How to Spend a Sleepless Night in Vietnam's Biggest City
Saigon by night │© Hiep Nguyen/Unsplash
Whether you are jetlagged, suffering from insomnia or just have a voracious appetite for the city’s nightlife, it is definitely worth crawling out of bed and discovering the only city in Vietnam that never sleeps. Here is our guide on how to spend a sleepless night in Ho Chi Minh City.
No one needs to tell you that Bui Vien and Pham Ngu Lao street are HCMC’s two most enduring parties. And it is not your fault if you never migrate far off the backpacker streets. A portion of the city’s drinking population has battled traffic to get here at night, so why leave? This convivial spot is always packed with both tourists and young Vietnamese locals who settle into low-slung plastic chairs and enjoy cheap beers and drinking snacks. Buzzing activities and loud music will work the crowd into sweaty cheer groups.
Around the Pham Ngu Lao Backpacker Area │ | © William/Flickr
In a city where the heat easily puts you off during the daylight, late-night cheap eating can offer a chilled-out and bargain way to discover the local life. You will find yourself shoulder-to-shoulder with manual labourers, hawkers and night-shift workers. Whether looking to stave off a hangover, desire a feast or simply a light meal, you never run out of options. Check out our guide to the best late-night eats in the city.
Fried spring rolls in the street food market │ | © shankar s./Flickr
24-hour cafes are the go-to places after hours – away from a bar or super-smashed clubbers. Heritage Cafe is a hip cafe always packed with night owls. It has a fun 1960s feel with antique bicycles, reel-to-reel music player and vinyls, retro posters, sofas, good music and even three bulldogs to get relaxed with. Or head for CI5 Cafe for a more tranquil ambiance to work or chill.
Wandering around night markets after midnight gives you a chance to glimpse the real character of the city, even more revealing than any museum or guided tours. At the Ho Thi Ky flower wholesale market, the air is filled with the aromatic mix of various types of flowers. At its peak time around 2 AM, people flock to the market, running, moving, shouting, buying en masse before sunrise.
Ho Thi Ky flower market, Chung cư Lê Hồng Phong, Phan Văn Trị, phường 2, Quận 10, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam, +84 9 0950 9599
If you have little enthusiasm for going inside a sweaty club and prefer to chill outdoors, smoking and chatting, drop yourself off at rooftop bars which we recommend here. Not only do they offer vibrant and stunning views of the city’s nightlife, most of them open until 2 AM.
Drinking night at Anan's rooftop | Courtesy of @nipophotography/Saigonettes Social Club @saigonettes
There is a new trend sweeping Saigon as bars and clubs transform into live music venues. These are equally attractive for up-and-coming bands to perform and for audiences who can get in for free or pay 7$ for a night out listening to everything from underground techno, house, disco, reggae and guitar jams. While The Observatory takes the prize for its unusual setting – an underground music club, Saigon Outcast stands out with its open air and indie vibes.
Boho Market at Saigon Outcast | © Frank Fox/Flickr
Saigon is definitely best explored in the early morning when most tourists and travellers have yet to wake up and you rarely suffer from the humidity. An early morning walk along the Saigon riverfront gives you a satisfying sense that the whole city is all yours. Or mill around public parks to witness a calm, tranquil side of the city where people take exercise, yoga, Tai Chi or simply enjoy some fresh air.