WHERE TO STAY
If hotels were like envelopes, the Caravelle would be a good thick parchment one but the Park Hyatt would have tissue lining. Colonial retro elegance with pool and bar, you won’t lose any points if booking accommodation was your call – but your Amex may become a little flushed.
WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK
A good spot for a long late lunch or evening dinner. While favoured as a tour guides choice, this is well worth heading to. Fun decor, slick staff and a very good menu.
Hideous we hear you say? And you’re probably right but for those that have been there, all will become clear. Especially when you’ve over indulged in just one two many spring rolls. Make sure you book and push to sit downstairs.
After a busy day treading the pavements, make sure you pop up to quite possibly the most glorious high rise neon night bar there is. Sit on top of the world, with a DJ to accompany you. This slinky little number is where you go to be seen.
City Tour | Palaces, Post Offices and Poignancy
Head to the Reunification Palace. Someone at the UN building in New York must have had a chat, they have a similar take on 60’s concrete architecture and chintz but we were rather taken. Once the Presidential Palace for the South, its well worth a visit. Take a tour guide, they will lift the lid on its historical past. Pop to the Notre Dame Cathedral and then dodge across the road to the Post Office. Old Monsieur Eiffel designed the P.O himself. Finish off at the War Remnants Museum – best done on an empty stomach and not for Aunt Doris and her heart condition, this is one of the best anti-war warnings out there and firmly puts you in your place about the brutality of the Vietnamese War.
War-time tunnels dug under the jungle are a good couple of hours drive from the city but well worth a visit. It’s worth booking a driver and car and heading to the Ben Dinh Tunnels, as the others are reconstructions. The real deal lets you climb under ground (if that’s your thing). Watch out for the spikes, they weren’t designed for visitors but make for an extraordinary story of survival.
Pack your bag and get your body down to the Mekong for some Ship Shape river cruising. And not any old cruising either. Bassac Cruises will welcome you with a cocktail and deck dinner as you motor your way up river before you flip yourself into a teak framed double bed. See the hustle and bustle of a working river and floating markets, it makes the Thames look like a chalk stream. Ignore the bad website, they are totally glorious.
If you’re packing this into a full Vietnamese itinerary, you may think you have experienced the solid wall of traffic that fills these roads. But you haven’t seen ANYTHING until you’ve been to Saigon. Hold your breath, walk slowly and it will be like Moses parting the seas. Just hope to god there isn’t a Westerner on a moped.
Currency wise, Dong or Dollar will do but make sure you have some small Dong for the taxis. Dollar easier for larger purchases.
Arm yourselves with some good books. The Quiet American is well worth a read.
Exotissimo Guides are well worth the money. They will make you lose any ability to order a taxi or find the airport on your own but that means you can spend your time soaking up the atmosphere instead.