VIETNAM TRAVEL

 

Ho Chi Minh City

History - Orientation - Information - Dangers Annoyances - Sights - Activities Walking Tour - Courses - HCMC For Children - Tour - Festivals Events - Sleeping Eating - Drinking - Entertainment - Shopping - Getting There Away - Getting Around.

DRINKING

Wartime Saigon was known (or its riotous nightlife. Liberation in 1975 put a real damp ener on evening activities, hut the pubs and discos have staged a comeback. However, periodic ‘crack down. clean-up' campaigns • allegedly to control drugs, prostitution and excessive noise - continue to keep the city's nightlife on the quiet side.
Pubs & Bars
HCMC's widest and wildest',variety of nightlife choices is in the central are.i, notably around Đ Đong Khoi. Although places in this area typically close by midnight (owing to pressure from local authorities), you can always depend on the pubs in the Pham Ngu Lao area to slay open till the wee hours.
CENTRAL AREA
Vasco's (Tell: 824 3148; 16 Đ Cao Ba Quat; drinks 20,000-70,000d) Much loved by expats, peren nially hip Vasco’s draws a bigger crowd on weekends when there's live music. There are several nice pool tables indoors ami rut, am inviting tables in the villa courtyard.
Lush (Tell: 903 155 461; 1Đ ly Tu Trong drinks 40,000-80,000d) This is an anime-themed bar that gathers an attractive, mixed crowd The wraparound bar takes centre stage, from which you can enjoy great people-watching and a danceable mix of heats - but there's no dance floor. Pool tables and a 2nd-floor bar are hidden out back.
Carmen (Tell: 829 7699; 8 Đ ly Tu Hong; drink' 20,000-50,000d) One of HCMC's rarer breeds Carmen has a stone wall exterior and a cos) wine cellarlike interior (duck your head wher you enter) with live music nightly (from 7pm 9pm) - often flamenco, hence the name.
Yoko (Tell: 933 0577; 22A Đ Nguyen Thi Dieu drinks 40,000-80,000d) This stylish little spot tea lures live music (from Indie rock to American Country to eclectic world beats) most nights starting around 9pm. It has a tiny stage, comfy chairs and a changing assortment of artwork. plus the photo/shrine to John Lennon.
Manna (Tell: 823 3978; 26 Đ HH Nghiep; drinks 40,000-80,000d) This shimmery 2nd floor bar ha; a wall of windows, comfy lounge chairs (in purplish hues) and a well-dressed local andi expat mix who come for the good-tune heat-. and stylish setting.
Q Bar (Tell: 823 3479; 7 Lam Son Sq; drinks 20,000-70,000d) Attracting a sophisticated clientcle for cocktails, Q Bar is where HCMC's fashion-conscious, alternative crowd hangs out. The stylish decor is cool and minimalist. and the music is hip. It's on the side of the Municipal Theatre, across from the Caravellc Hotel.
Qing (Tell: 823 2414; 31Đ Dong Du) This slim, nicely designed bar has a classic red finish and atmospheric lighting. Qing gathers an assortment of travellers, expats and locals. There's a good wine and food selection (fusion, Asian tapas) and a decent salon upstairs.
HoaVien ( 28 Đ Mac Dinh Chi; half-litre beer 24,000d) Though Hoa Vien is notable for being HCMC's only Czech restaurant, the big drawcard is the draught Czech lager. This is actually a brewery, with shiny copper tanks looming behind the busy bar.
Blue Gecko Bar (Tell: 824 3483, 31 Đi Ly tu Trong) This major Aussie hang-out has the coldest beer in town. The music is good and you can shoot pool or watch sport on the half-dozen or so TVs.
Sheridan's Irish House (Tell: 8230973;17/13 Đ LeThanhTon;11am-late) This tradition,pub seems beamed straight from the back- streets of Dublin; it has live music nightly and good pub grub.
Saigon Saigon Bar (Tell: 823 3479, 10th fl, Caravelle Hotel, 19 Lam Son Sq; drink'; 25.000-70,0011am-late) For excellent views in the city centre, stop by Saigon Saigon for a drink-around dusk. This fancy bar has live music, cool breezes and a casually upscale feel.
No 5 Ly Tu Trong (Tell:825 6300; 5 Đ ly Tu Trong; drinks 15.000-70.000d) The decor of this re stored French-colonial villa is stylish and sleek. Good music, food, beer, pool and friendly stall all contribute to the pleasant atmosphere.
Heart of Darkness (Tell: 823 1080: 17B Đ Ie Thanh Ton; drinks 2S,000-60,000d) This dark,cav- ernlike bar is a mostly expat affair. There's a DJ presiding over a small dance floor in the' back room.
Wild Horse Saloon (Tell: 8251901;8A/D1 Đ Thai Van lung) Living up to its name, this saloon has cowboy chic and a decent beer selection.
PHAM NGU LAO
When it comes to nightlife, the Pham Ngu Lao are has several hot spots, in addition to the always jumping travellers-cafe scene.
Le Pub ( 175/22 Đ Pham Ngu lao) New in 2006, this attractive bar is the new expat favourite in Pham Ngu Lao area. It has deep red walls and a small brick patio in front, a fine vantage point for watch ing the action in backpacker central.
Allez Boo Bar (Tell: 837 2505; 187 Đ 8 Pharn Nqu Lao;beerfrom 12,000d) Watch the world scooter by at this bamboo decked bar that always packs a (foreign) crowd, with a handful of prostitutes thrown in tor good measure.
Eden (Tell: 836 8154; 185/22 Đ Tham; maim 30,000-60,000d) This multilevel spot has red lanterns over the bar, a cosy, inviting vibe and staff dressed in shimmery red ao dai (Vietnamese national dress). Huge menu with all the Asian accents, with tastier fare than neighbouring joints can offer.
163 Cyclo Bar (Tell: 9201567; 163 Đ Pham Ngu lao) Bar snacks range from tempura to sand wiches to pho, and live music (every night except tor Sunday) covers the gamut lion'. flamenco to pop.
Santa Cafe (nr Đ Bui Vien & Đ Do Quang Dau) Divey little place with outdoor seating that’s a favourite of the backpacker crowd.

