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Essentials In The City - Ho Chi Minh City

Food Give Saigon pho a try. Compared to the Hanoi version, the Saigon pho boasts extra garnishes and a sweeter soup stock.

Tipping policy Tipping is not customary, but leaving small change is appreciated. Most upscale restaurants include a service charge in the bill.

Shopping For traditional ao dai dresses, head to the shops surrounding Tan Dinh market, off Hai Ba Trung Street on the border of districts one and three. A custom-fitted outfit, including design and fabric, costs VND400,000 for cotton and VND1,200,000 for silk.

How to maximise two hours of free time Visit the busy central Ben Thanh market for silk, souvenirs, food, and almost everything imaginable. History buffs should also visit the War Remnants Museum.

For a half day off Take a taxi or xe om (scooter taxi) out to the tip of Thanh Da Island, some 20 minutes from downtown. Once there, walk among the rice fields, get lost in the duck farms, marvel at pretty lily ponds and enjoy the laidback ambience. If not for the skyscrapers in the distance, one may mistake Thanh Da Island for a far-flung, remote Vietnamese countryside.

Impressive lunch for clients At Com Nieu Saigon on Ho Xuan Huong Street, known also as the “flying rice place,” waiters toss your orders of baked rice across the room and perform tricks. One of Anthony Bourdain’s favourite spots because, gimmickry aside, it serves some of the best traditional food in town.

Lunch on your own Sample all that Hue cuisine has to offer in Saigon at Nam Giao, a tiny place off Le Thanh Ton Street near Ben Thanh market. It serves everything from the famous bun bo Hue to the tiny rice-flour snacks central Vietnam is known for.

Late nights To satisfy hunger pangs that strike late in the night, head to the end of Tran Dinh Xu Street, District 1, where all households band together with stalls that serve rice, noodles and spring rolls till 2:00 in the morning. This food street is packed during lunar holidays.

Electricity Single phase voltage of 220V and a frequency of 50Hz, primarily two-pin sockets.

(The views expressed in this page are for illustration purpose and solely those of the writers.)