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You are planning a trip to Vietnam and are having difficulties deciding where to go and what to do, what you cannot miss and what to skip. From the feedbacks of our customers, Cheap Vietnam Holidays would like to recommend some activities considered by travellers as must-do's when you are in Vietnam....

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Saigon through their eyes

 

Saigon. This city's so full of life it leaves everyone with a different impression. Here are just three of the diverse experiences it can offer. 

Peter Jampes
It's late and Im wandering the streets of Saigon. They're wet wit monsoon rain and the sound of horns and traffic is incessant.

Dodging the motorbikes and weaving between taxis, I'm not sure where I'm going but know my night isn't over yet. As I stumble down a side street, an unusual building catches my eyes. It has a gigantic barrel attached to it and a sign: Wild Horse Saloon. I cross the road like a character in a 1980s video game, slotting between traffic, left then right then forward until I reach the other side. As I push open the door, something distracts me. A beautiful girl, smiling like the Mona Lisa, places a brochure in my hand for a place called Bop Jazz Club, then motions toward a staircase behind her and exclaims, "Welcome, Sir". Why not?

The sound of people and music fills my ears and the soft lighting calms my eyes. Cool air hits my skin and the smell of cigar smoke and alcohol wafts past my nose. All around me the place is buzzing. Now this is more like it. The crisp wail of a saxophone catches my attention: the tenor saxophonist is playing like it's his last time on earth and around him; five other musicians are playing their hearts out too. I close my eyes to absorb the colors of the music. Around the room, curved walls hug this magical space.

Fuelled by the atmosphere, I order another cocktail and a Cuban cigar before settling back into my chair. Then the music stops and the band members begin to move. I knew it was too good to be true, they must have finished. But no, they're not leaving the stage. They alto sax lines up behind the bongos, the pianist pluck a violin off the wall and the bass player pulls a flute from his back pocket, then they launch into a jazz version of a folk tune. Soon it's back to their original places, just in time for the vocalist to take her place behind the microphone. Her voice soars through the room. It's late and I shuffle into the humid air and bustling city. I wonder whether it was just a dream: a friend tells me all parties must come to an end, but the memory of this one will remain with me.

Xuan Binh (photographer) 

In its long history, Saigon's architecture has morphed many times, its streets remolded by each new wave of immigrants. We see their imprint everywhere: in the villages that lie absorbed by the stretching metropolis; in the carved doorframes that seem never to age. Next to the towering new commercial buildings grow banyan trees and by the mighty wharves sit ancient village communal houses.

When I visit Saigon I stay with a friend, architect Ta My Duong. After a long day's work he likes nothing more than to sit on the small wooden pier by the pond in his garden. He spends his time drawing pictures of simple homes that evoke memories of old village houses with their red tiled-roofs and gardens. He gives his pictures to harried friends to remind them of simpler times.

Architect Hoai Huong has perfected the art of depicting the village as it used to be. He was one of the first to initiate Viet Deco, a form of architecture based on northern Vietnamese homes, with the heavy wooden beams, columns and statues. It was Huong who persuaded the Saigon authorities to renovate rather than destroy the ancient villages that lay across the Saigon River. Now, a cultural village called ham Long will grow where high rises were once planned.

Minh Triet (Architect)

I arrive at Tan Son Nhat Airport in the late afternoon and my friend, an artist, picks me up with the offer of a delicious dinner. He takes me to Dzoan Cam Van Restaurant, run by a TV personality of that name known for her charm and warmth. The restaurant opened a year ago and whilst living off the name of its illustrious owner for a while, it has now earned its place among the city?s favorite spaces. Delicious food, reasonable prices and an intimate atmosphere are some of its draws.

Ms. van talks of her restaurant as a home, somewhere she would offer only the best dishes to her guests in the most comfortable surroundings possible. She takes flavors from all three regions of Vietnam - the North, the Centre and the South - so there's something for everyone. In this warm atmosphere, I talk to her as I would too friend. Our fellow diners are like one big family. The next day, as I continue my journey to Dak Lak, I remember the warm feeling in Ms. Van's restaurant. She has given me an unforgettable memory of Saigon.

 

 

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