Culture · Things to do · Destinations · Asia
June 21, 2023 Words: Susan Hanson

6 Things to Do After Dark in Ho Chi Minh City

Once the sun goes down, this Vietnamese megacity really lights up.

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Vietnam’s largest city and main commercial hub, Ho Chi Minh City is a sprawling metropolis with 9 million residents. The city was previously known as Saigon, and many locals still use the moniker affectionately when describing the historic downtown area, which retains its French colonial aura. Once known as the “Paris of the East,” its crowded streets remain lined with grand, 18th- and 19th-century buildings; many attractions, including Notre Dame Cathedral and the Central Post Office, are stunningly illuminated at night.

Thanks in good part to its thriving café culture the city also has a round-the-clock buzz. The French introduced coffee to the country during colonialism (1887–1954), and the Vietnamese took to the drink with a passion. Visitors can find every kind of café—from homey, curio-filled shops to funky, back-alley speakeasies—offering ca phe sua da (Vietnamese iced coffee) and a cool reprieve from the heat.

Seabourn guests can view them in all their floodlit glory on an evening tour thanks to an overnight call in Ho Chi Minh City on select itineraries. Here are some other things to do in this dynamic cosmopolis after dark.

BROWSE THE NIGHT MARKETS

Night markets are an institution in Vietnam and a major meeting point for locals, who love to spend the cooler evenings outside eating, drinking, shopping, and socializing.

Centrally located Bến Thành Market (Le Loi St., District 1) is by far Ho Chi Minh City’s most famous market and bustles both day and night. This is the go-to for hardcore shoppers, who scour the stalls for everything from clothing to cosmetics, fresh produce to footwear. You also can find unique souvenirs such as traditional lacquerware and double-sided embroidery. Come prepared to haggle with the vendors; start at 50 percent of the asking price.

The city’s oldest night market, Minh Phung (122 Minh Phung St., District 6) is a great spot for bargain clothing, while Binh Tay (57A Thap Muoi St., District 6) is worth visiting for its classic Oriental architecture, which is even more striking lit up at night.

SLURP PHO NOODLES

A visit to Ho Chi Minh City is incomplete without savoring a steaming hot bowl of pho (pronounced “fuh”). The popular rice noodle soup is the ultimate Vietnamese comfort food and available on seemingly every street corner. Pho Le (415 Nguyen Trai, District 3) is a favorite late-night spot packed with devotees of its pho nam, the spicier version preferred in the country’s southern region. And while slurping one’s food may appear impolite to most Westerners, it is the preferred way to eat pho—so leave the table manners behind on your Seabourn ship and savor every drop!

DRINK IN THE VIEWS

For a loftier experience, head to one of Ho Chi Minh City’s many rooftop bars and restaurants. The breathtaking views at Social Club Rooftop Bar (Hôtel Des Arts Saigon, 76-78 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, District 3) are enhanced by the city’s highest infinity pool. Handcrafted cocktails come with a shot of history at Saigon Saigon Rooftop Bar (Caravelle Saigon, 19-23 Lam Son Square, District 1), a favorite watering hole for Vietnam War correspondents. Another historical gem, the Rooftop Garden Bar (Rex Hotel, 141 Nguyễn Huệ, District 1), was infamous for the “Five O’Clock Follies” of GIs and journalists who frequented during the 1960s.

GO TO THE CIRCUS

Bamboo is central to life in Vietnam, standing as a symbol of the country’s resilience and vitality, while the circus arts are equally important to its culture. The Vietnamese Bamboo Circus combines these two elementals in A O Show, which uses acrobatics, story-telling and live music to paint a contrasting portrait of tranquil rural life and frenetic urbanization. Cirque du Soleil director Stefan Haves called the spectacle “extraordinary,” and said it “captured this culture and elevated my theater-going experience.”

The A O Show is made even more spectacular by its historic venue: the breathtaking Saigon Opera House (07 Long Truong Lam Son, District 1). Built in 1898 and bedecked with crystal chandeliers, exquisite sculptures, and fine granite imported from France, the elaborate edifice looks plucked straight out of Paris.

CRUISE THE SAIGON RIVER

Add a little romance to your Ho Chi Minh City rendezvous on a leisurely dinner cruise along the Saigon River. Nosh on sauteed king prawns and other favorite dishes while watching the city lights dance atop the tranquil water. The five-star luxury junks Saigon Princess and Le Perle de L’Orient are just two of the many floating restaurants to choose from; most feature live music onboard.

Experience the night life in Ho Chi Minh City on an Asia ultra-luxury voyage with Seabourn.

Ready to set sail?

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Vietnamese Pho seller on floating market - Mekong river delta, Vietnam.
The Thien Hau Pagoda in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

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