VIETNAM TRAVEL

 

Ho Chi Minh City

History - Orientation - Information - Dangers Annoyances - Sights - Activities Walking Tour - Courses - HCMC For Children - Tour - Festivals Events - Sleeping Eating - Drinking - Entertainment - Shopping - Getting There Away - Getting Around.

SLEEPING

District I is the undisputed lodging capital of HCMC, though the decision whether to go east (fancy) or west (cheap) depends on what you're after. Budget travelers often head straight to the Pham Ngu Lao area, where thrifty hotels and backpacker-filled cafes line the streets. Those seeking upscale digs go to Dong Khoi area, home to the city's best hotels, restaurants and bars. For an alternative universe, try Cholon, home to pagodas, Chinese eateries and which sees many visitors from Hong Kong and Taiwan.
Budget
If you don't know where to stay but are limit ed by budget, take a taxi into Pham Ngu Lao and proceed on foot. Lugging your bags around makes you a prime target for touts consider dropping your gear at one of the travelers cafes and walking from there. Most won't mind keeping an eye on your luggage for you and they'll be happy to tell you about their tour programmers. If you book ahead, most hotels will fetch you at the airport for around US$5.
PHAM NGU LAO
Three streets - Đ Pham Ngu Lao, Đ De Tham and Đ Bui Vien - along with intersecting alleys form the heart of this backpacks ghetto, with well over a hundred places to stay. Among the options are countless family-run guesthouses (US$6 to US$12), newer, spiffier hotels (US$10 to US$25) and even a dorm or two.
Yellow House (31 Đ Bui Vien; dm/ s/d US$5/9/12; One of the cheapest options in town if you don't mind bunking with strangers. Yellow House has two dormitories (a mixed seven-bed and a three-bed for men or women whoever arrives first) as well as private rooms. Rooms are basic, but acceptable (some lack windows, some need a scrub) and there's a shared balcony. Breakfast included.
Nga Hoang (269/190 Pham Ngu Lao; rUSS8-20; Just off Đ De Tham in a small alley, this very clean,
family-run guesthouse is an excellent deal despite the small rooms. Breakfast is includei-1, there's satellite TV and the management is very friendly.
Ha Vy Hotel ( 16-18 Đ Do Quang Dau; r US$8-12;This family run miniholel has an atmospheric lobby and a mix of clean and comfortable rooms, though some could use a bit more light.
Kim's (Tell: 836 8584; 91 Đ Bui Vien; r USS10; Not part of the ubiquitous brand. Kirn's is a small, family-run guesthouse with tidy rooms (furnished with dusty appliances). Front rooms have balconies.
Blue River Hotel (283/2C0Pham Ngu Lao; s/d from US$10/12;This extra-friendly place has clean, spacious rooms with simple, neat furnishings. Breakfast and free internet included.
Ngoc Minh Courthouse ( 283/11 Đ Pham Ngu Lao; rUS$lO-12; Tucked just behind a busy street, this pleasant, colorfully painted guesthouse has clean, trim room; that are a good value for the money.
Phan Lan ( 283/6 B Pham Ngu Lao; s/d from uSS10/l2);Đ Bui Vien(70 Đ Buivien;ruS$lO-l5;Another good choice on a quiet street just off busy Pham Ngu Lao, this friendly guesthouse has clean, comfortable rooms and helpful staff. Several blocks away stands Bui Vien Phan Lan offering clean, tidy rooms run by friendly hosts. There's an ATM inside- Breakfast included at both branches.
Quyen Thanh Hotel (212 Đ De Tham, r US$10-15; Gooty green granite tubs, a round terrace and plants adorn this older place situated on a noisy corner. There is an excellent souvenir shop on the ground floor, where you'll find locally made lacquer ware, snake wine and various other trinkets.
Lan Anh Hotel ( 252 Đ De Tham; rUSSlO-18; Offering an elevator, free breakfast and comfortable rooms, the Lan Anh is a good central choice.
our pick Madame Cuc's (r U5512-20; Hotel 127 (Tell: 836 876; 127 Đ Cong Quynh); Hotel 64 (Tell: 836 5073; 64 Đ Bui Men);Hotel MC 184 (Tell: 8361679; 184 Đ Cong Quynh) It's worth checking out the trio of superb family-run hotels run by warm-hearted Madam Cue, a local personality who knows how to make her guests feel safe and at home. All three places feature well-appointed rooms and the staff provide a most welcoming reception. There's free tea, coffee and fruit all day; breakfast and a simple dinner are included in the room rates Virtually all the hotels are identical in size an J style.
Saigon Comfort Hotel ( 175/2) Đ Pham Ngu Lao; rU5$l2-18; 5-6) This clean, comfortable place has nicely set rooms - and they all come with windows. You'll also find a host of decent amenities, including en-suite Wi-Fi access.
