Best Place to Live in Saigon

By: City Pass Guide

What is the best place to live in Saigon? The answer depends on who you are and how much you can spend. Single expats, families or students will all have different preferences.

Our complete guide below will help you decide if you should stay in District 1, District 7, District 2, or even some more local districts like Thu Duc.

To read about the benefits of living in a particular area or neighborhood, you can read the whole post or click on one below:

District 1 • District 2 and Thao Dien • District 3 

District 4 • District 5 • District 7 and Phu My Hung

District 10 • Tan Binh District • Thu Duc District • Phú Nhuận District    


As Vietnam’s commercial center and a Southeast Asian “city of dreams”, Saigon is as vibrant as it is varied. With nearly eight million official populants and more than seven million international visitors, this city was never going to be easy to understand - and that, friends, is the beauty of it. No matter who you are, where you come from or where you are going, there is a place for you in Ho Chi Minh City. It’s just a matter of asking the right questions.

So let’s get to it. What area of the town has the ideal combination of shops, parks, cute little cafes, bars or fitness centers to suit your exact preference? Unsurprisingly, most of the city’s activity is concentrated center around the center of town, so if you’re looking for a quiet, more neighbourly feel to your home, head to the burbs.

Are you a family man? A lady in love? Or are you one of those fabulous lone wolves…? A 20-something with an eye for nightlife or a 50-something (maybe also with an eye for nightlife)? Well, if it’s nightlife you want, you’ll thrive in District 1. Are you looking for a house, an apartment, a villa…? And tell me, where do you work?

These are all important questions for you to ask when you choose where to live in Saigon. Real estate here is diverse, as are the rates you will pay, and your choice of a home will depend on so many things. Your age, your choice of accommodation, your length of stay, etc. There are pros and cons to every area of Saigon, and no matter what, you’ll fit in somewhere.

Please note: All prices listed are according to Batdongsan.com, and are accurate to the time of writing.


District 1

Are you a fan of late nights and later mornings? Does a thumping beat make your heart move faster? Do you ever feel the urge to break into song late at night and go rampaging around the streets with a group of revelling friends? Well, the good news is that this is very normal in District 1.

Apart from night time revelling, District 1 is home to a variety of cafes, restaurants, gyms and swimming pools. Take a stroll in 23/9 Park or go bargain hunting at Saigon Square. All the best tourist attractions in Saigon are concentrated here, while many of the city’s famous sites - such as the Saigon Zoo, Duc Ba Church and the War Museum - are conveniently close.

Rent: Varied. It really depends on how you want to live. I rent a room for $140 US per month now (check out my guide to renting in Saigon for more!), complete with air conditioning, TV, private bathroom, fridge and a very nice bed! But rent for a room here can range from as low as $25 US/month to a mind-boggling $700 US and more.

If you’re after luxury, we have all the best insight into Saigon’s most beautiful places to live. The average price for a room rented by the typical expat in this part of town is VND 6 or 7 million per month, and the price increases from there depending on the amount of luxury you are after.

But for local rates, we recommend the Vietnamese version of Batdongsan.com. You will need a Vietnamese friend to help you, but if you use this platform you’re bound to find something great. Just make sure you register with the police when you move in, because you’re likely to be living in a local house. Also, check out the brief guide to that site at the bottom of this article, and follow the links below to view the site’s listings.

  • House: A nice house from around VND 12 million per month
  • Room: Ranges from VND 3 million per month to VND 10 million per month, depending on what your budget is. At the lower end, rooms are often unfurnished and without a bond.

Transport: As the center of town, getting around District 1 is easy! From the airport a taxi will cost you between VND 150, 000 and VND 200,000, and all the main bus lines run through District 1.

Hospitals: There are also many medical centers District 1. Our favorite general practitioner and hospital complex is the CMI near Notre Dame Cathedral, and for dental work we recommend the Dental Art of Saigon. Other hospitals in D1 include Columbia Asia and Family Medical Practice.

Supermarkets: As the center of town, District 1 is home to many, many supermarkets for all your household needs. Our favorites are the Co-op supermarket on Cống Quỳnh street or the CitiMart on Nguyễn Trãi street for their reasonable prices and variety of goods, the Satra Foods on Lê Thánh Tôn and VinMart in the Vincom Center for its range of fresh produce. We also recommend the local Thái Bình market on Cống Quỳnh street as a place to buy fresh tofu, herbs, fruit and vegetables. Prices here are reasonable and the stall vendors are friendly. There is an Annam Gourmet on Hai Bà Trưng street that stocks a variety of international imports.

Where to eat: Wherever you like! District 1 is a metropolis of new and old businesses offering an almost endless array of foods and drinks from a wide range of international cuisines. From street ca phe to Starbucks and a range of boutique cafes, coffee in District 1 is an experience.

For the low to mid-range foodie, street food here is always excellent, though somewhat tailored to tourist taste-buds. Many restaurants on Bui Vien are also good options for the budget lover. (Check out our interview with the owner of The Five Oysters for the story of how his own restaurant began.)

For a more high-end dining experience, check out our range of recommended options. From the delicious Vietnamese cuisine of Viet Village or a tasty curry at Tandoor, to a hearty meal at the New York Steak House - District 1 has it all.

Things to do and nightlife: District 1 is the tourist hotspot of town. Here you will find the best sites in Saigon and the widest range of activities. From cycling to walking tours, local parks to the popular zoo, museums to markets and period buildings - District 1 is the place to do things! Check out our suggestions for activities and attractions in Saigon for more.

As the backpacker center of town, District 1 holds most of Saigon’s nightlife. The famous strip, Bui Vien, literally never sleeps, and a number of clubs, bars, live music venues and after-hours hotspots in the area or nearby in District 3, will keep even the most energetic of night owls entertained..

Living in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City

Living in District 1 you will be close to many attractions such as Nguyen Hue street and City Hall.


District 2 and Thao Dien: the burbs

Sick of crazy District 1? Yes, well many people are. For a lot of people the endless hubbub of Saigon’s center is just too much after a while, and to retreat to a more quiet, slower pace of life is a welcome relief.

These people like to be able to hear birds, to share the street with bicycles rather than roaring mopeds, to sit by a quiet river or relax in a local cafe where everyone knows everyone because there aren’t that many people in the area.

District 2 is also the ideal neighbourhood for your family home. Many expat families live here due to the high concentration of international schools and the comparative safety of its streets. Facilities are aimed at the expat community - from shopping malls to small businesses and hair salons - and the majority of people here are foreign.

Rent: A range of rents are offered in District 2, but since it’s quite a commute from the center of town they tend to be lower on average. An expat in District 2 pays around VND 8 million per month for a room, but it can be as low as VND 4 million per month if you play your cards right.

According to Batdongsan...

  • House: A nice house from VND 12 million per month, to a lot more… Just ask yourself - how big is your family?
  • Room: From as little as VND 2 million per month! It depends on what you are looking for.

Transport: Inconvenient. Local buses run along the Highway 52, but don’t go into the wards. Take bus number 52 from Ben Thanh Market in District 1 to the corner of Highway 52 and Số 1, or take a xe om for about VND 80,000.

Hospitals: We recommend the Family Medical Practice in District 2 (and also in District 1) for all your medical needs.

