Lamingtons, Low Costs and Little Luxuries

Most people who think of Ho Chi Minh City imagine streets teeming with motorcycles, the clank-clank-clank of new hotels and skyscrapers going up and a never-ending whirl of locals and tourists caught up in the energy and excitement of big city life. And you can certainly find that here. But there’s so much more to Ho Chi Minh City…

Take a 20-minute, $7 taxi ride from the beating heart of old Saigon and you’ll find yourself in the peaceful haven of District 2. It’s an area long-loved by expats and it’s not hard to see why. The Saigon River carves a horseshoe shape around Thao Dien, the most upmarket and desirable neighbourhood in this leafy, laidback district and no matter what day it is, it always feels like the weekend here. Spend the morning lingering over Italian coffee and cheesy omelettes at expat favourite Mekong Merchant, join in a pilates class at a top-notch gym or while away the afternoon wandering the parks, shops, galleries and markets you’ll find here.

What you’ll also find is value for money. International schools, ritzy restaurants, luxurious spas and riverfront wine bars abound and draw a well-heeled crowd who live in lavish homes set in flower-filled, gated communities. But rentals here are reasonable. You can settle into a beautiful apartment or split-level house for under $800 a month. If your pockets run deeper, plush villas with swimming pools and Western-style furniture can be had for $1,500 a month.

Like the rest of Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City is booming and District 2 is no exception. Many of the businesses here are owned and run by expats and little wonder they’ve chosen to make their home here. It’s laidback yet sophisticated, offering all the comforts of home—as well as little luxuries—at affordable prices. An afternoon tea of tempting treats including hot scones, smoked salmon sandwiches and lamingtons at Villa Royale, a treasure trove of antiques, art and gourmet high tea, won’t set you back more than $25. For a similar bill you can round off the evening with sundowners and a side of prawn dumplings at ritzy riverside bar, The Deck.

And that’s just for starters…craft beer stores, designer furniture houses, gourmet groceries and more romantic restaurants than you can shake a stick at are all on offer too. As is tropical weather, $4 massages and $1 beers. It’s a little bit of home away from home, with all the excitement and energy of modern-day Vietnam waiting just over the bridge…

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