While HCMC has about 7 million people, it still feels like a little big city. It isn’t the scale of a Singapore or Hong Kong yet, but you can see that it will eventually be – even Starbucks just announced that it will open its first cafe in Vietnam, in HCMC, next month!
Saigon is full of so many things – old markets and humble street stalls mixed in with classy restaurants and chic bars skyscrapers, old french boulevards and colonial buildings next to sleek skyscrapers. We spent timeenjoying the city’s sights, restaurants and nightlife, but the highlight was definitely experiencing New Year’s Eve in Saigon.
While the Vietnamese celebrate the lunar New Year, they don’t take the 31st lightly. The streets are decorated with lights and decorations, and by mid-day, all the key roads are shut down, allowing all 7 million people to cram into District 1.
There are a number of options of where you can spend the new year: On the streets, there is a stage setup for music and events right nea Ben Thanh market, and there are also activities on the river since that is where the fireworks display takes place. However, we chose the mainstage at Le Loi and Nguygen Hue as that is where Heinken had a massive stage for live music and entertainment, and it was the main place for the dropping-of-the-ball celebration.
While the streets here filled with people, it was the most orderly celebration I have ever seen. The locals where out to celebrate, but that didn’t involve drinking – the came out to participate in the celebration, and cleared out in an orderly fashion just after midnight!
This is probably why many of the foreigners choose to celebrate at hotels and restaurants – pretty much all of them have an event going on. In our case, we wanted to get the street experience – after all, how often do you ring in the new year with millions of people? In order to get the best of both worlds, we spent pre-midnight at Blanchy Tash for cocktails, brought in the new year on the street, and post-midnight festivities amongst the backpackers and expats in the bars/clubs along Pham Ngu Lao. Overall, an amazing new years celebration!