BARS & NIGHTCLUBS
●Cage – 3A Ton Duc Thang Street; 011-84-8-3910-7053; chic new club, named for bird cages suspended around crystal chandeliers; live music 5 nights week.
●Deck – 38 Nguyen U Di (Thao Dien, District 2); 011-84-8-3744-6632; thedecksaigon.com; legendary cocktail hours at this floating, stylish bungalow on Saigon River.
●Hoa Vien Brauhaus – 28 bis Mac Dinh Chi Street (District 1); 011-84-8 3-829-0585; hoavien.vn; typical Central European beer garden with long wooden table rows stained in dark, rich hues; half- and full-liter beer mugs hang from metal racks; 2 beautifully crafted, brass decoction tanks used for mashing traditionally brewed beer.
●Nguyen Du Brauhof – 98 Nguyen Du Street (District 1); 011-84-8 3-822-6891; small open-air restaurant; serves Adler Bräu beer alongside German dishes like schweinshaxe and traditional Vietnamese fare like eel.
●Lion Brewery & Restaurant – 11C Lam Son Square (District 1); 011-84-8 3-823-8514; resembles giant Munich bierhalle, complete with wall-size Oktoberfest reveler murals.
●Rex Hotel – 141 Nguyen Hue Boulevard; 011-84-8-3829-2185; rexhotelvietnam.com; during Viet Nam War, home to US military’s daily briefings; palm-lined, rooftop bar today provides kitschy setting for sunset drinking.
●Vasco’s – 74/7D Hai Ba Trung Street; 011-84-8-3824-2888; outdoor balcony for chatting; inside, it’s all about music; stiff cocktails.
●Caravelle Hotel – 19 Lam Square; 011-84-8-3823-4999; caravellehotel.com; overlooks opera house and Saigon River; 335 sleek rooms.
●Continental Hotel – 132-134 Dong Khoi Street; 011-84-8-3829-9201; continental-saigon.com; founded by Frenchman in 1880; high ceilings and lots of carved wood; where Graham Greene hung out.
●Elios Hotel – 233 Pham Ngu Lao Street; 011-84-8-3838-5584; elioshotel.vn; new, 90-room guesthouse overlooking leafy park in back-pack district; some rooms have views.
●Intercontinental Asiana Saigon – 39 Le Duan Boulevard (District 1); 011-84-8-3520-9999; ichotelsgroup.com; new, 19-story hotel.
●Park Hyatt Saigon – 2 Lam Son Square (District 1); 011-84-8-3824-1234; hyatt.com; 2 year-old former American military barracks with antique glass ceiling panels and Indochine furniture close to Reunification Palace.
●Sunflower Hotel – 84A Bui Thi Xuan Street; 011-84-8-3925-7458; sumflowerhotel.vn; affordable.
●Café Terrace – 65 Le Loi Street; 011-84-8-3821-4958;trendy afternoon coffee spot in city’s center; outdoor terrace seating or inside air-conditioning.
●Club Camargue – 16 Cao Ba Quat; 011-84-8-824-3148; terrace restaurant serving continental food and European wine; try squid-filled ravioli with saffron sauce.
●Com Nieu Sai Gon – 6C Tu Xuong Street (District 3); 011-84-8-3932-6388; legendary, local restaurant; speciality is rice cooked in clay pot, which waiters break open at table and throw rice patties to each other across restaurant; also try Japanese eggplant with garlic.
●Cue Gach Quan – 10 Dang Tat; 011-84-8-3848-0144; en.cucgachquan.com; renovated French colonial house; if you eat in former library, can look out over garden; traditional Vietnamese cuisine; excellent.
●Deck – 38 Nguyen U Di (Thao Dien, District 2); 011-84-8-3744-6632; thedecksaigon.com; floating, stylish bistro-bungalow on Saigon River.
●Lan Nuong Nam Bo – 285 Cach Mang Thang Tam Street (District 10); 011-84-8-3863-2309; Mekong-Delta-style barbecue.
