Bibi @ Alibi

If you’ve heard of Bibi then you’ve heard of one of Saigon’s best-known restaurateurs. Famed for his long-running restaurant on Thai Van Lung which closed its doors in 2007 after 10 years, his latest venture teams up with Alibi to bring his take on Gallic fare back to Saigon.

Born to a Vietnamese mother and French father in Vung Tau, Bibi earned his stripes in the restaurant trade from the age of 14 in Aix-en-Provence, his career including a stint at a two-star Michelin-rated establishment in his hometown.

Returning to Vietnam initially to work at the city’s first French restaurant, Augustin, he specialises in French-influenced Mediterranean cuisine.

Using freshly-sourced market produce, the menu at his new venue mixes anything from duck confit to his famed, prepared-at-the-table steak tartare through to fisherman’s soup and classic grilled fare such as the rack of lamb and the rib of beef for two, which with a flourish from the old master is carved at the table.


Discrimination of bicycle riders

Everyone knows the advantages of a bicycle: it does not require gas and does not emit pollution. Riders have time to look around the city while training their health. However, those who ride bicycle sometimes are discriminated against in big cities in Vietnam.

When I was a student, I cycled to school. After getting a job, I was able to buy myself a scooter. However, since my workplace is close to home, I started to ride a bicycle again. On the first day, everyone at the company quickly learned about me cycling to work and started to ask various questions, embarrassing me.

People were doubtful on hearing that I opted for a bicycle to cut down on gas and do morning exercises. Only after a month did my cycling to work become normal in everyone’s eyes.

Riding a bicycle, I cannot wear a skirt to work or go out with colleagues who only ride motorbikes. At the Gia Dinh People’s hospital, they put out a sign: “We do not take bicycles”.

It is indeed difficult to search for a place to park. Last month in the evening, I paid a visit to a friend in a hospital. When I arrived, I was told that there was no more space for bicycles, while those on scooters could easily get in. I tried to park on the pavement but got a polite refusal, although there were both prices for bicycles and motorbikes written on their sign board. In the end, I went back home and rode a bike to the hospital!

Now, whenever I go to a new place, I do not want to ride a bicycle anymore for fear I may have to spend a lot of time looking for a parking lot.

Earth Hour is not the only event during the year that suggests riding a bicycles. In my opinion, these activities are just formalism, as they simply have groups of cyclists riding around the city. There is as yet no way to apply the campaign to daily life, such as encouraging employees of a company to cycle to work for a day.


In developed countries, locals go to work on bicycles and there are roads reserved for cyclists. In Vietnam, there was a time when people rode bicycles on the street. But now, there is only discrimination for those who ride this eco-friendly vehicle.



Thailand Rescued 120 Dogs Bound For Restaurants

Thai authorities arrested two men as they attempted to smuggle 120 dogs to Vietnam last month, according to the Bangkok Post.

Civil volunteers stopped two pickup trucks carrying fertiliser sacks containing the dogs, 31 of which had suffocated, at Pho Sai Village near the Mekong River in Nakhon Phanom Province.

The volunteers, who are members of a taskforce unit under the Ban Phaeng District office, apprehended the drivers of the two vehicles. The pair confessed to local police that they had been hired by a gang to take the dogs across the Mekong River to Vietnam, where dog is a delicacy served at restaurants.

They face charges of unlicensed trade of animals, transporting unvaccinated animals, and torturing animals. It was not known where the gang had collected the dogs. The 89 dogs saved by the unit have been sent to Nakhon Phanom Animal Quarantine Station.

As the dog meat trade in Vietnam has flourished over the last several years, so have dog thieves. In some rural areas, local residents have taken the law into their own hands to punish dog thieves, as they think the legal penalties against stealing dogs are too light.


Playing in the V-League

Ash Apollon’s unlikely football career has taken him from his native Boston all the way to the pros in Vietnam. Words by Harry Hodge

Ashkanov “Ash” Apollon has certainly taken the path less travelled in his professional football career. And that journey has brought him from the other side of the world to playing for Long An FC of the V-League.

Apollon was a late bloomer in the game, playing it sparingly growing up in Massachusetts since he was more into other sports like basketball.


“Football really started to become my passion around the age of 16 when I was living in Haiti with my parents,” he recalls. “The passion for the game there is enormous; it was then that I started getting into it.”


In spite of his late start, he was able to secure a scholarship to Peninsula College in the Pacific Northwest of the US. From there he made the cut for the academy side of the Seattle Sounders of Major League Soccer (MLS).