Supermarket: An Phu Supermarket or the supermarket at Big C are our favorite options.

Where to eat: District 2, particularly Thao Dien Ward, is home to a variety of new small cafes and restaurants. It’s a great area of town for a nice family dinner, or a nice ladies’ brunch. Check out the restaurant and bar at Thao Dien Village, which offers a range of Italian, Vietnamese and Thai cuisine as well as a delicious tapas menu.

Things to do and nightlife: Saigon’s arts hub and one of the city’s best spots for live music is located in Thao Dien Ward, District 2. Saigon Outcast offers a variety of workshops from figure drawing to cooking contests, hosts a number of festivals and events, nurtures Ho Chi Minh City’s hottest up and coming musicians and celebrates the arts in this city. Their monthly urban flea market is a great day out for the kids, with its variety of boutique clothes stalls, artists, delicious foods and cute little gifts.

Living in district 2, HCMC

District 2 is a very western part of Saigon


Phú Nhuận: for those who love coffee

Phú Nhuận, one of Ho Chi Minh City’s densest areas and a well known expat enclave for those working nearby or at the airport, is home to a number of interesting coffee shops. It’s also a cultural hotspot, being far from the backpacker area of town and housing many local families and businesses, and prices are generally cheaper for the same reasons.

Rent: In Phú Nhuận you get the best for less. With a variety of serviced apartments or house-share options, an expat pays on average around VND 6 million per month for a nice room - think aircon, ensuite, balcony, fridge, kitchen and big cushy bed - and apartments here are leased for VND 15 million per month and up.

According to Batdongsan.com...

  • House: A nice house from VND 12 million per month
  • Room: From VND 2 million for unfurnished to VND 4 million for furnished, and up.

Transport: convenient. Phú Nhuận is very close to the airport, and a VND 50,000 xe om ride from District 1. You can also catch local bus number 3 from Ben Thanh Market, or take a taxi for up to VND 150,000.

Hospitals: We recommend Fortis Hoan My hospital in Phú Nhuận district for their quality practice and team of skilled doctors and surgeons, but there are a variety of healthcare providers in the area.

Supermarket: The Big C at 202B Hoàng Văn Thụ in Phú Nhuận District is both cheap and well stocked, with a variety of produce from fresh fruit and vegetables to bread and cakes, and sections for appliances and household products.

Where to eat: Phú Nhuận is full of street food and blessed with very reasonable prices. For the vegetarian, head down the alleyway 330/16 Phan Đình Phùng and stop in at the noodle shop to your left. Conversely, have you ever wanted to try a Vietnamese take on the traditional Western burger? Quán Cây Khế in Phú Nhuận District is the place to go. There are a number of cafes in Phú Nhuận which are bound to tickle your fancy - think Harry Potter theme, a country cottage theme or a city-scape theme. Our favorite cafe in Phú Nhuận is the Pet Me Cafe, which houses birds and cats and dogs and a variety of other animals… and coffee.

Things to do and nightlife: Phan Xích Long is the place to be when the sun goes down in Phú Nhuận. Hosting a number of eateries with a variety of different cuisines, from noodles to sushi to pizza. Immerse yourself in live music at Udon, treat yourself to an ice-cream at Bud’s, or deafen the world with your voice at one of the street’s many karaoke bars.

living in phu nhuan district

It's easy to visit the market whilst living in Phu Nhuan District


District 3: for the eternally stylish

District 3 is known as the happy medium. It’s so close to town that you may as well be in town, and yet it is decidedly classier than anywhere in District 1. The rent won’t break your bank and what you get for said rent is well worth the money you pay. Some of the city’s most beautiful French colonial architecture lies in this area, as are the majority of Ho Chi Minh City’s most fashionable bars. If you are a fan of high-end fashion, new innovative work spaces and classic dark sunglasses, this is the area for you.

Rent: Being a more up-market area and close to the center of town, District 3 is more expensive. However, cheaper digs are available! An expat in a share house here will pay around VND 7 million per month for a basic room and shared bathroom. But according to Batdongsan.com...

  • House: A nice house from about VND 12 million per month
  • Room: About VND 5 million for a furnished, decent room with an ensuite

Transport: District 3 is almost all in walking distance from District 1, the center of town. You can catch bus 3 or bus 4 from Ben Thanh market to get to the west side of the district, or bus 50 and 52 to get to the east.

Hospitals: The Family Medical Practice in nearby District 1 is your best bet. The clinic staffs only the highest of qualified specialists, recruited from around the globe, and English is a prerequisite for all who work there. In District 3 we would also recommend International SOS Vietnam.

Supermarket: The Co-op Mart at 168 Nguyễn Đình Chiểu is our suggestion for your grocery needs in District 3. From fresh fish to school notebooks, this supermarket is impressively comprehensive.

Where to eat: Visit Indochine restaurant for delicious Vietnamese food in a beautiful, rustic atmosphere, enjoy the variety at Com Nieu, sample Vietnam’s famous Pho, or sit at one of the many street restaurants in the area.

Things to do and nightlife: A link to our list of the city’s best bars, clubs and live music venues can be found at the bottom of this article, and many of said after-hours hotspots are in District 3 or nearby District 1. Nightlife in the very center of Ho Chi Minh City literally never sleeps! But you’ll find a happy medium in District 3, which is largely quiet after midnight but still right next to all the action.

Living in District 3, Saigon

Overview over housing in District 3


District 7 and Phu My Hung: Think BIG

This is an expat area. Phu My Hung is the most popular spot in District 7, and it is here that the district’s international schools, Western supermarkets, swimming pools and trendy restaurants converge. District 7 has little in the way of nightlife, but is instead known for being quieter and more serene than the rest of Ho Chi Minh City.

Catering to the higher-income population of Saigon, District 7 is rife with high-rise apartment blocks, sweeping tree-lined streets and beautiful modern villas. Like District 2, it is a hotspot for expat families and executives. It’s a long way from the city center, which makes for a nasty commute, but if you’re a fan of clean roads and a bit of peace and quiet, this is the area for you.

Rent: This area was built with a high-end population in mind, and as such it’s generally more expensive.

  • House: A nice house from VND 12 million
  • Room: VND 2 million will rent you a small but cosy room with all the necessary facilities.

Transport: Though travelling to this area is simple, travelling inside it is less so since local buses stop at the border. Catch bus 86 from Ben Thanh to go to the East side or bus 152 from Trần Hưng Đạo street to get to the West, and from there use a xe om.

Hospitals: We recommend FV Hospital in Phu My Hung, or Saint Luke Medical Center.

Supermarket: Given its high expat population, it is little surprise that there is a Western import supermarket in Phu My Hung known as Veggy’s. Apart from this there is the usual Co-op Mart, a Lotte Mart and a number of CitiMarts.

Where to eat: There are a number of fast food joints in District 7, including Pizza Hut, Lotteria and KFC. For Japanese food try Takoika Japanese Soul Food at 549 Huỳnh Tấn Phát, or enjoy a Vietnamese BBQ at 404 Truong Son. For more about eating in District 7 check out this list we found of 6 Secret Spots in District 7.

