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Ho Chi Minh

Ho Chi Minh City(Vietnamese: Thành Phố Hồ Chí Minh), commonly known as Saigon or by the abbreviation HCMC, is the largest city in Vietnam and the former capital of the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam).

Ho Chi Minh



l  Reunification Palace

Enter at 135 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia Street , 9693272. Open daily 7:30AM-11:00AM, 1PM-4PM. Also known as Independence Palace (this is the old name). This is a restored five-floor time warp to the Sixties left largely untouched from the day before Saigon fell to the North (construction started in 1962 and finished in 1966). Formerly South Vietnam's Presidential Palace, the war ended on April 30, 1975 when tank #843 — a replica of which is now parked on the lawn outside — crashed through the gate. Be sure to check out the impressively kitschy recreation room, featuring a circular sofa, and the eerie basement, full of vintage 1960s phones, radios, and office equipment, supposedly left exactly as it was found when the North took over. There is also a photo gallery and a propaganda film recounting how the South Vietnamese supporters and American imperialists succumbed to Ho Chi Minh's indomitable revolutionary forces, upon which point the South Vietnamese supporters were forgiven and everyone lived happily ever after. Tours are available and are free, but not necessary. There is a nice outdoor café on the grounds outside the palace. Entry 15,000 dong.


l  War Remnants Museum

28 Vo Van Tan Street, 9302112, 9306325, 9305587 ( Open daily 7:30AM-12PM, 1:30PM- 5PM, last admission 4:30PM. Formerly known as the of Exhibition House of American War Crimes, the museum was opened in a hurry, less than five months after the fall of the South. It's currently housed in a rather confused assemblage of seven warehouses, with new purpose-built premises partially open for temporary and permanent exhibits. This disturbing display of man's cruelty during the Vietnam (American) War includes halls full of gruesome photographs, a simulated "tiger cage" prison and jars of deformed fetuses blamed on Agent Orange. There is bias as surprise, surprise there are no records of any unpleasant deeds having been committed by the North Vietnamese Army. Outside, there are helicopters, jets, tanks, and other bits of armament. However watch out for the amputees who will try and sell you thier wares. It's only a block from the Reunification Palace — see the museum pamphlet for a map. Entry 15,000 dong.


l  On Le Quy Don

Just south of the museum, is a 2000 dong/cone soft ice cream vendor, a happy treat in a hot and hectic city.


l  City Hall

End of Nguyen Hue Street . Originally called the Hôtel de Ville and now formally re-branded the People's Committee Hall, it's a striking cream and yellow French colonial building beautifully floodlit at night. No entry, but the statue of Uncle Ho in front is a very popular place for photos.


l  Museum of Vietnamese History

At the intersection of Le Duan Street and Nguyen Binh Khiem (just inside the zoo gates). The museum has a fine collection of Vietnamese antiquities, but unfortunately they are accompanied by signage which is both in poor English and full of risible Marxist distortions. Read up on Vietnamese history first or you'll have no idea what you're looking at. Outside, the Botanical Gardens are very nice and a good place for a cheap lunch away from the crowds. If you care about animal welfare, avoid the zoo.


l  Ho-Chi-Minh Museum

Duong Nguyen Tat Thanh, Dist. 4. Open daily 7:30AM-12:00PM, 1:30PM-5PM, last admission 4:30PM, 10,000 dong entry. The museum (in a French colonial era building) near the dock of Saigon shows the life story of the modern day father of Vietnam , Ho Chi Minh (the guy on the money). There's also a Ho Chi Minh book shop as well.



You're spoiled for choice in Saigon , which offers the country's largest variety of Vietnamese and international food. Bargains are getting harder to find, however. Land in the city center now sells for around US$16,000 per square meter, so even a modest-sized restaurant sits on real estate worth more than US$1 million. Authentic local food at bargain prices is one of the glories of Vietnam , but it's getting harder to find in Saigon as the city becomes ever more upscale and cosmopolitan.


Food stalls are scattered all over the city, but there's a fair collection in the Ben Thanh market. For local fast food, try the ubiquitous Pho 24 chain.

Along Pham Ngu Lao there are many budget Westernised options, and venturing a bit further into the side alleys can uncover some better choices than on the main streets.

·           Dong Ba, 110A Nguyen Du, Dist 1. This is a shop that sells Hue Food including Hue beef noodles and traditional banh beo rice cakes.

