Tag Archives: Vietnam

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.

FD4ANAK39645The 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.”

IMG_1371The 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.



Asia’s a better deal than ever. It’s the only region in the world where the prices of hotel rooms dropped for Australian travellers in 2014. Admittedly, some of the falls can likely be attributed to the weakening of the Aussie dollar, which has hit a six-year low, but the results will doubtless be of interest to most organisers seeking to run an event offshore – and not just Australians.

The latest hotels.com index, which compares Asian prices, shows that they were in fact only slightly higher than they were 10 years ago, and fell for a second consecutive year.

In Vietnam, Thailand and Sri Lanka prices paid for hotel accommodation in cities like Hanoi, Phnom Penh, Chiang Mai, Ho Chi Minh and Bangkok all fell – some quite substantially – in 2014. These ranked among the best-value cities in the world for hotel stays. The only exceptions to the slump were China, Hong Kong and Japan, where prices rose modestly last year.

20150220_Hotels.com_ACCESS Resort & Villas_Phuket  (2)Conversely, says Regional Director for hotels.com, Katherine Cole, hotel rooms in Rio, Honolulu, San Francisco, London, Dublin, Berlin, Madrid, Milan and Paris were all subject to double-digit price rises. Prices rose by 15% in New Zealand, 12% in Fiji and 11% in New Caledonia. The city where Australian travellers paid the most for a hotel room in 2014 was New York, where the average price was $317.

In Australia prices increased on average by only 1% in the past year. They rose slightly in Sydney (1%), Brisbane (2%) and Melbourne (1%). They fell in Darwin (-4%) and Perth (-3%).

Best-value hotel destinations for Australian travellers in 2014:


Destination Average price paid in  2014 (AUD)
Cambodia $73
Vietnam $91
Thailand $113
Poland $116
Egypt $117


Countries where hotel prices fell the most for Australians:

Destination Average price paid in  2014 (AUD)
Oman -18%
Russia -7%
Sri Lanka -5%
Croatia -5%
Taiwan -4%


Top five international destinations where Australian travellers paid the most for hotels in 2014:

Destination Average price paid in  2014 (AUD) % change on 2013
New York $317 7%
Rio de Janeiro $299 14%
Cancun/Riviera Maya $282 19%
Honolulu $281 10%
Boston $272 10%


Top five international destinations with the highest growth in hotel prices for Australian travellers in 2014:

Destination Average price paid in 2014 (AUD) % change on 2013
Morocco  $169 41%
Mauritius  $277 25%
Greece  $196 18%
Qatar  $197 17%
New Zealand  $162 15%


Change in Australian hotel prices for domestic travellers in 2014: 

Destination Average price paid in 2014(AUD) % change on 2013 
Hobart $176 6%
Adelaide $153 6%
Canberra $185 4%
Brisbane $172 2%
Sydney $200 1%
Melbourne $177 1%
Perth $184 -3%
Darwin $200 -4%


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By Luke Heilbuth

The air is warm and humid, and the sky over Ha My Beach, Hoi An, is turning purple. I’m sipping chilled South Australian pinot noir as the sun falls from view, and our exuberant Vietnamese waiter says, “Happy merry Christmas!”

We’re at the bar of the Nam Hai, the most luxurious oceanfront resort in Vietnam. It’s among the top ten resorts in Asia, according to the latest edition of Travel + Leisure’s World’s Best Awards survey. The seven-year-old beach retreat, ranked twelfth in the 2013 version, climbed two spots this year, marking its highest ranking to date.

For my wife and me, it’s easy to see why. Sixty one-bedroom villas and 40 pool villas occupy 35 hectares of landscaped gardens. The staff are as friendly as any in the world, and our room is like a piece of heaven with its en-suite bath, enormous bed and deep mahogany finish. Best of all, there’s unobstructed views across the East Sea.

NAM-Dining-The Restaurant-Terrace02The pinot noir continues to go down easily as we enjoy an Indian-inspired meal at the resort’s excellent main restaurant. Walking back to our villa, the sky is black and filled with stars. A large gentleman ambles alongside, his face red with good cheer. He turns to enter his villa and in a rich Scottish baritone booms, to no-one in particular, “Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night.” Happy Christmas indeed.

It’s not for organisers who prioritise rock-bottom rates above everything else. But in my, and many others’, opinion,  the five-star Nam Hai, Hoi An, is an exceptional destination. And if breathtaking luxury and marvellous food are prime reasons for seeking a really special venue for a meeting, wedding or other event, to celebrate a major corporate success or special occasion, for example, it’s worth considering.

Located on a 35-hectare section of Ha My Beach 30 kilometres south of Da Nang, with its own beautiful stretch of pristine white sand, it features 60 villas and 40 pool villas, each occupying its own section of landscaped gardens and with views of the sea and the nearby Cham Islands.There’s a 75-square-metre meetings facility, The Boardroom, which can be set up for meetings of 14 to 40 people. The 90-square-metre “Open Lounge” can accommodate groups of 30 to 66, or up to 100 at a reception. With brides in mind, it also offers wedding packages.

NAM-Rooms-Beachfront Pool Villa-Pool.Like one of the spectacular dishes served at the main eatery (“The Restaurant”), Hoi An – a town of 88,000 in Central Vietnam – was shaped by the fusion of Asian and European influences. In the 16th and 17th centuries, Faifo, as it was then known, played host to Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, Dutch, Portuguese and French settlements vying for a piece of Vietnam’s lucrative silk and spice trade. All left their cultural mark. In 1999, UNESCO listed Hoi An’s “Ancient Town”as World Heritage due to its “outstanding material manifestation of the fusion of cultures over time”.

