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Ho Chi Minh City
Viet Nam

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HCMC: Think The Quiet American. Minus the opium and a more modern kind of drama. Ho Chi Minh City has moved beyond the vestiges of war into the realm of glamour, glitz, and all the energy of a fresh international city. No longer just for backpackers, Saigon has evolved from its gritty past into a luxurious mecca for travelers looking for the very best in dining, nightlife, and hand-crafted fashion. The place to go if you’re looking for a metropolitan vibe, but feel the need to be half-way around the world, Ho Chi Minh City is the vibrant financial heart of Vietnam. The pace may have quickened and there may be a few more high-rises, but the magic of Saigon that served as Graham Greene’s backdrop for his iconic novel is still the perfect setting for your own modern-day romance.


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Reunification Palace
135 Nam Ky Kho Nghia St.
Tel. +84 08.822.3652
www.dinhdoclap.gov.vn
Long the seat of governmental power in Vietnam—formerly inhabited by the former governor general from the French Colonists and later by Ngo Dinh Diem during the Vietnam War—the palace is now a memorial to 60s architecture and a showcase for Vietnam’s war memorabilia.  The tour takes about an hour.

War Remnants Museum
28 Vo Van Tan
Tel. +84 08.930.2112

A must-see when visiting HCMC, the museum that was once called the War Crimes Museum offers a unique perspective of the Vietnam War through the eyes of the Vietnamese people.  Not for the faint of heart, the displays include shocking photos and various war paraphernalia.

Cu Chi Tunnels
www.Cuchitunnel.org.vn
Located in the Cu Chi district of HCMC, the tunnels reflect the resolve of the Vietnamese people.  This is where the Vietnamese evaded French, and later, U.S. troops, building a system of tunnels so advanced that it included not only sleeping chambers, but also dining halls and medical stations.  Venture below ground and take a tour through modern history or try your hand at the shooting range (N.B. not for the claustrophobic).

Saigon Zoo & Botanical Gardens
2N Nguyen Binh Khiem Street
Tel. +84 8.3829.1425
www.saigonzoo.net
The gardens established by a French botanist in 1864 feature 2000trees including Chinese incensecedar, a bonsai forest and a large greenhouse filled with puple orchids.

Hoi An
11 Le Thanh Ton St.
Tel. +84 08.823.7694

Showcasing the finest in central Vietnamese cuisine, Hoi An favors large communal dishes often in original presentation.  The restaurant evokes a traditional Vietnamese home both outside and in.

Mandarin
11A Ngo Van Nam St
Tel. +84 08.822.9783
Upscale dining in a large colonial villa, Mandarin offers traditional Vietnamese dishes in an elegant setting.  Take a break from the hustle of District 1 on this quiet side street.

Square One
Park Hyatt Saigon
2 Lam Son Sq
Tel. +84 08.824.1234

This fab fusion restaurant located in the Park Hyatt combines Western and Vietnamese cuisines in a hip, huge space complete with five open kitchens and four private dining rooms.   Enjoy the local seafood and an extensive wine list inside or on their outdoor terrace.

Opera
Park Hyatt Saigon
2 Lam Son Sq
Tel. +84 08.824.1234

If you need a break from Vietnamese and French fare, head on over to Opera for some contemporary Italian dishes.  If it’s a nice day, dine outside with a view of Lam Son Square or sit inside to watch the chefs work their magic in the open show kitchen.

La Camargue
191 Hai Ba Trung
Tel. +84 08.520.4888

Although La Camargue may have changed locations, this Saigon institution remains a leader in innovative French cuisine.  Choose a bottle from the extensive wine list in the restaurant, lounge or bar but make sure to make a reservation to ensure a table at this popular spot.

Quan An Ngon
138 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia St
Tel. +84 08.829.9449

Enjoy a no frills meal at this conveniently located restaurant near the Reunification Palace.  A perfect spot to enjoy traditional Vietnamese food during your busy day of sightseeing—it’s no wonder this place is always packed.