Bi Saigon & Bee Saigon ( r USS12-30; Bi Saigon (185/26 r Pham Ngu Lao;, Bee Saigon (185/16 r Pham Ngu Lao) With two locations in Minihotel Alley, this pair of hotels has comfortable rooms with all the amenities (and some wild designs to boot). Each hotel is fronted by a decent restaurant serving Vietnamese and Japanese fare amid French-colonial decor.
Hong Hoa Hotel (185/28 r Pham Ngu Lao; r US$13-18; Rooms arc trim and tidy at Hong Hoa (the best have small balconies), and guests get two hours free at the internet cafe downstairs. The staff here are friendly and efficient.
Hotel Anh Phuong (Tell: 836 9248; 295 Đ Pham Ngu Lao; r USS15-20; Prominently advertising its double-glazed windows, this hotel delivers peace and quiet in its range of tidy rooms; the best are spacious, with heavy wooden furniture and Eastern decor.
Canadian Hotel 281 ( 281 B Pham Ngu Lao; r US$ 15-28; 5S SS) The lobby resembles an airline booking office, with cool, crisp (Canadian?) design. Some rooms have balconies; for US$21 and upwards they have in-room computers with fast ADSL connections (US$2 extra per day). There's a lift to save your legs.
Duna Hotel (167 0 Pham Ngu Lao; s/d/tr from USS15/17/25; S-S) This spotless hotel has colorful rooms with elaborately carved mounding and other details-Runa has a lift and accepts credit cards.
CO GIANG AREA
An alternative to Pham Ngu Lao and about 10 minutes’ walk south of there, is a string of fine guesthouses in the quiet alley connecting Đ Co Giang and Đ Co Bac. To reach the guesthouses, walk southwest on D Co Bac and turn left after you pass the nuoc mam (fish sauce) shops.
Ngoc son ( 178/32 Đ Co Giang; r US$7-11; A quiet, eight room guesthouse, Ngoc Son is a family-style place offering rooms with cable TV and fridge. The fidgety, helpful family rents motorbikes and offers breakfast ' US$1 extra.
Guest House California (Tell: 837 8885; 171A Đ Co Bac, r US$10-18; Small and intimate, this homery new guesthouse has a relaxed TV area down stairs and a shared kitchen where you can cook your own meals. It's run by a friendly, relaxed couple who also rents bikes and motorbikes.
Our pick Miss Loi's Guesthouse (178/20 Đ Co Giang; r US$10-20; This was the first guesthouse to appear in the neighborhood and it's still the best. Miss Loi and her especially amiable, helpful staff create a warm, low-key familial environment. The free breakfast is served in the pleasant open-air lobby, where fat, happy fish populate the fish pond and a pool table awaits.
Midrange
PHAM NGU LAO
Giant Dragon Hotel (173 Đ Pham Ngu Lao; r/ste US$20/25;Fairly fancy, the immaculate rooms at this lift-equipped place have satellite TV, IDD phones, tubs and hair dryers. Super deluxe rooms have sitting areas and views of town; all room rates include breakfast.
Lac Vien Hotel ( 28/120Buivien;rUS$22-28; A shiny new hotel, Lac Vien has very clean rooms with attractive furnishings, flat-screen TVs, and modern bathrooms. There's wi-fi access, but the cheapest rooms lack windows.
An An Hotel ( 40 Đ Bui Vien; r US$22.35; The usual luxuries such as TV and minibar equip the clean rooms at this slick, newish place. It also offers tours and transport services.
Ki Hotel ( 28/2 Đ Bui Vien; rUS$28-38; This new hotel offers stylish quarters with red and white embroi-dered bed covers, organic elements (bamboo, paper lanterns), thoughtful extras (robe and slippers) and room enough to stretch out.
Metropole Hotel (Tell: 920 1939; fax 920 I960; 148 ĐL Tran Hung Dao; r from US$55; Run by Saigon Tourist, this well-appointed hotel has attractive guestrooms and excellent amenities -pool, workout centre, spa.
DONC KHOI AREA
If you want to ba.sc yourself in the city centre, you'll find a good number (it well appointed hotels along D Dong Khoi or near the Saigon River, All of them offer .infinities such as air-con and .satellite TV.
Our pick Spring Hotel ( 44-46 B Le Thanh Ton; s/d with breakfast from US$32/40; This trim, nicely designing place has a subtle Japanese feel to it. Room-, are .somewhat small and carpeted but offer excellent value for the neighborhood.
Bong Sen Annexe (61-63 ĐL Hai Ba Trung; s/d with break fast from US$40/46; The U.S. as it's affect- tionately known by business travelers, is an attractive choice, with friendly manage ment and staff. Rooms are clean, carpentry) and somewhat uninspiring - but as with the Spring Hotel, it offers fair value for the neighborhood.
Asian Hotel ( 150 Đ Dong Khoi; s/d with breakfast from US$45/50; In the centre of town, this contem¬porary hotel has clean, carpeted rooms with a pleasant if simple design and wi-fi access. Book the superior or deluxe. for a balcony and decent natural light. There's a good in-house restaurant.
And a few others in the area:
Dong Do Hotel (35Đ Mac Thi Buoi; r US$25-40; Small, simple, quiet rooms here ha»e tile or wood floors; deluxe rooms feel cozy, while standards are a bit barren. Breakfast and in-room ADSL internet connection included.
