Although many may still envision Saigon, Vietnam -- now Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) -- as a war-torn metropolis, in recent decades it has turned itself into a to a vibrant metropolitan city.
While visitors can see remnants of the Saigon's past amongst the churches, temples and old government buildings, they can also enjoy HCMC’s modern luxuries. We find the best places to do everything from eat to sleep in this Vietnamese city now filled with skyscrapers, designer malls and high-end cuisine.
Where to visit
There’s no better place to get a panoramic view of Ho Chi Minh City than at the first skybar in Vietnam: CHILL Skybar. Perfect for post-dinner drinks, visitors will be blown away by the views of the city skyline, with the only thing in between being a glass fence.
This newly opened skybar (October 2011) is designed by DWP Thailand, the firm behind world-renowned Sirocco in Bangkok, which explains its lofty concept.
Visiting HCMC is not complete without a trip to at least one historic landmark, so make it the former Hotel de Ville (at the intersection of Nguyen Hue and Le Thanh Ton), which has been turned into HCMC city hall. Although visitation to this French colonial building is limited as it’s now the office of the city's People Committee, stop by at night when the building is illuminated to take in its traffic-stopping colonial architecture.
Where to eat
Ngoc Suong Marina is a favourite amongst locals and tourists alike who come for the fresh seafood served here. The majority of their cuisines are Vietnamese, majority of the dishes are Vietnamese specialties. Generally more suited for family gatherings rather than a romantic dinner for two, Ngoc Suong Marina serves both indoors and out.
Some recommendations include mushroom seafood hotpot, crabs and basically anything seafood. Beer and some wines are available as well.
Where to stay
Park Hyatt Saigon is about all things luxurious. It’s centrally located near many tourist attractions in HCMC, including the aforementioned Hotel de Ville as well as the Opera House and the Notre Dame Cathedral of Saigon.
Designed to feel more like a contemporary Vietnamese residence rather than a hotel, the 252-room Park Hyatt Saigon's attention to detail extends to a range of commissioned artworks displayed throughout the hotel.
All rooms are fitted with multi-channel satellite LCD TV, a work desk with broadband Internet access, marble-tiled bathrooms with separate bath and rain shower, luxurious bathrobes, slippers and bathroom amenities, in-room safety-deposit box. There are also three rooms to accommodate physically challenged guests.
Where to shop
We're sure you've had your fair share of shopping in designer malls, so for something a bit different head to L'usine, a fashion boutique, café and art gallery all combined in one. Inspired by the Indochina era, L’usine’s founders have designed a space that showcases global fashion, with a touch of modern Vietnamese creativity.
Housed in a French colonial building, this space has been through two wars, reincarnated as a ballroom, a boutique hotel, an apartment building and government offices. Now, it’s transformed into 1930s French-style garment factory.
The central retail space connected to an exclusive gallery with exhibitions and live performances that change monthly. Both areas are fronted by an airy cafe and terrace where you can enjoy freshly sandwiches and home-style cakes.
With exclusive labels imported from all over the world, L’usine’s racks and walkways are draped in contemporary styles that fit the city's temperate climate. L’usine also offers lifestyle accessories such as shoes, homeware, knickknacks and a range vintage bicycles.