From overseas bargains to thrifty weekends away
See and do
Thanks to new direct Jetstar flights from Sydney and sale fares as low as $249 return, Ho Chi Minh City has never been cheaper to visit. Start any visit to the former Saigon (capital of South Vietnam until 1975), with a guided tour of the city. You will start at the Reunification Palace, associated with the fall of the city in 1975 when Communist tanks crashed through its gates. It’s as if time has stood still since, and walking around you’ll see the old cabinet war rooms with furniture still intact, the bunkerlike command rooms underneath and escape tunnels still intact. 135 Nam Kỳ Khởi Nghĩa, Bến Thành, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam. Then it is on to the Central Post
Office, designed by Gustave Eiffel and opened in 1891, where inside you’ll find painted maps of Saigon and South Vietnam lining the walls. 2 Công xã Paris, Bến Nghé, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam. Across the road is the Notre
Dame Cathedral, which remains one of South East Asia’s best examples of neo-Romanesque architecture. 1, Công xã Paris. A short drive away is the oldest Buddhist temple in Ho Chi Minh City, the Giac Lam Pagoda. 565 Lạc Long Quân, Phường 10, Tân Bình, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam. The War Remnants Museum, which is lined outside by old tanks, helicopters, troop carriers and fighter jets, brings home hard the atrocities committed during the ‘American War’ – it’s one of the most powerful museum experiences around. On the ground floor there’s also an exhibition dedicated to the antiwar movement globally. 28 Võ Văn Tần, Phường 6, Quận 3, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam. One of the more out-there experiences in the city can be found at the Fito
Museum, which is dedicated to traditional Vietnamese medicine, with some remedies that date
back to the Stone Age. Hoàng Dư Khương, Phường 12, Quận
10, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam. When it comes to cheap shopping, the
Ben Thành Market is the place to go for Vietnamese bric-a-brac, bags, clothes and accessories – be prepared to bargain hard. Đường Lê Lợi, Bến Thành, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam. For a shopping centre experience, head to Saigon Centre, where big brands like Chanel, Mango and Nike have stores. 65 Le Loi, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam.
Eat and drink
For decent Vietnamese fare in town, head to Hoi An restaurant. There are claypots, rice paper rolls, grilled chicken, crab meat soup, sautéed tofu, friendly service, beers by the bottle and Leeuwin Estate Chardonnay. 11 Le Thanh Ton St, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. +84 8 3823 7694. www.facebook. com/ Ho i An Restaurant Saigon /.
French colonial architecture is showcased in the rooms of one of the city’s newest hotels, Hôtel des
Arts Saigon, part of AccorHotels’ MGallery Collection. Custom designed furnishings are by Vietnamese artists. There are period artworks, rosewood floors and floor-to-ceiling windows in the rooms. Atop the hotel is the highest outdoor infinity pool in the city along with a great rooftop bar. 76-78 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, District 3, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. +84 28 3989 8888. www.hoteldesartssaigon.com.
Business Class on Jetstar’s Dreamliners that serve Ho Chi Minh City is one of the best value cabins in the sky: you’ll get top quality food and wine; seat back entertainment; pillows, blankets and amenity kits; in-seat power; and leather seats with a 96cm pitch and 48cm width. www.jetstar.com. ■
Ben Tanh Market