Saigon and Ho Chi Minh Activities Things to do guide Guide  
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Saigon and Ho Chi Minh Activities Things to do guide Guide


During the Vietnam War, Ho Chi Minh City (or Saigon as it was known then) was notorious for its nightlife but this changed dramatically after 1975 and venues were forced to close their doors. Now, however, the city is once again awash with clubs and bars, varying from tiny, gloomy establishments to some very upmarket venues. Most of the nightlife is concentrated in District 1, particularly on the streets around Dong Khoi and Hai Ba Trung, although a few good restaurants and bars are found in District 3 and Phu Nhuan District. Bars and clubs should close at midnight but many are open into the early hours of the morning or until the last client leaves. Imported drinks are considerably more expensive than local ones and alcohol sold in the more upmarket places is even more expensive again. There is never any entrance fee to the bars but nightclubs generally charge around US$5. The dress code is generally very relaxed with no restrictions on jeans or trainers. Information on what’s on can be found in The Guide, published monthly by the Vietnam Economic Times

Bars: Perhaps one of the most famous bars is Apocalypse Now, 2C Thi Sach. Be warned it only gets going around midnight. For a quiet drink with great views over the Saigon River, try the rooftop bar at the Majestic Hotel, 1 Dong Khoi. Continually popular place are the Blue Gecko Bar, 31 Ly Tu Trong, with a pool table and darts board and Underground in the basement of Lucky Plaza at 69 Dong Khoi, a place to hang out after work. The Q Bar, 7 Cong Truong, Lam Son Square, has made a welcome return after several years’ absence and it is still stylish, sophisticated and cool but larger than before.

Casinos: Gambling in Vietnam is illegal for Vietnamese people, however, it is allowed by foreign passport-holders. There is only one casino in the north of the country but now gaming centres with slot machines are making an appearance in Ho Chi Minh City; such as Chats Slot Gaming Centre, New World Hotel, Le Lai, Club 21, Omni Hotel, 251 Nguyen Van Troi, Phu Nhuan District, and OV Club, Equatorial Hotel, 242 Tran Binh Trong, District 5.

Clubs: Clubs were slow in appearing in the city but now there is a choice, although they all play a wide variety of music, including techno, pop and retro. The Catwalk disco and karaoke bar, in the New World Hotel on Le Lai, is well established. Popular with young Saigonese and ex-pats alike are the techno clubs, Hazzards on Hai Ba Trung and Speed on Tran Hung Dao, with its great sound system, and Mua Rung on Ho Huan Nghiep, which is decorated as an Amazonian rainforest. The largest and most hi-tech club in Vietnam, Spaceship on Ham Nghi continues to draw the crowds with its spectacular light shows.

Live music: The Wild Horse Saloon, 8A1/D1 Thai Van Lung, has regular live music nights from jazz to blues and country. Several of the international hotels stage nightly performances by local and international bands. These include Caravelle Hotel on Lam Son Square (in the stylish Saigon Saigon Bar with stunning views over the rooftops), the New World Hotel, Le Lai, the Equatorial Hotel, Tran Binh Trong, District 5, and Sofitel Plaza Saigon, Le Duan. It is even possible to find gypsy and flamenco music being performed at the Carmen Bar, 8 Ly Tu Trong.


Par icipation sports are a relatively new idea for Ho Chi Minh City residents and have mainly been introduced because of the large numbers of ex-pats. However, now that the population has a little more disposable income, the demand is increasing. Football is very popular and the Thong Nhat Stadium, 138 Dao Duy Tu, in District 10, has been upgraded and hosts local games as well as national and international matches. The only other spectator sport in the city is horseracing. Entry tickets for both football and horseracing are bought on the day at the venue.

Bowling: Bowling is available close to the airport at the Saigon Superbowl, A43 Truong Son (tel: (08) 885 0188), with 32 lanes, food outlets and a shopping arcade. A smaller venue is the Bowling Centre in the International Club at 285B Cach Mang Thang Tam, District 10 (tel: (08) 864 3784), which has 12 lanes. The newest bowling venue is at the Diamond Plaza, 34 Le Duan (tel: (08) 825 7778).