Things to do and nightlife: District 7 is not a nightlife hotspot, and after the sun goes down most of the area’s population also hit the hay. But a number of classy restaurants make for lovely evening dining, and the beautiful Starlight Bridge at Crescent Mall in Phu My Hung is a popular hangout destination for young couples and groups of friends. If you want a lazy, quiet evening and an early sleep, District 7 is for you.

living in district 7, hcmc

Check out the rainbow waterfall on The Starlight Bridge at The Crescent in PMH.


District 4: for the mafia don

District 4 is Saigon’s notorious crime center, and is noticeably older and less developed than its neighbouring areas. Be careful with your belongings here and don’t walk around alone at night, but enjoy the huge variety of street-foods and the great local markets.

Since rent is cheaper here, a lot of small businesses rent office space in District 4 and as such it’s dotted with suited expats at lunch time. Most of the people who live here are locals, and if you do rent in District 4 we recommend living with other expats. Post in the Expats & Locals Facebook page to find out more.

Rent: As this area is one of Saigon’s poorest, we wouldn’t recommend renting here. That being said, rent is usually lower and there are some expats in the local community. According to the local rent rates on Batdongsan.com…

  • House:  A house, not a very nice one and rented from a local owner, is about VND 6 million per month.
  • Apartment (above 50m2, 2 bedroom): A lot of new apartment complexes have recently been built in this area, and for this reason apartments tend to be more expensive that other properties in district 4. You can rent a lovely, modern apartment for about VND 8 million per month and up, possibly the best bet for foreigners.
  • Room: About VND 1.5 million per month, not very nice or very safe.

Transport: Take bus 44 to get to the very edge of the district on Bến Vân Đồn street or bus 34 for the other side of the district, both from Ben Thanh market.

Hospitals: Since District 4 is very close to District 1, we would recommend visiting one of the many clinics in that area, rather than find a local practitioner in District 4. See item number 1 on this list for all the best hospitals in District 1.

Supermarkets: Though known for its street-food and plentiful local markets, District 4 is not your best bet when searching for a supermarket. There is a Satra Foods on Lê Văn Linh street, but the produce stocked here is not very varied and often more expensive than at the city’s larger supermarkets.

We suggest making the 10 minute drive to District 1’s Co-op Mart on Cống Quỳnh street for a more comprehensive selection of goods. Also, for meat, fish, tofu or fresh fruit and vegetables, why not try out the local market? Take note of how things are priced in the Co-op Mart and use this as a guide as to how much they should cost you on the street - usually a little bit less, and definitely not more! Make sure you wash everything thoroughly when you get home, but usually foods from a local market will be higher quality than at the supermarket.

Where to eat: if you like to eat locally you’re in luck. District 4 is one of Ho Chi Minh City’s top contenders for street-food! From succulent BBQ octopus or some fresh, juicy springrolls, to crisp banh mi, iced flan or a wide range of exciting soups and noodles, we challenge you to eat something you’ve never tried before in District 4.

Things to do and nightlife: During the day District 4 is a hub of local activity. Go for a wander through winding alleyways, drop-in for a coffee in one of the district’s many cafes, or take a dip in Van Don Pool on Khánh Hội street.

At night District 4 is not the safest of areas in Ho Chi Minh City. Vĩnh Khánh street is a popular local hang-out, with a lot of BBQ restaurants where groups of Vietnamese and the occasional expat sit, laugh and drink a lot of beer (often with straws). An alleyway leading up to this street from Hoàng Diệu street (called Đoàn Văn Bơ) is full of different flans, soups, pancakes and other delicacies which are excellent fun to sample, all with that addictive hustle and bustle typical of a Saigon local area at night. Famous Saigon bar The Observatory is also in District 4, as is Cargo Bar and a number of other establishments.

Living in district 4, Saigon

The Rainbow Bridge is pedestrian only and takes you from District 4 to District 1


District 10: for the budget lover (student)

One of the biggest perks of this area is the rent, which tends to be nice and low. Unlike District 4, the area is also quite safe and is a popular student hotspot. Food here is cheap and tasty, and given the high student population there are many cafes, pools and hang-out spots in the area.

The streets here are on average smaller and the population is quite dense, so traffic can be an issue, but the district is also very close to Saigon’s center, District 1, so all the city’s best nightlife and the perks of the backpacker area are very close at hand.

Rent:

  • House: You can rent quite comfortably here for VND 9 million per month.
  • Room: As little as VND 2 million per month, but for about VND 4 million per month you can rent a lovely room with a double bed and TV

Transport: Walk from District 1 (about 20 minutes from the center to the edge of District 10) or hop on bus 2.

Hospitals: We recommend the Vạn Hạnh General Hospital, or a visit to D1 for a variety of other options.

Supermarkets: There is a Co-op Mart on Hòa Hảo street in District 10 or a CitiMart on Tô Hiến Thành street, both of which are great options for all your grocery and household needs.

Where to eat: Since District 10 is home to the majority of Ho Chi Minh City’s student population, street-food here is a great option. However, we also would recommend a visit to Lang Nuong Nam Bo Restaurant for delicious Vietnamese food. Try their BBQ’d whole pork!

Things to do and nightlife: Be sure to visit the flower market on Hồ Thị Kỷ street or learn about traditional Vietnamese medicine at the Fito Museum on Hoàng Dư Khương street. The 1985 Cafe on Phạm Viết Chánh street at the border of Districts 1 and 10 is a great little spot for a cappuccino or a delicious freshly baked cake. Open until 10 p.m., this cafe is popular among students and young Vietnamese women, and serves a variety of coffees, teas and sweet treats in a cute, vintage setting.

Living in District 10, Ho Chi Minh City

Get fresh flowers from the flower market


District Tan Binh: reasonable and comfy

Think friendly and warm. This is the area of town for that guy or gal with a comfortable income, a comfortable career, who is looking to settle locally, long term and wants to live a comfortable life. Popular with office workers and businessmen, Tan Binh District is not exactly quiet but far enough from the center of town to be dark after hours.

Rent: Low. This area has a lot of small companies and businesses and is known for its reasonable rates for both long and short-term stay. According to Batdongsan…

  • House: A simple rental is about VND 7 million per month, but you will find beautiful homes for VND 13 million and up
  • Room: You can rent for as low as VND 2 million a month if you’re willing to bring your own furniture! And lower still if you don’t mind mould… But you will find something really nice for VND 4 million per month

Transport: Convenient! Catch bus number 152 from Trần Hưng Đạo street in District 1 and stay on until the last stop, or take a xe om for around VND 60,000. We recommend the application ‘GrabTaxi’ to find a xe om who will take you where you want to go, and not relieve you of your entire wallet.

Hospitals: The Saigon Ito hospital is Tan Binh District’s best bet for quality healthcare. Other than that, we recommend a trek into the center of town for a wider variety.

Supermarkets: There is a CitiMart at Trường Sơn street that is a great option for household goods, meats, fruits and vegetables, but for the freshest of produce make a visit to your local market. Be sure to bargain! Check the appropriate prices for meat and other produce at the supermarket before visiting the local market so that you can bargain effectively. For some phrases to use when buying your goods be sure to scroll right down and check out the ‘Useful Words’ section in this article!

