Ho Chi Minh (Saigon) + The South

Ho Chi Minh (Saigon) + The South Travel Guide

One of the city’s premier shopping destinations, Zen Plaza is a retail center containing several floors of shops, including designer brands like Diesel, as well as a food court with options like Pho 24 and a photo studio.

The shop's two rooms abound with perfectly curated antiques and Art Deco reproductions such as a sexy, low-slung mahogany club chair for just $400. If you fall for any of the tasteful settees, or can't live without an oversize glazed-ceramic lamp, the shop arranges shipping.

Along with the Archbishop’s Residence, this ranks as perhaps the most graceful and visually arresting colonial building in Saigon, full of rococo flourish and wonderful wedding-cake detail.

Saigon’s main public market sells everything from dried spices and live chickens to cheap clothing and plasticware. And while it may be chaotic and crowded, it’s always entertaining to explore—and especially good for a quick snack from the many food vendors here.

Saigon’s largest selection of English-language books, travel guides, and magazines is also a good bet for postcards, maps, and hard-to-find international newspapers.

The white-on-white Modernist building that houses Gaya makes a dramatic first impression (yes, those are giant fountain-pen nibs on the façade). Inside, you'll find the best haute souvenirs in all of Saigon.

One of the most appealing lanes in Saigon is also the favorite for foreign travelers: three tree-shaded blocks of quirky tube houses and colonial-era shop-houses. Take a walk along the row of cool fashion and home-design boutiques.

Parents of little girls thank heaven for Than Thuy, an unassuming shop packed to the rafters with adorable gingham dresses with Peter Pan collars, plaid jumpers, and eyelet nightgowns—all meticulously embroidered, stitched, and smocked by hand.

Since the “Five O’Clock Follies” (the U.S. military’s daily press briefings during the Vietnam War) were held downstairs, the rooftop garden—with its wacky Dr. Seussian topiary—became a beloved journo hangout, and remains an essential tourist stop to this day.

Irony comes to Ho Chi Minh City at this perfectly named boutique that trades in Socialist-themed ephemera: Communist Party T-shirts, Uncle Ho coffee mugs, key-chains emblazoned with NVA tanks, and more.

Formerly known as the Exhibition House of American War Crimes (at least until the United States became Vietnam’s biggest trading partner), this haphazardly organized museum provides not so much a coherent narrative of Vietnam’s conflicts with the French and Americans as a visceral and often grues

Valerie Gregori McKenzie, a French clothing designer based in Saigon, sells her breezy resort wear (sundresses, tops, and sarongs in soft cotton, silk, and linen) and yoga separates at this pleasant and well-run boutique, which emphasizes ethical sourcing of fabrics.

Locating Villa Anupa, hidden down a slender lane off Le Thanh Ton Street, is a challenge; even harder is deciding which of Anupa Horvil's butter-soft leather bags should come home with you. Will it be the white hobo with tourmaline beading ($250)? Or the metallic-gray clutch ($160)?

An Indian monk arrived during the third century in what is now the Ha Tay Province, and established the Dau Pagoda that has become one of Vietnam's oldest. An ancient place of worship with ornate wooden carvings, it was rebuilt during the 14th century.

Bespoke couturier Nguyen Cong Tri fashions runway-worthy satin and silk frocks at ready-to-wear prices (a floaty, turquoise chiffon dress for under $300). But don't expect a quick turnaround: it will take up to 10 days and a couple of fittings (shipping is available).