The flavours on offer when dining out in Ho Chi Minh City will linger on the palate long after the last morsel has been eaten. Vietnamese cuisine makes use of the freshest ingredients, dishes are anchored around herbs such as lemongrass, mint, Vietnamese mint, long coriander and Thai basil leaves. Known as the culinary capital of Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City offers a mix of delectable street food, casual dining and modern Vietnamese restaurants.
Visitors will also be able to enjoy a wide array of restaurants specialising in cuisines from all over the globe, peppered along the streets of Ho Chi Minh City. With everything from French and Italian to good old American burgers and fries, travellers will find something to suit their taste.
Some of the best areas for dining out in the city are around the Ben Thanh Market, where some of the best local fare can be sampled, including dishes like mien ga (vermicelli, chicken, and mushrooms in a broth-like soup) and the Vietnamese staple, pho (noodle soup). Travellers can dine on a riverboat while they float along the Saigon or grab their meal on the go from one of the city's popular street vendors - the choices are endless!
Travellers in Ho Chi Minh City will at first be overwhelmed with the amount of stalls and roadside vendors that cram the sidewalks and street corners, but there are plenty of bargains to be found among the usual tourist wares and counterfeit handbags. Best buys include silk clothing and other hand-woven fabrics, bamboo goods, ceramics, boxes and vases made from lacquer ware, while traditional Vietnamese hats can be found just about anywhere. Tailor-made clothing is also popular.
Most of Ho Chi Minh City's shopping can be done from the local markets and street vendors, where polite haggling is expected, especially at the Anh Dong Market in District 5 or the Ben Thanh indoor market in downtown Saigon. Shoppers looking for something a little more upmarket should head to Dong Khoi Street in District 1, where designer stores, boutiques, antique stores and jewellery stores abound, though bargain hunters will be pleased to know there is a duty-free store on Nguyen Hue Boulevard in District 1, which specialises in duty-free items such as perfumes and colognes. Most shops in Ho Chi Minh City are open daily from 8am to 8pm.
Its nightlife gained notoriety during the Vietnam War for its girly-bars but a lot has changed recently thanks to Vietnam's tourist boom. Ho Chi Minh City's nightlife has grown and diversified considerably, and while not rivalling the range of entertainment of other Southeast Asian destinations, it's still guaranteed to do the job. With everything from rooftop bars and lounges to pubs and nightclubs playing all the latest dance hits, travellers looking to let loose on a night out on the town will have plenty of options in this bustling, neon city.
Visitors can start their night off at a rooftop bar or beer garden, from where they can watch the sun set over the busy streets before heading out to District 1. Here the bars and fashionable clubs can be found, particularly on the streets around Dong Khoi and Hai Ba Trung. Travellers can expect to encounter many popular spots for expats and other westerners, where party goers can make use of the bar, dance floor and pool tables.
When visitors start feeling more confident, they can try their hand at hitting those high notes at one of the many karaoke bars, for a night of fun and singing. Then they can head over to District 3, where they can attend one of the nightly live gigs, including local rock bands. But if travellers are after something special and really different, they should hop on one of the many dinner cruises that operate from District 1 and cruise down the Saigon River in style. This is the perfect way to relax and spend a lazy evening. Travellers should also note that many of Ho Chi Minh City's bars and nightclubs close early by big city standards, around midnight or when the last customer leaves so anyone looking to keep going until the early hours of the morning will be sorely disappointed.