exciting Saturday at Roxy, I was glad to quieten down and sit down with a cigar at La Casa del Habano, which has a practically endless collection of whiskeys and authentic Cuban cigars by names like Cohiba, Montecristo, Bolivars, Diplomaticos, and more.
Roxy - The Grand's nighclub, with fiery DJ and dance performances.
Two spas to help you unwind
If the partying, water sports, and the odd-fifty other things to do get you in need of some unwinding, or your idea of a vacation leans more toward relaxation and the dolce far niente, then The Grand does have two world-class spas, both with their specialty spa menus, that you are going to fall in love with. The 90-minute deep body massage and mud scrub I experienced at the Lotus Spa was rejuvenating and marked the perfect end to my stay.
Lotus Spa - for treatments that will bring you to life.
Bidding goodbye to The Grand
From the moment I arrived, I was captivated by the grandeur of the property and the warm hospitality that accompanied it. Exploring the diverse amenities, from the luxurious suites with breathtaking views to the world-class restaurants offering an array of delectable dishes, made each day a delightful adventure.
When it comes to creating outstanding hospitality, the IHG is no stranger. With a new airport coming up soon, in the close-by Vũng Tàu city, The Grand is set to become more accessible and easier to reach for national and international travelers. This, combined with the group's optimism about further developing The Grand with even more stay and recreation facilities, I’m excited to see how it will turn out in the coming years.
LF Says: ★★★★.5