Looking for things to do in Ho Chi Minh City this week? Look no further – Ho Chi Minx has it covered…
Friday – Saigon Pop-Up Dinner
Calling all foodies for the second round of Saigon Pop-Up! Hosted monthly at a secret location by Estelle&Fred, the creative french menu is served with tailored wines. For 1,050,000VND guests can taste an amuse-bouche, 2 starters, a main course and a desert, with a glass of wine paired with each course. There are only 12 places, so sign up fast to get a seat at this special foodie experience.
Saturday – Christmas Carols at St. Paul’s Convent Chapel
Get in the festive spirit with a carol concert by The International Choir & Orchestra at St. Pauls Convent Chapel in District 1. Tickets cost 100,000VND for adults and 50,000VDN for students and kids, and proceeds go to a charity supporting children in need. Merry Christmas everybody!
It’s free entry for an all-day chill out session at Indika on Sundays, featuring special guest DJs, food offers, board games, happy hour, and an open turn-table for you to play your own chill vinyl records. Head to Indika’s District 1 jungly garden escape for the ultimate chilled out Sunday.
Splash out on tickets to Teh Dar at the beautiful and historic Saigon Opera House this week. Teh Dar explores Vietnamese tribal culture through cirque, dance, and features music using tribal instruments. On Monday the performance starts at 6pm and tickets cost 630,000VND.
Unwind before or after work with a free trial class at Sivananda Yoga in District 1. Offering a range of classes for beginners, you can drop in without registering and join a class as a free trial, if you are not a member. The perfect mid-week wind down.
Thursday – Unplugged Acoustic at La Fenetre Soleil
Warm up for the weekend with live music in La Fenetre Soleil’s cool and cosy ramshackle space. From 9pm on Thursday there is a weekly acoustic jam, featuring set performers as well as an open acoustic jam after the main sets.
Situated in a beautiful white colonial villa in the leafy backstreets of Thao Dien, La Villa is quietly making waves among the fine-dining restaurants in Ho Chi Minh. The restaurant is known for its exquisite french food, produced by Chef Thierry, in the most special of settings – a welcome change from the shiny 5* hotels offering fine-dining experiences. La Villa manages not to be pretentious, yet is firmly traditional in terms of French food being done properly.
The villa has a lush garden with twinkling tables situated around a small pool, which is a very romantic setting for dinner. Our group of 5 were seated inside due to the rain, in a gorgeous large room with an old wooden spiral staircase, white columns, plush red drapes and oil paintings adorning the walls – it felt like stepping back in time.
We were greeted and looked after Tina, Chef Thierry’s wife, who was beyond charming. She thoughtfully talked us through the menu while we ordered up a couple of bottles of wine from the extensive wine list that the restaurant offers. There are a few set menu options, so two of our group went for the Menu de La Villa, two opted for the Menu de La Villa Gourmet and one brave soul ordered a la carte.
At 1,090,000VND, the Menu de La Villa is a great choice for anybody wanting to sample a range of dishes without breaking the bank. The menu includes an amuse bouche, a starter, main course, cheese trolley and dessert. The portions are not large but the food is so delicious that it is worth every penny. We were also served an additional amuse bouche before we had chosen our menus and a selection of warm freshly-baked breads.
Standout dishes for us included the Melt in the mouth Crab Ravioles with Foie Gras Sauce, the Pan Seared Sea Scallop, the Beef Tenderloin, the French Duck Breast Pan Fried and, from the a la carte menu, the French Pigeon and Languedoc Red Wine Juice (a la carte dishes come in slightly larger portions). But to be honest, there wasn’t a single dish which we ate which wasn’t utterly glorious.
I must give the the cheese trolley special mention because it was one of the best I’ve ever seen. With a beautifully presented and wide selection of both well-known and more obscure French cheeses and chutneys, you are pretty much welcome to go to town on the trolley and try however much cheese you like. If you are a cheese fanatic, it doesn’t get better than this.
After dinner, Chef Thierry did the rounds and we were able to meet him and compliment the food. La Villa strikes this balance well; Michelin quality fine-dining, but with very friendly, personal and attentive service that keeps the restaurant removed from any pretentiousness. Admittedly the style and pricing means that for most people, La Villa will be a treat, but my word what a treat it is. I will be rushing back for the first special occasion I can think of.
If you are looking to experience fine-dining on a budget in Ho Chi Minh City, then La Villa also offers a set lunch menu including 3 courses and an amuse bouche for a 810,000VND – a gourmet bargain.
This weekend, the Saigon Soul Pool Party smashes back on to the Ho Chi Minh social scene, marking the end of the rainy season and start of the party season. Taking place from 10am – 10pm at the New World Saigon Hotel in District 1, entry costs 150,000VND and there are a range of drinks and food stations to keep you going while you soak up the sun and the house music.
Head to Boomarang Restaurant in District 7 for a relaxing Sunday stroll around Saigon’s original vintage flea market. Selling clothes, accessories, home ware, food and wine, there are plenty of creative bargains to be found.