Apollon’s pro career started in Thailand, where he played in 2014 and 2016. He called it a “slow start” to his career since he was already 23 when he signed the contract. A Thai connection contacted Long An’s manager and suggested him, and he was on a plane as soon as his Thai contract ended. Prior to arriving he’d watched some videos and Asian Football highlights to get a feel for the Vietnamese game.


“Nothing can really prepare you (to play here), there are so many unexpected things and it is a mistake to ever underestimate the league,” he said. “After the team had discovered me, their main expectation after signing me was for me to bring some flair into the attack, to score and create goals in general.”


As for the team, that’s another story. After the first few games, Long An FC was languishing near the lower end of the league standings. This included a bizarre match against Ho Chi Minh City FC where a soft penalty led to an on-pitch “boycott” by his Long An team-mates, who refused to try playing despite the game being locked at 2-2. Their goalkeeper even turned his back during a penalty kick in what ended as a strange 5-2 loss.


The fiasco made worldwide headlines for all the wrong reasons. Suspensions and two-year bans ensued, with a new chairman appointed shuffling the line-up over the black eye it gave Vietnamese football.


“For me, as long as I’m playing, living well and getting paid I’m good,” Apollon said. “The league is not easy, any team can get a result anywhere at any time, nothing is ever given.”


But Apollon has remained positive about prospects for the rest of the season. He’s currently on a one-year contract with Long An FC.


“It’s been a great experience so far and it’s nice that I’m starting to make my name in the league,” he said.


International School Ho Chi Minh City’s Class of 2016

The Class of 2016 at the International School of Ho Chi Minh City (ISHCMC) has set the new highest average IB diploma score in the institution’s history.


In addition, more than half the class earned the IB Bilingual Diploma, maintaining the school’s reputation for excellence. 19 nationalities are represented in this year’s class of 60 students, marking ISHCMC as a truly international school.


Graduates will be attending further education in places as far flung as New York University, Seoul National University, University College London, UCLA and California Berkeley.


Saigon Backpackers’ Area Map


Saigon Eating & Drinking

Vietnam Travel Destinations Map

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54 Truong Dinh, Q1 Tel: 3825 7199

Dubbed “the local bakery”, Crumbs serves up a variety of baked goods including baguettes, muffins, cheese and garlic-based buns and loafs, meat-filled pastries, sweet pastries, health-conscious breads and more. There is also a breakfast menu and variety of sandwiches available.


Harvest Baking

30 Lam Son, Tan Binh

Tel: 3547 0577

Made to order baking delivery specialists by phone or email. Scones, bagels, breads (everything from 12 grain loaves to Italian focaccia), muffins, cookies, buns, fudge cake and more, from upwards of VND45,000. Orders must be placed 48 hours in advance.


Nhu Lan

64–68 Ham Nghi, Q1

Tel: 3829 2970

Selling baguette-style bread for VND5,000 and basic freshly made sandwiches for around VND15,000. Also has a range of Vietnamese pastries and savouries. Open 24 hours.


Sesame Bakery

153 Xo Viet Nghe Tinh, Binh Thanh

Tel: 3518 0897 or 0918 445311

Located in the premises of the Hospitality School, Sesame Bakery provides practical experience to its students. Has a wide variety of French pastries, loaves, baguettes, cookies and cakes at good prices. Special order and delivery available.


Tel: 0908 828552
For anyone with a sweet tooth, this cake delivery service offers homebaked products using the finest ingredients including fresh fruit, imported butter and chocolate. No preservatives or hydrogenated fats are used. All cakes and cookies are made to order and can be customised upon request. Free delivery is available. Place orders one day in advance.


Tous Les Jours

180 Hai Ba Trung, Q3

Tel: 3823 8302

59 Tran Hung Dao, Q1

Tel: 3914 4350

187 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, Q3

Although tailored to the local market, this Korean-owned bakery chain and café bakes a tasty range of pastries, bread and cakes all at very affordable prices. Excellent baguettes and sandwich bread. Also does a slightly sweet version of croque monsieur.



39 Thao Dien, Q2

French-run bakery selling probably the tastiest range of patisseries, breads, quiches and pies in town. The signature passion-fruit tart is a must try.




Vietnamese – Budget


3A3 Bun Bo Hue
39A Ngo Duc Ke, Q1 Tel: 3829 3526
Bun Bo Hue starting at VND22,000 a bowl; also a serves small selection of Hue-style cuisine such as banh uot.

Banh Cuon Tay Ho
127 Dinh Tien Hoang, Q1 Tel: 3820 0584
One of the best known banh cuon joints in down starting at VND15,000 a plate.

Banh Xeo 46A
46A Dinh Cong Trang, Q1 Tel: 3824 1110
One of the best Banh Xeo joints in town and has gained tourist popularity.

