GOOD EATS: Thanks to a vibrant culinary scene, visitors can dine a la Nepalese, Arabic or sample great French food. Vietnam may offer the most authentic European bakeries in Asia, some run by French expats, as well as other goodies like Vietnamese yogurt. By international standards, eating in Vietnam is outrageously cheap — unless you order wine, it’s hard to spend over $15 per person, or $30 even in restaurants in five-star hotels.
TASTE TESTS: Vietnamese cuisine is famous for exquisitely blending its Chinese, Southeast Asian and French influences. For maybe the best example of this fusion in the country, visit Vietnam House Restaurant, which offers local cuisine in a traditional colonial decor, with royals and foreign dignitaries among the regular visitors. For authentic, upper-end Southeast Asian food, try Lemon Grass Restaurant, while one of the best French restaurants in town is the upscale Le Bordeaux.
STAYING POWER: For lovers of Graham Greene’s novels, a visit to the lavishly restored Hotel Majestic on the bank of the Saigon River is a must. The terrace bar on the roof has one of the best views in the city, with music until late hours. Hotel Continental, a former journalists’ hangout, is another luxury colonial alternative. Sheraton Saigon Hotel & Towers is comfortable and conveniently located in the shopping and entertainment area, while the French five-star hotel Sofitel Plaza Saigon offers one of the best breakfasts in Asia.
SHOPPING DAZE: Whether you’re shopping for silk, paintings or handmade bags, Nguyen Hue and Le Loi streets in the center of town is the place to find it. Dong Khoi is famous for its custom-made garments. Khai Silk stores are in several luxury hotels, with the signature shop at Dong Khoi Street selling the best ready-made and tailored silk in the city. For local flair, visit Ben Thanh Market, and for modern local design try the ground floor and first floor of Zen Plaza.
WHAT’S NEWS: Thanh Nien newspaper has a daily English edition offering information about concerts, theaters and exhibitions in HCMC, with the weekly Saigon Times another good source of information.