Real talk: I don’t really like to Travel with a capital T. I get that it’s amazing and mind-expanding and the most important thing a person can do and blah blah blah, but unless you have a ton of money to throw around it’s also stressful, exhausting, and generally pretty physically uncomfortable. If I could afford to fly first class and stay in fancy hotels and didn’t have tetris together a budget that that includes admission to that one expensive museum and that one restaurant you have to try, but no cocktails at dinner and the next morning there’s a 12 hour bus ride because it’s 20% cheaper than a 90 minute flight. I’m honestly getting exhausted even trying to come up with hypothetical budget examples. When I was younger I thought all of that was very romantic, but lately it seems like every birthday reduces my ability to “go with the flow” by about half. As dumb as I think the concept of “Glamping” is, I am actually totally that person.
But then there’s Vietnam.
The flight: hellish
The bathrooms: also a little hellish
The language: inscrutable
But the food? OMG.
And the prices? HOLY SHIT.
Everything in Vietnam is cheap. EVERYTHING. Last year when James and I were there we had a 13-course black truffle tasting menu at the most expensive French restaurant in Ho Chi Minh City and it cost $200.
This is a cafe we went to in Hue– 3000VND is about 13 cents. The women were so amused by the number of beers we had (tip: order four at a time to save your waitress some work) that they gave us free pastries then braided my hair.
In Ho Chi Minh City, you can get your hair washed and blown out every morning for like $4 a day. Ubers are essentially free. Lunch for two at a sidewalk pho cafe costs $3, including beers. Also, beer is approximately the same price as bottled water and you’re allowed to drink everywhere, so if you’d like to be about two beers deep at all times, it’s completely economically and socially viable. Not that I would know anything about that.
The point is, you really have to go out of your way to spend serious money.
My only real issue with Ho Chi Minh City up to this point has been my hotel situation. We always stay at the same little hotel in District 1 and it’s… not great. My dad stayed there the first time he went to HCMC 12 or 13 years ago and it’s just been the default ever since. It’s not an awful place (apart from the time they stole my dad’s laptop and a bunch of cash then yelled at him for “causing trouble”), it’s just rather charmless and dingy and spartan and always smells a bit like sewer gas. HCMC is so hot and so crowded and so loud and so hectic that it’s easy to go a little crazy if you don’t have somewhere peaceful and comfortable to retreat to, and our usual hotel is not especially either one of those things.
The hotel also costs $25 a night, which is cheap for the rest of the world but basically highway robbery in Vietnam–especially for a place that provides one lumpy pillow per bed and doesn’t have an elevator. The internet wasn’t really a thing in Vietnam 10 years ago (or at least, the English part of the internet wasn’t) so it was really difficult to find hotel listings in English that weren’t obscenely marked up or just straight-up lies, but it turns out that is totally not the case anymore. After having some awesome luck finding places in stay in NYC on Airbnb recently, I thought I’d check out their HCMC listings and
Vietnamese Airbnb hosts are KILLING IT right now. For only a little more the cost of a room at the usual place, you can get a whole entire apartment! And the apartments are SO CUTE! They’re like Pinterest-meets-Dwell-meets-French-Colonial but with the occasional Vietnamese quirk that keeps it from feeling too much like a blog photo shoot.
So, without further ado, here are some of my favorite places under $60/night.
That mirror/stool/ottoman combo is currently ruling my life. And those light fixtures! I wonder if I could DIY those? Patterned cement tile seems to be a pretty big trend there and I’m not sure how I feel about the mismatched patterns, but I like it in theory.
I LOVE THOSE SHELVES!. This place is, like, ridiculously expensive, but sitting down on that sofa after a day of the sensory assault of District 1 must feel like absolute heaven.
Fishbowl bedrooms! Is there a different name for that kind of thing? Buildings here tend to be very narrow so natural light is always at a premium– the fishbowl bedrooms are a great way to get light into your sleeping area while also hugely cutting down on nighttime air conditioning costs. And I don’t know why I love the second little lofted sleeping area so much, but that tiny window on the floor is just so cute! Also please note the cylindrical planters.
The combination of “2006 Brooklyn boutique” and old classic case goods is really doing it for me here. All the lighting in here is so great (except that one random fluorescent tube?)–the wood and brass lamp with the pink accordion shade is so genius. And there are hardwood floors! That’s pretty rare here, since tile is way cheaper and way more practical, but kind of hate tile floors always and forever. I probably wouldn’t stay here because of the bed situation, but it’s a really good price if you’re traveling with three other people you need exactly zero privacy from.
Hnng. This is way too expensive for a studio, but LOOK AT IT. The wall hanging, the dining table, the tv trolley, and a REAL, NON-WEIRD BATHROOM!
This honestly looks like the set of some late 90’s WB sitcom about cool teenagers who live with their cool sibling and intern at a magazine at 14 year old me is obsessed. (Am I just describing the show Zoe, Duncan, Jack, and Jane? Does anybody else remember that show? It was basically my plan to model my life and home on theirs when I was 14. I even went out and bought some Tibetan prayer flags.) This is like the only place on my list that doesn’t have an Eames knockoff lurking somewhere, and I love how rustic-y and casual it is while still feeling like everything is “on purpose” and well-considered. The old desk/hutch thing is so wonderful and the colors are so happy! If we end up going to Vietnam this coming winter this place is definitely in my top 3 places to consider.
This is another one of my top 3. It’s a hotel, so not technically an Airbnb, but the hotel only has three rooms and they’re all very different so I’m still counting it. This is the fanciest room and the only one with its own (omg super nice) bathroom, but the other two cheaper rooms are just as wonderful. If you’re like my dad and judge hotels entirely by whether or not they provide free breakfast, this is the place for you. (Seriously, all costs being equal, my dad would rather stay at a Hampton Inn than the Four Seasons, because the Hampton Inn provides free breakfast. A stale croissant and a red delicious apple are inexplicably worth their weight in gold to him. I have literally never had a conversation with him about a hotel that didn’t include the word breakfast. Somebody please tell me their parents are also this weird.) Link to the hotel’s very strange website. (Does anybody know what in the world that video is supposed to be? It’s entirely baffling.)
What do I even need to say about this place? The colors ! The bricks! The lighting! The glass-fronted bedrooms! And look at that darling, slippery staircase that goes up to the second bedroom! This place is a STEAL for four people and would be my #1 pick if James and I were traveling with another couple. The ability for everyone to be in the apartment but in different rooms is priceless. (Last year when we were there I had a total emotional breakdown caused by a total lack of alone time, which was only resolved after sitting on a plastic children’s chair with a bunch of Vietnamese construction workers and drinking some highly flammable liquor out of miniature teacups while crying uncontrollably. Alone time while on vacation is key, my friends.)
In conclusion, Airbnb is kind of the best, and I appreciate all that Pinterest has done to spread twee modernist decorating throughout the world. Anyone have a favorite space?