I was born in Ho Chi Minh City, or Saigon as I still call it, and I still have family living in the city. Of all the places I have visited in Saigon, I love District 2 the most. It’s a 15-minute drive from the city centre but it feels like a world away from the hustle and bustle of the big city. There are plenty of cute shops and cafes to while away a leisurely day. Plus, the area is leafy and green – two words not often used to describe Saigon.
Make District 2 your base while in the city. Stay at Villa Song Saigon and be sure to make a booking for a sunset dinner at The Deck. These are two of my top place to stay and eat in Saigon.
Villa Song Saigon | Boutique hotel
This beautiful boutique hotel has a stunning riverside location. Housed in a French-colonial style building, the hotel is a wonderful mix of modern amenities and old-school charm. Each of its 23 rooms is unique, and it’s worth splashing out to stay in one of the suites. My suite had a four-poster bed, over-sized bathtub, rain shower, an Apple TV and, the best part, huge arch windows with views of the Saigon River.
The a la carte breakfast was a lovely touch and a nice change from the standard buffet affair of other hotels. There were Vietnamese classics such as pho and banh coun (steamed rice pancake rolls), which were so good that I asked for a second portion. The international offerings such as a full English breakfast and continental pastries were also well done. Whatever you have, order the Vietnamese coffee. It was so good.
The pool was a little sanctuary. It’s easy to forget that you are busy Saigon when you’re lying here and enjoying a cool drink from the mini bar. Why mini bar? Did I forget to mention that the mini bar is complimentary and it’s well-stocked? It’s a small gesture that I really appreciated, because it’s not a huge cost for the hotel but it sends the message that the hotel cares about its guests.
There are also complimentary speedboat transfers to the central pier in Saigon. Villa Song Saigon is a real gem and I can’t wait to be back there again.
Villa Song Saigon (website)
197/2 Nguyen Van Huong | Thao Dien | District 2 | Ho Chi Minh City
The Deck | Riverside restaurant and bar
Arriving at The Deck, down the river from Villa Song Saigon, was a real treat. The restaurant is only a short 5-minute boat ride away and it also enjoys an enviable riverside location. There is a cool, easy vibe here. From the expansive, open-plan design to chic decor, it has a Mediterranean beach-bar feel in the middle of the urban jungle of Saigon.
The Deck serves up pan-Asian fare, deftly mixing local produce with some internationally sourced meat and seafood. The soft-shell crab and seared scallops were superb, as were the tender lamb racks and the grilled Wagyu sirloin. But the star of the meal was the black cod – beautifully seasoned, melt-in-your-mouth perfection.
The cocktails were also something to write home about. My passion fruit martini tasted as good as it looked. Then the head bartender also knocked up a special concoction after hearing about the type of drinks I like.
Service at The Deck was exceptional. From the waiting staff to the executive chef, I saw everyone spending time to check by each table and having a chat, suggesting dishes and drinks on the menu depending on our preferences. It was unusual to have this personal touch at a decidedly popular place.
If you can, book a table with river views for around 6 o’clock. It’s mesmerising watching the boats go by and there is even the promise of a stunning sunset.
The Deck (website)
38 Nguyen U Di St. | Thao Dien | District 2 | Ho Chi Minh City