Where to eat: Tan Binh is known to be a cheaper area of town in general, and the variety of local eateries and street-food vendors here are both delicious and nicely priced. You won’t damage your wallet if you eat out here, and your stomach will thank you for the variety of home-cooked delicacies you will find!

Things to do and nightlife: Tan Binh is not known for its variety of entertainment options, but there are still things to do in the area. If you walk around at night try not to go alone, and be careful with your things! We recommend going in a group and finding a local BBQ joint for a flask of beer and some good, tasty grilled meats.

Living in Tan Binh District in Ho Chi Minh City

Get some delicious BBQ food whilst living in Tan Binh District


District Thu Duc: the intrepid

Thu Duc is a student area, and is full of university students! This district is very far from the city center, and has a far lower foreigner population. If expats do live here it is usually either because they work or study here or because they are part of a local family. Rent here is also far far cheaper than rent closer to town, and so is food! It takes about an hour to travel here by bus from District 1, or 45 minutes by taxi, and most of Saigon’s more exciting attractions and activities are closer to the center of town. The buses stop running at 9 p.m.

Rent: Houses here tend to be a lot older and cater far less to the expat community. That being said, if you are intrepid this won’t be a problem for you. Apartments are weirdly luxurious in contrast! According to Batdonsan.com, local prices are…

  • House: You will find rentals as cheap os VND 5 or 6 million per month, but a nice house goes for about VND 10 million per month and up
  • Apartment (above 50m2, 2 bedroom): If you bring your own furniture you’re looking at a mere VND 5 million per month, but nice furnished apartments start at about VND 7 million per month
  • Room: Find something cheap and cheerful for VND 3 million per month

Transport: Take bus number 93 from Ben Thanh Market. A xe om or taxi will be quite expensive since this neighbourhood is far from town, and the local buses are fun.

Hospitals: Unfortunately, Thu Duc is not known for its medical facilities. The closest quality hospital that we would recommend is the Fortis Hoan My Hospital in Phú Nhuận.

Supermarkets: Similarly, this area is more of a suburb than an urban hotspot and so most of Ho Chi Minh City’s bigger chain supermarkets are concentrated closer to the center of town. The closest is a Co-op Mart on Nguyễn Kiệm in Phú Nhuận. Otherwise, try a local market!

Where to eat: As a student area, Thu Duc is a great option for street-food. We also recommend C.U House at 20/11C for some yummy coffee and a cute, urban setting.

Things to do and nightlife: Being so far from town, Thu Duc has its own nightlife! The student market in the far corner of this district is home to many, many interesting foods, beery revellers, super-cheap clothes and glittering trinkets. The petty crime rate here is high so keep an eye out for your wallet, but the atmosphere is intoxicating with that earthy buzz of a local commercial hotspot that many people search for in Asia. Take bus number 19 from District 1 to get here and make sure you come early because the last bus home is at 7:30pm! For more information about this market check out our guide to the best places to shop in Ho Chi Minh City.

Living in Thu Duc District in Ho Chi Minh City

You can find Suoi Tien Park in Thu Duc District.

 


District 5: Chinatown!

District 5 is Ho Chi Minh City’s “Chinatown”. It has the largest population of native Chinese in all of Vietnam, and is a fabulous fusion of Mandarin and Vietnamese culture. Famous for pagodas, temples and its local markets, District 5 is less expensive to live in than District 1, but is very close to town. Public transport to District 1 is convenient, and a motorbike ride to the center of town will take from 10 to 15 minutes. If you speak Cantonese or Mandarin make sure you at least visit this area, and if you’re a fan of wontons come for lunch!

Rent:

  • House: Around VND 8 or 9 million for one of the area’s old, quaint little dwellings. Batdongsan didn’t have any newer properties listed at the time of writing.
  • Room: Around VND 4 million for a nice room

Transport: Hop on bus number 1 and you’ll be there before you know it! The ride is lovely, through some seriously old and beautiful parts of town.

Hospitals: Choose from Chợ Rẫy Hospital, Hùng Vương Hospital or Phạm Ngọc Thạch Hospital! You will not stay sick for long in District 5.

Supermarkets: There is a CitiMart on Hùng Vươngstreet, or a Co-op Mart on An Dương Vương.

Where to eat: As noted above, District 5 has a high Chinese population, and this unsurprisingly affects the nature and variety of its street-food. For more high-end dining we recommend a trip into nearby District 1.

Things to do and nightlife: At night District 5 is a convenient 20 minutes from the buzz and all-night partying of Saigon’s center in District 1. Within Chinatown itself, however, why not embrace your inner diva and belt out a few hits at a local karaoke bar.

Living in District 5, chinatown

Visit Cho Lon and try out some local sweets


Overall, Saigon is a huge metropolis with a seemingly endless array of options. No matter who you are there is somewhere for you to live in Ho Chi Minh City - it’s just a matter of finding it. Check out our guides below to make your house hunting, bus taking, partying and market experiences easier.


Guide to Batdongsan.com

Here are a few tips to make your Batdongsan.com experience easier:

  1. Search in Vietnamese for the lower prices, but have a Vietnamese friend to help out
  2. ‘Giá cao nhất’ means ‘highest price’ and ‘Giá thấp nhất’ means “lowest price”
  3. Some rooms, apartments or houses are listed as shared - the owner wants to find someone to move in with him/her. So it’s good to have someone who speaks the language on hand, who can tell you if that super-cheap room you’ve found is in fact already inhabited!
  4. Bring someone Vietnamese with you when you see the room, to help keep the price down and to ask all the important questions like “Is electricity included?”
  5. See our guide to renting in Saigon for more!

 

Useful words:

  • Electricity - điện
  • Wi-Fi - Wi-Fi
  • Month - tháng
  • Price - giá
  • Bond - trái phiếu
  • Contract - hợp đồng
  • I want to buy this *** please - Tôi muốn mua *** này
  • How much is this ***? - *** này bao nhiêu?
  • Too expensive - mắc quá!
  • So cheap! - quá rẻ!
  • Half - nửa
  • 1 Kilo - một ki
  • Rent a room: Cho thuê văn phòng
  • Rent an apartment: Cho thuê căn hộ chung cư
  • Rent a house: Cho thuê nhà riêng

Resources:


Tall Towers: Saigon’s Race to the Clouds

By: Jesus Lopez Gomez

Saigon’s skyline is defined by a few standout tall towers concentrated in District 1. Peering over Ho Tung Mau street is the city’s third tallest tower, the 40-storey Saigon Times Square. Nearby at the half-moon of road around the Tran Hung Dao warrior statue is the Vietcombank Tower Saigon, the second tallest tower in the city and the seventh tallest tower in the nation.

At 258 metres, Bitexco Financial Tower comes in first. It is about 100 metres taller than third place and about 50 metres taller than Vietcombank Tower Saigon.

Though, all that may soon change.

Even accounting for all the planned towers in Ho Chi Minh City, Bitexco Financial Tower will still remain among the tallest structures in the city, but the incoming Ben Thanh Towers at 235 metres and the 195 metre-high Saigon One Tower are formidable competitors. The city’s iconic lotus-shaped tower will eventually be dethroned for tallest tower by the 461-metre Landmark 81.

