6 Insider Tips for Visiting Saigon
March 10, 2015
How do you find the best of ever-vibrant, ever-changing Ho Chi Minh City? Get an insider guide. T+L asked three plugged-in residents to open their little black books. By Jeninne Lee-St. John.
Published on Mar 10, 2015
Editorial director, AsiaLife magazine
Moved from Australia in 2010
FAVORITE NEIGHBORHOOD (1) The corner of District 3 bordered by Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, Dien Bien Phu and Hai Ba Trung is filled with old architecture and grand trees. IN-TOWN ESCAPE When Saigon gets to be too much and I need my whiskey and Miles Davis, I go to the First Bar (23 Huynh Thuc Khang St., District 1), which has jazz and a maestro mixing cocktails. WEEKEND GETAWAY Ho Tram is a beach about two hours away, depending on traffic. It will be the next hot spot, but for now it's mostly just a couple of resorts. My wife and I recently stayed in a magnificent oceanfront villa at Sanctuary (sanctuary.com.vn). QUINTESSENTIAL SAIGON BITE (2) Bánh xèo, crisp pancakes you fill with prawns and sprouts. I get mine from B.nh X.o 46A (46A Dinh Cong Trang), in District 3, which has been around forever. IF SAIGON WERE A FILM, IT WOULD BE… a David Lynch movie, because you see some weird stuff. Someone will offer you whiskey in a jar with a baby leopard in it. That really happened to me. You just have to drink it.
The corner of District 3 bordered by Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, Dien Bien Phu and Hai Ba Trung.
Linda Mai Phung
Art director, Linda Mai Phung fashion design house
Moved from Paris in 2009
ON FRIDAY EVENINGS I'M USUALLY… at (3) The Deck (thedecksaigon.com), a restaurant in District 2, for a riverside cocktail with girlfriends. IN-TOWN ESCAPE A head massage-slash-shampoo at a local hairdresser. I love L'Apothiquaire spa (lapothiquaire.com), in District 3. WEEKEND GETAWAY Definitely (4) Hoi An. I ride a bicycle, get lost in the rice fields, and wander the tiny old city with its ancient houses and plethora of good tailors and shoemakers—important for a designer. HOTEL RECOMMENDATION I send friends to the Alcove Library Hotel (alcovehotel.com.vn), a boutique property in Phu Nhuan that's hidden and charming, with attentive owners and an extensive collection of books. RECENT DISCOVERY At the District 1 boutique L'Usine (lusinespace.com), I found a great leather satchel by Valérie Cordier, a French expat who makes beautiful pieces from upcycled industrial food bags and textiles by Vietnamese ethnic groups.
The Deck, Saigon.
THE POP STAR
Singer, director, actress, talk-show host
Born and raised in Saigon
WHAT'S UNDERRATED Nuoc mia (sugarcane juice). You'll see the carts on the street, pressing fresh sugarcane through the machine by hand. It's not too sweet—just frothy and refreshing. LAST GREAT MEAL Duck noodles at Bun Vit Le Van Sy (Hem 281 Le Van Sy, District 3). The meat is soft and has such a nice flavor. They only sell them for two hours per day, from about 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. If you come at six, they'll have sold out. WHAT NOBODY TELLS YOU Saigon's history. South Vietnamese people don't like to talk about politics, but understanding the past is important; it explains why Saigonese are the way we are. Visit the (5) Museum of Ho Chi Minh City (hcmc-museum.edu.vn) to learn some of the backstory. HOTEL RECOMMENDATION The (6) Park Hyatt Saigon (saigon.park.hyatt.com) is one of the city's gathering places for drinks, dinner, brunch or even tea. And it's got a beautifully landscaped swimming pool right in the middle of town—very important in a place that's always hot.
Museum of Ho Chi Minh City.
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