●Lemongrass – 4 Nguyen Thiep Street; 011-84-8-3823-2036; atmosphere is candlelit and intimate, very Vietnamese; cane furniture and 3 separate tile floors of subdued dining; nice place to duck out of midday sun; set lunches are affordable and light option, long menu emphasizing seafood and seasonal specials; try deep-fried prawn in coconut batter and crab sautéed in salt and pepper sauce.
●Mandarin – 11a Ngo Van Nam; 011-84-8-822-9783; on side street between Le Than Thon and river; elegant, quiet oasis; upscale Chinese décor motif with timber beams, fine Chinese screen paintings, and artwork on 2 open-plan floors; casual clothes ok; ask about daily specials and set menus; try duck “Mandarin,” Nha Trang crabs, or steamed lobster in garlic.
●Minh Duc – 100 Ton That Tung Street (District 1); 011-84-8-3839-2240; tiemcomminhduc.com; kitchen across street from dining room so waiters have to scurry back and forth; try caramelized pork belly or braised catfish.
●Nam Phan – 64 Le Thanh Ton Street; 011-84-8-829-2757; chic colonial villa with dining rooms filled with orchids, old scrolls, and lovely ceramics; ravishing food.
●Pho Dau – 288/M1 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia; 011-84-8-846-5866; among city’s best and cleanest pho shops.
●Quan An Ngon – 138 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia; 011-84-8-3825-7179; open-air restaurant run by all of city’s best chefs; try bun cha (vermicelli with minced pork balls and herbs).
●Square One – 2 Lam Son Square (District 1, at Park Hyatt Saigon); 011-84-8-3824-1234; hyatt.com; excellent pho.
●Temple Club – 29-31 Ton That Thiep Street; 011-84-8-3829-9244; elegant restaurant in former Chinese temple; colonial feel with distinctly classic Vietnamese menu.
●L’Apothiquaire Artisan Beaute – 61-63 Le Thanh Ton Street; 011-84-8-3822-1218; lapothiquaire.com; day spa.
●Exotissimo Travel – 64 Dong Du, Dist 1 (Ho Chi Minh City); 011-84-8-3827-2911; exotissimo.com.
●Heritage Line Jahan – 10 68th Street (Tran Trong Cung, Tan Thuan Dong Ward, District 7); 011-84-8-3773-8555; heritage-line.com/en; for 3-day Mekong River cruise; 230' 26-cabin ship; British colonial décor (intricate hand-stenciling on walls, comfortable and well-equipped, air-conditioned cabins, private balconies with white, wrought-iron rails).
●Indochine House – 27 Dong Du; 011-84-8-822-7318; high quality antique and modern ceramics and reproduction furniture.
●Khaisilk – 107 Dong Khoi; 011-84-8-829-1146; khaisilkcorp.com; stunning cashmere and velvet scarves, as well as stylish jackets and shirts.
●Precious Qui – 29a Dong Khoi; 011-84-8-825-6817; beautiful silk boxes you place over teapots to keep warm, silver-handled salad servers, etc.
●Tricia & Verona – 39 Dong Du Street; 011-84-8-3824-4556; triciaandverona.com; boutique and tailor workshop run by 2 sisters with 24-hour turnaround.
SIGHTS & SITES
●Ben Thanh Market – rambling market in city center.
●Binh Tay Market – rambling market laid out like Arab souk.
●Cholon – ancient Chinese quarter.
●Dong Khoi Street – good shopping; handicrafts, silks, and tailors.
●Ho Chi Minh Municipal Theater – intersection Le Loi and Dong Khoi Streets (District 1); magnificent building built at 20th Century’s turn; classical opera house planned to entertain French colonists; renovated in the 1940s, only to be badly damaged by bombers in 1944; shelter for refugees after Geneva Accord split country at 17th Parallel in 1954; briefly housed parliament before falling under 1st private, and ultimately state, hands (after reunification) as opera house and theater; extensive renovations in recent years; 3-story interior houses some 1,800 seats.
●Quan Am Pagoda – 12 Lao Tu Street; built in 1818; courtyard has nooks dedicated to various gods and small pond with turtles.
●Saigon Zoo & Botanical Garden – 2B Nguyen Binh Khiem Street; 011-84-8-3829-1425; saigonzoo.net; also home to temple and historical museum; gardens founded in 1864.