Cut some Latino shapes on Monday night at Cuba la Casa del Mojito in District 1. The venue offers a free salsa class every Monday evening from 9pm, followed by freestyle dancing until late. Grab your girlfriends and head down for a Sangria or ten to keep the weekend going.
Start the weekend early with Ladies Night at Lush in District 1. Every Tuesday Saigon’s bright young things gather to hit the dance floor. Ladies drink for free until midnight – deals don’t get much better than that.
Every Wednesday Thao Dien’s coolest bar offers free food made by guest chefs when you buy a drink. Think graffiti, vibey music and creative types in an industrial open-air space, with a good selection of quirky cocktails and craft beers. Free food starts at 8pm – make sure you get there on time as its first come first served.
If you’re looking for an alternative Friday night, why not check out the Sounds of the World Piano Concert, featuring Maciej Grzybowski, a Polish pianist and chamber musician, and Nguyen Tuan Manh, a Vietnamese soloist of the Asian Symphony Orchestra and a ‘30 Under 30’ FORBES Vietnam 2016 recipient. Tickets cost 180,000VND and the performances run from 6.30 – 9pm.
As Ho Chi Minh City grows up, so does it’s selection of rooftop spots to suit all tastes. Saigon offers historic heights which became famous for the role they played during the war, and brand new shiny skyscrapers providing panoramic views and party vibes. Unlike other cities, rooftop drinking is affordable in Saigon, especially if you take advantage of the happy hours and offers that most of the bars listed offer. This is an introduction to five of the top spots in the center of town to enjoy sunsets and glittering night views of Ho Chi Minh.
Rooftop Garden at the Rex Hotel
A Saigon institution, the roof bar of the Rex Hotel is a spacious corner terrace overlooking the colonial City Hall. This is one of the more historical watering holes; the now-famous hotel bar was popular with military officials and international correspondents covering the Vietnam war during the 60’s. The 5th floor roof bar retains plenty of the right kind of old-school charm, but also has a little of the wrong kind; being rather kitch and dated, despite a renovation in the early noughties. The background music tends to be bizarre array of pop tracks, from the Vengaboys to Wham’s ‘Last Christmas’…(in May). Get there early to avoid the cheesy live band which play on a stage flanked by plastic elephants and a giant illuminated crown. Despite a few tacky touches, this old-fashioned joint is a must-visit for a taste of Saigon’s past in a fantastic rooftop setting.
Soaring above the HCM skyline, Level 23 is a much higher view over the city stretching into the distance. Perfect for sundowners, the bar is semi-enclosed, but with large open windows facing towards the sunset. Given the staggering view, the bar has surprisingly never been particularly busy when I’ve visited, but apparently gets more lively as the evening goes on. With a wide selection of drinks, this roof bar also has the best complimentary beer snacks – generous bowls of wasabi peas, nuts and rice crackers. Level 23 is an understated bar with no pretension and a really great view, so definitely worth a visit to escape the hustle and bustle of street level.
Across the road from the Rex, and equally historic, Saigon Saigon at the Carvelle is a fantastic spot for an early evening gin & tonic. Slightly more elevated than the Rex, this was the highest spot in the city during the 60’s and was also popular with journalists swapping stories and drinking heavily during the war. After 9pm, there is a very loud live band which for me ruins the ambiance of the bar, so I would recommend early evening for a pit stop here, and avoid 10pm when you risk having to watch 20 elderly tourists performing a synchronized dance to a Ricky Martin song. Despite that, it has remained a great spot for stunning views over the center of the city whilst sipping a cold one.
Caravelle Saigon, 19 – 23 Lam Son Square, District 1, HCM City, Vietnam
Phone: +848 3823 4999
It’s full on glamour at Chill Skybar, the poser’s choice of roof bar in Saigon. The clientele are young and stylish in this vibrant spot. Chill is also high up on the 26th floor, so the views are magnificent. The concept is more modern, with the bar marketing itself as a place for Saigon trend-setters to be seen. In stark contract to the Rex or Caravelle, Chill Skybar is unashamedly flashy, and a better rooftop spot if you are looking for a late night party. Good news for my fellow Ho Chi Minxes; Chill put on a great ladies night every Wednesday, offering a free bottle of sparkling Rose to a group of 4 or more ladies.
Level 26 AB Tower, 76A Le Lai Street, District 1, HCM City, Vietnam
Phone: +848 6253 8888
Shri Restaurant & Lounge
With more of an emphasis on food than many of its rooftop counterparts, Shri overlooks many of the key landmarks in the center of the city and its glass railings provide clear sweeping views over wider Saigon. Shri has also recently introduced a happy hour offer; 50% off drinks from 3-7pm. The bar has regular live music, lunchtime menu offers and other events. Shri is far from pretentious and, without anything kitch about it either, it provides a happy medium between the likes of the Rex and Chill Skybar.