Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Saigon Sippin

Ho Chi Minh City, Saigon, HCMC;   whichever name you choose to call it, this city serves up Vietnam's best bars and nightclubs. With growing population of 7,162,864, the local residents, ex pats, and tourists alike create a high-demand for nightlife, which Saigon does deliver.  I visited all of the following locales myself and I certainly plan to return to HCMC to explore more of the great bars, pubs and nightclubs on offer.

If you're looking to save money by pre-drinking, pick up a cheap bottle of Rượu đế from the closest corner store. Rượu đế is a 40% abv fermented rice liquor that tastes something like rocket fuel (burns all the way down).  Tastes alright mixed with energy drink or juice but be prepared for a hefty hangover.
If you're in the mood for a classic Vietnames beer try out 333, or “Ba Ba Ba” as it is known in Vietnam (ba means three in Vietnamese). For more on '333' check the full article.

An alright place to start off the night is with the bars that light up Pham Ngu Lao backpackers area with their massive neon signs and they are likely to be the first you come across during your sty in HCMC. In the Vietnamese language, this area is called "khu Tay ba lo" (Backpacker's area)and it is known for its affordable guest houses and an abundance of tourist agencies which primarily cater to budget tourists. The epicenter of nightlife in this area is De Tham Street which has more than a few bars and nightclubs catering to westerners. As can be expected with any 'tourist area' in South East Asia the prices are inflated and many of the girls at the bars are 'working'. 

Allez Boo is certainly one of the busiest and most popular bars and restaurants in the De Tham area but also has a reputation for slow service and seediness. Open 24 hours.
271 De Tham / 195 Pham Ngu Lau, District 1

Crazy Buffalo
You could not miss this bar while walking down De Tham even if you were trying.  The gigantic neon Buffalo sign is considered an icon by some and an eyesore by others.   The first level is a trendier looking bar, with a disco room on the second level, a hip-hop room on the third level and a BBQ grill rooftop sure to keep the party going all night.
Cnr Bui Vien and De Tham, District 1

Opposite the Crazy Buffalo, with a nearly as gaudy neon display, this popular all-round place is lively throughout the day and gets rowdy at night. A decent, but overpriced, bar downstairs with DJ and dancefloor upstairs.  
187 De Tham, District 1

While De Tham Street is capable of generating a few unforgettable nights you cannot remember, the best bet for a less seedy and more authentic experience is to get away from the tourist area.

The infamous Apocalypse Now. One of the city’s longest running venues, Apocalypse’s two floors, outdoor garden area and DJs mixing a wide selection of tunes and genres, still manages to pull in the crowds.  While this is a staple of the city's night scene and worth a visit I did not enjoy my time spent there.  The whole vibe of the place is quite seedy and the large number of tourist party-goers attracts an equally large number of lady's selling their 'services'
2C Thi Sach, District 1

The largest nightclub in Vietnam is the America Discotheque located in the Windsor Plaza Hotel. A popular nightspot for the local and overseas Vietnamese (Viet Kieu) crowd. With resident and guest DJs playing thumping dance and techno tunes and a separate room for those who prefer hip hop and rnb. The Crazy light displays alone make this place worth a visit. A bit of a trek from the 
Pham Ngu Lao area, but well worth it.

Drinks are fairly expensive and you will be expected to buy at least one.
Windsor Plaza Hotel, 18 An Duong Vuong, District 5

Gossip Club is a large Singaporean managed 2 level nightclub in the Dai Nam Hotel complex in District 1. The club is very popular with the local, overseas Vietnamese (Viet Kieu) and expat crowd and is generally packed out on weekends.  Gossip club is the best club I visited during my all to brief visit to Ho Chi Minh City.  Great Music, Laser effects and a mostly local crowd made for a couple very memorable nights out.  I highly recommend this club and it is only a short walk from Pham Ngu Lao backpackers area.
79 Tran Hung Dao, District 1

For more info on HCMC's nightlife check out The World HCMC.
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