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Travel & Resources: HO CHI MINH CITY - SAIGON

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HO CHI MINH CITY / SAIGON -- area code (84-8)

General Information

Saigon street scene (c) 2012 photo by John Goss

    Ho Chi Minh City, called Saigon by the locals, is broad and breezy, tropical and easy-going, with just the right balance of urbanity and grittiness. The city center is filled with trees, parks and boulevards lined by heritage buildings. The European-flavored heart of Saigon stretches from the river to the Opera House along Dong Khoi St, and is lined with 5-star hotels, trendy coffee shops and fine dining. The city spreads out from there in all directions and keeps going - an interlocking puzzle of French colonial architecture, art deco streamline, mid-century googie, and geometric Colorforms tacked on everywhere. It's a café society, balancing hard work at multiple jobs with recliner chair-lined, al fresco drip coffee shops and alcohol-fueled eateries that are open and patronized round the clock.

Saigon drip coffee (c) 2012 photo by John Goss

    Dining delights are plentiful and cheap. Shopping opportunities abound. Costs are very low and vacation budgets go a long, long way here. The best way to see the city is on the back of a motorcycle, but high quality taxi services are plentiful (ask your hotel which ones are reliable). Use your common sense to avoid scammers (like overfriendly Filipinos who accost you in high end shopping malls and tourist areas).

Pink Saigonite (c) 2015 photo by John Goss

    A young city (much of the population in Vietnam is under 30), it's filled with spunky, lean, fit and handsome gays, most of whom are genuinely friendly and looking for a stable, longterm love. That being said, Saigon gays do not lack for places for a little fun. Gays here long ago colonized all sorts of semi-private, non-gay businesses for their own social purposes. Many blind massage spas, for example, have a parallel life as a gay cruise space. Aside from the more open gay bars, discos, spas and saunas, there are cruising parks, fitness centers, public pools, happy hair salons, and even Internet cafés with hook-up spaces for the locals. However, most gays are not yet willing to be recognized and, so, most of the gay life remains discreet and underground, and growing ranks of pink collar professionals regularly escape to nearby Cambodia, Thailand or Taiwan for their advanced gay hobbies.

Saigon Grafitti (c) 2015 by John C. Goss

    The breezes of freedom are blowing through the city, however. As of 2015, Vietnam recognises same sex unions to some extent and an open discussion of homosexuality is rippling through Vietnamese society in a fundamental way. From famous poets to fashionistas, gays have, of course, always been an integral thread in the fabric of Vietnam.

    The population of Ho Chi Minh City is nearing 10 million (neary half a million of whom are Utopians).

    Navigating the local gay scene is easy with our interactive Utopia Map of Gay & Lesbian Saigon:

click for our interactive map of Ho Chi Minh City / Saigon

click here for NADAM Spa & Sauna
click here for NADAM Spa & Sauna

click here for PINK TULIP Bourique Hotel

visit nearby Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, Cambodia


Organizations

  • Intercontinental Club UTOPIAN VISITED JUL 2015
      2/F (above Hi Tea, stairway inside the shop) 190 Cao Thang, Dist 10, Utopia Map, 093-806-5031. Sun 7:30pm English and French casual conversation club for gay men. About 30-40 men attend and visitors are welcome to join! Organized by the irrepressible Danny and ongoing since 2009.


Travel Services

  • Holiday Houseboys UTOPIA VERIFIED JUL 2015
      Email. Select a personal tour guide to show you around the city. Speaking the local language, your guide will look after your safety and welfare, as well as ensure that you get the best deals and local flavor. He does the bargaining for you, carries your shopping, and makes sure you won't get ripped off. He will schedule each day based on your personal interests. Holiday Houseboys is all about getting the most out of your holiday. Utopia Member Discount
  • Private Vietnam Tour Guide UTOPIA VERIFIED JUL 2015
      +84-989-600-511, email. Bao Loc is a professional guide. He is not gay, but has looked after many gay travelers.