Bun Ta
136 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia
Tel. +84 08.822.9913

A great locale for people-watching, Bun Ta is also located right across from the Reunification Palace.  Enjoy some bun (traditional noodle dishes) for a nice lunch on the outdoor patio.

Signature Restaurant
Sheraton Saigon
88 Dong Khoi
Tel. +84 08.827.2828

This fine dining experience offers contemporary pan-Asian cuisine, but the big draw here is the panoramic view of the city from the rooftop patio.

Skewers
9A Thai Van Lung
Tel. +84 08.822.4798

Skewers-restaurant.com
This cozy spot offers simple Mediterranean eats.  If you’re looking for something light, Skewers is the place to go—the menu focuses on unpretentious food with all the bold flavors of the region.

Temple Club
29 Ton That Thiep
Tel. +84 08.829.9244

Housed in an old Buddhist temple, it serves a wide variety of Vietnamese cuisine in a retro atmosphere.  The old, wooden bar and lounge sounds add to the laid-back vibe where everything you see is for sale, including the rich Buddhist tapestries and throw rugs.

Ben Thanh Market
Intersection of Le Loi, Ham Nghi, Tran Hung Dao

Hop by the market in District 1 to pick up some colorful silks, traditional lacquer and cool jewelry to bring back as gifts for friends and family.  One of the oldest surviving structures in HCMC, it may not carry the best quality goods, but you’ll be sure to find something in one of the 3,000 stalls.  Plus, it’s a great way to interact with the locals.

Dragon Smile
74 Hai Ba Trung
Tel. +84 08.822.1417
www.Dragon-line.com
Look no further for lacquerware.  Dragon Smile stocks a ton of lacquer furniture and decorative art in both traditional and modern designs.

Gaya
36 Ton That Thiep St.
Tel. +84 08.914.3769
www.Gayavietnam.com
If you visit one store in Saigon, make it Gaya.  As their slogan states, it really is a “solution for urban living,” with everything from interior décor to haute couture, from lacquerware to linens.

Tricia & Verona
39 Dong Du Street
Tel. +84 8 3824 4556
www.triciaandverona.com
Custom made dresses and mens suits in 24 hours. Dresses from $34.00 and mens suits from 160.00

Dang Thi Minh Hanh
24 Dong Khoi street, District 1,
Tel. +84 08.245.7744

Internationally known designer, Dang Thi Minh Hanh, brings Vietnamese style to Ho Chi Minh City, offering clients stunning contemporary fashions. Couture with the flavors of the East, the designs are award-winning both at home and abroad.

Catherine Denoual - Maison
15 C2 Thi Sach Street
Tel. +84 08.823.9394
www.Catherinedenoual.com
Although you can find a few pieces of her collection at Gaya, stop by her store for the total Denoual experience.  The Maison is filled with luxurious linens and home accessories designed by the glamorous former Parisian fashion editor.

Mai’s
132-134 Dong Khoi St.
Tel. +84 08.827.2733

Contemporary Vietnamese fashions are displayed alongside the more traditional designs of hand embroidered Viet silk.  From head to toe, Mai’s covers all your fashion needs.

Vietnam Travel Tips

Although we’ve listed a ton of great boutiques, don’t miss the gift stores in luxury hotels—they typically carry higher quality merchandise. Expect to pay a little bit more, but the five-star hotels will generally carry unique pieces, and sometimes they’ll stock high end designers. But keep in mind while you shop, that anything bought must be lugged around for the rest of the trip; try to buy stock items (things you can get all over Vietnam) at your last destination. It’s also a good idea to think ahead and pack an extra bag to carry home all your goodies—you’re going to need it! 

Vietnam, though known for its stunning laquerware and captivating black and white photography, is also a great place to get beautiful hand-made clothing. Be sure to bring your favorite item to give the tailor some idea of what you’re looking for to ensure a perfect fit.  

It is an extremely smart idea to keep the address and number of your hotel with you at all times; there might be a language barrier and a written confirmation of where you need to go can often bridge the gap.

