Good day and welcome back to The Drinking Market
Previously, i was sharing some of the must-visit places in Ho Chi Minh City, this time, as promised, i’m back with more places to go, not just to visit, but for some mouth-watering food!!
To read my previous post, CLICK HERE
Bars & Clubs
Possibly one of the most talked about places in Ho Chi Minh City where most of the expats hangout, prices of drinks may be slightly on the high side, nevertheless, if you’re comfortable with a place that is very much like the New Asia Bar we have in Swissotel, Singapore, then you’re in for a treat!
Award winning Skybar that has countless recognition for its property, Chill Skybar is definitely one of the best found treasures with a view overlooking the beautiful skyline in HCMC. They do not only have an indoor area for the many who enjoys the comfort of the air-con, but there’s also an alfresco area that is along the circumference of the lounge which overlooks the city.
You may not be aware that Chill also invites international DJs to spin at their lounge as well, and one of them is Nicole Chen, our native Singaporean DJ and Blogger! So why wait! GO!!76A Le Lai, District 1 | Rooftop of AB Tower, Ho Chi Minh City 70000, Vietnam
Adding on to my list of favourite Bars to visit is none other than the Carmen bar, definitely one of the best bars in town! It’s in fact the best of all i’ve visited in HCMC. Housed in the central business area which many claims to be the tourist spot in District 1, Carmen Bar looks like a “cave” from the entrance. In fact, there’s a short “trekking” trip before you enter the main door which honestly, looks like an entrance of a cave!
Once you arrive at the bar, you’ll feel as if you’re sucked-out of the whole busy city in Ho Chi Minh and in a little cave that offers one of the best bands in town, be it English Classics, French, Italian or Latin music, it’ll be a crowd pleaser for any International tourist who hopes to hear something close to their hearts!
“We visited this night club last October and four times again in the last two weeks. The setting, music and musicians are superb. The band are so good and the soloists excellent. I have seen some comments where reviewers have said it is expensive I don’t agree if you consider that there is no entry fee, the quality of the music and musicians. Yes more expensive than your normal cocktail bar but this is a night club. Anyone we have taken here regrets not going sooner. If you like music and still be able to hold a conversation this is an excellent venue and well worth a visit. I checked our bills closely at the end of each evening they were 100% accurate, service excellent and we were made to feel very welcome both by the staff and the artists. Band starts at 9pm, first singer is on about 9.20pm. Singers generally don’t do more than 5-6 songs each per night and there are quite a number of singers. I strongly recommend this place to anyone visiting HCMC.” – Tripadvisor8 Ly Tu Trong, | District 1,, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
For some who wants the best of both worlds, try the GO2 bar at the backpackers’ area of HCMC, the ground floor has a pool table and plenty of tables and chairs along the sidewalks that allows you to sit, grab a drink and “people watch”.
While some may complain that the prices at GO2 bar is expensive, honestly, how much lesser would you be paying for another club?! HCMC itself is not cheap either! Unless you wanna grab a beer by the streets and breathe in the fumes from the traffic with no entertainment or music, then you can probably choose otherwise, if not, try it! I spent two days continuously hanging out at the bar till 5.30am in the morning with just a couple of drinks and many great friends that i made along the way! What’s better than having a place where everyone comes together for the common objective of meeting?!
The second level of GO2 Bar is a small space for about 80 people to club while dancing to their R&B beats! I don’t really like clubbing, so i kinda visited the area and walked down after 15 minutes, but from the people i saw dancing and having fun there, i reckon it’s definitely one of the must-go!
Oh yeah, it opens right up to 5am in the morning as written in their opening hours (but they normally close around 6am) !! From my bar and club hopping experience in HCMC for the five days i was there, i reckon this is one of the few that opens till so late…! Or perhaps, EARLY in the morning!
187 De Tham Street, Pham Ngu Lao Ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
The other Clubs i visited includes:
Lavish is a small Vietnamese nightclub in the city center of Ho Chi Minh City. Located in an alley off a small side street, this is a hidden favorite for both locals and foreign visitors. The decor is that of an upscale lounge and the menu follows the same theme.
Perhaps i was there on a quiet night, it was kinda boring, nevertheless, the music was great!
5 Nguyen Sieu, Quan 1, Ho Chi Minh City
Though many recommended Lush, our experience there was rather boring… repeated songs, but nonetheless, cheap drinks. I reckon that we were there on a Monday, that might be the reason why it was kinda quiet. But if you wanna enjoy some music and seeing the bar maids dancing with their traditional “cone” hats, do visit them!
2 Ly Tu Trong, District 1, Ho CHi Minh City
Now, enough of Bars and Clubs, we shall be moving on to the food scene!!
You’ll be amazed by how many dishes of both traditional and International cuisines the Vietnamese serve. In fact, because of the rapid expansions, International franchises such as Burger king, Subway, Seoul Garden, Breadtalk, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, Starbucks, MOF, KFC and the upcoming, McDonalds are already setting their foot onto the Vietnamese grounds!
Nonetheless, i would be sharing the top 3 choices for my list of restaurants to go!
NUMBER 3 – NGOC SUONG MARINA
Huge space with a warm hospitality, we arrived at NGOC SUONG MARINA restaurant at around 9.30pm, crowds of businessman filled up the restaurant with many who were already enjoying the fresh seafood that they serve. We definitely will not miss this!