      Comments from Utopians:

      "I used Bao Loc for two tours outside the city, one of them a 2-day excursion to Rach Gia, some 200km away. He was cheerful and informative at all times. I found him ready to chat about gay rights and other social issues in Vietnam. A truly wonderful traveling companion." -- Ronald, July 1, 2015


Popular Spots

Accommodations

      Click here for Saigon hotels and accommodations.


Bars and Clubs Discos Fitness and Gyms

      DISTRICT 1

      click for our interactive map of Ho Chi Minh City / Saigon District 1

    • California Fitness & Yoga UTOPIA VERIFIED JUL 2015, UTOPIA VISITED JUL 2012
        Le Lai branch, Utopia Map. Gay-popular and cruisy, especially in the steam room after 10pm. Several other branches around the city are also reported to me heavily gay.
    • Nha Van Hoa Lao Dong (Workers' Club) UTOPIA VERIFIED JUL 2015, UTOPIA VISITED JUL 2012
        55B Nguyen Thi Minh Khai St, Dist 1, Utopia Map. The Workers Club is a huge site that has indoor and outdoor sport facilities including pool, tennis, volleyball, table tennis, gym, basketball and ballroom dancing classes. Thousands of people use the facilities. At the back of the premises is the swimming pool. Gym, pool, and saunas can be very cruisy. Open daily from 6-9am, then they close and reopen from 4-7pm. You can buy entry for the whole day. No English spoken.
    • Phu Tho Sports Club UTOPIA VISITED JUL 2012
        Phu Tho Stadium, Dist 10, Utopia Map. Next to the Phu Tho Indoor Stadium. Cruisy. Security, be discreet. Also see listing under Saunas for Men
    • Yet Kieu Club UTOPIA VISITED JUL 2012
        Cau Thi Nghe (just before the bridge), Dist 1, Utopia Map. Two large gyms with free weights and machines. Swimming pools. Cruisiest around 6pm. Not gay so be discreet.

      Comments from Utopians:

      "T&V Fitness is great and very busy. Open from 5:30am till late. Good equipment and two small saunas. One day pass is D$50,000. The people are very nice and a pleasant atmosphere." -- Marcel, Jan 22, 2015


Karaoke

Massage for Men Meeting Places
    • Highlands Coffee UTOPIA VISITED JUL 2015
        92 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia St, Dist 1, Utopia Map. Gay-popular hangout on Sun morning, 10am-noon; or weekday evenings.
    • Park at Alexandre de Rhodes, Utopia Map, at night. UTOPIA VISITED JUL 2012
    • Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens UTOPIA VISITED JUL 2012
    • Swimming Pools

        Saigon swimming pool (c) 2012 photo by John Goss

        Swimming pools in Vietnam are famous gay hunting grounds. The optimal time is around 6pm when families have thinned out. Following their watersports and cruising around the pool, guys strip and head to the shower rooms which may be discretely shared by more than one person. Make eye contact, and, if your gaze is returned, action may follow.

      • Ky Dong Club UTOPIA VERIFIED JUL 2015, UTOPIA VISITED JUL 2012
          Nguyen Thong at Ky Dong, Dist 3, Utopia Map. Fri the pool is only for women and children only. Sauna and massage here is for Vietnamese citizens only. Not gay, so be discreet.
      • Nguyen Tri Phuong swimming pool UTOPIA VERIFIED JUL 2015
          Dist 10, Utopia Map. Reported to be the gayest of the pools in HCMC. Fun changing room.
      • Nha Van Hoa Lao Dong (Workers' Club) UTOPIA VERIFIED JUL 2015, UTOPIA VISITED JUL 2013
          See listing under Fitness. Pool and showers can be very cruisy around 6pm. Bring your own towel and swimwear or buy it at the shop on the right side of the entrance. Buy a ticket at the pool to enter the shower rooms. At the end of the hall is the storage area. Plastic bags are sold to wrap your clothes and belongings in. Not gay, so be discreet.
      • Yet Kieu Club UTOPIA VISITED JUL 2012
          Cau Thi Nghe (just before the bridge), Dist 1, Utopia Map. Two large swimming pools. Cruisiest around 6pm. Not gay, so be discreet.
    • Vincom Center Shopping Mall UTOPIA VISITED JUL 2015
        Dist 1, Utopia Map. Facilities on the lowest floors, particularly B2, are less active than on previous visits. Best during the afternoons. Be discreet.
    • Vuon Lai cinema
        Corner of Tran Nhan Ton St and Vinh Vien St, Dist 10. Some cruising and busiest on weekends. People walking up and down the aisles in the dark looking for fun. Be careful of pickpockets - do not bring valuables.