Visa and Travel Documents
Citizens of some Asian countries are exempt from visas for short-term stays.  Japanese citizens may stay for 15 days without a visa, while Singaporeans, Thai and Malaysians are granted 30-day visa waivers.  Filipinos may stay 21 days without a visa.

You are able to receive your visa on arrival at HCMC (Saigon), Danang and Hanoi airports if you have your Visa Authorization Letter.  Make sure you also have US dollars for the visa fee, passport sized photo and your passport. We’d even recommend stashing the exact change, your passport sized photo, and the letter into an envelope to make everything move a bit faster.

If you do not arrive by air to those specific cities, you must obtain a visa prior to arrival in Vietnam.

Upon entering Vietnam you will be presented with a yellow form that covers customs and immigration.  Don’t lose it—you’ll need it to leave the country.


Immunization
Immunizations are recommended, but consult your physician or healthcare provider:
Diptheria and tetanus
Hepatitis A
Typhoid
Meningococcal Meningitis
Rabies
Japanese B Encephalitis


Also, although malaria is still rare, dengue fever is on the increase and commonly contracted by travelers.  Make sure to sleep beneath a mosquito net in open-style rooms and always apply repellent.  Bring all prescription medication.


At the Airport
Luggage allowances vary airline to airline.  Visit the sites below.
Bangkok Airways
Vietnam Airlines
Thai Airlines
Singapore Airlines
 
Money Matters
Vietnam’s currency, the Vietnam Dong (VND), exchanges at a rate of about 16,500 to the US Dollar. 

As the dollar is still valuable in Cambodia (!) we advise bringing a good number of singles ($200) to use as tips.  Higher-end restaurants often include service charges in the bill, and although tips are not expected in more casual restaurants and bars, they are appreciated.

Shops are not responsible for damages incurred during shipping, so we recommend purchasing shipping insurance if you chose to ship items home.


General
Vietnam’s country is +84, and operates on Greenwich meantime +7 hours. (When it’s noon in Vietnam, it’s midnight in New York.)

Temple Club
29 Ton That Thiep
Tel. +84 08.829.9244
Housed in an old Buddhist temple, it serves a wide variety of Vietnamese cuisine in a retro atmosphere.  The old, wooden bar and lounge sounds add to the laid-back vibe where everything you see is for sale, including the rich Buddhist tapestries and throw rugs.

Xu
71-75 Hai Ba Trung
Tel. +84 08.824.8468

Ho Chi Minh City’s best get dolled up to go to this luxurious bar for some pre-dinner drinks and an extensive cocktail list.  The blend of contemporary and traditional is not only reflected in the ambiance of this smart bar, but the cuisine as well.


Q Bar
7 Lam Son Square (under the Opera House)
Tel. +84 08.823.3479
www.qbarsaigon.com/
Q Bar is the place to see and be seen in Ho Chi Minh City.  Consistently packed with locals, tourists, and visiting celebs alike, it's a collection of cozy corners and breezy terraces. It's always packed and has enough cocktails and quality music to keep the party going all night.

Sax’n Art Club
28 Le Loi St.
Tel. +84 08.823.3954
www.saxnart.com

If you're looking for live music, Sax'n'Art is definitely the place to be with its 7 nights of live performances. If you're lucky, you might get to experience owner Tran Manh Tuan on his sax;
he's trained  literally all over the world, so prepare to be wowed by his skillful fusion of world music with the classic styles of jazz as you sink into one of the many comfy couches.

Qing
31 Dong Du  St.
Tel. +84 08.823.2414

Unwind at this charming wine bar in District 1.  Relax with a glass from a local vineyard or choose a bottle from its extensive international selection to accompany your Asian tapas.

Lush
2 Ly Tu Trong St.
Tel. +84 08.824.2496

With its eclectic beats and extensive drink menu, this two-story nightclub is perfect for late-night grooves. There's more to this spot than the dance floor, though, also be sure to check out its outdoor area, or park on one of their long, loungey booths that line the place—just be sure to get there early if you're looking for an evening chill rather than dancing thrills.