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How to Be Home for the Holidays in Saigon

Foreigners flock to Vietnam in the weeks surrounding Christmas and New Year thanks in part to flexible schedules and vacation days.

But for many, leaving one’s home during the holidays can be a difficult choice, as it necessitates forgoing familiar traditions, decorations, food and time with loved ones. Many fear spending the season abroad equates missing the special time altogether. But whether in Saigon for fun or for business, one can still feel the festive spirit in the city. For decades, people have long enjoyed classic elements of the season, including fireworks and neighborhoods with Christmas lights and nativity scenes.

In addition to these public, communal celebrations, one can also experience the cozy charms of the season depending on where they choose to stay. One of Saigon’s newest luxury hotels, Mai House Saigon, for example, recreates the intimate joys of the season. Situated amongst old French villas in a quiet and heritage-steeped section of District 3, Mai House’s design, decorations, seasonal specials and dining invite cozy, family feelings.

When first entering Mai House, guests will notice the large piano in the center of the lobby. The hotel’s owner purchased it for his daughter, and now families that stay in the hotel frequently gather around it, playing and listening as they would in their own living rooms.

This commitment to creating a home environment extends to the holiday decorations. Rather than an ostentatious Christmas tree, Mai House Saigon has put up a smaller version people will recognize as similar to the one they might place in their own living rooms. Similarly, the pinecone trees, gingerbread houses and artificial snow placed on surfaces surrounding the modern fireplace display in the lobby lounge encourage guests to congregate in a warm, relaxed setting.

During the entire season, Mai House is offering a variety of special meals and goodies. Guests can order Christmas cookies, pudding, log cakes and gingerbread houses, as well as traditional beef wellington in the days leading up to the holiday, and on Christmas Eve friends and families, are invited to enjoy a special afternoon high tea and an expansive buffet dinner that specializes in seafood including fresh Nha Trang lobster and seasonal desserts. A similar buffet which includes roasted côte de boeuf, New Zealand lamb and handmade bread is served on Christmas day, while a special New Year’s Eve and day brunch offers Canadian lobster, slow-roasted dry-aged Angus ribeye and a selection of foie gras. And of course, champagne, finger foods and a live DJ on the hotel’s rooftop will accompany the ringing in of 2020 on New Year’s Eve.

While Mai House Saigon’s commitment to an intimate environment is on full display with these seasonal offerings, the ethos extends all year long. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the dining room. The hotel’s owner came from humble beginnings in northern Vietnam, and when he achieved success, he wanted to recapture the loving environment he enjoyed in his grandmother’s kitchen.

The C’est La Vie dining room’s wooden ceiling fans resemble the simple fans that she slowly waved to keep him cool on warm summer evenings. On the wall, traditional serving bowls and utensils like those accompanying family meals hang as decoration. While the spacious area relies on high-end wood and leather for its furniture, elements of his quaint childhood remain. For example, in the more private anterior room, a single large piece of wood serves as a table in homage to the tree trunks that act as simple dining tables for friends and families to gather around in rural areas.

In addition to providing a comfortable family atmosphere, Mai House is committed to providing an experience reliant on, and reflective of, Vietnamese traditions and people in its restaurant. The food and beverage team is almost exclusively Vietnamese, and they are encouraged to create dishes and integrate local ingredients and flavors into every meal. Therefore, even the half of the menu that consists of western items contains Vietnamese touches. For example, a bánh mì pizza includes pate, cold cuts, local herbs and chili, while the pork ribs rely on a bourbon kumquat sauce, and the juicy Phu Quoc scallops feature a refreshing citrus accompaniment in tune with the tropical climate.

In-house guests dine in C’est La Vie alongside people on vacation, as well as locals working in the area. Considering the plentitude of cheap and delicious street food in the area, the Vietnamese portion of the menu must differentiate itself. It does so via up-scale ingredients and unique twists of familiar flavors. For example, the tom rang me features ginormous, plump prawns that one would never encounter on the street smothered in sweet tamarind sauce and plated with an artistic flair. The pineapple fried rice, meanwhile, includes raisins and green beans, which one is unlikely to find in more traditional venues. This ingenuity highlights how Vietnamese tastes and creativity adapts to meet international standards and a diverse audience.

There is a lot of truth in the cliche that “home is where the heart is.” While one’s actual home may be thousands of miles away on another continent, or simply across town in another district, Mai House makes guests feel as if they are in their own living, dining or bedrooms. Perhaps no time of year is this feeling more important or appreciated than during the holidays.



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Mai House Saigon |1-3-5 Ngô Thoi Nhiem, Phuong 6, Quan 3, HCMC