Not only will it be the tallest tower in Vietnam, but the tallest in Asia by a petty amount: the development that currently holds that title is Kuala Lumpur’s iconic Petronas Towers, which will be a mere 20 centimetres shorter than Landmark 81.

But when will these towers be finished? What exactly will the skyline look like when it’s done?

Let’s dive deep into Saigon’s towers and gaze into the future.

Ben Thanh Twin Towers

The Ben Thanh Twin Towers project—not to be confused with the Ben Thanh Tower Condo, which has the Air 360 Sky Lounge at the top—will one day be two daring spires designed like a pair of postmodern sculptures overlooking the roundabout in front of Ben Thanh Market.

For now, however, it’s a walled off plot of half-laid foundation and dirt.

Bitexco Group began the Ben Thanh Twin Towers in 2012. They were planned as a 55-storey mixed-use development: the majority of the space would be dedicated to condominiums, but the tower would also be the home of office and retail space.

towersImage source: images.millenin.com

Total investment at the time was about $400 million. The project was expected to be completed in 2015.

The conceptual design seems a little haphazard, but the building’s planners have actually designed it with intentional symbolism.

The project’s two towers symbolise the popular Vietnamese symbol of two dragons. This well-known iconography depicts a pair of entwined dragons circling towards a sun. It’s a common image at pagodas and other prominent cultural locations, like the Hanoi Ceramic Mosaic Mural. The dragon is frequently associated with flight, ascendance and progress.

Similarly, important Vietnamese sites like Ha Long Bay have incorporated the word dragon into their names (the Vietnamese word long means “Dragon” in English).

A popular Vietnamese saying: Rồng gặp mây translates to “Dragon meets the clouds,” meaning something is in a favourable condition.

The project’s two towers will reach 235 metres and 225 metres—touching the clouds, indeed.

When Will It Be Finished?

The project is now expected to be completed in 2020, according to Bitexco Group’s website.

A Bitexco group representative confirmed the new timetable for #iAMHCMC in a phone interview, but wouldn’t go into more details on why the project has been delayed for as long as it has. They noted that builders have nearly finished the basement portion of the Ben Thanh Towers.

Empire City

Also arriving in 2020 is the Empire City project. This 14.5-hectare city-within-a-city development features a shopping mall, an office campus and a 5-Star hotel. The crown jewel of the development is an 88-storey building that will lord over the new development named Empire 88.

towersImage source: lonelyplanetwpnews.imgix.net

For now, the building’s planned height will make it taller than the in-progress skyscraper that’s also vying for the title of tallest tower, Landmark 81. However, the Empire 88 will top out at 333 metres, significantly less than the 461-metre Landmark 81.

It’s not only height that defines this tower, but also a groundbreaking design that brings green elements into the project. And we’re not talking about solar panels or sustainable materials.

The name “Sky Forest” comes from the buildings’ use of actual trees and plants about two-thirds of the way up the Empire 88 building. At this height, the building will have five square-ish platform shaped floors jutting out of the building that will be covered with living plants and trees.

Dubbed the “Sky Forest” by the architecture firm leading the design Büro Ole Scheeren, the international architecture firm unveiled the proposed design last November.

towersImage source: cdn.wallpaper.com

Concept drawings show the Empire 88 tower along with a group of three towers arranged around the terraced public space rich with plants and trees. The architects said they wanted to capture the feel of Sapa’s iconic, terraced rice paddies. The architects have planned a multi-tier, stacked park with graduated platforms. Viewed from above, the space might mirror something like a fingerprint with the platforms’ edges creating continuous lines that wind through the three Empire City towers.

When will it be finished?

The Keppel Land-led project expects to open its first residential properties in the second quarter of 2020.

The 88-storey tower should not be too far behind.

Keppel Land reports that 680 units within the Empire City project have already been sold to prospective residents.

Landmark 81

The Landmark 81 tower had been scheduled to “top out”—the phrase used in skyscraper construction where the highest element has been constructed—in May. But builder Coteccons hit that landmark 45 days ahead of schedule by giving Ho Chi Minh City an architectural asset now taller than the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur. With the 61-metre spire at the top of the building, Landmark 81 stands at 461 metres, about 10 metres taller than the Malaysian towers.

The 81-storey tower is the centrepiece of the Vinhomes Central Park project in Binh Thanh District.

While it remains under construction, developers have been quick to point out that this will not only be the tallest building in Vietnam but the 23rd tallest in the world.

towersImage source: en.vinhomestancang.co

The Vingroup-owned, US$1.5-billion tower is being built with a cinema, indoor skating rink, gym and clubhouse for residents, including a pool, gym, spa and outdoor lounge. Residents will be able to choose from apartments with up to four bedrooms.

The architectural design appears like a cluster of bars consolidated around a tall steeple. The result is a building of staggered heights facing towards the Saigon River. On their website, Atkins, the British architecture firm who designed the project calls it “modern and unusual,” a symbol of the rapid ascendance of Ho Chi Minh City. Retail developments will be the base of the building.

towersImage source: ccr.vn

Even before the building is completed, the development had already amassed awards. Landmark 81 garnered the “best residential high-rise development Asia Pacific” at the Asian Pacific Property Awards 2016. “Atkins is proud to be involved in this award-winning project for Vingroup, as it represents a new benchmark in high-quality, sustainable, high-density, vertical living. This building type will be particularly important as Asia moves forward,” said in remarks reported in a press release created concurrently with the award.

Video source: DC Film

When will it be finished?

The project appears to be on track to finish construction by this year. When completed, it will be only one metre shorter than the Lakhta Center in St. Petersburg, Russia, the 22nd tallest tower in the world. It will be less than 10 metres taller than the 24th placeholder, the Changsha IFS Tower T1 in Changsha, China.

Banner Image source: lonelyplanetwpnews.imgix.net


High-end Hotel Design in Vietnam: The Untold Challenge

By: John Mark Harrell

See how a high-end hotel evolves from concept to creation.

Designing a high-end hotel demands a surprising combination of special skills.

The biggest misconceptions about Interior Design.

Have you ever wondered what goes into making a high-end hotel? You might think it’s as simple as choosing some comfy pillows and shiny golden wallpapers, finding a few art pieces, some colourful and ambiguously-shaped sculptures, throwing it all together and—ta da!—luxury. But you might be shocked to know the true depth and scope of storytelling, conceptualization, and meticulous planning that goes into creating a high-end hotel, far beyond just decorating. Whether or not you realize it, everything you see and interact with as you move through one of these luxury establishments is the result of fine-tuned and precise planning.

High-end hotels need an entire team of creative professionals and experts to oversee this process from conceptualisation to final execution. This is where KAZE, a design studio based in Ho Chi Minh City, consistently delivers. KAZE means “wind” in Japanese, and this ties into their core design philosophy, which is quality in function, design and purpose—yet with a feeling as natural and free-flowing as the wind. This design philosophy is evident in the work they do for their clients all over Vietnam; a rare example of excellence, expertise, and professionalism in Vietnam’s developing market.

KAZE

The team at KAZE has worked extensively with reputable international hotel brands in Vietnam, from Le Meridien to the Renaissance Hotel by Marriott, and the scope of their clientele extends beyond high-end hotels to many commercial and residential developments throughout Vietnam. Such a diversity of projects requires a wide diversity of skills and specialties within the KAZE team itself. To get an insight into exactly what goes into the fascinating process of high-end hotel design, we sat down with Managing Director Khoa, Interior Architect Hanh, and Junior Designer Phat.

