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01/06/2019

Saigon secrets: fake it like a local

 

WHEN SHOULD I VISIT?

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Saigon sits on the 10th line of latitude north of the equator, which makes the weather reliably hot and humid, but those chasing clear skies should book between December and April when days are dependably dry.

The weather is hottest between March and May when thermometers spike into the high-30s and humidity is heavy, December is a whisper cooler than other months, and the wet season hits between May and October, but thunderstorms generally strike Saigon in the afternoon and pass quickly.

HOW CAN I GET INTO TOWN FROM THE AIRPORT?

Tan Son Nhat Airport is 6km from Saigon’s District 1, but traffic congestion means the journey takes anything from 30 minutes to an hour.nm

Hotels will schedule a car to meet guests at arrivals , taxisVinasun or Mai Linh charge

Tan Son Nhat is a busy airport, with more than 600 international flights coming and going every week, and crowds swarm around the arrivals terminal, so be prepared for bustle as soon as you exit.

WHERE CAN I HAVE CLOTHES MADE?

Hoi An, the tourist town 600km to the north, is known as the place to order handmade clothes, but the tailors in Saigon are as good and seem to take a more expert approach than simply providing a wearable souvenir.

Phi Phi at 183 Le Thanh Ton St is a new favourite, with the siblings behind this family business boasting a sense of style reflected in the pieces they expertly produce; Viet Thanh Silk at 129 Le Thanh Ton St is reliable; and Tricia & Verona at 39 Dong Du St has been around for two decades.
The best results come when tailors have something to copy, so take favourite items to be replicated.

 

SHOULD I VENTURE OUTSIDE THE CITY?

There’s as much to see around Saigon as in the city centre with the quiet canals of the Mekong Delta, Cu Chi’s wartime tunnels, Tay Ninh’s colourful Cao Dai temple, and Australian battlefields around seaside Vung Tau accessible during day trips.

Bonsai Tour – the tour company run by veteran guide – has been in business for 10 years and stages day trips, multi-night excursions, waterborne tours, and cycling adventures into regions surrounding the big smoke as well as further afield.

WHAT SHOULD I EAT?

Pho is Saigon’s signature dish, with Pho Hoa at 260 Pasteur St a favourite local haunt; Pho 2000 on Phan Chu Trinh Street beside Ben Thanh Market, the place where Bill Clinton dined; and Pho Binh in District 3, a secret Vietcong headquarters during the American War, where guerillas plotted attacks while customers ate.

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KOTO (it stands for “know one, teach one”) was the first organisation to train street kids for work in hospitality and, while the original restaurant is in Hanoi, there’s a branch in Saigon on 39 Le Duan St’s rooftop, with this venue the location for those not brave enough for street food to sample local favourites.

WHERE SHOULD I DRINK?

Find a great place to drink in Saigon by simply looking up, with the most scenic bars – Chill Sky Bar, the Sheraton’s Level 23, Cobalt at the Pullman – occupying hotel rooftops.

Start with an afternoon refreshment at the Caravelle’s Saigon Saigon Bar, hit the Hotel Majestic at sunset to watch activity on the Saigon River below, then move to the Rex Hotel to walk in the footsteps of wartime reporters who retired to the roof after the US military’s daily “Five O’clock Follies” media briefing below.

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WHERE CAN I HAVE CLOTHES MADE?

Hoi An, the tourist town 600km to the north, is known as the place to order handmade clothes, but the tailors in Saigon are as good and seem to take a more expert approach than simply providing a wearable souvenir.

Phi Phi at 183 Le Thanh Tom St is a new favourite, with the siblings behind this family business boasting a sense of style reflected in the pieces they expertly produce; Viet Thanh Silk at 129 Le Thanh Ton St is reliable; and Tricia & Verona at 39 Dong Du St has been around for two decades.
The best results come when tailors have something to copy, so take favourite items to be replicated.

 

Bonsai Tour ST
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