The Alcove Library Hotel in Saigon is a boutique literary-themed hotel in the Phu Nhuan District of Ho Chi Minh City. It was the first of our five Saigon hotels.
Remember how I said we stayed in five different hotels during our two and half weeks in Ho Chi Minh City? The Alcove Library Hotel was the first of our five, and quite different to all the others.
The Alcove Library Hotel is in the Phu Nhuan District, a district which doesn’t normally feature highly on tourists’ must-see lists. HCMC is divided into 19 urban districts, and Phu Nhuan borders the better-known tourist destinations of Districts 1 and 3. The hotel’s location, however is just off Nguyen van Troi Street, which is the main road that connects Tan Son Nhat International Airport to the city centre. It’s about half way between the two, which makes both the city or the airport about 10 to 15 minutes away by taxi, depending on traffic.
The hotel offers a range of room sizes from 18sqm (Alcove Queen) to 30 sqm (Grand Alcove) and all the features you would expect in a boutique hotel. The room rates include breakfast and free wifi access.
Why did we chose to stay here?
To be perfectly honest, it was the book theme that attracted me to the hotel initially. I’ve always wanted to stay in the NYC Library Hotel, but it’s never worked out that we have. So, when I saw a Vietnamese ‘library’ hotel I knew I had to check it out.
One wall of the lobby is lined with floor-ceiling shelving containing a wide variety of fiction and non-fiction books (in a variety of languages) which can be borrowed by guests. Libraries in city hotels are an interesting concept, as mostly I find we’re out and about so much in cities, there is no time to read. A library-themed beach resort hotel would make a whole lot more sense! But I loved the idea of these bookshelves and spent a while checking out all the titles on offer. There was an outdoor lounge area in the front courtyard, where (if you had time to spare) you could certainly have settled with a pot of tea and a good novel.
Each of our hotel rooms was themed for a particular work of literature, with a framed quote above the bed, and a copy of the book on the shelf below it. Our room was A Midsummer Night’s Dream and the girls were in Peter Pan.
The rooms themselves (we had a Grand Alcove and the girls were in an Alcove Suite) were large and adequately appointed. The bathrooms were quite small and poky, but clean, which is always a good thing! The outlook from the girls’ room was over the front courtyard of the hotel to the residential street it is located on. The outlook from our room was non-existent – the glass was opaque as it looked into a laneway/lightwell at the side of the property. It was a bit disconcerting to have absolutely no view of the outside world.
The room prices were extremely reasonable (USD $82 and $89++ per night) and included breakfast in the hotel’s rooftop bar/restaurant The Bookmark. The breakfast consisted of a fruit and yogurt plate, crusty ciabatta bread with conserves and a choice of hot main meals such as cheese omelette, beef pho, pancakes etc. We were not limited to one main and on the second morning, The Impossible Princess had pancakes AND pho. Breakfast also included tea, Vietnamese coffee and milk or juice.
While we waited for our breakfast to arrive, we practised some of the helpful Vietnamese words and phrases which adorned the wall. In four trips to Vietnam, the only phrase I have confidently mastered saying is “Cảm Ơn” (thank you). Which is, at least, a very useful thing to know how to say.
Another reason that we chose to stay at The Alcove Library Hotel, rather than one of the city centre hotels was that we were in HCMC for New Years’ Eve. We have spent two New Year’s Eves prior to this one in Saigon, and we know how crazy the streets get in District 1. So, instead of battling that chaos for a third time, we retreated to the hotel’s rooftop bar for a drink, watched the sun set on the city, had a quiet dinner, celebrated Melbourne’s New Year (which was four hours ahead of Saigon’s) and headed off to bed! We’re such ragers.
The area around the hotel was a mix of residential homes, small businesses and (on the main road) large commercial office buildings. As far as things to do or see in the immediate vicinity, there wasn’t a lot. On our first morning we walked quite a long way along Nguyen van Troi Street towards the airport in search of a Highlands Coffee store, which we eventually found. Then we walked the opposite way, towards the city centre. There was an interesting local food market in Cao Thang Street, just before we crossed the canal. I believe there are night markets on that same street further towards District 10. There were also a couple of pagodas nearby. And we found a fabulous Tous Les Jours after we crossed the canal.
We didn’t know it then, but we’ve since found out that Tous Les Jours is a South Korean owned chain of ‘French-Asian’ bakeries, with outlets all over Asia and the United States. There was an incredible choice of baked goods which was perfect to buck up The Impossible Princess’s flagging walking spirits.
On our last morning before we checked out to move onto our second hotel, we sought out Tram Cafe. We had seen it mentioned online and thought it was somewhere nearby.
It turned out to be just a few hundred metres from the hotel. But first impressions were not promising. A small entrance from the street through a brown wall opened into a laneway lined with parked motorcycles. At the end of the laneway was a heavy wooden door. The place looked closed. But a woman sweeping at the entrance beckoned to us and waved us through the door.
What we found on the other side of the door was a totally magical ‘secret garden’ cafe. Tables and chairs were arranged over two levels, with some indoor, and some on an outdoor balcony.
It was one of those amazing experiences that we could so easily have missed by being put off by the closed wooden door. The cafe offered an extensive menu of drinks, icecreams, desserts, snacks, meals. It was a very relaxing environment and was obviously popular with locals.
Would we stay at The Alcove Library Hotel again?
I don’t think I would, purely because the area it was located in wasn’t all that interesting. However, it was just a short taxi to anywhere in Districts 1 and 3, and as taxis are cheap, and this hotel is very reasonable price-wise, it could be a great place to base yourself if you’re looking to keep down accommodation costs without sacrificing comfort or service. Its proximity to the airport could also make it a good choice for a short layover. Say you flew into HCMC in the afternoon/evening and were flying out to a beach holiday destination the next morning (Danang, Phu Quoc or Nha Trang for instance) and didn’t want to have to deal with the city, then this would be a great hotel.
The Alcove Library Hotel
133A Nguyen Dinh Chinh Street,
Phu Nhuan District, HCMC
Ph: +84 8 6256 9966 / 9977
100 Trần Huy Liệu,
Phường 15, HCMC
Have you ever stayed in a literary themed hotel?
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