Great family-style service
241/34 Pham Ngu Lao, District 1 T: (08) 3920 6078
In the middle of a tight Pham Ngu Lao alley in the centre of Saigon’s backpacker district, the Thien Hong Hotel has found one of the few quiet spots in the area and offers great family-style service, with better rooms the higher up the hotel you trek.
About 50 metres off the main road, the hotel will be hard to find on your first and probably second go. The alley it calls home is particularly narrow — almost too narrow for a motorbike at points — and it’s crowded with more than a dozen other hotels and guesthouses. Of these hotels, Thien Hong does have one of the cleaner streetside facades and one of the more interesting lobbies, which doubles as a jewellery counter.
The hotel offers 12 rooms, including a 275,000 VND single, with doubles starting at 350,000 VND and a family room that sleeps four for 550,000 VND. Rooms at Thien Hong have all the standard amenities, including air-con, TV and private bathroom. In the bathroom you’ll find one of the few places in town that separate their showers from the rest of the bathroom, in this instance with a curtain, to help prevent your shower from getting your entire bathroom wet.
The thing to keep in mind when you’re getting a room in Thien Hong is that as you move up the building the quality of the rooms substantially improves. A double on the first floor will have smaller windows and less overall space then one on the upper floors; singles down here have even less room and smaller windows. Lower floor rooms could also due with some general upkeep and a fresh coat of paint. Really, the upper floors kind of look like a different hotel, and it’s no coincidence that you’ll find those rooms often booked while the lower floors tend to be more open. You will pay for this difference both in price, as the higher doubles cost 50,000 to 100,000 VND more a night, and in energy, since no elevator will whisk you up.
Quality of the rooms and jewellery counter in the lobby aside, what really makes Thien Hong special is its quality of service. Even though the name says hotel, the experience here is more like what you’d expect from a guesthouse; the only thing you’ll miss is the family setting downstairs. Here the lobby is obviously geared more toward selling fashionable accessories than for guests to mingle. If you are travelling on your own, you may want to look elsewhere purely for social reasons.
Thien Hong sees a steady flow of business throughout the year. You may be able to snare a room by walking in off the street, but booking online can help ensure you get one of the nicer top floor rooms.
If you can’t find space here, a few nearby hotels and guesthouses serve as fine substitutes. A little further down the road, Long Hostel is a similarly priced establishment, with an identical number of rooms, that may have a slightly better sense of community. If you’re looking for the full guesthouse experience, Ngoc Phan Guesthouse on Bui Vien is hard to beat, although harder to book. Or, for something a little outside the area, take a look at the California Guesthouse on Co Bac. For those backpacking solo, check out the Saigon Backpackers Hostel on Pham Ngu Lao.
By Max Murta
Last updated on 17th June, 2014.