Ho Chi Minh City

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Pick up the Guide or Time Out to find out what's on during your stay in Saigon. Monthly listings include art shows, live music and theatre performances happening around town. You can also stop by the Municipal Theatre to see what's on, as it often stages worthwhile plays and musical and dance performances.
Binh Quoi Tourist Village Tell: 8991831, dinner cruise bookings; (1147 Đ Xo Viet Nghe Tinh, Binh Thanh district; boat rides 20,000-840,000,dinner adult/child 75,000/45,000d; 11lam-2pm & 5-8pm Sun & holidays, buffet dinner 5-8prn Sat) This 'village' is essentially a resort run by Saigon Tourist, with boat rides, water-puppet shows, tennis courts and amusements for the kids. The weekend buffet dinner, with a dazzling variety of traditional Vietnamese regional specialities, is served along a canal lit with floating lantern; and accompanied by live traditional music. Call for the latest schedule of performances. The park puts in a plug for Vietnam's ethnic minorities by staging their traditional weddings accompanied by folk music. If you don't mind getting carted around on a tour package, the dinner cruises can be fun and are followed by a traditional music or water-puppet performance at the village.
Binh Quoi Tourist Village is 8km north of central HCMC. You can get here by motor-bike or taxi (around 60,000d). Maxim's Dinner Theatre (Tell: 829 6676;15 Đ Dong Khoi; 11am-11pm) A Saigon institution next to the Majestic Hotel, this supper club is better recommended for its music performances than for the food. The menu offers Vietnamese, Chinese and Western dishes; though the sea slug may disappoint, the creme caramel definitely won't. The live music goes from Vietnamese folk to show tunes to contemporary pop, and reservations are recommended for dinner.
There are plenty of cinemas (rap) in the city centre, but very few films are shown in languages other than Vietnamese
Foreign-language cinemas:
Diamond Plaza Cinema (Tell: 825 7751, Diamond Plaza, 163 Đ Dong Khoi; tickets 30,000-40.000d) English-language films. Institute of Cultural Exchange with France (Idecaf) (Tell: 829 5451; 31 Đ Thai Van Lung) Screens French-language films; videos also available to rent.
Night clubs: Most of the following dance clubs don't get started until midnight; ask around Pham Ngu Lao bars about the newest hot spots.
Apocalypse Now (Tell: 824 1463; 2C Đ Thi Sach) Dance clubs in Vietnam have a tendency to change with the wind, but 'Apo' is one exception to the rule. It's been around forever and gives a good eyeful of the seamier side of international relations. The music is loud, the patrons are from all walks of life and it's apocalyptically rowdy.
Go2 (Tell: 836 9575; 187 Đ De Tham) Above an open, airy street-level bar, this popular nightclub gathers a good mix of expats and young Saigon party people. DJs spin a good collection of electronic and Anglo pop, and there are open-air spots where you can retreat when you need a break from dancing.
Tropical Rainforest Disco (Mua Rung: Tell: 7783; 5-15 Đ Ho Huan Nghiep; cover U5$4) This popular nightspot in the city centre attracts a younger crowd. The cover charge entitles you to one free drink.
Underground (Tell: 829 9079; 69Đ Dong Khoi;10am-midnight) Named after the London tube, Underground is located in the basement of the Lucky Plaza building and is a popular gathering spot for expats and travelers alike. There's a good happy hour (15,000d draught beer) and decent pizza.
Municipal Theatre (Nha Hat Thanh Pho; Tell: 829 9976; Đ Dong Khoi) Each week the theatre has a different program me, such as Eastern European-style gymnastics, classical music or traditional Vietnamese theatre. Performances typically begin at 8pm; inquire at the theatre or ask at your hotel. And if there's nothing happening when you're in town, you can at least pop into the stylish Q Bar, around the side of the building, for a drink.
Conservatory of Music (Nhac Vien Thanh Pho Ho Chi Minh;Tell: 824 3774:112 Đ Nguyen Du; ) performances 7.30pm Mon-Fri Mar-May & Oct-Dec) Performances of both traditional Vietnamese and Western classical music are held at the conservatory, near Reunification Palace. Students aged seven to 16 attend the conservatory which performs all the functions of a public school in addition to providing instruction in music. The music teachers here were trained abroad. The school is free, hut most of the students come from well-off families who can afford to purchase the prerequisite musical instruments.
Water Puppets
Although it originates in the north, tile art has migrated to HCMC in the last decade - in part because of its popularity with tourists. There are two venues to see water puppets in HCMC: on the grounds of the War Remnants Museum (Bao Tang Chung Tich Chien Tranh; Tell: 829 8496; 28 Đ Vo Van Tan; admission 30,000d; 7.30-l1.30am& 1.30-Spm) and at the History Museum (Bao Tang Lich Su; Tell: 829 8146; Đ Nguyen Binh Khiem: admission 30,000d; 8-11am& 1.304pm Tue-Sun); .schedules vary, hut .shows tend to start when a group of five or more customers has assembled. Expect a 20 - minute show, performed by truly skilled and imaginative puppeteers.
Saigon Race Track
Saigon Race Track (Cau lac Bo The thao Phu To: Tell: 855 1205; 2 Đ Le Dai Hanh, District11;admission2000d; When South Vietnam was liberated in 1975, one of the Hanoi government's policies was to ban debauched, capitalistic pastimes such as gambling. Horse-racing tracks - mostly found in the Saigon area - were shut down. However, the government's need for hard cash has caused a rethink. Like the state lottery, the track has proved extremely lucrative. Dating from around 1900, the track re opened in 1989. But grumbling about just where the money is going has been coupled with widespread allegations about the drug-ping of horses. The minimum legal age for jockeys is 14 years; many look like they're pushing 10. The overwhelming majority of gamblers are Vietnamese though there is no rule prohibiting foreigners from joining in the fun of risking their dong. The minimum legal bet is 2000d and, for the high rollers hoping to become a dong billionaire, the sky's the limit. Plans to introduce off-track betting have so far not materialised. However, illegal book-making (bets can be placed in gold!) does offer one form of competition to the government-owned monopoly.
Though there are few openly gay venues, Saigon's popular bars and clubs are generally gay-friendly. A good mixed bar to check out in Pham Ngu Lao area is Eden . which attract;, a mostly straight crowd, but is gay-friendly nonetheless. In Dong Khoi area. Lush attracts a good, mixed crowd with danceable must: but it doesn't have a dance floor. Apocalypse Now (above) attracts a small gay contingent among an otherwise straight crowd, with solid grooves and a spacious dance floor. Samsara (Tell: 862 2630; 2nd fl, 131 Đ Dong Khoi), above the Brodard Cafe is a mostly gay affair, with waiters in shirtless vests, good DJs and an action-packed dance floor. Friday and Saturday nights are the time to go. Another popular local spot that gathers mostly gays and a few lesbians is Ben Thanh (Orient Club; 6 Đ Mac Dinh Chi; cover 45,000d) on Monday nights, with a lively, dance-prone vibe. A word of warning regarding masseurs: masseurs travel on bicycle through the streets of Pham Ngu Lao area, rattling a small bell to announce their services. They often offer US$2 massages along with other services, but some of them try to extort money afterwards. As things can sometimes get nasty, it's best to avoid them altogether.