Beefsteak Nam Son
188 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia, Q3
200Bis Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, Q3
Specialises in tasty Vietnamese or Australian steak. Served sizzling on a griddle with thick-cut fries, bread and salad, you can add pate or an egg, all for under VND40,000.

Bun Ta
136 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia Tel: 3822 9913
Specialises in tasty and beautifully presented Vietnamese rice noodle dishes in a colonial-style setting. Conveniently located opposite the Reunification Palace.

Com Ga Hai Nam
55/2 Le Thi Hong Gam, Q1 Tel: 3821 7751
Budget chicken rice eatery doing an excellent version of this Hainanese dish for around VND20,000.

Com Ga Hong Thang
378 Hai Ba Trung, Q1 Tel: 3820 0781
Open from morning until late and crowded during lunch and dinner, this place has an excellent reputation for serving up reasonably priced, reliably delicious Chinese-style chicken rice.

Com Tam Moc
85 Ly Tu Trong, Q1 Tel: 3824 8561
Serves up generous portions of com tam in comfortable, aircon surroundings. Expect to pay no more than VND50,000 for a full meal.

Hu Tieu Hong Phat
389 – 391 Vo Van Tan, Q3 Tel: 3839 0187
Selection of Hu tieu Nam Vang, ha cao xiu mai, banh bao, hu tieu bo kho, mi xao don, ca kho and suon chua ngot are the highlights. Prices range from VND7,000 to VND40,000.

Minh Duc
100 Ton That Tung, Q1 Tel: 3839 2240
This mammoth local restaurant serves local diners very cheap and familiar Vietnamese fare, esepcially its ca com (whitebait).

Pho Hoa Pasteur
260C Pasteur, Q3 Tel: 3829 7943
With 40 years in the business, this busy spot has a large and dedicated following. Prices are on the expensive side, costing VND37,000 to 40,000 for a bowl.

Pho Quynh
323 Pham Ngu Lao, Q1 Tel: 3836 8515
Late-night pho eatery noted for its pho bo kho Close to the backpacker area, so the staff speak some English. Prices are under VND35,000 a dish.


Vietnamese – Mid to Top End


3T Quan Nuong
Top Floor, 29 Ton That Thiep, Q1
Tel: 3821 1631
A rooftop homage to the art of barbequing and grilling, with an expansive menu of meat, fish and vegetarian dishes on offer. Best to book in advance.

Buffet An Nam
60 Suong Nguyet Anh, Q1
Tel: 3925 5046
Elegant and luxurious design with authentic and traditional Vietnamese food. Buffet available from 6pm to 9.30pm daily at VND100,000 for adults and VND60,000 for kids.

Com Nieu Saigon
6C Tu Xuong, Q3 Tel: 3932 6388
59 Ho Xuan Huong, Q3 Tel: 3930 2888
Rice flies round this restaurant in the signature com dap claypot-smashing ritual and the menu contains fairly accessible and cheap dishes like thit heo nuoc dua (pork simmered in coconut milk).

Hoa Tuc
74/7 Hai Ba Trung, Q1 Tel: 3825 1676
Recently opened in the courtyard opposite the Park Hyatt, this cosy eatery specialises in contemporary Vietnamese cuisine. From the same people as the Refinery and Au Parc so expect good food and service. Also has a lovely outdoor tea garden.

Hong Hai
54 Pham Ngoc Thach, Q3 Tel: 3829 2977
Nha Trang inspired seafood fare with dishes such as tom su hap dua (coconut steamed prawns) and chem chep nuong mo hanh (grilled sea clam basted in onions and fat).

Huong Lai
38 Ly Tu Trong, Q1 Tel: 822 6814
The brainchild of Japanese restaurateur Jin Shirai, Huong Lai hires and trains disadvantaged youths in life skills, hospitality and languages in an attempt to give them a “second chance”. Serving tasty, home-style Vietnamese cuisine in a French-inspired setting, this restaurant has seen some of its former staff go on to other service jobs.

Lan Gio Moi
396 Cao Thang, Q10 Tel: 3863 0063
This is a contemporary five-storey restaurant and lounge serving Vietnamese, European and Chinese cuisine. They have private VIP rooms, nightly live music and a rooftop patio dining area.

Mon Hue
98 Nguyen Trai, Q1, 7 Cao Thang, Q1 and 302 Hai Ba Trung, Q1
Pleasant, aircon chain of restaurants selling tasty Hue cuisine in an attractive, modern environment. Dishes include bun bo Hue, the excellent goi thanh tra (pomelo with dried squid salad) and many typical Hue dishes. A standard dish costs around VND40,000.

