For many locals and expats, Thao Dien is seen as a place where people with more money than sense go to live in an overpriced bubble — to hide from the real Vietnam. But, in reality, Thao Dien is a thriving community filled with amazing restaurants, boutique shops, nightlife and all the creature comforts of a modern city – when it’s not flooded, of course.
Thao Dien is bordered on three sides by the Saigon River, and while most of the waterfront property has been swallowed by glitzy developments, there are still places where you can watch as debris floats by in the murky river current. And conveniently enough, some of those places also serve great cocktails. For the best, try The Deck, BoatHouse or Villa Song.
Buddha Bar is our favorite nightlife spot in Thao Dien. You’ll meet quite the assortment of people at Buddha: grizzled old expats, Vietnamese ex-wives, local professionals, Korean businessmen trying to figure out darts, tourists who’ve strayed over from District 1, serious pool players and an ever-changing cast of teachers. If bar games aren’t your thing, Buddha is also a great spot to relax and chat. They serve all your favorite drinks — even craft beer — and their staff are wonderful people. Whenever we’re unsure of where to go in District 2, Buddha Bar is our default option.
If you have no idea where Thao Dien even is, look for the giant Vincom Mega Mall on the Hanoi Highway. They have men’s and women’s clothing, home decor, jewellery and so much more. But, for some real fun, head to the top floor, and skate on the only ice rink in Ho Chi Minh City. Even if you’ve never skated before, the feeling of ice on your bottom is a nice change from the never-ending heat outside.
Vincom Thảo Điền, 159 Xa lộ Hà Nội, Thảo Điền, Vietnam, +84 28 6285 2299
As soon as you see the exterior of The Factory, you know that whatever is inside has to be interesting. There are upturned shipping containers, murals and a constant stream of hip young Vietnamese posing for photos outside. For the artists in the city, a trek out to The Factory is an absolute must if they want to maintain their credibility. They’ve featured exhibitions on light, poetry, self and philosophical questions. Keep an eye on their website so you don’t miss out.