From Start to Finish: The Process of Designing a High-End hotel in Vietnam

Luxury is a defining element of any high-end hotel. But what, exactly, do we mean by luxury?

“Before I studied Architecture and began working in a design studio, I thought luxury was all about design and aesthetic” KAZE’s Interior Designer Hanh says. “But now that I’ve worked on an International hotel, defining luxury in a broad sense comes with my ability to translate the branding guideline. To curate an experience for guests through architecture, landscape, art, and culture in a way that is new and original, yet aligns with the hotel’s brand and image.”

“It’s not just about the design, it’s the whole package,” Junior Designer Phat agrees. “The look, the style, and the 5-star service.”

KAZE

You might think of luxury as gaudy, shiny, golden, almost excessive—but these Old Hollywood depictions of luxury are no longer the norm. These days, when you step into a high-end hotel, you’re likely to encounter more modern, minimalist artistic and design elements and cutting-edge technological solutions for the demands of 21st century hotel guests.

“I think nowadays, the definition of high-end is changing,” Khoa adds. “It’s not about material, it’s not about big space or small space. It’s about the experience, and that experience includes the rush of interacting with a new gadget or a cutting-edge technology that you’re being offered as a guest, that you might not have seen before or even knew existed.” 

Think about your own experience at a hotel. If the lobby, restaurant, and public facilities were pristine and luxurious, but your room was drab, dark, and uncomfortable, would you come away from that hotel with a positive impression? 

Of course you wouldn’t! Most of our time as guests is spent in the smallest, most intimate spaces in these hotels, and it is therefore in these relatively small rooms where the design team at KAZE begins their design and storytelling journey with any high-end hotel project. 

“When I work on small spaces like hotel rooms, it’s very complicated because you have to go through every detail in the room,” Phat says. “Because every little detail matters in the big perspective of being a 5-star luxury hotel.”

KAZE

“Space planning is the most challenging,” Hanh says. With a space as limited as a hotel room, every inch of the space must be carefully accounted for and meticulously, precisely planned. “From the brief of clients, to the space from the architecture. It’s the most difficult part.”

According to Phat, it’s actually the initial phase of high-end hotel design that proves the most difficult. “I think the first stage is quite challenging, finding the direction for the project that can run consistently to the very end. It’s crucial that we have a clear story in order to convince the operator to agree to our design.” 

So how does the team at KAZE begin conceptualizing a design story for a new client? They won’t start from scratch, and in fact they’ll have an extensive brief of requirements from their client related to aesthetic, practical needs, and branding that they must take into consideration. 

Could you imagine writing a book for someone who tells you what they think should happen at the end? You would then have to come up with an interesting plot and finer details like setting and character development that meet their expectations. This is the tremendous “design story” challenge KAZE faces with every new high-end hotel client.

KAZE

After hours of planning and brainstorming, an initial schematic emerges from the creative minds at KAZE. But the team can only move on to the next phase if their client says “yes” to the story. 

“[Creating] the schematic takes the longest,” Hanh adds. “Our client may have something specific in mind, and if our story doesn’t align with their vision, we have to go back and change the story...so that eventually it becomes the client’s story. It takes time for us to find each other, making this the costliest and most time-consuming stage of designing.” 

To help their clients visualize the story, the team at KAZE actually uses modern technology to create 3D renderings to bring their concepts to life. 

“There is often a perceived gap between what the client wants and what is actually possible,” Hanh says. “So it’s our job to not only create a story that aligns with the clients’ needs as closely as possible, but to convince the client that our story will result in the very best experience for their guests and for their brand reputation.”

The next phase deals with “kinetic design”—deciding exactly which materials will be used, and how they will be used. This is, in fact, their specialty.

KAZE

“We can use one type of material in many different ways,” says Khoa. “And we spend a lot of time exploring how we can use this material. By pushing beyond what’s normally expected, we find a new interesting way of implementing that material to express the design.”

The process then continues through the practical application of those materials—construction, staging, and final execution, culminating in that magical moment when guests step into the hotel for the first time.

Interior Designers at KAZE: What Skills are Most Important to Develop High-end Hotels?

It takes a team of highly qualified professionals to properly take on any high-end hotel project, and each team member will bring a variety of skills to the table, but which of them is most important? Creativity? Technical skills? A sense of style?

“Different designers have different strengths,” Managing Director Khoa says. “And actually, interior design is a product of the long process of a big team with members who have different skills. One designer might have talent in creativity, but he alone cannot make the project. Other designers are very strong at technical or business management. So the whole team will make the product possible.”

“We can create, but if we don’t have knowledge and experience of the kind of project we’re doing, it’ll turn out very badly,” Hanh points out. “Interior design is never just one person’s job... it’s the team’s whole effort that matters.”

Interior design: It’s more than just decoration

We asked each team member what some of the biggest misconceptions about interior design are.

“That it’s just decoration!” says Hanh. “Even architects think interior design is a way of adding colour and cushions on top of a sofa. But we actually deal with all the details of each material selected and how we can apply it to the detailed millimeter, yet not adding to the cost. Along the way we have to compromise on our ambitions, to adjust to a budget constraints while still delivering what we promised.”

KAZE

“A lot of people think that designers just do creative stuff,” Phat says. “They don’t know the level of structural knowledge, detail work, joinery work and mechanical and electrical stuff we need to know and combine to see our design come true.”

“Most clients don’t know how long it takes,” Khoa adds. “They think it can be done in 1 or 2 weeks.”

“My relatives think I’m just arranging cushions and wallpapers in a room!” Phat chuckles.

Clearly, interior design is a much more involved process that requires a broad diversity of skill sets, brainstorming, teamwork, and specialized responsiveness to the needs of each individual client. “You can’t be lazy in this field,” Hanh says. “If you don’t love what you’re doing, you’ll never manage the long hours and late nights it requires to be an Interior Architect.”

It’s a long and winding road from the start of the journey, when a client gives KAZE their initial brief, to the moment the first hotel guests immerse themselves in that experience curated by the collaborative effort of a creative and diverse design team—but it is that moment that makes those hundreds of hours of hard work, dedication, and passion worthwhile.

Image source: KAZE Interior Design Studio


Quality over Quantity: KAZE Confronts Cheap Construction

By: John Mark Harrell

Foreign and local developers often prioritise profits over future-proofing.

The next generation is pushing for a bright future.

One of the secret “perks” to living in Ho Chi Minh City is that, for most residents, an alarm clock isn’t necessary. Every morning at around 7:00 am, 7 days a week, construction crews diligently start their work, ostensibly eager to do as much possible before the sweltering heat of midday. The shrill shouting of workers and the rumbling of jackhammers drilling into concrete is the near-constant soundtrack of one of Southeast Asia’s most rapidly-developing urban hubs.

In the past decade, HCMC has seen some dramatic new developments radically transform the city’s skyline, from modern urban developments in the Phu My Hung ward of District 7, to the Vinhomes mega-complex and Landmark 81, which is currently Southeast Asia’s tallest skyscraper. Relatively loose zoning restrictions have allowed massive developments, for better or worse, to break ground just about anywhere that space allows in this growing metropolis.

