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By Anna Sarjeant

Sometimes the best way to discover a new city is by getting lost in its labyrinth. Laid out on an urban grid, Ho Chi Minh City spirals out from District 1 and spreads into a mass of must-find treasures. 


1. Secret laneway teashops
Venture down the backstreets of District 1’s Ho Tung Mau and keep you lil peepers peeled for Villa Royale Downtown. A fancy little number found behind the façade of a colonial building, inside you’ll find more chintz than fine bone china, and that’s saying something. Part antique boutique and part tearoom, sit down for high tea and step back in time. From gourmet tea to fondant fancies, it’s a hoity-toity little madam and you’ll love it.  

Address: Level 1, 25 Ho Tung Mau, District 1.



2. A covert beer scene
All across Vietnam craft beer is booming, and if you’re happy to escape the touristic core of District 1, you can embark on a 25 minute drive to district 7. Here you'll find LAC Brewing Co - something of a local secret in Ho Chi Minh City. Fronting Rạch Đĩa River, the superbly slick taproom is home to six homebrews and a series of speciality bottles. While away the afternoon with an ale - we can’t recommend the Cashew Nut Cream Ale enough, and have a chinwag with the mostly local Vietnamese clientele. Or if your Vietnamese fails you, simply clink glasses and smile.

Address: 169/7 Nguyen Duc Canh, Phuong Tan Phong, District 7.

The entrance is on the second floor of the Grandview building just above Gloria Jeans Coffee.

3. Obscure vintage stores
The kind of higgledy-piggledy Vietnamese store that will get your heart beating faster, especially if you’re in the market for unique furnishings. Move away from ‘nam souvenirs and into Saigon Kitsch, a store full of keepsakes and take-home treasures. As colourful as it is quirky, this French-run emporium specialises in vintage keepsakes and revolutionary motifs. Definitely worth a poke around if you have the eye for the right piece.  

Address: 43 Tôn Thất Thiệp, District 1.



4. Pedestrian-only Nguyen Hue Street 
A tourist hub for sure, Nguyen Hue Street street isn’t so easy to get lost down. For one, it’s a wide, broad boulevard jam-packed with people, but, the cars and scooters are banned. We recommend you visit come nightfall, preferably between 5 – 10pm when the place really comes alive. As well as being busy and vibrant, there are beautiful sculptures and picturesque river views.

Address: Nguyen Hue Street, District 1. Which runs from the People's Committee office to Bach Dang Wharf on the Saigon River.



5. A little-known emporium
Arguably the coolest address on the aforementioned street, N°42 Nguyen Hue was once the apartment block for government and military personnel. It is now a crumbling yet charming nine storey wonderland of cafes, bookshops and fashion boutiques. Rechanelled by the city’s creative elite, the corridors lead to tiled terraces and intimate coffee shops. Weave your way through the twisting stone staircases and age-worn corridors, poking your head into miniscule shops and getting lost in the labyrinth of floors and never-ending rooms.   

Address: 42 Nguyen Hue Street, District 1.



6. River fronting bars
Jump on a boat and follow the Saigon River to The Deck. Just twenty minutes out of the city, this upmarket establishment serves seafood and cocktails by the riverside. You can drive here, but the restaurant also organises private speedboat transfers for approx NZ$170 for two people, including an arrival drink.  Sit outside for pleasing views of the river and a glowing city-scape hanging in the distance; sunsets in particular are a highlight best observed from The deck’s deck. Otherwise, lounge in the back courtyard, which is adorned with daybeds and soaked in sunshine.

Address: 38 Nguyen U Di St., Thao Dien, District 2.

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