Throughout my first two weeks in Saigon, I’d gotten used to the good life: waking around 7:30 am and descending the spiral staircase into the Red Lion Space‘s attractive cafe for cà phê nong and eggs with cucumber salad. Most mornings, I couldn’t help picking from the croissants and pastries Leon had set out while I perused nytimes.com on the cafe’s free Wi-Fi network.
Now, I fumble over my tin coffee filter in the morning, longing for the superior cup that Huyen deftly brewed.
Opened in December 2007 by Leon and Huyen, you’d think this 8-room guest house at the quiet end of Truong Son St. had been running for years. Indeed, the only hint of the Red Lion’s relative youth is how fresh and clean it is. Everything else — from the friendly, speedy service to the delicious dishes turned out by the kitchen — suggests experience. What’s more, the price is right. At the time of writing, monthly room rentals began at $350, and nightly rates started at about $10 USD (there is a one-week stay minimum and they prioritize long-term guests).
You might count its location in District 10 as a con, but we thought the ten-minute commute to District 1 was negligible, especially considering downtown HCMC’s steep rates. It’s also a more adult alternative to the backpacker bohemia of Pham Ngu Lao. And xe ohm’s and taxis in Saigon are dirt cheap, anyhow.
The rooms are spacious and well-furnished. They include brand new air-conditiong units, cable television with DVD player, refrigerator, and cafe tables. The white walls give the rooms a cool, airy feel and are thankfully uncluttered by bad hotel art. The private bathrooms are sparkling clean and graced with small touches like toothbrushes, toothpaste, and Q-tips.
If you’re anticipating an extended stay in Saigon, the Red Lion is no doubt the best place to start out. Throughout the course of our stay, Leon and Huyen helped us get our new motor bike tuned up, introduced us to expats, pointed us to job opportunities, tipped us off to apartment prospects, and brokered our visa extensions.