Saigon’s Rabbit Hole might be the city’s coolest cocktail spot. One of their talented bar team, Kiddy Kawaii, gives us the lowdown on her favorite places in town.
Read in Vietnamese
So we found 26-year-old Van (aka Kiddy Kawaii), down the Rabbit Hole (138 Nam Ki Khoi Nghia, District 1) to explore Saigon through the eyes of one of the city’s hottest mixologists. With years of experience exploring and mixing new boozy flavours, she knows what’s up. A keen explorer, Kiddy is always ready to discover brand new places and areas – hopefully inspiring you to do the same.
“It took a lot to get me where I am today, and I’m still not content,” she tells us. “I believe in perseverance and passion – these two things drive me to always find new places, meet new people and discover new talents. I never want to stop learning new things, but, just this once, I’m happy to share my secrets with you.”
So, down the rabbit hole we go…
Can you describe the city in a few sentences?
I prefer to call this city Saigon rather than Ho Chi Minh City. I feel the older name is more personal and closer to the true essence of the city’s culture. Both the people and the city itself are friendly, independent and most of all, strong!
Where should we go to feel good?
Personally, I could just wander around District 1 all afternoon. On the days I go exploring, I love to end the day by watching the sunset from the ‘Green Bridge’ [a popular evening hang-out spot also known as Mong Bridge]. It may sound perfect, but just remember to bring a raincoat during the rainy season between May and October or November – it can start raining without notice in Saigon at this time of year, but that’s just another reason why I love this city.
Where do we go for street food?
In Saigon, you can find street food everywhere. My favourites include Bánh Mì Huỳnh Hoa (they have so many fillings that it’s mind-blowing) and Phở Hoà Pasteur. I also love tucking into some broken rice or some xôi, but really anything that catches your eye is bound to be good.
One great spot is hẻm 76 Hai Bà Trưng. Between 2-5pm vendors come out in droves to serve up loads of fun snack-like dishes such as fried rice flour cake, fried sweetcorn, ha cao dumplings and offal stew.
In the evenings, forget formal restaurants and tuck into a hotpot on the side of Truong Dinh Street, District 3 or grab a snack like banh trang nuong – sometimes nicknamed Dalat pizza – and chill with friends near Turtle Lake.
Where should we take a date?
I may be biased but obviously the Rabbit Hole! It’s darkly lit and intimate, and you always have the bartenders to talk to if conversation slows. Sky bars are another obvious choice, there’s something about the opulence and altitude that makes them popular date spots. Shri is one great place for a romantic date, as is the Eon Heli Bar in Bitexco Financial Tower.
But for something really different, try Noir Dining in the Dark – it’s an unusual experience. The staff are all blind or partially sighted. After the meal, they ask you to guess what you’ve eaten then show you images of how it would have looked if the lights were on.
Where should we go for lunch or brunch?
Which district should we hang out and shop in?
District 1. Its Saigon Center is always a good choice for easy shopping. It’s air-conditioned, easy to navigate and full of cool stuff. However, if you want to take a wander around Phạm Ngũ Lão and Bùi Viện, the backpacker area, then there are loads of restaurants and entertainment venues that’ll keep you occupied.
Where should we go to meet new people?
Again, head to Bùi Viện or to Nguyễn Huệ Walking Street – they’re both full of people and there is always something going on. Bars like RFC, Acoustic, Yoko, in District 3 and Layla, in District 1 are always busy if you prefer meeting people over a drink…or two.
Where can we drink the best coffee?
I like the contemporary Vietnamese style of Bosgaurus Saigon Pearl, and Saigon Coffee Roastery on Dong Khoi, The Workshop Coffee on Ngo Duc Ke and Okkio Coffee in District 1 near Ben Thanh Market. Highlands Coffee and Trung Nguyen are two local brands that serve traditional Vietnamese coffee with a more international vibe.
Which place can be our little secret?
The Rabbit Hole! Okay, it’s not really a secret, but I can shake up a secret cocktail or two if you ask nicely.
Where should we go on a Friday night?
What should we buy as a gift?
Ben Thanh Market is a good place to go and find gifts for your friends, and lots of what’s on offer is locally made. Other things I like to buy as gifts include Marou Chocolate, fresh coffee at the places I mentioned above, and even instant noodles – they’re fun and strangely cultural!
Which tourist destination is worth our time? Which should we skip?
Củ Chi is well-known for its history and when I go I like to eat the Củ Chi veal and sip on a durian-sugarcane juice…come to think of it, that sounds like an awesome cocktail waiting to happen.
You can easily hire a scooter in Vietnam to do some road trips from Bùi Viện, but if you prefer a safer ride, just book a ticket with Phương Trang bus or Thành Bưởi bus to any popular destination and get out of the city. Don’t forget to visit Đà Lạt, Nha Trang, Đà Nẵng, Hội An and Huế, and if you have time, a trip to the Mekong Delta south of Saigon might change your life…