Vietnam is scoring higher and higher points in coolness these days while things heat up at its borders. While China and Vietnam go head to head on territorial claims in the South China Sea, the country took the scene in 2 world-leading media to show its fascinating new lifestyles.
First on May 7 – Louis Vuitton released its refined Travel Book – Vietnam, subtly edited and drawn by Lorenzo Mattotti. The introduction video makes the exploit of showing all the famous traits of Vietnam without an ounce of cliché-ness. Residing in the country for a little less than a year now, I can certainly appreciate even more that a fresh eye such as Mr Mattotti’s has brushed up the overloaded motorbikes, the tacky alleys, the incredible sights of Ha Long Bay in a poetic way. As he says, all these symbols can be looked at in a quite abstract way. Shapes are key to his vision.
See the video:
Then on May 8 – the New York Times took its famous 36 Hours In… series to Ho Chi Minh City. The well-documented article does walk through the hottest places of modern Saigon. I’d certainly +1 on designer Linda Mai Phung’s works (see our french column last summer in L’Express Styles), vouch for the artistic new wave led by Gallery Quynh, San Art and L’Observatory, and yum in on Cuc Gach Quan’s foodie delight.
But I could not help bring up the happy few spots and people overlooked by the article. So here’s an additional 48h you can add to your stay in Ho Chi Minh City with its extra recommendable experiences. Welcome to the exciting contemporary Saigon: authentic and futuristic, mostly at the same time.
The Street Treat – Unconspicuous Pho joints where you get to taste the unavoidable national dish include Pho Thai Son on Le Lai street, a short park-walk away from the backpacker area. Next comes Tan Dinh Market, a place to find an immense choice of weird to cool fabrics – the street food court there is highly cool too. By night time, join in a street quan nhau (literally binge eat-drinking joint) on Ham Nghi street to enjoy watered-down beers and grilled seafood.
The Liquor Tour – Saigon offers a still confidential taste of quality drinks. The best Negroni can be found at the Purple Jade, while great wines are curated by a team of passionates at Wine Embassy. Last but not least, drinks are usually more enjoyable with a cool musical scene. Venues such as Cargo Bar (Q4) – a huge warehouse turned into concert spot hosting international gigs of rock and electronic music (Onra, Poni Hoax among others in 2013) – or the hip and kinky Broma, and the experimental street-culture spot called Saigon Outcast (where contributors organized a Flaming Lips experience gig last winter) are all worth the visit.
The Shopping Spree – As we all love to explore local options, the fascinating thing about Saigon is how it opened to the most avantgarde cultural scenes lately and allowed subsequent shopping options. The most curious of them all would be Runway Concept Store, located in an otherwise uncharming Vincom mall. International contemporary designers like Helmut Lang, Phillip Lim, Alexander Wang or Acne Studios have found their place there for a cultured generation of vietnamese and expats, among luxury brands including Saint Laurent Paris, Givenchy or Maison Martin Margiela. VIPs looking for a more glamorous outfit could also turn to a more fancy cocktail dress at Luala, another local concept store offering Victoria Beckham, Azzedine Alaia and Elie Saab.