As soon as you hit the ground in Saigon you can’t help but notice the large building that anchors the city’s skyline. Bitexco Financial Tower stands at 68 storeys, or 262 metres high, and was designed to look like a lotus flower sprouting out of the city and in an abstract way it kind of does. After you figure out what the large deck sticking out of the side is — it’s a helicopter pad — you may want to check it out for yourself. Tall buildings seem to draw me in, like the obelisk from 2001: A Space Odyssey, and if you find yourself in a similar situation while walking around town, follow your instincts: the tower offers an unmatched view of the city and also some brand new dining options.
The main attraction of the tower is the 49th floor observation Sky Deck. A trip to the 49th floor will set you back 200,000 VND, a little high for Saigon entertainment, but they kind of have a lock on the above 30 storeys market in the city. You buy your ticket outside and take a special elevator, supposedly among the fastest in the world, to the deck.
Once inside you may be surprised by the, well, lack of anything inside. Instead of being a mecca for souvenirs and trinkets they have kept the floor very clean, giving you plenty of space to stroll around and take in the scenery. Speaking of which, the scenery is pretty spectacular and the deck offers 360-degree views of the city.
Besides observations decks and helipads, Bitexco is also a place to stop for fine dining. This will be topped with the opening of Strata, which occupies the floor just above the observation deck. Like the Sky Deck, at Strata you also get great views but pay a high price; this is a bit of a running theme in some of the city’s higher spots.
If you like to eat at lower levels you can try out Hog’s Breath, which sits comfortably on the ground floor. They specialise in Aussie steaks and burgers, which are some of the best in the city, plus they have a conveniently timed happy hour, between 17:00 and 19:00, where all draught beers are 30,000 VND. If you time it right, you can catch the sunset upstairs then head down for a cheap drink.
If you’re looking for something a little more authentically Vietnamese, and a little cheaper, across the street you’ll find Nhat Lan Bakery, an outdoor spot that has lots of traditional dishes and delicious smoothies all for bargain prices.
If you have the time, and the cash, Bitexco is worth a look; you just can’t get a view quite this good anywhere else in the city.
By Angela Schonberg
Last updated on 25th July, 2014.