Lush, SaigonMany visitors come to Saigon solely for the nightlife – a few of them without prurient interests. A lot of clubs cater to that seedier side (hugging bars and beyond), and if that’s your thing I’m sure you’ll find them on your own. There’s a lot of nightlife action going on around the ‘Little Tokyo’ area (just northeast of the center) — start wandering up Hai Ba Trung St, east on Cao Ba Quat St. then north on wee Thi Sach or Thai Van Lung Sts to Le Thanh Ton St – then Ly Tu Trong a block north. It lights up at night, with new places constantly appearing. Many restaurants double as good places for a drink.

Live Music

A John Lennon portrait hangs behind the small drumset – and Yoko Ono makes the business card logo – but inside this intimate, ‘70s-style bar it’s more about mingling 20-something uni students and live music. Locals come for beer (35,000D; US$2.20) or cocktails and a smoke, while diverse selection of live music plays (Willie Nelson, Sheryl Crow, Nirvana, jazz). Monday to Thursday, the sets are ‘unplugged’ with swapping singers, Friday to Sunday features full-on bands (mostly rock). Definitely the new Vietnam in here. It’s between Truong Dinh and Ba Huyen Thanh Quan Sts, a block north of Vo Van Tan and two east of Cach Mang Thang Tam Sts. No cover.
Tel 08-933-0577; 22A Nguyen Thi Dieu, D3

More central, and a bit more mainstream, the narrow Sax is a jazz-blues bar with its own charm – a talented house band plays 9pm nightly (hopefully the American blues guy will be, um, slightly less comfortable wailing out expat sorrow soon). Instrumentals, or R&B with local singer, is better. A Saigon beer is 55,000D (US$3.45). No cover.
Tel 08-822-8472; 28 Le Loi St


Overwhelmingly Saigon 2007’s premier club, the pavilion-topped Lush deserves points for its gamble by design. Inside the mod entry, all lights, all seats and all standing/dancing place on the rather tight floor looks onto the action – the bar, with often eight or more bartenders in halter-tops swaying to the themed music (lots of electronica and hip-hop, spun by the DJ). A long sofa – with tables and more chairs – are on raised platforms along the walls, and up the space-age stairway is another long velvet sofa. On most nights after 10pm everything’s packed. There’s space in the back and a pool table balcony. The food’s fine, but most come for the drinks – which, at 35,000D (US$2.20) for a Tiger (for example), are far cheaper than most clubs around Saigon. No cover.
Tel 0903-155-461; 2 Ly Tu Trong St, at Dien Tien Hoang St; open late

The popular Pham Ngu Lao disco was closed by authorities, but may be reopening in 2007.
169 Pham Ngu Lao St

For ages providing Saigon a bit of sleeze and beer-stained dance floor.
2C Thi Sach St


The ‘opium den’ feel of the Temple Club’s lounge is a fun place for a quite drink. See Eating/Around Ben Thanh Market. Also see YoKo (see above), a great place out of the center.

In the battle for ‘old Saigon’ stalwarts still worth seeing, the Caravelle’s rooftop Saigon Saigon wins honours – during the day. At night, a tacky band blasts and takes away from the otherwise lovely views over Dong Khoi St and the pretty decent bar food. There are seats outside the wood-shutter windows on a narrow balcony – views extend 270 degrees. A burger (with fried egg and cheese) is $8.10, salads are $5.60 to $7.60.
Caravelle Hotel, 19 Lam Son Square

GO 2
In backpacker-land, it’s hard to resist this colorful corner spot, with lounge seats and potted palm trees on the sidewalk. It’s sure a lot more expensive than most traveler cafes in the area. Many come for an afternoon beer or to play pool. There’s live music upstairs after 10pm.
Tel 08-836-9575; 187 De Tham St at Bui Vien St; dishes around 50,000D (US$3.15); open 6am to late

Central bar is all about the soccer, rugby and cricket (and NFL), with game times posted up front, and some reasonable bar food (Vietnamese noodles, burgers) served throughout the day.
Tel 08-822-6363; [email protected]; 19-21 Dong Du St, a half block west of Dong Khoi; open 8am to midnight

In the ’90s pioneer days, the Q led the chic-bar charge of Saigon, so it deserves a nod for hanging on so long. It’s location – under the Opera House – certainly doesn’t hurt.
Opera House, Lam Son Sq, on Dong Khoi St

It gets the hype of must-sees of must-sees, but in reality the Rex roof is on some days the wide roof bar is empty but for you and a couple confused middle-aged European tourists. A Filipino band ensures tackiness at night. Have a look – maybe a coffee, maybe just a glimpse-and-go – but the Rex really doesn’t live up to its hype.
Rex Hotel, 141 Nguyen Hue St, at Le Loi St


The OPERA HOUSE (tel 08-829-9976; Lam Son Sq, at Dong Khoi & Le Loi Sts) hosts regular events (ballet, circuses) on Friday and Saturday. A ticket is usually $1 to $1.50.