Fitness centres: Many of the fitness centres throughout the city are attached to hotels and are for hotel residents and members only, although the Mimosa Club in the Rex Hotel (tel: (08) 829 2185 or 829 3115) is open to non-members and non-residents. The International Club, 285B Cach Mang Thang Tam, District 10 (tel: (08) 865 1709), has an exercise gym open to the public.

Golf: There are only a handful of golf courses in the whole of Vietnam but two are within easy reach of Ho Chi Minh City, as well as a few driving ranges. Song Be Golf Resort (tel: (065) 755 802 or 756 660; is a 35-minute drive along Highway 13 from the city centre (closed Mondays). Visitors pay green fees of US$70 (weekdays) and US$90 (weekends) for 18 holes. Vietnam Golf and Country Club (tel: (08) 733 0124) is in Long Thanh My Village, Thu Duc District, about 30 minutes’ north of the city centre. Visitors pay green fees of US$82 (weekdays) and US$102 (weekends). Saigontourist (tel: (08) 829 8914; can offer discounted green fees (US$62 weekdays; US$82 weekends). There are also two driving ranges on the outskirts of the city. The Rach Chiec Driving Range (tel: (08) 896 0756) is in An Phu Village and the Saigon South Driving Range (tel: (08) 771 6377) is at Saigon South Parkway.

Horseracing: Races are held on Saturday and Sunday 1230-1600 at Phu Tho Sports Club, 2 Le Dai Hanh, District 11 (tel: (08) 962 8301 or 962 8205), with a maximum bet of VND50,000. The horses are all quite small but the jockeys even smaller as they are always children.

Running: The Hash House Harriers meet every Sunday at 1430 at the Caravelle Hotel and visitors are welcome. Details of meeting points can usually be found in ex-pat hangouts or local magazines, as well as on their website.

Swimming: Lam Son Swimming Pool, 320 Tran Binh Trong, District 5 (tel: (08) 835 8028), is for more serious swimmers. Fun-lovers will enjoy the water parks, with a variety of slides and water rides: Saigon Water Park is in Thu Duc (tel: (08) 897 0456), north of the city and the Saigon Wonderland is at Saigon South Parkway (tel: (08) 873 1370, ext 108).

Tennis: There are few tennis courts in the city and many of these are attached to the international hotels for the use of residents only. Courts open to the public are available at Lan Anh International Tennis Court, 291 Cach Mang Thang Tam (tel: (08) 862 7144), in District 10, and Green Bamboo Club, 50/3 Xo Viet Nghe Tinh, Binh Thanh District (tel: (08) 898 6504).


Visitors to Ho Chi Minh City are spoilt for choice for shops and most of them are within easy walking distance of each other. Many shops are found along Dong Khoi, which used to be the trendy Rue Catinat in French colonial times. Close by are Hai Ba Trung and Le Loi, which are also worth a look. Off-the-peg clothing is always a good buy but even better is to have clothes made up by one of the many tailors. There is always a good range of coloured silk to choose from. Hand-embroidered tablecloths and napkins are very popular. Items such as boxes and vases made from lacquerware are extremely good value. The hill tribes of the Central Highlands and the north of the country now sell colourful woven bags and clothing in the city. Good souvenirs are marble figurines and vases and silk paintings and greetings cards. Busy Ben Thanh Market on Le Loi is crammed with items of interest to the visitor, such as clothes and souvenirs, as well as more general household items, food and flowers. It is open from early morning until 1700.

Shops are generally open seven days a week from around 0800 until between 2000 and 2200. All shops tend to be on the small side and so far there are no major department stores represented in the city. VAT is structured on a four-tiered system (at 0%, 5%, 10% and 20%). It is included on most items sold and 10% is the standard; however, there is no system for foreign visitors to be able to claim this back at the moment.


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