Saigon River dining cruise: the Lady awaits

Indulge your appetite while soaking up views of the city along the Saigon River…

The word “cruise” can conjure up images of wild boat parties on “booze cruises” with deafening karaoke, horrific dance floor moves and belligerent behaviour. Lucky for us, our evening Saigon River dining cruise was just the opposite aboard Lady Hau – a beautifully restored rice barge from the Mekong Delta that was originally used to ferry goods to and from floating markets.

Named after the Hau River tributary passing through the Mekong port of Can Tho, the barge was built in Tien Giang Province and with a maximum capacity of 43 guests, this intimate experience is a far cry from the standard tourist dinner cruise.

Lady Hau__DSC1738_Ngoc Tran

Upon arriving, we were greeted by friendly smiles, a pair of violinists performing popular classical songs and waitresses offering flutes of sparkling wine. As the sun disappeared over the horizon, we set off on a 2.5-hour cruise along the Saigon River leaving behind a purple painted twilight sky. We glided pass the colonial architecture of the Ho Chi Minh City University of Transportation, followed by the Ba Son Shipyard.

There are three distinct sections to the Lady Hau. At the bow, patrons can lounge around and enjoy forward facing panoramic views of the Saigon River while the middle is where the majority of the seating is. My dining companion and I chose to sit at the rear, a more intimate section with fewer people. But it wasn’t to bask in the romantic ambience; it positioned us in full view of the barbecue. For somebody who once owned three grills, this was prime spot.

Lady Hau__DSC2168_Ngoc Tran

BBQ Ahoy!

As we cruised under the Thu Thiem Bridge, the waitress took our drinks order and gave us time to decide on the a la carte barbecue menu, an addition to the buffet meal. They also have a cigar menu for those wanting to so indulge with after-dinner drinks. It had been a while since I had bo la lot (grilled beef with la lot leaves) so we immediately ordered a couple of servings as well as grilled scallops. I was feeling in a slightly decadent mood, so ordered an additional serving of sea bass wrapped in banana leaves and vegetable kebabs. Imported sirloin steaks and pork ribs were also on the menu. 

As we waited for our BBQ mains, we headed over to the East meets West buffet where chilli lemongrass chicken, banh cuon, egg noodles, stir fried vegetables with shiitake mushrooms, sautéed seafood, papaya salad and banh beo complemented Western dishes such as whole baked potatoes and pesto pasta salad. Without realising it, an impressive mountain of food had accumulated on my plate on one hand and two shot glasses of prawn cocktail and a tuna ceviche were cupped in the other.

Lady Hau__DSC1997_Ngoc Tran

As we returned to our table, the Lady Hau was now well into District 2 with views of the picturesque Thao Dien area with its waterfront villas, restaurants and bars, all decorated in fairy lights. Along the port side, there were views of Thanh Da Island and its green patches of farmland.

Han, the head maitre d’ came to greet us as she did with every passenger. She welcomed us on board and talked about the menu and the effort that went into preparing the boat for its October launch last year. She told us the head chef has 12 years experience in five star restaurants and oversees a total of six chefs who assist in the preparation of the entire menu on board.

Lady Hau__DSC2417_Ngoc Tran_1

Everything was perfectly cooked from the fresh and crunchy textures of the vegetable stir fry, to the temperature of the tender lemongrass chilli chicken and the overall attention to detail in the presentation. As soon as the barbecued dishes came out, every item we ordered was cooked perfectly – it’s no easy feat cooking every individual dish made-to-order on a grill. The bo la lot was juicy, with a hint of smoke and no signs of burning on the leaves. The scallops were smaller than I’m used to, but came out nice and firm, with a drizzle of chive oil that left a moorish feeling on the palate. I left the sea bass in banana leaves until last as I was still tackling the remains of the buffet. Despite the wait, it was still tender and juicy and infused with a mild smoky scent from the banana without overpowering the delicate flavour of the fish.

Lady Hau__DSC2595_Ngoc Tran

Given that Lady Hau has only been in operations for two months (at the time of writing), everything seemed to run like clockwork. They provided top notch service from beginning to end and kudos to the chef and his team for the delicious food. And the views of the city skyline were amazing. It’s a great option for anyone seeking a unique Saigon River dining cruise experience.

The cruise route is approximately 24km (2.5 hours): setting off from Bach Dang Pier in District 1 in a north-easterly direction up to Thanh Da, Thao Dien.  The Lady Hau Cruise sets sail daily for lunch (12pm – 2pm, VND595,000 net) and dinner (6:30pm – 9:30pm, VND895,000 net); 50 percent off for children aged six to 12; those under six are free. For reservations call 6294 7048 or email sales.ladyhau.sgn@emmhotels.com ;   www.emmhotels.com

Share this story, choose your platform!

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on tumblr
Share on google
Share on linkedin
Share on reddit
Share on vk
Share on email
About the author:

Leave a Comment

Healthy Chickens Means Happy Diners

Chickita is farm-to-table, Asian inspired, flame-grilled chicken Rising incomes and savvy, educated consumers have helped revolutionize the food industry around the world and Vietnam is a good case in point. Fast food, sugary and processed snacks are fun and yes, fast, but cultural awareness of nutrition is on the rise. Healthy eating trends are seeing

Read More »

Country Roads, Take Me Home

There’s nothing better than simple, delicious American comfort food from Grandma’s kitchen Food, like music and smell, can be a time machine. Your mom’s mashed potatoes, your favorite burger joint, or the waffles from the 24-hour café in your hometown; they bring us back to another time and place. The Wagon Wheel (200 Le Thanh

Read More »

Must-Try Mezze

Red drapes and technicolor red and blue orange booths conjure up distant bazaars at this festive spot where crowds pack in for expertly crafted Middle Eastern cuisine Mezze Saigon (5th Floor, 215 Ly Tu Trong, D1, facebook.com/mezzesaigon) is the latest addition to the moderately shortlist of Middle Eastern restaurant lounges in Saigon, which is remarkable

Read More »

Zen Dining

Explore Japan’s lesser-known national dishes surrounded by ponds and greenery You’re in luck if you’re looking for some peace and quiet in Thao Dien: a short stroll down a very leafy side street off the main road stands Kazama (14B15 Thao Dien, D2; www.kazamatokyo.com), an unassuming little venue designed to convey quietness and dignity in

Read More »

L’Adresse is the Address to be

L’Adresse Bistro highlights Arab cuisine and culture in a magnifcent setting I rarely take the motorbike out of my daily patterns of District 7 anymore. If I go into town its by car to avoid the stress and pollution, so as I snaked along the elevated motorbike only lane, cresting on Phu My Bridge, I

Read More »

Refined/Redefined

All-day experiences at the new Park Hyatt Lounge Certain things have the power to simply whisk you away as if by magic. The smell of Sunday morning pancakes, the chill of crisp autumn nights by the fireplace, an old photo that you had completely forgotten about. Close your eyes and you’re instantly transported to a

Read More »