Just off Saigon’s heaving, teeming Ben Thanh market, up a discreet flights of steps in a pencil-thin precinct reminiscent of apartments in Paris or New York, is a hidden gem: the 21-room Anpha Boutique Hotel.
The Anpha’s rooms have obviously been set up by interior designers with a Francophile’s eye. For The Siteseer on a recent visit, it was a pleasing, good-value incentive option in a beehive of a city renowned for its almost embarrassingly cheap accommodation and food.
For those who find taxi-hunting an annoying chore after a tiring flight, the hotel can arrange airport pick-ups for USD19.
On arrival at the Anpha, a walk up a flight of stairs directly from a main artery, Le Thanh Ton Street, takes visitors into a tiny, airconditioned reception area and cosy waiting room where they’re welcomed with a drink.
The well-appointed rooms are tastefully decorated and uniformly immaculate, a credit to the housekeeping team. Many have balconies and a view over the Ben Thanh market, which occupies an entire block and sells everything from sugared frogs eggs to live fish, shoes, ornaments and underwear.
A plethora of fantastic-value restaurants and spas surround the hotel, which is easy walking distance to major attractions including the Opera House, Saigon Square shopping centre and the clunkily-named War Remnants Museum. The museum is a fascinating showcase of military hardware used in the Vietnam War.
At the hotel’s rooftop (seventh floor) restaurant and bar area guests can take an al-fresco set-menu breakfast, as part of the room deal, while overlooking one of Vietnam’s busiest urban areas.
“We’re aiming to please business and leisure travellers who are looking for secure, clean, pleasing high-end accommodation,” an Anpha spokesperson says.
“And because of our address in the heart of Saigon, they can discover most of the key attractions of the city and still be just minutes away from the city’s busiest financial, cultural and shopping areas.”
The young people manning reception are obliging and willing to arrange day tours for reasonable prices. Arguably the most fascinating of these is a trip to the Cu Chi Tunnels, 60 kilometres from the city, which starts from about AUD 50 per person, including pick up at the hotel and transport in an airconditioned bus. It takes around two hours to get there but it’s worth the effort. The tunnels are a 200-kilometre-long network of underground passageways in which up to 16,000 Viet Cong sheltered during the Vietnam War and from which they launched attacks on US troops and, in earlier years, on French colonists.
Visitors can experience the passageways (and view the hidden kitchens and fiendish traps for enemy soldiers) first-hand, with emergency exits provided for those for whom the claustrophobia proves too much. For westerners who revel in the occasional escape from health and safety rules, there’s a shooting range on site where, for around USD20, anyone of any age can step up to fire some of the legendary weapons from the conflict, including M-16s, AK47s and an old .30-calibre machine gun.
Online from AUD 89
The Anpha Boutique Hotel is 30 minutes from Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City). All rooms have free wifi, working desk and other amenities you’d expect like a safe and minibar. It has a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence award.
For more information visit www.anphaboutiquehotel.com.