A pocket of France in a remote corner of Ho Chi Minh City, Ma Maison is a welcoming place to stay, run by a French-speaking Vietnamese family. The tall, grey-hued guesthouse towers over an alley scattered with banh mi stalls, tailors, food kiosks, and locals crowded around TVs. Behind the guesthouse door, there’s a sense of being transported away from the city, with Provençal furniture, farmhouse tables, vases of blooming flowers, croissants for breakfast, and a soothing, quiet calm. Rooms in muted pastel tones are cosy with super-comfortable beds; the bathrooms, with rain showers, are perfumed by cinnamon sticks, lemongrass and mother of pearl shell. Ma Maison is quite a hike from the centre of town but don’t let that be a deterrent. Just a few minutes’ walk from Ma Maison, and recommended by its staff, is a local bó ba lot restaurant, where the sight of a foreigner is still a rare thing. Feast on a fill of beef wrapped in betel leaf, a stack of rice paper, a huge pile of herbs, noodles and peanuts, and all for just £1. Ma Maison’s filling breakfast pho is also worth the wait.
Thao Dien Village
An alluring tropical retreat, Thao Dien Village is enveloped by frangipani trees, and is a 15-minute drive from downtown Saigon. Saigon is a busy, noisy and congested city but this inviting hotel offers peace, a swimming pool, spa and a Vietnamese restaurant all facing the Saigon river in District 2. Superior rooms are all monochrome sleek with chalk-white walls, grey velvet headboards, crisp white sheets and black lamps dangling with droplets of shells by French designer Valerie Gregori McKenzie, founder of boutique store Song. Begin the day with a breakfast of eggs and strong Vietnamese coffee, seated on a terrace overlooking the river, and end it at the lemongrass-perfumed spa with a relaxing herbal, hot stone, mud or chocolate treatment.
The charming Cinnamon offers all the style and comfort of a more expensive Saigon hotel at half the price. It is a short walk from central Bến Thành Market in District 1, its manicured Asian interiors feature dark wooden floors and furniture, desks, coatstands, colourfully tiled bathrooms with tubs and showers, and lamps encased in fishing baskets. You may want to avoid street-facing rooms for the noise, although heavy wooden doors and window shutters muffle sounds. Breakfasts of pho, or banana pancakes laced with Mekong Delta honey, taken in the small breakfast room in the lobby, are delicious. As well as breakfast, one cocktail or mocktail, and one foot massage is included in the stay.ti
To be continued…
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