In this seething city of over seven million souls there is plenty to do after dark. But because of a midnight curfew over most of the city, you shouldn’t leave it too late before heading out. A typical night out in Saigon might begin with some shopping, followed by a fancy dinner, and then drinks and dancing if you’re in the mood.
For traditional types of entertainment, such as Vietnamese dance or drama, find out what’s on at the Municipal Theatre (Open: performances: 20:00; Admission: 60,000-250,000D; 7 Lam Son Square, Dong Khoi (corner of Le Loi), District 1, tel: +84 8 3829 9976, tickets: +84 8 3823 7419) or at the Conservatory of Music (Open: 09:00-16:00 (daily); 112 Nguyen Du Street, tel: +84 8 3824 3774, +84 8 822 5841). Or you could buy tickets for a show at Binh Quoi Tourist Village which lies eight kilometres outside the city. Most hotels can arrange tickets, costing around 150,000D, which includes a boat trip to the site, as well as dinner either on the boat or at the village and a show of traditional music and dance.
As Vietnam’s commercial capital, Saigon has plenty of opportunities for shopping, and many markets and malls stay open till late at night for the benefit of visitors. A good way to combine shopping and eating is to wander round Ben Thanh market buying souvenirs, then settle down at one of the many seafood restaurants that open around the market in the evening.
For a bit more upmarket experience, cruise one of the city’s shopping malls, then stop off with your purchases to sample the fare at a buffet dinner in one of the big hotels. These encompass a wide variety of cuisines and are a great bet for families with fussy kids as there’s bound to be something they like. For more on shopping.
If you fancy an evening of passive entertainment, consider a visit to the cinema. A couple of convenient locations are Diamond Plaza Cinema (Open: Diamond Plaza: 10:00-21:30 (Monday-Friday), 10:00-10:00 (Saturday, Sunday and holiday); 34 Ð Le Duan Diamond Plaza, tel: +84 8 825 7751) and Galaxy Cinema (price from: adult/VND55,000, children/VND45,000; 230 Ð Nguyen Trai, tel: +84 8 3920 6688, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, website: www.galaxycine.vn), located at 230 Nguyen Trai, near De Tham. Give a call to find out what’s showing.
For most people, however, enjoying Saigon’s nightlife involves heading for a crowded bar which either has a live band or disco, and the chance of dancing. For many years the city’s most infamous venue has been Apocalypse Now (Open: 19:00 to late (daily); 2B-2C Thi Sach, tel: +84 8 825 6124), which attracts a mix of locals and foreigners to its dance floor.
It’s busy up till midnight, but single males need to beware of predatory females who have a knack of ensnaring their prey – thus the bar’s infamy. Other venues where you can shake your stuff are Seventeen Saloon (Open: 19:00-02:00 (daily); 103A Pham Ngu Lao, tel: +84 8 3914 0007, fax: +84 8 3914 7791, website: www.17saloon.vn), where Filipino and local musicians play energetic covers of classic rock songs.
The most popular discos in town are the America, on the third floor of the Windsor Plaza Hotel and Cage, situated at 3a Ton Duc Thang, down an alley near the river. If you are set on escaping the midnight curfew, you’ll need to head for De Tham, where Go 2 Bar (Open: 09:00 until 04:00-05:00 (daily); 187 De Tham, tel: +84 8 3836 9575) and Eden Bar (236 De Tham, tel: +84 8 836 8154, email: email@example.com) both stay open till the small hours.