Huong Sen Hotel ( 66-70 Đ Dong Khoi; s/d from US$38/52; Centrally located with tidy carpeted rooms; breakfast is included. Call ahead for promotional rates.
Kim Long Hotel (58 Đ Mac Thi Buoi; s/d from US$22/27;This small, somewhat dour, hotel has worn rooms with tile floors; front rooms have balconies. In-room internet (ADSL) costs an extra USS3 per day.
DISTRICT 3
Saigon Star Hotel (204 0 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai; r USS50-60; A decent midrange option, Saigon Star has attentive service and chintzy rooms with floral bedspreads and upholstery. The best rooms have balconies overlooking the Cong Vien Van Hoa Park. Its rooftop restaurant has fine views of the Reunification Palace.
CHOLON
Arc En Gel Hotel (Thien Hong Hotel or Rainbow Hotel; Tell: 52-56 Đ Tan Da; r with breakfast US$35-45; Featuring modern rooms with tile floors, the Rainbow is a popular venue for tour groups from Hong Kong and Taiwan, with its Rain bow Disco Karaoke. The priciest rooms come with pretty Chinese carved furniture.
Top End
Nearly all of HCMC's top hotels are concen traded in District 1 and most of them are in the Dong Khoi area. Don't be scared off by the published rates; hefty discounts can often be negotiated. Call or email ahead to ask for the current 'promotional' rates.
Continental Hotel (132-134 Đ Dong Khoi ; r US$75-135;One of the city's most historic lodgings, the Continental was the setting for much of the action that occurred in Graham Greene's novel The Quiet American. The hotel dates from the turn of the 19th century and received its last renovation in 1989 (unfortunately, at the hands of its aesthetically challenged owner, Saigon Tourist). Paneled wood ceil- ings with carved detailing accent the carpeted, cavernous rooms.
Grand Hotel (8-240ĐDong Khoi; s/d from US$75/85; Aptly named, the Grand's renovated land¬mark building is notable for its old-fashioned lift and spacious suites with 4.5m-high ceilings and French windows. Don't bother with mod-ern rooms in the new wing; old-wing rooms are appealing and historic, with parquet wood floors and granite bathrooms. There's also an indoor pool and a gym. Breakfast included.
Rex Hotel (141 ĐL Nguyen Hue; s/dfroraUS$80/90; The giant Rex is another classic central hotel. Built in 1950, it has an ambience of mellowed kitsch that recalls the time it put up US army officers. Rooms are clean and trim with carpeting; upper-category rooms have views while standard rooms have only windows opening onto the hall. The Rex has extensive amenities and a rooftop bar, decorated with plaster elephants and birdcages. You can use the swimming pool (open 6am to 9.30pm) for 48,000d.
RenaissanceRiversideHotel ( 8-15 Đ Ton Duc Thang; d from US$115; Not to be con fused with the Riverside Hotel nearby, this glitzy riverside skyscraper offers a luxurious atmosphere and exceptionally friendly service. Stunning, spectacular, right-there river views are worth the extra cash.
Majestic Hotel ( 1 Đ Dong Khoi; s/d from US$135/150; Dating back to 1925, the Majestic is right on the Saigon River. Following major renovations it can truly reclaim its title as one of the city's most majestic hotels. Colonial architecture and details like gorgeous wood floors contribute to its charm and unique atmosphere, setting it apart from the more modern behemoths. On hot afternoons take a dip in the courtyard pool; on warm evenings take in the river views with a cocktail in hand at the top-floor bar. Breakfast is included in room rates.
Park Hyatt Saigon (2 Lam Son Sq;d from US$210; New in 2006, the Park Hyatt is easily Saigon's finest hotel. Occupying a fine position in the heart of the city, this 252-room hotel has an elegant white facade and beautifully appointed guest rooms. The common areas - including a classically furnished lounge and a cozy top-floor bar - warrant a visit even if you're not staying here. There's an attractive pool, full spa services and all the other amenities you'd expect from this first-rate hotel.
Sheraton Saigon ( 88 Đ Dong Khoi; r from US$230; One of the youngest luxury hotels on the block (opened in 2003), the Sheraton boasts lavish rooms with handsome furnishings and all the amenities you'd expect from the big hotel chain - including an excellent spa, an elegant pool and rooftop bar with 360-degree views.
Caravelle Hotel (19LamSonSq; rUS$230-l200; One of the most luxurious options in HCMC, the Caravelle Hotel has plush spacious rooms with all the creature comforts. It sits on the spot once occupied by the Catholic Diocese of Saigon. The rooftop Saigon Saigon Bar is a spectacular place to have a cocktail in the early evening. Phone ahead for promotional rates