Ho Chi Minh City straddles the line between the past and the future, a place where rooftop bars and skyscrapers tower over wet markets and banh mi carts. The city, also known as Saigon, is home to more than 9 million residents, including huge international communities. For much of the outside world, the image of Vietnam is still connected to the war, but for many residents — whose average age is 32 — the country and its commercial capital, Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), have moved beyond their fractious past to become one of the fastest developing nations in the region. Since 2000, Vietnam’s GDP has grown on average 6.2 percent per year, faster than any other Asian country apart from China. This has put more disposable income in the pockets of an expanding middle class, who look for ways to spend their money on food, drink, and entertainment at all hours.
You can start your morning with a $1 Vietnamese sandwich from the local street cart lady, dine on a $20 prix fixe French lunch set, and then hit a cocktail bar for sunset happy hour with drinks made from local craft spirits. Then it’s off to some barbecued seafood by the canal with buckets of ice-cold Saigon Beer, and — if you’ve got energy to burn — you can finish the night singing your heart out in a private karaoke room until the wee hours of the morning, before piling into a rideshare as the sun rises along the Saigon River.
Linh Phan is the founder of Hidden Saigon, a consulting company that provides insider insights for those seeking to understand and experience modern-day Vietnamese culture.Read More