20 minutes by boat from the bustling heart of Ho Chi Minh City, this retreat is a serene oasis hidden away on the lush banks of the Saigon River. An Lam Retreats Saigon River is the perfect idyllic escape for those searching for peace, serenity and relaxation in the heart of Vietnam’s beauty.
This blissful oasis features 19 spacious villas and suites that are individually designed to showcase elements of Vietnamese culture. a world-class spa and luxury dining. Walking under the canopy that shields the resort from the noonday sun, you are surrounded by lush greenery and blooming bulbs that absolutely transport you. We elected to stay at the retreat for two days as a welcome break from our travels through Southeast Asia, and were pleasantly surprised by the serenity of this hidden gem.
A Unique Airport Shuttle Experience
Stepping out of a plane in Vietnam is like running full-tilt into a steam sauna. For the uninitiated, your body will not have any idea how to process the intense, humid heat for a few moments and profuse sweating is instant. Thankfully, the Retreat offers a prompt pick-up service in the form of an air-conditioned van that is a sweet retreat all in itself. The drivers are extremely prompt and waiting for your arrival with cold drinks and towelettes at the ready. It sets the tone for the generous hospitality you will experience during your stay.
The Revolutionary Check-In Process
An Lam Saigon River is designed with serenity, relaxation and peace at the forefront of every experience you have on property. The main detail that absolutely blew our minds when we arrived is the fact that there is no front desk. Rather than wait in line to present your information, sign a form and listen through a canned spiel like other hotels, guests are instead assigned a personal butler who helps you to your rooms. Your butler will escort you through the luscious flora decorating the sumptuous grounds to your suite while explaining the resort and it’s amenities. Once you reach your suite, your butler checks you in right there on the wooden desk! There was absolutely no wait and the check-in process was so seamless, we couldn’t believe it.
The An Lam Suite
While staying at the resort, we snagged one of the An Lam Suites. It’s close to the tranquil plunge pool, and features three spacious rooms done in stone and wood, a sun deck and the most comfortable king bed we’ve ever slept in. The room is advertised as a “tranquil haven” and it measures up to its name. Every aspect of the room was designed to offer privacy from passerby, with craftsman wood and carved furniture that had a classic, old-world feel. The bathroom is spacious stone, featuring a deep bathtub and separate shower for ultimate convenience.
The An Lam Saigon River showcases a sumptuous restaurant on a deck that overhangs the Saigon River. Whether you’re having breakfast, lunch or dinner at Tram’s Cookery, you have a breathtaking view of the gently flowing waters and the surrounding trees, vines and plants. The River is active with cargo, fishermen, ferries and recreational boats passing by, giving you something interesting to look at while enjoying a delicious menu that utilizes local, organic ingredients and the best of Vietnamese and Western dishes for a variety to please each guest.
The menu is put together with many fresh and raw ingredients in mind, particularly greenery. Each dish features lots of fresh fruits and meats and were rich enough to keep you full but still feeling light for quite a while.
Breakfast consisted of an assortment of freshly baked breads prepared on-site, as well as a mix of Western and Vietnamese-themed breakfast sets. I particularly liked the eggs benedict accompanied by salad, breakfast meats and a fruit bowl. The eggs benedict was the best I’ve tried at any hotel, as it was very light, fluffy and made with in-house baked English Muffins.
For Western travelers, I encourage you to try the Vietnamese breakfast options at least once, as they’re very different from what Westerners are used to seeing. Instead of eggs, meats and fruit there are soup and rice-dish breakfast items inspired by the Asian palate. The Vietnamese coffee was excellent, tasting like jet fuel mixed with condensed milk and sugar. Both strong and super sweet, it’s the perfect pick-me-up to start and finish your day!
We had the unique opportunity to taste-test several dishes with the Vice President of Business & Marketing. Jerri led us through several authentic Vietnamese specialties that traveling tourists may recognize from the open-air restaurants and food vendors that line the streets. A main plus for travellers to be aware of, is that purchasing street food can make you sick for a multitude of reasons like basic hygiene or food sitting in the hot sun all day. Locals have built up defenses to this and have stronger stomachs, but it is a condition that plagues many travelers. At An Lam, you can taste these flavorful dishes in the most ideal way possible.
Several dishes that we had the opportunity to sample were Fresh Spring Rolls, one of the lightest and healthiest options on the menu. They are accompanied with fish sauce dressing for dipping that really balances the citrusy and cilantro flavors with sweet and tangy flavors. We also sampled the deep-fried version of this as well. One of the most surprising differences for us were that they were not at all greasy, like the Americanized version tends to be!
We also sampled a hot asparagus and crab meat soup that bordered on being a chowder. It incorporated a lot of the wild, fresh and leafy tastes of Vietnamese cuisine with many crab pieces and thick broth.
Bespoke Service and Unique Activities
An Lam Saigon River offers several classes, tours and daily resort activities to help their guests maximize their stay and relaxation. If any guests want to participate in an activity not covered by the pre-packaged tours or activities, your personal butler and the staff of the resort will customize a tour catering to whatever your interests are.
If your goal is simply to relax, there’s a gorgeous cold plunge pool with it’s very own springs to relax in or by, as well as a pool bar serving food and drinks. The spa on premises is also world-class, with several aromatherapy-centered massages, therapies and facials available.
While staying at the hotel, we participated in a small class with several other guests to learn how to cook Vietnamese Spring Rolls as taught by the chef staff. Each guest was provided round rice wrappers and instructed on how to carefully arrange the ingredients on the wrapper. The instructors then showed us how to wet our fingers and gently massage the water into the paper to make it sticky enough to roll and stay together to form the spring roll. We then made the fish sauce that accompanies it, before getting to enjoy the delicious fruits of our labor.
We chose An Lam Retreats Saigon River to take a break from the bustling cities we had been travelling through in South Asia. Our relaxation was so complete, and the atmosphere so serene that I believe this retreat is a must for expatriates in Southeast Asia to escape to for a few days throughout the year. The feelings of rest, relaxation and recharging the spirit are an absolute necessity, especially in light of our busy modern lifestyles in which productivity is emphasized. An Lam Retreats Saigon River aims to be a tranquil haven from the rest of the world, and they have absolutely accomplished this goal for their weary travelers.
Photography VALERYIA KALANTAYEVA
Writing AMIN BRODIE YAKUBU, KRISTEN KLINGENSMITH
Editor CHRIS REED
With special thanks to
JURAIRAT “JERRI” POVIBOOL
THE ENTIRE AN LAM RESORT STAFF