Most of us who visits Vietnam would want to spend some time at the beach at a nice resort or a hotel, but it is always good to experience the greater cities and the more average and normal lifestyle of the country you visit too. If you want to spend some time in Ho Chi Minh City, or Saigon, An Lam River Hotel is a good place to be. Its location on the Saigon River, twenty minutes by boat outside the main city, which makes it a silent retreat away from the big city, but still close to everything you want to see and experience.
The hotel is small and intimate. There is no reception area here, so they meet and greet you in person as soon as you come through their gate. The rooms are located around a beautiful garden with huge and wonderful trees and jasmine flowers. There is a big pool in the garden with comfortable sunbeds, but most rooms have a smaller pool too. And of course the obligatory outdoor shower! The rooms are ok. Nothing special, but not bad at all. If you want a room with a view to the river, you have to pay a lot extra, and it could be a bit noisy with all the traffic on the river. My favorite part of the room was the bathroom. It was almost as big as our bedroom/living room and had granite tiles and a huge granite bathtub. I have to admit that I don´t do much indoor bathing while in Asia, but it is still nice to look at, and the kids sometimes prefer it to the shower.
The best ting about the An Lam hotel is still the restaurant and their Australian Master Chef. He used to work in a Michelin star restaurant in Sydney, and you realize it as soon as the bread reaches your table! As a bread-loving European, that is always what I miss the most when travelling outside Europe. But it is not just the bread that taste delicious at this restaurant. After three nights here, between us we had all the western dishes on their menu, and most of their Vietnamese too. The king of their dishes is their Australian beef tenderloin with red wine jus and roasted potatoes. Oh my! It was like chewing trough butter… Medium rare and close to perfection! The lamb and the duck were also great, but their wooked vegetables and Australian diced beef rocked my kids world for two nights in a row. Their desserts and ice creams were also good, and they even have a decent wine list. But to be honest; when the temperature surpasses thirty degrees Celsius, all I want to drink is an ice-cold beer!
The hotel offers complimentary trips to the city center by speedboat three times a day. If you want to go at other times you can choose to spend twenty minutes on this boat and pay $45 or forty minutes in a taxi and spend between $15 and $20. I highly recommend going by boat. Both because it is fast and chilled, but also very beautiful and interesting to see everything that happens on this amazing river.