Thursday, February 02, 2017

Vietnam: The Place to Stay in Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City is District 1

When visiting a new country or city, my initial struggle in terms of logistics is finding the right place to stay.

It was our first time in Ho Chi Minh City and we want to make sure that our base is strategic and flexible enough to our sightseeing plans. In addition to this, I am with family, with 2 elderly parents who are mobility challenged. So careful planning must be thought of and put in place.

Avanti

Our family room at Avanti Hotel Saigon.


To give you an overview of all the districts in Saigon and where District 1 is located. Map graphics by Codie Leseman.

After a good online research about the city, I decided to pick District 1 as the area where we will stay, mainly because this is the heart of Saigon. Everything is within walking distance or just a few minutes commute with the taxi, or motorbike perhaps if you dare rent one of these nasties on the roads. For all the obvious reasons, District 1 is hands down the best place if it's your first time in the city.

The next challenge is finding which part of District 1 and which hotel. We have a few factors to consider, and with this, I have picked the Ben Thanh area as the best place for us because it is very central. My mum is crazy about markets too. This is how I discovered Avanti Hotel.

[To read the rest of the post and see more pictures, click Read more link below]

The hotel is located in the back street of Ben Thanh Market. It is perhaps the most modern looking building along a row of French-colonial commercial houses standing on the busy Le Than Ton street. I picked this hotel for comfort, proximity and safety. Moreover, I loved that their family room has a floor to ceiling glass window that looks down to Ben Thanh market. I am a sucker for views and this was the hotel so far that gave me a view of an authentic Saigon cityscape.

Avanti Ben Thanh

It is easy to find the hotel as it is the only modern looking building with glass windows in Ben Thanh market area. Here is the location of the hotel on Google maps:



We were able to check-in early before 12 noon so that was nice, however, they didn’t extend the check-out for us, giving the reason that they were fully booked. That was a bummer but we were fine with it.

It is a relatively new, comfortable and quite modern hotel. The family room has 2 queen-size beds and can fit in 4 people. This was one of the requirements we had as well. We prefer that the 4 of us stay in 1 room, which means we need a spacious room with 2 queen-size beds. This requirement demand is quite difficult to find in any city so I was quite happy to have found this option at Avanti. I love their bed though and I was able to sleep soundly. Their pillows were adorable. They even have a price list should you wish to bring them home.

The toilet and bathroom were big enough. Of course, with the 4 of us it is a bit cramp, but with good scheduling, it was fine. My mum and I wake up early so the scheduling was not much of a problem.

Our room here at Avanti Hotel Saigon reminds me of our hotel room at the Royal Plaza Hotel in Hong Kong many years ago. We also had 2 queen-size beds and a huge window with a view. The only difference is that we are sitting at a lower level here in Avanti than at Royal Plaza.


This is our view: Ben Thanh Market. The glass windows are one-way mirrors so we have privacy.

Avanti Saigon
Avanti Saigon

You can see the bedroom from the toilet.

In the evening, the streets flanking Ben Thanh market turns into a Night Market. It can get very busy. It is actually quite nice as it makes the whole place pumping with excitement and fun, a great diversion for an evening activity or shopping. But after 2 nights in a row, I am sure you will be tired of the noise and hustling scene. It is my pleasure though to watch the night market action from the comforts of our hotel room. Now this, I like.

I managed to take a video of the Night Market one evening by opening the glass window and sticking out my camera. I will soon post a separate entry about this.

Now when I tried closing back the window, it wouldn’t budge. The window got stuck. I didn’t want to push hard as well as I didn’t want to break anything. The parents were also asleep so I was careful of making any noise. I informed my sister, who was still up internetting, about my dilemma hoping she could help but she only suggested to call reception. No way I am doing that and in the process waking up the parents. My mum would get mad at me and the hotel as well. Because there is a sign on the window – “Do not open”. I know, I am being naughty haha. So with utter determination, I went back to work on the window, with full concentration slowly and meticulously, and voila, this time the window shifted and glided back to its place. Hallelujah. Close call, haha.

Ben Thanh

The crowds at the Ben Thanh Night Market in Saigon. The market starts at 19:00 and goes until midnight. The streets are not pedestrian only, but pedestrian + motorbikes.

Breakfast at the hotel was the buffet and it was quite good in my opinion. Nothing lavish but good enough with some variety added every day. They served Vietnamese, Asian and western-style fare. They even have a noodle station!

During one of our breakfasts, we encountered a local wedding party, which later I realised must be just a photoshoot. It was rather strange because the whole wedding entourage didn’t eat, although the tables were made up. It seemed like they only used the breakfast area of the hotel for picture and video taking. I love the fact though that the bride and bridesmaids were dressed in traditional Vietnamese Ao dai. The bride was in a red sequin-beaded Ao dai, while the bridesmaids in yellow with beautiful matching hats. It was lovely to see a local traditional event, even for just a few minutes.

Avanti saigon

I had some noodles for breakfast. Noodles are a comfort food of mine. 


The bridal entourage we saw at the breakfast area of the hotel.

There is free wifi access all over the hotel, a very important element in our internet-connected age. The wifi connection was not that strong but it is better than nothing. In the future, hotels should learn to improve their internet facilities and keep this free as well.

The V Cafe espresso bar in front of the hotel serve really good Vietnamese iced coffee. We came here on the first day after shopping at the Ben Thanh market for some cold drinks and a little bit of downtime. Because the walls are all glass, the bar cafe is also a great place to sit and watch the goings on of the market… but of course, we have a much better view from our room.


The left photo is the Vietnamese iced coffee. Vietnamese coffee has a distinct taste especially when you drink it hot. I find the iced coffee better tasting than its hot version.


The V Cafe of Avanti Hotel.

Here are a few TIPS:

Sightseeing tours and day trips – At the lounge area (at the back of the reception) there is a travel tours and agency desk that is manned until 20:00. We booked a tour here to Mekong Delta and the countryside. Their tours were of quality (smaller group) and the prices were competitive. I did a comparison by surveying a couple of tour operators outside, there is a lot in Ben Thanh area, and this one at the Avanti Hotel had the best offer on the tour we were eyeing on.

Money changer – There is one store, located a few hundred metres on the right side street (Phan Chi Trinh street).

Nice café to hang out in the evening – Aside from the V Cafe which is a great place to freshen up with an iced cold drink such as a Vietnamese iced coffee during the day, there is is this posh and contemporary bar around the corner called Lameda Café. It is on the corner street of Ly Tru Trong and Thu Khoa Huan. It has an outdoor seating with great ambience. Highly recommended!


Paperwork? Is there a way to digitalised this process? Just had to take this photo of the public toilet of the hotel near the reception.


Street scenes just outside the hotel on Le Than Ton street.

Viet Dong

Vietnam money, the Vietnamese Dong.100 Euros is approximately 2.4+ million Dong!


Fruit vendors on the streets of Ben Thanh, they are everywhere.


Some evening pictures outside of the hotel.

Travel Period: December 2016
Destination: Ho Chi Minh City (Southeast), Vietnam

Keep in touch and follow me on Facebook: Travel & Lifestyle Diaries by Dutched Pinay Travels
Happy Travels! Enjoy Life =)

All pictures were taken by a point and shoot pocket camera or a smartphone.

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