Even though the American War ended long ago, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) still has a reputation for raunchy nightlife based on the days when it was an R&R centre for US troops looking for a break between hellish tours of the jungle interior.
The powers that be have been doing their best to change this reputation by enforcing midnight closing for some years now, but there’s still a fantastic variety of after-dark activities in this bustling city for all tastes.
Plenty of retail outlets open until very late so it’s easy to spend your evening shopping in one of the city’s many shopping malls or along one of its tourist-oriented streets such as Le Loi. In this way you leave the daytime free for sightseeing and also avoid carting around bags of purchases in the heat of midday.
Other ways of spending an evening are at the cinema. Most of these are located in shopping malls, so you could combine shopping and watching a movie. If you’re in the mood for some performance art, check out what’s on at the Municipal Theatre or the Conservatory of Music. The Binh Quoi Tourist Village stages shows of traditional music and dance at its location out of town.
For most people, though, an evening out means visiting bars for a few drinks and maybe listening to some live music, and in Saigon there are plenty of options. Along Dong Khoi are several welcoming bars such as the Underground and Saigon Saigon Rooftop Bar in the Caravelle Hotel. This central area is also where you will find lots of nightclubs like the Apocalypse Now, where locals and visitors mix it up on the dance floor.
It’s not unusual for a bar to also function as a live-music venue in the evenings in order to maximise profits, and one of the liveliest places to catch musicians playing is at the Seventeen Saloon on Pham Ngu Lao.
The nearby budget district is the best place to get served after midnight, especially if you drop by Go2 Bar and Eden Bar, both of which are located on De Tham and usually keep serving as long as there are customers ordering.
This backpacker haven is filled with young hip things dancing until dawn, although visitors should watch their pockets as pickpockets have been known to target sozzled customers staggering home after too many beers…more on Saigon Bars and Ho Chi Minh City Nightlife.