Restaurants and Cafes

Saigon tower of shrimp (c) 2012 photo by John Goss

      There's so much more to Vietnamese cuisine than spring rolls and pho. Saigon is a moveable feast, both visually and for the taste buds.

    • Eating Saigon ! UTOPIA VERIFIED JUL 2015
        Email. Gay-owned website for travelers to Saigon advising primarily on fun/interesting places to eat. The owner and his partner live and eat in Saigon and want to share their eating adventures. The website also provides tips for Saigon visitors, including the latest on gay venues.


      BINH THANH DISTRICT

    • Dong Hoa Xuan UTOPIA VERIFIED JUL 2015, UTOPIA VISITED JUL 2012
        49 No Trang Long, Binh Thanh Dist, Utopia Map. This friendly, humble local restaurant serves up local food (breakfast and lunch only) made with love. Try the stuffed bitter melon soup, iron pot fish in caramelized sauce (see video below), crispy pork, and heaps of "broken rice". Family run and still cooking grandma's recipes. After dinner, hop next door and try a bowl of che, bananas and rice cakes covered in warm, sweet coconut custard. Open 7am-2pm.


      DISTRICT 1

      Saigon rau cau dua chilled coconut jelly (c) 2012 photo by John Goss
      A quick cure for heat: rau cau dua chilled coconut jelly.

    • Five Oysters UTOPIA VISITED JUL 2015
        234 Bui Vien St, Dist 1, Utopia Map, 6291-6847, email. Gay and lesbian-friendly restaurant in the bustling backpaker nightlife area. They serve seafood and Vietnamese food, with specials of the day. Clean, bright and bustling in the evening. Casual, relaxed and unpretentious atmosphere. The staff are attentive, courteous and fun company. They will accommodate special requests and dietary requirements. Great value for money and cheap beer. Utopia Member Discount
    • Hong Hanh UTOPIA VISITED AUG 2014
        17A Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, Utopia Map. BBQ pork on rice noodle. Spoon on some homemade fish sauce and chili and mix it all up. Wash it down with fresh, chilled lime juice!
    • Ice cream alley UTOPIA VISITED JUL 2015
        Utopia Map. Foodie alert! Do not miss a chance to try the splendid ice cream here, especially the local fruit flavors such as custard apple and durian that knocked our socks off! In the evening this alley is packed with people sitting on tiny plastic chairs to sample the various flavors. Go ahead, have a second and third helping.
    • Le Bourgeois (Italian and French) UTOPIA VISITED JUL 2015
        132 Dong Khoi St, Dist 1, 08-3822-6677. The fine dining restaurant of the Hotel Continental Saigon. Book a window table looking out at the Opera House and onto the restaurant's historic curbside terrace (where the car bomb exploded in Graham Greene's The Quiet American). Prices are not high - check their menu outside.
    • Monngon UTOPIA VISITED AUG 2014
        Utopia Map. This humble streetside restaurant serves up tasty Da Nang style food. For appetizer, try the fresh spring roll and rice cracker with anchovy sauce. For main course try the #2 bun mam thit luoc (vermicelli with boiled pork and veggies) or #7 my quang dac biet (noodles in broth with chicken wings, pork, egg and shrimp).
    • Nam Giao (Vietnamese) UTOPIA VISITED JUL 2013
        136/15 Le Than Ton, Dist 1, Utopia Map, 825-0261. This popular, shady, fan-cooled restaurant is 1/2 east from the rear side of Ben Thanh Market, tucked down a covered alleyway lined with smaller shops and beauty salons. The simple photo menu offers a good selection of excellent Vietnamese specialties. The "Special Clam with Rice" turned out to have incredible, alien mouth feel -- fresh and clean, not really seafoody, with the texture of organic packing material comprised of banana flower, peanuts, shredded rice cake, mint leaves, cracklings and clam broth. They'll also place a towering plate of banana-leaf-packaged mystery items in various geometric shapes which you may sample if you wish. The rectagular ones are Vietnamese wedding cakes made from coconut and rice gelatin. On our visit, half the customers (and some of the staff) tripped our gaydar.

