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VietnamVietnam Bars and Nightlife.

Vietnam, officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam or to some, for different reasons just NAM.

Before we even pick up a beer (called "bia hoi" in Vietnam - you may want to remember that), and move on to the Republic's nightlife, nothing can really be written about Vietnam without mentioning the "war".
But which one ?

The American War, as it's referred to here, captured the attention of the world, for reasons too long and painful for a barfly like me to go into. But, for centuries before, it belonged to the Chinese, the Chams, the Mongols, then colonized by the French in the mid 1880's, when independence finally ended. In 1941, Viet Minh - a communist and nationalist liberation movement- emerged under Ho Chi Minh, to seek independence for Vietnam from France. Now, we are into the First Indo China War (1946 > 1954). Vietnam ended as a country divided at the 17th parallel into Ho Chi Minh's North Vietnam and Ngo Dinh Diem's South Vietnam.
The Vietnam War, as the world knew it, lasted until the fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975. South Vietnam briefly became the Republic of South Vietnam, under military occupation by North Vietnam, before being officially integrated with the North under communist rule as the Socialist Republic of Vietnam on July 2, 1976.
Now to cheer you up.

Last year Vietnam was visited by over 3.5 million tourists, and it's no surprise why. Vietnam is buzzing. You can arrive here with nothing (apart from money), as they have pretty much everything you have back home, but the prices are much, much cheaper. Depending on what you want and where you stay, you can get by on $10 a day or $200, your choice. The official currency is the Bong (VND), but the US$ is widely accepted, and bear in mind the prices don't need you to walk around with $100 dollar bills in your pocket. Remember a good meal in a local restaurant will put you back just $5.
Hanoi NightlifeThere's a good and healthy drinking culture in Vietnam, so you will never be too far from alcohol. "Bai Hoi" (remember that from before), means "draught beer", and is available everywhere. "Xeo" is Rice Wine, an age old drink, and "Ruou Ran", Snake Wine - basically rice wine with pickled snake floating in it (and yes it's also said to cure everything from blindness to impotence). On the subject of drinks beware of the coffee. It's served strong, and I mean STRONG, that's S_T_R_O_N_G. So dilute it or suffer.

The two main cities are Hanoi, the capital in the north, and Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) formerly Saigon, Veitnam's largest city in the south on the Mekong Delta.

Hanoi. Nightlife for us is best enjoyed in either Central Hanoi or with a night in the Old Quarter. The Old Quarter, home to a thousand years of history, where the streets are narrow and congested and where crossing them is an art form - so look both ways and all ways before stepping off what you think is the kerb/sidewalk. Well lit and safe (but don't go wandering off down dark alleys) this is probably the old Asia that you have dreamed of.
HCMC - Ho Chi Minh City. Home to 10 million people and 3 million motorbikes - get the picture - is a chaotic mess of traffic clogged roads and urban bustle. It is also Vietnam's economic powerhouse, behind the country's incredible growth and prosperity.

Firstly names: The old name Sài Gòn/Saigon is still widely used by the Vietnamese and is found in company names, book titles and sometimes on airport departure boards (the code for Tan Son Nhat International Airport is SGN). The district 1 (downtown) is still called Saigon. The name Saigon is extremely popular among Vietnamese communities overseas. They use Saigon, instead of Ho Chi Minh City, as a political point against the current communist regime.
So now you know.

Getting a copy of "Guide" or "Time Out" (check they're in date) is always a good bet to see you thru your stay in HCMC/Saigon. The widest choice of nightlife in Ho Chi Minh City is the central area around D Dong Khoi, although go early as most typically close by midnight. Also check out Pham Ngu Lao which has a great travellers scene as well as some good bars.

Details of our favourites: Hit the city buttons opposite.
  Ho Chi Minh City  

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