Off we went, ordering more than what we could digest, the whole selection of items included Oysters, both fresh and baked, a Steamed Grouper, Lobster Carpaccio, Baked Lobster, Lobster Porridge, Crab Claws and two vegetable dish that i can’t even remember which vegetables we ordered exactly!
We were FULL!
Prices can be on a high side for some, but it is still generally cheaper then Singapore. Come on! 6 Million Vietnamese Dong for so many dishes, it’s only approximately USD284, including the service charge, drinks and government taxes!
Worth the try, but i recommend you to go in big groups so that you all can split the cost and of course, ORDER MORE variety of food like what we did!17 Le Quy Don, P. 6, Q. 3, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
NUMBER 2 – THE REFINERY SAIGON
Like many of the restaurant groups, The Refinery Saigon is one of the many restaurants that is a collaboration between a French and a Vietnamese local. A shophouse that very much represents the french architecture and the interior that portray a very traditional Vietnamese influence, the two combination was a hit for me. I liked how simple they tried to keep the whole atmosphere of the restaurant by not trying too hard to impress, while maintaining the standards of their cuisines, the wait staff were just as friendly and welcoming. Unlike Singapore… Our service standards really deserve a drastic change!
Traditional french bistro food such as the Duck Confit, French Onion Soup, Seafood Stew, etc… the menu is kept simple, but full of choices ranging from Soups to Salads, Appetizers, Mains and Desserts, the entire selection of cuisines they have on their menu would already make you drool before you start eating!
I ordered the Seafood Stew and Duck Confit which i thought was made to perfection! Crispy Skin on the outside and flesh that could easily be peeled off by the back of my spoon, this is definitely one of the few good duck confits i have had thus far.
After your meal, sit back, relax, grab a cuppa traditional Vietnamese coffee and reflect on the time you’ve spent running all over the place for work, The Refinery is definitely one of my top choices for a lazy day!
NUMBER 1 – Guc Gach Quan
Created with the memory of his Grandmother, this restaurant was not only opened for the love of food, but with a story to tell and an effort to save the heritage.
Guc Gach Quan started with a humble story to begin with, situated within a traditional shophouse that reflects the heritage of Saigon, the Owner made every possible means to beautify the entire space with pieces of wood and plants purchased on his own and designing the entire space all with his idealistic perception of a “countryside”.
“My “countryside” restaurant is the very source of my inspiration for architecture. This place settled in a French colonial house is my way to keep a piece of Saigon past. My grandmother’s stall was re-created in the staff dining room, giving it a familial turn, switching the working atmosphere for a friendly and intimate one. The pond and the Tram trees set in construction pipes looking alike an oasis, giving the feeling to be lost in wild nature far from the city. A wide space. Imitating my grandmother, I only bought already-used wood when restoring the house as to save money. Taking out the nails, leveling each little wood fragment and putting them together were neither easy nor usual jobs. 4×8 wood pieces, with an average length of 1m, put alongside the central beams for dust not to fall from the ceiling; that is a trick I learnt from my workers, how many architects know it? The stairs are difficult to use, I admit my design being wrong something but I didn’t want to cut the wooden pillar so we had to get used to them; that would be my safest justification – a way to invite people to think twice before cutting deep in anything.” – Owner
A quick walk into the restaurant, aromas of sizzling hot dishes surrounds the space with hints of lemongrass flavours that calms every excited diner, even the toilets were scented with fresh lemongrass and essence. Many of us who visited the place agreed that the very moment you step into the restaurant, to time you end your meal and walk out of the restaurant, the entire experience is fantastic. It was magical to a certain extend.
Every single dish was carefully thought about by the artisans in the kitchen, it almost seemed that even the dishes have gone through countless hours of thinking process and engineering. Every taste you savour seems to tell a story, a heartwarming story.
Personally, i was very much touched by the whole thought process put into building this restaurant. As a restauranteur or a hospitality professional, it taught me something valuable, something non-commercial, something memorable and definitely, something new.
This trip to Ho Chi Minh City gave me many mixed emotions. On one hand, I was really happy to see a country develop so quickly, yet holding on to their heritage so dearly. They are proud of what they have achieved, they are protective of what they earned, and they are humble with what they have. This reminded me of the Singapore we once had when we were younger.
On the other hand, understanding the Vietnam War tore me apart, knowing that within a country people can be so vulnerable. Human being from the same “Father” would turn to each other and create war, killing millions of civilians from both the North and South of Vietnam, innocent lives were taken, tragedy was created, an ink marked deeply in every Vietnamese heart. Singaporeans should really read about the Vietnam war to know why our Government is so particular about National Service.
Nevertheless, the most heartwarming part to the trip was the opportunity to make friends from all across the Globe. We sat by the bar, had our beer and chatted about our individual cultures, believes and our country. We exchanged our e-mails, swore to keep in contact, some of which i have already added on Facebook. It is truly amazing how a trip out of Singapore would bring back so much memories and experiences to me.
Ending this post, i’ll like to thank the many who helped me and my group of friends with the trip. You know who you are, it was indeed a pleasure catching-up with you and i look forward seeing all of you in Singapore. To the group of friends from the Diamond & LV club, you’ve been a great travelling partners, i would never have experienced so much fine-food if not for all of you. I look forward to our next trip and i believe it’ll be another wonderful journey together.
Leaving Vietnam with a big smile on my face, thank you for having me into your country and taught me so much of your heritage and cultures, i am truly amazed by how united you are as a country now. Stay strong, stay firm and enjoy your fruits of labour!