·           Faifo, on an alley off Huynh Tinh Cua, almost to Ly Chinh Thang, about 2km from the center in Q3. A family-run restaurant featuring central-Vietnamese dishes at modest prices -- a combination of value and authenticity not to be found directly in the tourist district. Dinner for two with beer or juice runs about 130,000 dong. It's becoming so popular, getting a table is sometimes difficult.

·           Pho Bo Vien Quoc Ky, 52 Ngo Duc Ke (near Nguyen Hué, District 1). A nice and cheap place for a soup. Try the sate version of the usual Pho or My: a spicy delicacy!

·           Doner Kebab, 198 Bui Vien st., District 1. Inside the backpacker area, you could easily find this small hawk. 15,000d for each Turkish Kebab.

·           Dream Cones, 16 Nguyen Thi Nghia St. , Ben Thanh Ward, Dist. 1. What a great respite in such a hot and heaving city. Gelato ice cream for less than 16,000 dong a scoop. Nice quirky and cool neon atmosphere, with lots of white leather seating. Free unlimited (unsweetened) iced tea served with your ice cream they pour at your table.




Coffee shops

Vietnam is the worlds second largest exporter of coffee behind Brazil , and cà phê is very popular among the Vietnamese. It's a paradise for coffee-loving visitors. The local style is strong and sweet; key words to remember are: sữa (sweetened condensed milk), đá (ice), and nóng (hot, pronounced "nowm"). Cà phê đá is strong, sweet iced coffee; and cà phê sữa đá is the same with condensed milk. Cà phê (sữa) nóng is brewed fresh on your table brewed in a little metal apparatus placed over a cup; just lift it off when it has cooled enough to touch (and hence drink). Prices range from 10,000 to 20,000 dong for coffee in the local style.

Since ice might or might not be made with purified water, strictly cautious visitors should avoid it, though long-term residents consume ice from reputable cafes and restaurants all the time.

Espresso, cappuccino, and American-style filter coffee are now also widely available in the tourist district, usually at twice the price of the local style.

Cafe Sao. Near the Turtle Pond. Plays loud techno music. Attractive but pretentious crowd.

·           La Fenêtre Soleil 2nd floor on the corner of Le Thanh Ton and Nam Ky Khoi Nghia. Save the world from pint size caramel Lattes. Brave the decrepit stairway and enter an oasis.

·           Gloria Jeans Cnr Dong Khoi and Nguyen Thiep (opposite the Sheraton). Popular Australian chain (like Highland ) largely following the Starbucks model.

·           Kem Café Nearest place for many in downtown D1 to go with a local. Pull up a plastic chair and sit on the pavement. A table will appear. Practice "Cà phê đá" or "Cà phê sữa da". If you want hot then attempt "nowm" but don't expect to be understood. Point.

·           Chot Nho Café 189, Nguyen Van Troi, Phu Nhuan District. Reasonable price, good menu. 10 minutes by taxi from main city center. free Wi-Fi.

·           Cine Café 116 Nguyen Du, inside the Galaxy Cinema complex. Quiet ambiance with views of the park.

·           Givral Café, Dong Khoi (opposite Continental Hotel). More in the French tradition, with fresh pastries, collared waiters and elaborate portions of ice cream. Well located, but over 20000 dong for the simplest cup.

·           Hideaway Café, 41/1 Pham Ngoc Thach, Q.3 - as it's name implies, this place is hidden away and a good place to read, or have a quiet conversation or meal. Decent Western menu, although slightly pricey, is good. Free Wi-Fi.

·           Highlands Coffee is an upscale, somewhat pricey chain serving western-style as well as local-style brews in prime locations around the tourist district. They also serve food and pastries. Cappuccino costs above 30,000 dong, approaching prices in the west, but the quality is disappointing.

·           M-Comic 99B vo thi sau a, a rather hard to find coffee shop. Upstairs is like a bedroom with a couple of beds - arrive early if you want to occupy one. It has large selection of magazine and comic book to chose from. The price is fairly cheap, ranging from 11,000 to 30,000 dong. But only serves Vietnamese drinks, and the staff barely speak English. Has free Wi-Fi.

Naploy Cafe. Near the Turtle Pond area. Good menu, good music, good prices. Next door to the more trendy/ pretentious Cafe Sao.

