Photo: Vinh Nghiem Pagoda - Saigon

The Sights:

* Gia Lam Pagoda (17thC) - the oldest in the city;
* Vinh Nghiem Pagoda - the newest, built in Japanese style;
* Ngoc Hoa Pagoda (1892) - with a statue of the Jade Emperor and wooden carvings of the Buddhist hell;
* Thien Hau Temple - to the Chinese patroness of sailors;
* Giac Vien Pagoda - with an array of carved statues;
* National History Museum - Vietnam's cultures from the Dong Son Bronze Age civilization;
* War Museum - gruesome exhibits;
* Nha Rong (Dragon House) - memorial to Ho Chi Minh;
* Thong Nhat (Reunification) Conference Hall (1966) - former Presidential Palace;
* the French COlonial legasy;
* Cathedral of Notre Dame (1877-80) - neo-Romanesque red brick;
* City Hall - by Ruffier, in a manicured garden;
* Municipal Theater;
* Ben Thanh Market;
* Cholon - Vietnamese Chinatown

The Headquarters

New World Hotel - 542 rooms (28 suites)
76 Le Lai Street, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
Affil.: New World Hotels Int'l
Even Graham Greene would have loved to sleep here, with all the new Western comfort and the traditional Eastern gentleness in Saigon's latest tower of hospitality. The staff would have spoil him from the white-limousine pick-up at the airport to the after-hour drink in the bar. He would have loved to stroll through the marble pillared foyer, chat in the SaxophoneLobby Lounge and dine int he Hoa Mi Vietnamese Seafood restaurant. Maybe he would not have taken advantage of pool and tennis, business center and spa, but the steady stream of international travelers do. In the centre of the city, just around the corner from Ben Thanh Market and only a stone's throw from the financial district, art galleries, antique stores and historical sites of Old Saigon, the renowned Hongkong hotel group has created a new world for visitors to Vietnam's secret capital. Modern furnishings and oriental artifacts in the rooms, extra luxury and a club-like atmosphere on the Executive Floors and a panoramic view from the terrace of the top-floor lounge. Regis Catoire bridges the French-Indochinese culture gap.

The Business Hotel

Majestic Hotel - 122 rooms (30 suites)
1 Dong Khoi, D
istrict 1, Ho Chi Minh City
So it's Saigon and noe Cannes and it's the Nineties and Not the Twenties, but some of the charm from French colonial times when Le Majestic hosted crowned heads and prized literati has been regained. Meticulous renovation with lots of marble, crystal and old woods. And it's still at the same corner on the river bank where life pulsates around the clock. Much of that life even takes place between the Catinat Lounge and Cycle Cafe off the columned lobby and the Breeze Sky Bar and the Serenade Restaurant on the top floor. Grandiose events can now be held in the Prima Hall, the multi-purpose ballroom where important meetings and society weddings take place regularly. The large suites on the upper floors give out to the Saigon River and the tropical hinterland beyond, while the quiet rooms overlook the inner court with its open-air swimming pool. Many of the objects in the rooms are hand-made, and in all of them guests are provided with the modern amenities necessary for business away from your desk. The service, tries to live up to the historical reputaion.

The Business Retreat

Omni Hotel - 248 rooms (31 suites)
251 Nguyen Van Troi Street, Phi Nhuan District, Ho Chi Minh City
At long last. For years you only had Hobson's choice for a hotel room in Saigon, now you don't necessarily have to drive into the city at all, for business talks, conferences or entertaining and, for once, live in a style you're used to. A few minutes drive from the airport, here you can live in marbled comfort with all the modern facilities you were longing for in this uprising metropilis. Space and light in the pillared lobby, with its sweeping staircase and the potted palms. Enough amenities in room and bath to avoid shuttling from Bangkok daily and enough extras for an efficient stay in the executive apartments on the Continental Club top-floor. (Many months), The Business Center is fully equipped, so are the boutiques in the shopping arcade, and the swimming pool invites you to balance the hectic. At the Cafe Saigon the cuisine is eclectic, at the Rom Thai fiery, and in the R & R Pub you'll relax even if you're not on leave. The city lights are only minutes away, but you can star here, too - at Stars Karaoke.

The Charm Hotel

Continental Hotel - 87 rooms (4 suites)
132-134 Dong Khoi Street, Ho Chi Minh
England's insatiably roving novelist Graham Greene and many a quiet American have stayed in the corner suite of former proprietor Franchini's former Grand Hotel. Today, over a century after the grand opening, it still seems that everybody passing through town stops here at least once a day, for a drink or dinner, for a rendezvous or just looking who's in Saigon. It's not the Ritz, but it shows traces of Old World charm and historical significance. Dignified Lady Thu runs the state-owned auberge with such style, you will forgive the defect here and the patina there and the lack of sophistication every where else. The location is ideal: shops all around and everything of importance a short rickshaw drive away. The kind service is getting used to business globetrotters coming in non-stop from European and Asian capitals, and the Italian corner restaurant serving as power breakfast, boardroom lunch and social dining place tries hard not to make you homesick about the star-struck pasta at the Oriental across the border. As the amenities become less scarce, the smiles are no less abundant.

