If you want to experience the rush of standing in the middle of a racing river of scooters, taste the best Thai outside of Thailand, drink Champagne on a roof top terrace, and marvel at grand examples of French Colonial architecture, then Ho Chi Minh City is the place for you.
We started our afternoon in Ho Chi Minh City, still referred to as Saigon by locals, with a late lunch at the Rex Hotel Rooftop Garden.
Although it started its life as a two story car dealership, it is now famed for its style, luxury shopping, and of course its heyday as the bar of choice for journalists and American officers during the Vietnam War.
If you can find a spot on the balcony, you will have an excellent view of the Ho Chi Minh Statue (sadly covered whilst we were there) and beautiful Memorial Gardens.
View from the Rex Hotel.
Embracing the humidity, you can walk a few blocks and find the Saigon Notre Dame, conveniently located across the road from the Saigon Central Post Office. Pop inside the post office to view the ceiling, and sourvenir shops and then wander back past the cathedral to find the gardens that will lead you to the Reunification Palace.
This city is a marvel for wandering (if you can handle the aforementioned humidity). Amidst the movement are tranquil gardens in front of colonial homes, hidden restaurants, and for those inclined – fantastic shopping.
If it’s shopping you are after, you can’t miss Ben Thanh Market. This bustling market place has been serving the locals of Saigon (over a few locations) since the 1800’s. Local cuisine, souvenirs, clothing and accessories are all available – with a little friendly haggling of course!
Ben Thanh Market
If you head back towards Lam Son Square you will be hit with a magnitude of luxury brand boutiques one can expect in a city like Singapore or Sydney, but very unexpected in a main city of Vietnam. And yet, the French Colonial style of buildings, and hotels of Lam Son Square ensure you couldn’t picture the area without them. Lam Son Square is also home to the Caravelle, another famed hotel from the Saigon era. During the 1960’s, it was home to both the Australian and New Zealand embassies and like its rival the Rex Hotel, its rooftop bar, Saigon Saigon Bar, was another meeting place for journalists of the day.
Here, from the comfort of your chair and with a cold drink in hand, you can look out over the city and bask in the extraordinary sunset. Take your time to decide on where you’d like to head for dinner as you gaze over the city you just explored.
Municipal Theatre (Saigon Opera House)
Sun setting over Saigon
For an exceptional Thai meal, I highly recommend Tuk Tuk Thai Bistro. Fresh and full of flavour. So good, some of us went back the second night.
Blog by Rebecca Morrissey.