Travel Diary: Saigon, Vietnam

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After Phu Quoc we flew to Ho Chi Minh City, still commonly referred to as Saigon by the locals. I read The Quiet American by Graham Greene last fall as was excited to visit the city of romance and intrigue depicted in his book. While Saigon’s recent development has transformed the city’s skyline there are still many vestiges of the city’s unique and romantic colonial heritage. Looking back on our time there we realized our favorite memories of the city were all before the sun rose. Read below to see what I mean!

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Our Saigon favorites:

STAY.
We stayed at Hotel Des Arts Saigon and I loved their Indochina-inspired decor and collection of Vietnamese lacquer paintings. Our serene room was the perfect respite after a long day walking around Saigon, so simple and elegant. The rooftop pool and cocktail bar had great vantage points for watching the sunset over the city.

EAT.
Temple Club – My favorite restaurant in Saigon, the Temple Club is down a hallway lined with candles and up a flight of stairs. As you enter their main doorway it feels like entering a home during the colonial era. Perfectly mixed cocktails pair with upscale Vietnamese food in an elegant but slightly worn-in space that would feel right at home in Brooklyn.
The Deck – A modern venue with views of the Saigon River serving good western and Vietnamese dishes. A great spot to grab lunch before exploring the beautiful residential streets and boutiques in Saigon’s 2nd District.
Secret Garden – Down a sketchy alley and up several flights of stairs (was it 5 or 6?) you’ll emerge on the rooftop terrace of the Secret Garden restaurant. The menu of affordable and delicious Vietnamese food has pictures of every dish to make ordering easier. Just a short walk from the Hotel Des Arts Saigon, we came back twice.
L’Usine – A French-industrial styled space around the corner from the Saigon Opera House, L’Usine is a great place for weekend brunch and watching the city’s young professionals wile away their weekend afternoons.
The Social Club Rooftop – On the top of Hotel Des Arts, The Social Club rooftop has incredible views of the city at sunset.

SHOP.

Villa Royale Antiques & Tea Room – Curated and owned by David Campbell, he has a story for every piece in his shop which is one part antique store, one part tea room. I found a beautiful vintage brass shell tray to take home.
Hansry – A small shop off of Ngô Quang Huy in District 2, I loved their wide selection of straw totes in playful shapes and finishes including tassels and sequins. You may have seen their bag in my Instagram here and here.
Trần Ngọc Diện – This street is full of home decor shops and cute little cafes. We found a tablecloth and set of mugs here.

DO.
Ho Thi Ky Flower Market – Saigon’s nocturnal flower market comes to life between the hours of 2-6 AM as vendors tie bundles of flowers to their customers’ motorbikes, ready to be whisked around the city. Familiar varietals such as roses, sunflowers and hydrangeas stand beside more exotic varieties like the pink lotus flowers with their carefully folded petals, bound for the best spas and hotels in town.
Songbird Cafe – Early birds gather at this cafe from 6-7:30 AM to see the songbirds of Saigon socialize in Tao Dan Park where the beloved birds learn new tunes from their neighbors and the owners share a cup of coffee with friends before they start their day.
Colonial Buildings Tour – While Saigon is modernizing rapidly you can still see tributes to the cities colonial past along Dong Khoi such as the Notre Dame Cathedral of Saigon, built entirely of materials imported from France, the grand Central Post office, the outrageously decorated Saigon Opera House, and the Hotel Continental where Graham Greene famously penned his works.
Saigon Opera House – We did not see an opera here in Saigon, but we did see a Performance of Cung phi Điểm Bích while we were in Hanoi, performed by a Saigon-based opera group and highly recommend it!
The Quiet American – I love pairing my literature with the location so if you haven’t read The Quiet American yet pick up a copy and settle into a cafe in the center of town!

Hotel Des Arts Saigon is a Condé Nast Johansens’s property and I had the opportunity to write about our visit for their blog. You can read the article here.

xx, SF

SAIGON PACKING LIST:

White off-the-shoulder Lace Dress (Similar) // Blue Striped Bathing Suit (Similar) // Bamboo Ark Bag // Straw Boater Hat // Ivory Silk Sleep Set // Blue Eyelet Sundress // Tortoise Sunglasses // Greek Sandals (Similar)

All photos by David and Stacie Flinner for stacieflinner.com

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