Dec 16 2012
The holiday season in Saigon sees grandiose decorations line the streets, people dressed as Santa Claus zip by on motorbikes and major downtown streets temporarily shut down. If you’re in town for Christmas and New Year’s, here are a few places where you can properly celebrate.
Leading up to Christmas, decorations come out in full force, as do large crowds looking to bask in the artificial glow of the light or take pictures with the Santas who roam the area. If you find yourself downtown at night expect big crowds on Le Loi and Nguyen Hue, especially in front of the Rex Hotel, as well as on Dong Khoi and the area around the Notre Dame Cathedral, the biggest venue in Ho Chi Minh City for Christmas Mass. The worst night for crowds is the 24th, when seemingly every single person in Saigon comes to District 1, although the 25th also draws heavy crowds. Getting a taxi around town is a nightmare; some drivers will refuse to drive through District 1 or will demand ridiculously high prices. If you’re downtown, prepare to walk.
If you’re looking for Christmas lunch or dinner your best bet is sticking to District 1. An easy option, restaurants inside the big hotels, like the New World or the Sheraton, will always have a traditional, albeit expensive, set Christmas menu. Western restaurants will generally have something special too. Xu Restaurant is good at putting together a multi-course meal together if you have the money to spare or, if you are more budget conscious, you’d be good to swing by Phatty’s or Stella.
The decorations stay up until New Year’s Day as do the lingering crowds but on New Year’s Eve you’ll have the added troubles of several downtown streets being completely closed to vehicle traffic. Dong Khoi, Nguyen Hue, Le Loi and a solid stretch of Le Duan are for pedestrians only, which makes for a unique experience walking about downtown save for the fact that you have to wade through the most ungodly traffic to get to these streets.
From Pham Ngu Lao to the Ben Thanh Market it’s bumper to bumper to epic proportions as everyone wants to get to the main celebration area in the roundabout between Nguyen Hue and Mac Thi Buoi in front of the Sunwah Tower. The massive structure in the middle of the road, complete with live music, draws a huge crowd who wait for the midnight fireworks. It’s a sight to behold if you can brave all those people.
Saigon’s rooftop bars are where you’ll find some of the city’s swankier parties and best views of the festivities below; Chill Skybar’s party is likely the city’s hottest, with an enforced dress code and a high price tag. 5,000,000 VND will get you two bottles of champagne, a five-course meal and free flow drinks or you can just pay a 1,000,000 VND cover that comes with a glass of champagne.
Outside of rooftop spots, the Hard Rock Cafe will be having their first ever guitar drop in Saigon. A 1,000,000 VND ticket will get you free flow beer, food, party favours, live music and champagne. If you don’t want to pay a cover, the majority of bars around town will let you enter free of charge.
Rooftop AB Tower, 76A Le Loi, Distirct 1
T: (08) 3827 2372
Hard Rock Cafe
T: 39 Le Duan, District 1
(08) 6291 7595
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