      Saigon condiments (c) 2012 photo by John Goss

    • No Stress Cafe UTOPIA VISITED JUL 2015
        245/4, Nguyễn Trãi, Phường Nguyễn Cư Trinh, Dist 1, Utopia Map, 096-279-9099, email. LGBT-friendly coffee and hang-out spot not far from the bustling backpacker area of HCMC. With rainbows everywhere, you'll know you are not in Kansas any more. Wide range of coffee, drinks and cakes in a cosy and pleasant atmosphere. Lots of lesbian clientelle and tomboy waiters.

        Comments from Utopians:

        "Very nice, homey cafe for gays and lesbians. Owner is lesbian." -- A.P., Apr 15, 2015

        "Located on a small, yet central, alley in Dist 1, No Stress Cafe is a shield against all the hassle of the city, with their motto of being a discrimination-free zone - a place you can be comfortable no matter where you come from and what your gender is." -- Danny Danny, Jan 11, 2015

    • Pomodoro (Italian) UTOPIA VISITED JUL 2015
        79 Hai Ba Trung St, Dist 1, 08-3823-8998. There are plenty of second-rate Italian restaurants in the city, but this is the real deal. Expertly trained staff, unobtrusive aircon, and Italian comfort food.
    • Quan Ut Ut (American barbeque and beer) UTOPIA VISITED JUL 2015
        168 Vo Van Kiet St, Utopia Map, 083-914-4500. "Ut Ut" is the sound a pig makes in Vietnam. Even in the US it is difficult to find barbeque of this high quality, not to mention the wide selection of succulent pork, beef and bacon dishes; traditional American side orders; and a variety of refreshing suds. Chow down sitting at indoor picnic tables and tap your feet to the rock and roll. Daily specials.
    • Secret Garden (Vietnamese) UTOPIA VERIFIED DEC 2014
        Rooftop Alley 158 Pasteur, Dist 1, 090-990-4621, email. Gay-owned restaurant decorated like a countryside garden, on the rooftop of an old building, right in the heart of the city. Thoroughly peaceful and relaxing atmosphere with home-style Vietnamese food cooked like traditional Vietnamese family meals. Local guys gather and hang out during evenings.


      DISTRICT 3

      click for our interactive map of Ho Chi Minh City / Saigon District 3

    • Quán Thúy Linh UTOPIA VERIFIED JUL 2012
        239/66A/66B Tr?n Van Ðang St, P. 11, Dist 3, Utopia Map, 090-643-2589, 093-368-3719. In operation for over a decade, this homey, neighborhood resturant is unique because it is staffed by transgender waitresses. Friendly, relaxed atmosphere with a mix of diners including some gays and lesbians.


      OTHER AREAS

    • Dallas Cakes & Coffee UTOPIA VERIFIED JUL 2015, UTOPIA VISITED JUL 2013
        53 Phan Xich Long, Phuong 2, Quan Phu Nhuan, Utopia Map, 090-777-9150, email. Gay-owned cake and coffee shop. They specialize in cupcakes, entremets (bite-sized layered cakes), coffee, frappuccinos, and specialty ice blend drinks. 2/F is a cozy, calm hang-out space where you can enjoy your time together with your friends. Utopia Member Discount


Saunas and Fitness for Men


Vietnam Gay and Lesbian Resource Listings by City:

Hanoi | Hoi An | other cities and provinces


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