MOTORBIKE MELODY
One of the great embracers of motorbike culture, HCMC has some surreal vantage points to watch the endless procession of passing two-wheelers. Dong Khoi area is a particularly fine place to be on weekend and holiday nights, when the streets fill with cruisers of all ages and styles Everyone's dressed to impress, with two. three or four packed to a bike, and you can almost taste the electricity in the air (or are those fumes?) as the young and restless check each other out through the handlebars of their matching Honda Futures. The mass of slow-rolling humanity is so thick on Đ Dong Khoi that crossing the street is like moving (cautiously, mind you) through a swarm of honeybees. Despite the apparent chaos of 10 or more lanes of traffic spinning toward each other at each intersection, most of the time, the swarms part and the motorbikes glide smoothly around each other like some strange choreography of vehicular ballet. Even if you don't want to join the parade, you can still get some great seats to the nightly streetside spectacle. Here are some of our favourite places in town to catch the action (which is far better than TV - and most organised sporting events for thai matter).
Highlands Coffee Hands down. one of the best motorbike vantage points in the country.
Traffic circle (cnr Pham Ngoc Thach & Tran Can Van) Ringed with cafes and restaurants, there's never a dull moment at this attractively landscaped traffic circle (some even call it Turtle Circle').
Cyclo Bar ( 1 Đ Dong Khoi) On the ground floor of the Majestic Hotel, Cyclo Bar is one of the fancier places to watch/hear the engines roar.
Cafe Zoom Dedicated to the artfully designed Vespa. this unpretentious cafe has wondrous views of a city in motion.
Allez Boo Bar One of the busies; corners in backpackerville; grab a (premium) seat outside and enjoy.
Santa Cafe Not so many motorbikes, but still a great spot for people-watching.
DRINKS WITH A VIEW
Although you'll pay more for a cocktail at these rooftop bars than at street level, it’s well worth the extra dong - what belter way to enjoy the fenetic pace of life on the streets, than at eaqles' nest heights? Among our favourite spots at sunset
Caravelle Hotel (11am - late) A bit stylish but staid, Caravelle's Saigon Saigon Bar has great views and space for open-air intrigue. Live entertainment most nighis
Hotel Majestic ( 4pm-midnight) Among the best places in Saigon for a relaxing sundowner, the Ma)estic's top-floor Bellevue Bar offers exquisite views of the rivet among old-world opulence. If the heady heights make you feel too woozy or blase, head down to the ground-level Cyclo Bar, with ringside views of motorcycle mayhem.
Rex Hotel ( 4pm-10pm) The Rex wins, the kitsch award, featuring plaster animals, empty birdcages and various other.. .junk, but did we mention the view?
Sheraton Saigon (4pm-midnight) A fancy-shmancy wine bar on the 23rd floor with live music and a lop-notch restaurant attached,
Windsor Plaza Hotel (Tell: 833 6688; 18 Đ An Duong Vuong, Dislrict 5-11pm) For an alternative view, head to the 24th floor of this looming new hold in Cholon. Its 360-degree views give a nice perspective of the central business district.