Ngoc Suong
19C Le Quy Don, Q3 Tel: 3930 0071
Seafood is the name of the game at this popular, open-plan eatery with branches across the country. A meal here can cost anything from VND50,000 to VND500,000.

Quan An Ngon
138 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia, Q1 Tel: 3825 7179
The recipe is simple – take 20 or so of the city’s best streetside food stalls, give them a makeover, put them all together in an airy courtyard and wait for the customers to roll in. The result is top-notch basic food at low prices, with a packed house most hours.

Temple Club
29 – 31 Ton That Thiep, Q1
Tel: 3829 9244
A colonial, art deco atmosphere is very much to the fore here, with the ancient wood and masonry providing a romantic, yet elegant backdrop to the restaurant and its attached living-room style lounge bar. An uncomplicated menu brings together tasty versions of street dishes and regional specialities from around Vietnam.

187 Hai Ba Trung, Q1Tel: 3829 7242
The menu concentrates on food from Hue, the former Imperial capital. Originally owned by Trinh Cong Son, the Bob Dylan of Vietnam, main dishes at this elegant and sophisticated restaurant start at VND100,000.

Wrap & Roll
62 Hai Ba Trung, Q1; 97B Nguyen Trai, Q1; SA1-1 Nguyen Van Linh, My Khánh 1, Q7
Wrap & Roll has done for the fresh Vietnamese spring roll what Pho 24 has done for beef noodle soup. The concept is simple: make your own spring rolls in a clean, air-conditioned and friendly atmosphere.


South-East Asian Restaurants


185 Bui Vien, Q1 Tel: 3837 1311
Attractive but informal restaurant in the backpacker area serving authentic Thai cuisine. The prices are good, with seafood, pad thai, green curries and som tam dishes going for between VND35,000 and VND65,000. Extensive menu. Open until 11.30pm, no air conditioning.



3 Truong Dinh, Q1; Now Zone, 235 Nguyen Van Cu, Q1; Diamond Plaza; Parkson Tan Son Nhat; Lotte Plaza; Parkson Le Thanh Ton; Parkson Hung Vuong

Tel: 6290 6404

Inoodi doesn’t have a huge menu like other Thai restaurants in town, it has instead chosen to offer a few traditional dishes and to do them well. They specialise in international noodles from Korea, Japan and of course, Thailand and Vietnam.

Lac Thai
71/2 Mac Thi Buoi, Q1 Tel: 3823 7506
Located in an alley of Mac Thi Buoi, this elegantly designed restaurant focuses on Thai food in a cozy, art deco atmosphere. The rooftop is suitable for diners who want to have an intimate experience. Dishes cost around VND100,000 each.


Lac Thai Restaurant

12-14 Mac Thi Buoi

Tel:  9 5500 0560

A new resto-bar serving up high-end Thai-Vietnamese dishes for the discerning pallet. The interior design, crafted by the same owner as The Lost Art, will also sway heads with its 1930’s Shanghai theme.

Lion City Café & Restaurant
45 Le Anh Xuan, Q1; 701 Ba Thang Hai, Q10; 98/o Le Lai, Q1
Tel: 0938 111 212
Singaporean restaurant with three locations, including a brand new multi-level space on Le Anh Xuan. Extensive and well priced menu includes favourites like mee goreng seafood and crispy chicken with sambal. Most dishes range from VND60,000 to VND100,000. Open from 7am to 3am for dine-in or delivery. Be sure to check out the rooftop dining area or call ahead to book the prime “seat for lovers” for great views to complete your dining experience.

Mai Thai
13 Ton That Thiep, Q1
Tel: 3821 2920
Pleasant décor and authentic Thai cuisine in an attractive, themed setting. Does the full range of Thai dishes using imported ingredients and is known for serving its cuisine up spicy, a welcome change from other similar restaurants which cook the same dishes but without the kick.

102-104 Le Lai, Q1
Tel: 3925 7777
This beautifully decorated restaurant takes the Thai theme further than most, with touches like dancing girl bas-reliefs on the walls. But the focus remains chef Kawesri Viroj’s well-crafted seafood dishes like the crispy catfish salad with mango sauce.

Singapore Chicken Rice
373 Nguyen Tri Phuong, Q10
An enormous chicken rice eatery that remains one of the best-known purveyors of this dish in town. The basic chicken rice (com ga) goes for VND20,000 and a number of combinations are available including xa xiu.

27C Le Quy Don, Q3
Tel: 3930 7873
There’s a choice of seafood, Vietnamese and Thai cuisine at this appealing restaurant, which offers both indoor dining and an outdoor terraced area decked out in rural Thai style. Open for lunch and dinner, closes at 10.30pm.

Thai Express
8A Le Thanh Ton, Q1
Tel: 6299 1338