·           Poppy Café 217 Nguyen Dinh Chieu, D3,. Modern lounge café where the specialty is fruit- topped natural frozen yogurt. The only café in SG that serves this refreshing healthy treat. Creative fruit smoothies and light Vietnamese + Western fares also on menu. Free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs, and English- speaking staff.

·           Sozo has two locations, including one in Pham Ngu Lao. Prices are reasonable, Wi- Fi is free, and all proceeds benefit needy Vietnamese families. Good drinks, friendly staff, but their coookies could be better if they were baked in a real oven.

·           Trung Nguyen. The Vietnamese version of Starbucks, but with much better coffee. They have locations all over the city, but are not well represented in the heart of the tourist district. Figure on 10000 dong for a basic cuppa, although there are plenty of variations including the infamous weasel coffee (cà phê chồn), made from coffee beans collected from civet excrement. Two convenient outlets are east side of Nguyen Hue right before City Hall, and corner of Thu Khoa Huan and Ly Tu Trong.

·           Regina Cofee 84 Nguyen Du Street , District 1, HCM City . It's a great place to get a good cup of Vietnamese coffe or even American style cappuccino. They have an extremely skilled Japanese expresso master who knows how to brew coffee. The place has sort of a French mixed with Asian design with bricks covering all the walls. It's marketed towards tourists but it's a good place for expats with it's good coffee. All proceeds go to the church just around the corner.

Windows Cafe. Near the Reunification Palace . This is a pen for Vietnam 's fashion slaves and seems to be THE place to be seen. Pretentious atmosphere, good menu, always packed.


Bars and clubs

Saigon has plenty of places to drink, although to a certain degree Vietnamese and foreigners hang out in different places; however this is slowly changing as Westerners become more familiar with the ways of the East. Places with live music usually have no cover charge, but impose somewhat elevated drink prices (typically 55,000 - 75,000 for beer, spirits, and cocktails.)

·           163 Cyclo Bar, 163 Pham Ngu Lao Street , 2 doors down from the Duna Hotel. Thumping music until 2 a .m. and really friendly staff. The Vietnamese girls seem to have a strong affinity for Caucasian men.

·           Acoustic Cafe, 6E1 Ngô Thời Nhiệm. Though only 1 km from the heavily touristed center, this club is completely outside the tourist orbit, and offers an interesting view of local life. The all- Vietnamese house band performs every night, mostly American music, and it's always jammed with student-aged groupies. For some reason, they address the crowd in English between songs, even though half the crowd doesn't understand. On weekends, at least, you need to arrive by 7:30 to have any hope of getting a seat. If your hobby is rock ballad or hardrock, you should go on Friday night

·           Allez Boo, corner Pham Ngu Lao, De Tham. The definitive backpacker bar has closed.

·           Alibi, 11 Thai Van Lung. Very cozy atmosphere, with sofas lining the walls and beautiful decor. good food & drinks selection, nice music, and a mix of both local & expat people. friendly staff, and the management's always there to make you feel welcome and make sure you get what you are asking for.

·           Apocalypse Now, 2C Thi Sach. Legendary and still packed on weekends, although aside from a few movie references it's not all that much to look at. Stays open late. Now opened their 2nd floor for dj, dancing, drinks with less crowded atmosphere.

·           Bottom Line, Ly Tu Trong. Cubby hole for the lost and lonely. Good sports coverage, OK food, and pleasant attractive staff.

·           Carmen, 8 Ly Tu Trong, former home of an unbelievably talented Salsa / Flamenco / Latin pop band, was unfortunately leveled in August, 2007 when the owner of part of the underlying land decided to sell. The owner of the club is struggling with efforts to rebuild, so the if, when and where of re-opening is unknown.

·           Catwalk, at the side of New World Hotel. All in one place with a massage parlour, disco, KTV and a mini casino. Price is on the expensive side but it is a sight to behold. (Please note that if you want to occupy a room @ KTV, the minimum purchase is USD200.)

·           Eden, De Tham Street . Often busy, full of sporties, revellers, expats and others. Dark and deep and reasonably priced for the backpacker main drag.

·           Ice Blue, Dong Khoi. Downtown English pub, complete with darts board and warm beer (if you want it that way!). Friendly, but shuts at midnight.

·           Juice, claims to be Saigon 's first juice bar (of course it wasn't, there were many local places before - but maybe it was the first Western-managed one). Food slipped recently, but still a nice place to hang out. Has Wi-Fi.