On one of our days spent here, among many other distractions – which include golf, tennis, badminton, basketball, swimming, gym, shopping, massage and so on – I have a full day’s class at the Red Bridge Cooking School to distract me, a Christmas gift from a friend.

The class, which costs USD45++ (shared) or USD55 (private) for a half-day guided tourand cooking session, begins with a walk through an organic herb garden. Soonwe reach the outdoor kitchen to prepare our food. Vietnamese cuisine is practically fat-free, relying on fresh herbs and vegetables, as well as dousings of nuoc mam, a sauce distilled from the carcasses of fermented fish. It sounds hellish but tastes heavenly.

NAM-Poolside-Wedding Events Setup02Over the course of several hours, the guide teaches us how to make clay pot fish with fresh dill, grilled chicken and banana flower salad, and the national dish – a delicious beef and noodle soup,pho bo.

And Hoi An is a fashion-lover’s delight: hundreds of shops sell fitted wool and cashmere suits, skirts, shirts and dresses, as well as shoes, at scarcely-to-be-believed prices. It’s couture carnage as we scuttle from tailor to tailor. Two suits, three jackets, six shirts, two pants and six pairs of underpants later we’re exhausted and looking forward to returning to the haven of the resort.

“In the hotel business, it’s difficult to maintain an edge, let alone get better with age,” says Anthony Gill, the Nam Hai’s General Manager, referring to its latest award. “But it’s possible with passion. This accolade is testament to that. It speaks volumes about our team, owners and management company who collectively always seek ways to improve the guest experience.”

From USD600++ per night (low season) and USD670++ per night (high season)

Organisers reserving a minimum of three consecutive nights can save up to 25% on the best available rate, says a resort spokesperson. “You’ll enjoy two set meals, an indulgent Vietnamese massage that’ll leave you relaxed and other benefits to create the perfect extended stay.” Other special offers can be viewed on the website.

Email: reservations@thenamhai.com.

Resort microsite: www.thenamhaihoian.com.

Luke Heilbuth was a paying guest of the Nam Hai.

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A curtain of rain thrashes down as I alight from a taxi in central Ho Chi Minh City. Dashing into the lobby of the Rex Hotel, I find myself in a marble-walled sanctuary illuminated by recessed lights and glowing aquaria of coloured fish. Many of the women working in the reception area are clad in purple-and-white silk pyjama outfits, adding to the impression that I’ve stepped onto the set of an Indochinese movie.

The venerable Rex Hotel, where I’ve come to talk to managers and check out the facilities, has served as a haven for travellers for decades. It remains one of the best-loved five-star hotels in Ho Chi Minh City, still referred to as Saigon by many of its 8.4 million residents.

The Rex been expanded and renewed several times since it started life as a French garage complex in 1927. From 1959 to 1975 a Vietnamese couple renovated the building and it became the 100-room “Rex Complex” hotel.

Five o’clock follies

During the Vietnam war the American Information Service made its base here. The Rex became a favoured haunt of US officers and was the scene of daily press briefings to foreign correspondents, wryly known by them as the “five o’clock follies”. That’s because, inevitably, the soldiers and hacks would meet in the bar upstairs.


Now the Rex has 286 individually designed guest rooms, a range of function and meeting facilities, a spa, and four in-house restaurants. Located in the prettiest part of Saigon among boulevards and French colonial buildings, it’s within an easy walk of attractions like the vast Ben Thanh undercover bazaar – which expands at nights to become a bustling street market – the main cathedral, opera house, galleries and a variety of interesting museums.

These include the moving Vietnam War Remnants Museum and Reunification Palace, formerly the Norodom Palace. (The palace is the former home of the South Vietnamese President, through whose front gate a tank crashed during the fall of the city to the North Vietnamese army.) The Rex is also 200 metres away from the Saigon river with its teeming restaurants and river cruise dinner boats.

For MICE visitors, one of the most remarkable attributes of the Rex Hotel, as young Director of Sales and Marketing Nick Tran (below) observes, is how cheap it is. For USD150-200 per day you get luxury five-star accommodation, all your food and your meeting package thrown in, he says. “By any standard that’s pretty good, and there’s so much to do for people coming here for events.”

Nick 1 - Copy

Tunnels are worth visiting

Some 40 kilometres, about an hour’s drive, from the city are the Cu Chi tunnels. These were part of the vast underground network in which the Viet Cong hid during the war, and which served as their base of operations for the Tết Offensive in 1968. The tunnels make for a great incentive trip, says Nick. You can reach them from the city by road or fast speedboats along the Saigon river.

Within a day post-conference you can play golf, loaf on tropical beaches and tour the Mekong Delta with its rural attractions and floating markets, fish and prawn farms, (catch your own for lunch), bee farms and orchards (pick your own fruit), all within easy reach by road. “It’ll cost you less than a hundred dollars a day, including your transport, tour guide, food and drinks,” says Nick.

Around 65 percent of the Rex Hotel guests are business travellers, and much of the Asian MICE business is currently shifting from Hong Kong and Singapore to Beijing and Saigon, Nick says. Many global companies are getting established and doing business in Vietnam, which is politically stable and welcomes visitors. “The corporate sector is really opening up for us.”

From USD150 a day

That includes five-star accommodation, all meals as well as a full meeting package. Rooms-only via web bookings currently start from $104.

Visit www.rexhotelvietnam.com, call 848 38292185 or email rexhotel@rex.com.vn.

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