Escape the City, Within the City

When the thought of a six hour bus ride to a resort sounds too long, then it’s time to cut the traveling time to 15 minutes and get there sooner.

Thao Dien Village is a study in incongruity. Tucked away in An Phu, the streets leading up to it are lined with vegetarian cafes and trendy furniture stores, looking like they could’ve been plucked directly from Anytown, USA. Round the corner in the leafy, sleepy suburban neighborhood, and the ordinary, albeit monied surrounds, surprisingly opens up into expansive views of the Saigon River.

Opened five years ago, Thao Dien Village originally comprised of a distinctive white manor house with two dozen hotel rooms, an Italian restaurant and a premier spa all set on a large swath of land along the Saigon River. Last year, the property was divided in two, with the manor house going to a separate property opening later this year. The rejuvenated Thao Dien Village, occupying 10,000sqm, reopened in October 2012 with a newly constructed hotel (the Thao Dien Boutique Hotel) and an Event House. Owned by the husband and wife team which also owns the Quan Ngon chain of restaurants and the travel agency, Indochina Ventures, Thao Dien Village is truly a get away from the city, within the city.

“What sets us apart is that we’re literally a 15 minute shuttle ride from the city center,” explains Tuan, the Events Manager. “It’s the perfect location for those who have had enough of the city but still want the full range of services.”

Cover Story-Luxury Staycations-Thao Dien Village-Image by Quinn Ryan Mattingly-14

Family Fun

While most guests are Japanese and European tourists, Thao Dien Village bills itself as a restful staycation destination for local families. There is a small kids’ pool directly in front of the Art Suite and children are welcome in the spa. Therapist Nguyet says, “I’ve had clients as young as seven who come in for a treatment along with their parents. The Swedish massage or aromatherapy treatment is great for kids who just want a gentle touch”. For children who would rather play than be pampered, there is a large sandy playground tucked away on the spacious grounds.

Diverse Dining

For a property with only 20 rooms, Thao Dien Village’s dining options are ambitious to say the least. The Nha Hang Ngon restaurant serves up refined Vietnamese cuisine, with dishes not on the regular Quan Ngon menu, while the Event House doubles as a meeting room by day and an upscale restaurant by night, featuring classic Italian and Thai cuisine, with all venues smartly capitalizing on the 5-star river view. Head Chef of the Italian restaurant, Alessandro Giacinti, completely reinvented the menu with the hotel’s re-opening. Born in Rome, Alex brings international experience, having worked in England and France, and opened kitchens here in Vietnam like Figaro, ZanZbar and Sofitel Metropole, to the menu which leans heavily towards Italian and Mediterranean flavors.

“The Vietnamese are starting to understand a lot more about international food, especially Italian cuisine,” he says. “They are really loving what we’re doing with veal and pastas like squid ink with Japanese scallops.” Menu items are surprisingly reasonable with mainstays like spaghetti carbonara (VND125,000) and the tender rib eye with roast potatoes, pan seared goose liver in amarone sauce (VND310,000).

Sensational Spa

Blessed with gorgeous views and a prime city-but-not-city location, the crown of the resort is still its spa, Authentic. “We’re Ho Chi Minh City’s only spa resort,” says Tuan. “It meets international luxury standards, both in quality and in size. At other luxury properties, the spas are nice, but the treatment rooms are dark and closed off.” The Spa Authentic boasts a men’s and women’s area, each with a sauna, four double rooms and five single rooms. “We’re also lucky in that we’ve had trainers come directly from Thailand and Sweden to teach us the proper techniques,” adds Thi, the spa’s supervisor. In addition to the standbys of hot stone, aromatherapy and traditional Thai, the extensive menu features more exotic treatments like the Body Wrap by Chocolate and the Volcanic Eifelfango.

While the newly re-launched Thao Dien Village is working through the inevitable growing pains, most notably weak plumbing (“Please do not throw tissue into the toilet”), intermittent Wi-Fi and most glaringly, the lack of a web presence, the property itself is truly a city retreat. While the decor in the common areas leans towards plantation chic, the spacious rooms are tastefully minimalistic, with clean lines and monochromatic color schemes based on muted browns, grays and blacks, creating a peaceful retreat just minutes from the city center.

There are 18 rooms and 2 suites; doubles start at US$120 nett, suites are US$200 nett; all rooms include breakfast. Contact info@thaodienvillage.com.

Images by QUINN RYAN MATTINGLY

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1 thought on “Escape the City, Within the City”

  1. I was extremely disappointed with the service that I received. With six guests all set to enjoy the evening and order dinner and wine we were told that we would not have iced water at the table but had to pay a ridiculous sum for small bottles of water. Come on now this is supposed to be an international establishment surely water could be provided for guests. We left and took our patronage to the fabulous restaurant ‘The Deck’ who went out of their way to accommdate us and provided free iced water. We spent VND 6 million that night at The Deck which could have been spent at your Italian restaurant but no one seemed to care they had lost our patronage and recommendations to other expats will not be good. You have a lovely venue but service and the customer seems to be at the bottom of the agenda.

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