·           La Habana , 6 Cao Ba Quat , about two blocks north of the Hyatt. A restaurant and bar with Cuban theme that makes outstanding cocktails for 60,000 dong. Some are available in pitcher-size for 150,000 dong. The food is also excellent, though at the high end of Saigon prices. On Friday nights, an energetic and talented Philippino singer named Jeram attracts a standing-room only crowd.

·           Level 23, Sheraton Saigon 23F . The latest on the 5-star hotel drinking scene, with separate bar and nightclub, and great views over the city. A little soulless though, and very pricey with most drinks 80000 dong.

·           Lion's, 11-13 Lam Son Square , Dist.1 (next to Caravelle hostel). Brewery - Restaurant (somewhat German food), with tasty beers at an affordable price. The outside terrace is a nice place to chill out, and the inside restaurant is very welcoming with its two beer tanks and cosy bar. Cocktails are very good.

·           Lush, at the far west end of Ly Tu Trong. A nightclub in the Western style, with loud pulsing music and minimalist too-cool decor. Hugely expensive, but musically about as good as it gets in this part of the world if you like the particular style. Mixed crowd (Vietnamese, tourists and expats), pretty good food - but no dance floor. Lots of billiards/pool tables out back.

·           Metallic Bar, 41 Ba Huyen Thanh Quan, District 3. House band plays covers of Metallica, Guns N Roses and other popular rock bands nightly between 9PM and midnight.

·           Napoly, Pham Ngoc Thach near the "Turtle Pond". The ground floor is a popular, somewhat upscale cafe with inside and outside seating. The bar is upstairs in the back, with a decent house band singing a mixture of Vietnamese and English songs. The resident band must predate the reunification as they know all the old songs.

·           Oblivion, Bui Vien. Late night venue with lots of character, claims to be Saigon 's premier music bar and it's hard to argue - assuming, that is, you have a taste for non-chart buzzy British guitar and obscure dark US/European stuff. You have to ask for happy pop, though if you're spending enough it'll sometimes get an outing. Like most Saigon bars, it attracts its share of working girls. If you're not interested, simply say you're not and you'll be left alone.

·           Peaches Saigon South (Phu My Hung). Great place to enjoy a few drinks with friends. Friendly staff, great food!!

·           Polo, Ham Nghi Street (above the Liberty Hotel). Mixture of expats and locals, starts getting busy quite early. Reasonably priced food and drink, good music spanning from the Eighties to the present.

·           Q Bar Saigon The original, internationally acclaimed Q Bar established in 1992 under the Opera House. Mix of locals, tourists and expats in a grotto-like uber-chic setting that could as easily be in Soho as Saigon . Open till late every night. Great cocktails, though at very high prices, similar to the roof-top bar of the Caravelle Hotel across the street. It's the cool place to be seen if you have a lot of Uncle Hos in your pocket. Terrace and Indoor areas. DJ nights.

·           Saigon Pho, this little hole in the wall is only a stone's throw from Allez Boo, but much more expat orientated. Open late.

·           Saigon Saigon , Caravelle Hotel 9F , 12-13 Lam Son Square . A pleasant, breezy bar with a great view of the city. Live band playing inside every night. Cool, quiet ambience on the terrace. Attracts an expense-account crowd due to the prices (cocktails mostly >100,000 dong including the ++).

·           Serenata and Soi Da, 6E Ngô Thời Nhiệm. Two open-air cafe-bars with live music in Villa-style settings, which attract few if any tourists but typify what most Vietnamese consider a pleasant evening out. Soi Da features mostly classical chamber music, while Serenata has a mix of classical, Vietnamese lounge music, American FM classics, and the odd French song.

·           Shadow Bar, 41 Dong Du Street . Expat bar, good place to wind down or up. Recently moved premises from 56 Mac Thi Buoi Street .

·           Sheridan's, Le Thanh Ton near Thai Van Lung. Small, cozy Irish-themed bar with imported draft beer and live music.

·           The Tavern SB8-1 My Khanh 2 (H4-2) Nguyen Van Linh, Saigon South (Phu My Hung) tel: 4120866. Great place to enjoy a cold beer or a great "Western" meal - favourite dishes are fish'n'chips & bangers'n'mash. Reasonable prices and nice, friendly staff and management. Opens for breakfast, closes at midnight.

·           Underground - more a food than a drink spot, though open for both. Sometimes busy with the business crowd, always packed with people enjoying the reasonably priced burgers, steaks and the like.