KAZE

Elsewhere in Vietnam, huge new projects in major urban centers and tourist destinations like Nha Trang, Da Nang, Phu Quoc, Ha Long, and Hanoi have expanded rapidly to attract more tourists, provide more housing and office space, and lure foreign investors. Vietnam’s economy is one of the world’s fastest-growing, with steady increases in foreign investment, tourism, and GDP predicted well into the next decade.

Is Growth Outpacing Sustainability?

What does this rapid growth mean, practically, for locals and expats living and working in Vietnam? More foreign investment, as well as foreign development companies breaking ground on new projects in Vietnam, could introduce their expertise with more advanced and modern building techniques, including sustainable materials and future-proof designs, in a relatively young development market.

According to Danish architect Fong-Chan Paw Zeuthen, founder of KAZE Interior Design Studio in Ho Chi Minh City’s District 2, this is most often not the case. 

“Big investment buyers come to Vietnam to invest in a development project and flip them for a 20% yield,” she says. “So the local real estate market is getting watered down with cheap, quick projects that turn a high profit margin regardless of actual build quality.”

This attitude and mindset toward development makes it very difficult for interior design professionals at KAZE to take on new projects with the full extent of their expertise. “Consultants are used more as tools, not valued for their consultancy,” Fong-Chan says.

KAZE

In practice, this means developers most often seek the cheapest and most cost-effective solutions, rather than the smartest solutions that will save them and their end users from trouble further down the road. Interior design firms like KAZE, unfortunately, are often sought out merely to “rubber stamp” the process the developer has already determined in advance. With little to no thought given to environmental concerns and sustainability, this is a growing concern for many professionals who work with local developers.

Part of the problem stems from the young development market in Vietnam interacting with larger development conglomerates investing from afar. “Locals often don’t have lots of experience,” Fong-Chan says. “And [foreign developers] don’t have experience working with locals. Some developers have no idea what they’re doing—they’re first time developers.”

Newer technological advancements and sustainable building practices are eschewed in favour of more old-fashioned techniques that are cheaper and produce faster results. But those results aren’t always pretty; seeing cracks on the walls of brand new buildings in Vietnam is a common phenomenon, largely due to the construction materials, like bricks and mortar, not given enough time to dry out and “settle” before completing the construction process (as they dry, their composition and dimensions change). 

Building materials are most often chosen based on how cheap they are—not whether their production or use is environmentally-friendly. Not only can they be damaging to the environment, however, they can actually be hazardous to human health as well. White asbestos is still widely-used in construction projects throughout Vietnam, and it wasn’t until 2018 that the government unveiled a roadmap to eliminate its use entirely by 2023.

One only has to look to the development of other huge metropolises throughout Asia to see similar patterns from their earlier stages of development. The infamous high-rise apartments in Hong Kong, for example, are exemplary of cheap, quick construction methods with little concern for end users and low-quality materials that degrade quickly overtime and increase long-term costs. 

“In many cases we’re creating really bad living environments,” Fong-Chan says. “We’re not learning from mistakes that the other big cities have made.”

Beyond the developments themselves, these new high-rises often put a strain on local infrastructure. As the city eliminates green spaces due to the influx of traffic brought about by huge new housing developments, unseen problems are just beginning to come to light. In its current state, no water treatment or sewage system can support the number of new high rises being built at such a dizzying rate. For a city already struggling with pollution and increased flooding due to climate change, all these new developments could place even more pressure on an already overloaded system.

Hope for the Future

So what does this mean for the future of Vietnam? It’s a complex problem that developing countries all over the world struggle with as investors respond to market demands. 

“Ultimately, the demand for quality is missing,” Fong-Chan points out. “Developers are not saving the environment or costs for the end user. They’re just looking for a quick turnover.”

Because of inefficient building materials and lack of energy-saving methods, it is most often the end users who are footing a higher monthly bill as a result. If foreign investors are only fixated on short-term returns, many of these new developments will actually cost property owners and business owners more money further down the line.

KAZE

The challenge, therefore, is to increase consumer demand for buildings that are not just fashionable and functional now, but whose design and quality will stand the test of time. As the younger generation becomes more conscious of the environment and their own health, through growing global interconnectedness and education, there remains hope for the future.

Increasingly, we should be asking: should big foreign corporations not take some responsibility for the host country they are building in and making money off of? Shouldn’t we demand that they bring more innovative, advanced, sustainable solutions, instead of just exploiting the environment for a quick profit?

“KAZE is in the industry, questioning the direction we’re going as a community,” Fong-Chan says. “We are always pushing to create new sustainable communities with new developments.“

KAZE

New developments do create new communities that didn’t exist before. It is in these developments that the tremendous opportunity lies to build something that exists in harmony with the environment and promotes human health and happiness—not just for a quick return now, but for the benefit and economic well-being of Vietnam for generations to come.

Image source: KAZE Interior Design Studio


A Day in the Life of KAZE Interior Design Studio in Ho Chi Minh City

By: Katie Kinnon

What is Functional Beauty? Fong-Chan Paw Zeuthen from KAZE Interior Design Studio explains.

Time for Gelato! KAZE Interior Design Studio goes on location.

Collaboration makes it happen; KAZE’s style of brainstorming.

The word KAZE is Japanese for ‘wind’ it represents expansion, growth and freedom of movement. Danish architect Fong-Chan Paw Zeuthen chose this name for her boutique Vietnam based interior design studio when she launched it in 2009 as a reminder to never allow KAZE’s sense of style and knowledge stagnate. The goal of each KAZE designed projects is to have the same sense of movement, lightness, and power as a gust of wind.

KAZE Interior Design Studio

KAZE interior design studio, has been going strong for more than 10 years and it is one of the top interior design studios in Vietnam. The firm has taken on more than 100 high-profile projects across Vietnam and Cambodia. Specialists in development in the fields of Hospitality and F&B, the KAZE team has transformed the style and spirit of major projects such as Le Meridien Cam Ranh Resort & Spa by Marriot, Liberty Central Saigon Citypoint in Ho Chi Minh City and DIAMOND ISLAND PENTHOUSE & VILLAS by Kusto.

KAZE Interior Design Studio

KAZE Interior Design Studio’s Idea of Functional Beauty

Fong-Chan has an unwavering commitment to what she calls her “building for humans” philosophy. This means nothing goes into the space that will not be useful, comfortable, and aesthetically pleasing. It should be a usable space, not simply a pretty picture.

As Fong-Chan puts it, “you can tell a lot about how a person runs their company by the way the toilets are kept.” If management only cares about the aesthetics of a company and not the functionality something has gone wrong.

Far from the stark, harsh modernity that can be found in certain ill-designed spaces, KAZE Interior Design Studio’s projects are categorised by beauty, light, warmth and innovation.

But what happens between concept creation and the moment that someone walks into a fully realised KAZE designed space? City Pass Guide acts as interior designer for one day to learn more about the processes, inspirations and, at times, frustrations of being the leading interior design studio in Vietnam.