The Business Lunch
Thanh Nien
11 Nguyen Van Chiem Street
Cuisine: Vietnamese
Behind the call overhung by luxuriant trees a courtyard garden with a little fountain pond invites for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Yuppies, foreign businessmen and diplomats from the habitue crowd at the open-bar terrace on one side and the piano-bar dining pavilion on the other. Madame Nga's specialties include cah gio, com tay cam and the legendary cha ca.

The Business Dinner
La Camargue
16 Cao Ba Quat, District
Cuisine: Mediterranean
No sign that it's a restaurant, let alone Saigon's most fashionable dining place, but everyone knows, anyhow. Palm trees surround the lovingly restored French villa, an oasis of calm amidst the traffic chaos, with its eautiful rooms, romantic terrace and charming hosts. Austrian Alexander Egert and his Vietnamese wife Thy. Swiss chef Daniel Koppel seduce Le Tout Saigon.

Social Dining

180 B Hai Ba Tung, District 1
Cuisine: French
The writing on the wall will tell you what you can expect: chef Lap Huynh's culinary biography is meticulously hung around the small dining rooms in awards and prizes. Trained in France and the US, his classic cuisine is permeated with nouvelle innovations greatly appreciated by diplomats, expats and cosmopolitan locals who don't mind the drive to this cozy country-house.

Romantic Dining
La Cigale
158 Nguyen Dinh Chin, Phu Nhuan District
Cuisine: French
When manager Jean Marie Breton moved here from the perennially popular Petit Bistro, habitues happily transferred their affections to this intimate dining place on the way to the airport. The setting is done out in red velvet, the liveried waiters extra-attentive and the many a list of old-time favourites. The music trio enhances any romantic tryst.

The Institution
La Bibliotheque De Mme Dai
84aNguyen Du Street
Cuisine: French/Vietnamese
The shelves full of law books, the family altar adorned with ancestral photographs, antiques all over the nostalgia residence and a few tales decked for dinner on the ground floor: the scent of the green papaya wafts through the house as Madame Nguyen Phuoc reminisces about her glorious past, en francais. Her anecdotes are superior to the home cooking.

Outdoor Dinning
164 Pasteur Street
Cuisine: Vietnamese
Pretty woman Duong Bang Tam welcomes you to her romantic garden restaurant as to the dependance of Louis Outhier's Cote-d'Azur Oasis. The pergola of her colonial house is the hub of social evenings and events. Music students play at your table while rice-flour ravioly and lotus-stem salad with scampi and herbs are being served in the grand manner.

The Vietnamese
Vietnam House
95 Dong Khoi Street
Cuisine: Vietnamese
In Graham Greene's day, when Dong Khoi was still the seedy Rue Catinat, the ex- was the Nha-HangImperial Bar. Today, the historic house has been restored to pristine glory: adobe walls, tiled floors, ceiling fans and luxuriant foliage set the nostalgic tone; the high-class Vietnamese cuisine attracts gourmets and the pianist upstairs, latter-day disciples of G.G.

The Rendezvous
Ciao Cafe
Nguyen Hue 72, District 1
Cuisine: International
Ciao, dolce vita. Saigon has woken up to leisure time at all times. (No more hard times unless it's profitable). The local Vietnamese coffee-shop that slips into the role of an Italianate trattoria at lunch and dinner looks best when it comes to fresh doughnuts at breakfast. Meeting point of the viet-khieus and hangout of the "working girls", this joyful place holds something for everyone.

The Bar
Q Bar
Opera House, 7 Lam Son Square
'Quiet American' David Jacobson came here on a peaceful mission. And every night droves of habitues-turned-friends populate the counter to make peace with themselves. It also helps that David has the vastest reservoir of whiskys in the country. The New-York-style bar is the favorite watering hole for everybody who is anybody, artist, journalists and singles out for a match. Even the hamburgers are authentic.

The Nightclub
Hotel New World
House guests have it good: they don't have to wander the streets or compromise with exotic conditions when they want to have a dance after dinner or a post-digestif in luxuriously relaxed surroundings with live music of standard. The high-ceilinged club is well-visited by travelling executives with their business partners. Dark and cozy, it's not too hard to make contact with local guests, either.

The Discotheque
Apocalypse Now
2C Thi Sach
Good times, bad times. When it was next door to Good Morning Vietnam it was the hottest ticket in town, so hot, in fact, that the fire of the provocative club was extinguished by the authorities. After its renaissance at a new location, it's burning again. The unquenchable thirst is stilled with bottled Tiger beer and laisser-faire cool. The Black-in-black interior makes everyone look young. The music heats up after ten.

Souvenir galore, but the arts also flourish. Le Cong Khieu is lined with antique dealers. Saigon's Institute of Fine Arts is full of Vietnam's New Wave. Particulier specializes in top names, Artexport and Fine Arts Import-Export add artifacts. You find exquisite lacquerware at Lam Son, Son Mai Lam Son, and at the Saigon Lacquerware Factory. On Dong Khoi, ao dai tunics and non la conical hats outpace ceramics, mother-of-pearl and silk paintings. Les Halles Centrales, now Ben Thanh Market, has it all under one roof.

* Saigon
* Saigon Attractions Guide (

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