At Villa Song Saigon, Michael Tatarski discovers that all it takes to escape the inner-city chaos is a drive to Thao Dien.
My Saturday afternoon began like many others, descending from the relative quiet of my 20th-floor apartment in District 5 to the sweltering heat, traffic and noise of the cramped surrounding streets. But a short drive away lay my oasis of calm, still within the city limits but the perfect refuge from Saigon’s endless buzz. It was time for a brief ‘staycation’ to clear my head and it turns out I couldn’t have picked a better location.
Villa Song, situated on the banks of the Saigon River in Thao Dien, is a relative newcomer to the city’s hotel market, having only opened at the end of 2013, but the beautiful boutique property has quickly carved out a niche for itself.
Sharp customer service is part of its flawless reputation, and I quickly discovered why. Every staff member greeted me warmly and spoke excellent English. It seemed that everyone genuinely wanted each guest to have a pleasant stay, which can’t always be said for hotels in Vietnam. Other nice touches – complimentary minibar drinks and free building-wide wifi that doesn’t require a pointless log-in page, for example – set Villa Song apart.
After settling into my comfortable room – one of 23, each of which has a unique layout – I made straight for the pool, which is nestled amid a verdant garden next to the small gym. A relaxing dip was more than welcome on this brutally hot day and the comfortable deck chairs next to the pool were great for reading or a quick nap.
Later, I made my way from the room down the elegant wooden spiral staircase to Bistro Song Vie, which features al fresco seating right on the river as well as an air-conditioned restaurant. Strands of fairy lights act as a sort of ceiling over the outdoor dining area, creating an elegant atmosphere to match the stately villa. Bistro Song Vie is open from 6am to 11pm and serves breakfast all day along with international fare, but I was excited to try dishes from the new Chef’s Signature Menu.
This menu features a fusion of local and international cuisine and has quickly become popular among the restaurant’s clientele, 80 percent of which are local Vietnamese. I savoured the somewhat imposing shrimp tartar and rich duck, served on a sapodilla puree, while small cargo ships sailed past and weeds floated languorously on the murky river. Undeveloped Thanh Da Island sat directly across the waterway, and the vista of uninterrupted green combined with a complete lack of traffic or construction noise made me forget I was in such a busy city.
Even though Villa Song feels miles away from anything, it’s actually quite close to the action in Thao Dien. The numerous restaurants and bars of Xuan Thuy and other nearby streets are a quick walk or taxi ride away, but I went in the other direction and took a stroll to Saigon Outcast to see a play after the amazing dinner. While I’m still not sure I’d actually want to live in District 2, I must say it’s nice to be able to walk around without almost getting run over by a deranged driver every 10 seconds.
After several drinks too many at Outcast, I picked my way past a number of stray dogs and back to the gates of Villa Song, where I promptly passed out in my sea of a bed while making sure to use all six provided pillows. Suffice to say, I was not missing my District 5 bed and its four-inch-thin mattress.
The following morning, a full English breakfast on the river was exactly what the doctor ordered. Unlimited fruit juice along with eggs, sausage, crispy bacon and the rest of the ensemble did wonders for my hangover and it was once again mercifully quiet on the riverfront.
With a couple of hours to spare before checkout I hit the pool again, this time with the whole place to myself. Cool water, lush greenery, a gorgeous building and the latest David Mitchell novel: that’s a life I could get used to. Sadly, however, my staycation was coming to an end. After squeezing in one last rinse under the fantastic showerhead in my bathroom, it was time to get back on the motorbike and head home. On the way, I was nearly run over by a taxi, highlighting the contrast between Villa Song and the bustle of the city, but I won’t soon forget my stay. If you need a break but can’t afford the time to leave town, look no further than this slice of calm on the river.
Villa Song Saigon is currently offering a Staycation package to attract customers who live in the city. Contact Dang Thi Tuyet Hong at firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.