KAZE Interior Design Studio

Mornings in the Beehive; KAZE Interior Design Studio Gets Ready to Get Creative

When someone walks into KAZE interior design studio in Saigon’s District 2 it is clear to see that the office is a hive of energy where anything and everything can instigate inspiration. Fong-Chan has created a unique environment that is the right balance of easy going and innovative. Interior design books stacked on shelves range from tomes about types of marble used in 15th century Italy to glossy coffee table books filled with new design trends. The volumes propped open suggest the team study hard and the single-use plastic free ethos provides an insight into the environmental focus of KAZE’s design projects.

The open plan office is fairly minimalistic in terms of design with a mix of dark wooden desks and large glass windows that let in lots of natural light. While the monochrome colour scheme enables the raw materials that are scattered around the office to pop.

Desks are covered with brightly coloured fabric samples, varying sizes of intricately detailed tiles and project sketches. It is mind-boggling to imagine how all these snippets of inspiration can possibly turn into a finished project. The different textures, colours, patterns, and shapes are the starting point for the designers to focus their ideas and start putting a design idea into actuality.

KAZE Interior Design Studio

Individuality is the Key to Creativity

Each designer has a different style of working. A junior designer named Duong loves following new trends and finds ways to incorporate them into his work. Maria, a project designer is detail oriented. Part of her morning is typically spent researching ways to use historical styles while maintaining modernity. Other teams members contribute their individual senses of style and focus to create an environment that is always in “creation-mode”. KAZE is a boutique company of only 28-30 employees, this enables Fong-Chan to get to know her team on a personal level and get a sense of their likes, dislikes and work style.

KAZE Interior Design Studio

When Fong-Chan walks into the office she immediately commands the room. Despite having a cute dog following her around, she is a no-nonsense woman. She knows what every single person in the office is working on and exactly what they will be doing next. Like any great mentor, Fong-Chan looks after her team and ensures to regularly spend time with each and every member, going through what they are working on the moment, challenges they are facing and provide guidance on how they can improve. She takes pride in teaching every single member individually and she will push and challenge them until they unlock their potential.

As we walk through the office and take time to speak to the team members, one thing is clear, Fong-Chan’s team finds her to be an inspired leader.

Diving into the Project’s; an Afternoon at KAZE Interior Design Studio

All of KAZE’s projects are created from a story, they are what gives a project meaning. These stories are inspired by the brief from the clients, the space and location of the project as well as real-world experiences the designers have had. Fong-Chan organises annual design trips for the team to experience new things around the world and find new inspiration. Some of their most recent trips include Bangkok, Taiwan, and Milan. Without these trips, designers find inspiration from pictures on a computer and can’t really understand the emotions certain places can evoke or how they can awaken new senses, for example, the sense of achievement earned from reaching a mountain peak or tasting real gelato in Italy for the first time.

KAZE Interior Design Studio

Back in the interior design studio in Ho Chi Minh City, these experiences enable designers to create incredible projects together. In a small company like KAZE, the office feels like a symphony masterpiece, everyone is playing their own instrument but when put together it makes a beautiful finished product. In one corner, the junior designer is sketching out multiple designs to work out the best places for the lighting fixtures to create the right ambiance for the project. On the other side of the room, the project designer is using miniature furniture models to understand the way people would naturally enter a room and where they would want to sit down. Down the small hallway, a headphone clad designer is testing out the acoustics—he is listening to how the noise of ocean waves resonate against wooden walls versus concrete walls. The whole process is fascinating to watch and Fong-Chan is the perfect conductor.

Fong-Chan explains to us that KAZE has a “design language” and everyone needs to be able to speak it. This helps the KAZE team effectively communicate, brainstorm and develop ideas with each other as well as to understand all the ideas going on in Fong-Chan ’s head. For those who don’t speak the ‘language’ Fong-Chan spends her time managing their expectations, sometimes this can be with clients who don’t really know what they want and sometimes this can be with her own team who haven’t quite come to grips with their part of the project story.

Collaboration, Creation and Coffee in Saigon’s District 2

Every Tuesday and Thursday the KAZE team gather for a coffee break to socialise and discuss their ideas. Fong-Chan explains that there is a real buzz in the office during these meetings. Everyone suddenly goes from working quietly at their desks to talking loudly in groups, getting excited about project ideas and working out how their concepts can be developed. This collaborative effort helps to solve problems and generate new ideas.

KAZE’s Friday afternoon workshops are a fascinating way to experience the ins and outs of what happens during a design process. Each member picks a designer or design topic and delivers a presentation on it, detailing the history, inspiration, and work behind it. The workshops encourage the team to learn new things, try new ideas in their work and delve into a new world of design they may never have realised existed.

KAZE Interior Design Studio

Hometime

Burning the midnight oil is not a strange concept at KAZE, although it may not quite be midnight, many of the team stay after hours to develop their design knowledge and experience to improve their work. They work hard to ensure their part of the project is just right. They all dedicated and strive for perfection. A passion for design is the beating heart of KAZE, as one of the top interior design studios in Vietnam, it is clear to see that only those who work hard and are passionate about their ideas achieve success in this demanding profession.

KAZE Interior Design Studio

Image source: KAZE Interior Design Studio


Improving Your Home: An Interior Design Case Study

By: Aleksandr Smechov

Homeowners usually think of their dwelling as a place to relax and unwind after a hard day out, spend a bit of quality family time, and have the occasional meal. But have you ever thought a home can be an extension of one’s personality, a space to feel refreshed after a long day, something that inspires you instead of acting like a permanent hotel?

Interior design’s focus is to enhance an indoor space to make it not only more pleasing on the eyes, but bring its inhabitants together and seamlessly connect separate spaces. Below we take an interior design project in Binh Duong New City, where an existing apartment layout goes through several modifications to maximise both space and function.

1. Existing condition: The existing condition of the space was a three bedroom apartment for a young family. There were long, narrow corridors, too many solid walls that made the public area smaller and tighter for anyone passing through. There were no true spaces for working, reading or entertainment.

2. Solution: As the inhabitants were a young family with a small child (and possibly another coming), changes were made in the layout in order to create a functional space that could fulfill the needs of a small group of closely knit people. For this an “open” concept was used.

2.1 Functional change of space: The project began with the demolition of one bedroom and the creation of a multi-purpose space – this new working/reading room can be used as a guest bedroom when needed.

2.2 Working room: The working room is an open space, connected with other sections of the apartment: the kitchen, the dining area, bedrooms and the living rooms. Privacy for the working room can still be kept using a partition and bookshelf.

2.3 Open kitchen: An open kitchen also helps make the space look bigger, as it connects with other sections of the apartment.

 

2.4 Overview: This “open concept” does not only create a connection between spaces but also connects family member together – while mom is cooking, she can talk or look after her kids, and also speak with her husband in the working room at the same time. All spaces are connected together without boundary, and this creates a roomier feel in the apartment.

3. The value created: A simple change in layout can create a big difference for your apartment, yourself and for others who are engaging in this space.

The above project was completed by OP3 Interior Design & Construction. The firm’s belief is that a home should tell a story about the owner, while at once refreshing those who live there, connecting family together with a seamless space that take into account the natural elements of the earth. You may learn more about their home enhancing projects at op3vietnam.com. For further consultation, you may contact OP3 Vietnam at marketing@op3vietnam.com.


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