We asked marketing guru and all round girl-about-town Far Lee for her insider guide to the city. Here are her favourite places in Saigon.
Read in Vietnamese
“When there’s a cool party, I like to be there,” Singaporean marketing guru Far Lee begins. With her husband, Lewis, she runs FTWR – or Follow The White Rabbit – managing the marketing and entertainment for some of the city’s most stylish drinking dens.
Our guest concierge series brings you carefully-curated hot spots. Not the kind of places that pad out travel guides, but the places where you’ll truly find in-the-know locals. So, this is Saigon in Far Lee’s own words.
Can you describe Saigon for us in one sentence?
A fast-growing metropolis that’s like a bustling, fearless wild west.
Where should we go to feel good?
When I need my bodily knots loosened and my mind cleared, I head to Spa La Sen (104A Xuân Thủy, District 2). Prices are reasonable. Staff are attentive. And there is a particular herbal compress massage that I am a big fan of.
Where should we go for street food?
District 3 has a wide range of street food offerings. Try the seafood at Quán Anh Đạt- Đặc Sản Phan Rang (106 Trương Định, District 3). It’s a local secret. Or there’s phở, like Hanoi-style Miến gà Kỳ Đồng (14/5Bis Kỳ Đồng, District 3).
Where should we take a date?
52/3 Kitchen & Bar (52/2 Đông Du District 1) is the new kid on the block. It has stunning interiors, seductive low lighting and some unique menu offerings – definitely a place to impress a date. With my husband, Lewis, I also head to Tomatito or Shri sometimes on date nights for their incredible tapas.
Where should we go for lunch or brunch?
I am obsessed with Roll (28 Thao Dien, District 2). It specialises in temaki, sushi roll. And they have interesting, healthy variations including vegan options. Personally, I cannot drop by Roll without having my usual unagi foie gras or their chicken karaage roll. They also only have 10 seats so I don’t have to compete for the attention of the wait staff.
Where should we go when we want to hide from everyone?
There are many hidden cafes around Saigon like Hoang Thi (14 Tôn Thất Đạm, District 1). Or Làng Art Cafe (38 Xuân Thủy, District 2). They are amazing hole-in-the-walls with surprising interiors. Perfect hiding spots.
Where should we go for a business meeting?
There is this quaintest little burger shop called Surf Shack (6 Tống Hữu Định, District 2) with the best fish burgers in Thao Dien. The Japanese guys who run it are super chill, play cool music and the ambiance is perfect for informal meetings. We’ve had some important, productive discussions with clients in the past there.
Which district should we hang out, shop, and eat in?
As you can tell from my previous recommendations, I am a big fan of Thao Dien over the river in District 2. Most of my favourite spots are there. Plus, there is a flexibility of choice when it comes to whether I want to enjoy a view of the city or a view of the river, all within a small area.
I have been quite pampered by MarketOi, a personal shopper service that I use on the regular. However, on weekends we usually head to the local craft fairs or flea markets at places like Saigon Outcast (188/1 Nguyễn Văn Hưởng, District 2) and Soma Art Lounge (6B Lê Văn Miến, District 2) where we get cool locally-sourced products.
District 1 definitely has really good joints for food, but I’m sticking with Thao Dien. It is a small, dense area where you can cover a wide range of cuisine options without having to travel far.
Where should we go to meet new people?
Bann Bar (71C Đồng Khởi, District 1) hosts several out-of-the-box networking events. One such event is a bi-weekly DJ jam session hosted by FTWR where newbies with zero experience and professionals come together to play music. You’ll find individuals from different walks of life coming together through music in a hands-on way.
Where can we drink the best coffee?
Any of the Morico. – Modern Japanese Restaurant Cafes (30 Lê Lợi, District 1 and other locations). They serve a divine salted caramel latte that you should try.
Where should we go on a Friday night?
Snuffbox (14 Tôn Thất Đạm, District 1) is always the place to be on Friday nights. The venue itself is the first true speakeasy in Saigon with beautiful 1920s interiors. On Fridays, their resident DJ spins electro-swing and jazz adding to the whole prohibition-era, Great Gatsby vibe. They also serve amazing cocktails.
Where do we go when everywhere is closing?
The Observatory, of course (10th Floor, 85 Cách Mạng Tháng 8, District 1). It’s where the sleepless folks of Saigon go when everyone else has shut their doors.
What should we take home as a gift?
Eco-friendly, locally sourced products such as bamboo straws, toiletries sets, artisanal soaps and craft shampoos. Try Green Around The Corner (32 Trần Ngọc Diện, District 2).
Which tourist destination is worth our time?
Nguyen Hue Walking Street! It’s the Times Square of Saigon.
Can you tell us a secret about the city (we promise to keep it)?
You can pretty much get anything bought or made here. You just need to know where to look…
Thanks to Godmother Bake & Brunch for hosting us (and for helping us clean up all that confetti).