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Travel to Ho Chi Minh City


District 3, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

1 May 2018

Neighbourhood: Vietnam, District 3, Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh City (which locals still choose to call Saigon) is a play of contrasts, blending a bustling mix of the old and the new. Renovated colonial villas, countless coffee shops, generations of mom-and-pop storefronts, and recently opened bars and boutiques rest in the shadows of a shimmering skyline of newly minted high-rises.

Most of city’s 24 districts are seeing change, but it’s in the relatively tranquil District 3, however, that we see the finest mix of the contemporary and the old, of arts and culture. It’s also where you can find some calm from the chaos of the city. Adjacent to District 1, the more obvious business and retail concentration, District 3 is quieter and preferred by locals.

In addition to the beautifully dilapidated colonial structures and some of the oldest pagodas in the country, in District 3 you’ll find the War Remnants Museum, where the American War (as the Vietnamese call it) is chronicled in raw, gory detail; an essential stop for tourists wishing to understand the country’s recent, turbulent history.

Ho Chi Minh City’s food culture is on full display in this neighbourhood. Food is of national pride to the Vietnamese people and dining means consuming with all five senses. Every other storefront is a dining spot here, from street food to vegetarian restaurants, from BBQ joints to myriad upscale establishments.

To fully capture the sheer scale and impact of Ho Chi Minh City, you’ll need to go high above for jaw-dropping views of the skyline from one of the stylish perches in District 3. This is where you want to stay and concentrate your socialising. Take it all in and ponder what this city may look like in 10 years. It’s sure to be markedly different.

Tân Đinh Parish Church

Known as “the Pink Church”, the unexpected and imposing structure stands proudly in District 3 as a reminder of the city’s colonial past. Built by the French in the 1880s, it serves as a point of reference in the neighbourhood, not so much for its curious mixture of Roman, Baroque and Gothic architecture, but for its vivid colour, contrasting sharply with its surroundings.

289 Hai Bà Trưng

Bánh Xèo 46A

Located down a narrow passage opposite the iconic Pink Church, it offers a perfect alfresco street-food experience. Bánh xèo is a Vietnamese pancake with various meat and vegetable fillings that you assemble with your fingers, rolling “mini-tacos” and dipping in the tastiest sauce for a finger-licking good experience.

46A Đinh Công Tráng | +84 28 3824 1110

Salon Saigon

Housed in one of Ho Chi Minh’s historic cul-de-sacs in the 1960s home of former American ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge Jr, Salon Saigon is a well-appointed townhouse-cum-arts space. It was founded by collector John Tue Nguyen (a sort of Charles Saatchi of the region), who established the space in homage to contemporary Vietnamese art. Nguyen is passionate about the preservation and promotion of local and international-based Vietnamese artists and cultural events, and this charming two-storey villa doubles as a salon for conferences, talks and lectures.

6D Ngô Thời Nhiệm | Open Tuesdays 09:00 – 18:00 only | salonsaigon.com

Cong Tri

There are a plethora of bric-à-brac stores and tiny boutiques scattered across the neighbourhood selling locally sourced products. Cong Tri, just a stone’s throw away from the War Remnants Museum, on the other hand, is an emporium of high-end, original designs. This chic standalone boutique by Nguyen Cong Tri – recognised as one of Vietnam’s leading fashion designers – is a riot of colourful cocktail dresses and printed daywear for the growing professional set. It’s a compelling designer discovery for the discerning tourist looking for some local style accents while they’re in town.

194 Nguyễn Đình Chiểu | +84 90 378-3292 | nguyencongtri.com

War Remnants Museum

Established in the former US Information Service building, the museum was opened quickly after the fall of Saigon in 1975. Not for the faint-hearted, it features an impactful collection of American military equipment, propaganda posters and journalist photos covering this gruesome chapter of Vietnam’s history, from the conflict’s origins to its lingering aftermath. Avoid the afternoon crowds and make it the first thing on your day’s itinerary.

28 Võ Văn Tần | +84 28 3930 5587 | baotangchungtichchientranh.vn

Moc Cafe

Coffee shops are dotted around the city and trying a typical Vietnamese cà phê – slowly brewed coffee with condensed milk – is an absolute must. A firm favourite among District 3 residents, Café Moc teems with young Saigonese. This 24-hour eatery is also known for serving one of the city’s best pho (Vietnamese soup).

130A Nguyen Dinh Chieu | +84 8 6659 5522 | moc.cafe

Social Club Rooftop Bar

High above the rooftops of Saigon’s District 3, the Social Club Rooftop Bar at Hôtel des Arts Saigon is where high society comes to play. With 360-degree views that will blow your socks off, it is the epicentre of this thriving neighbourhood and the perfect place to end a busy day in good company. Take in the sunset during happy hour and then venture down to Saigon Kitchen, one of the city’s most popular restaurants,

Social Club Saigon at MGallery Sofitel | 76-78 Nguyễn Thị Minh Khai | +84 28 3989 8888 | hoteldesartssaigon.com

Words: S. Hottinger-Behmer
Images: Djinane Alsuwayeh