Just to clarify, I’m referring to the fact that I’ve just turned 27…I have almost no intention of becoming a rockstar and overdosing on substances this year.
Celebrating a birthday overseas can be a strange feeling. Last year I was lucky enough to be in Florence on my birthday, one of the most beautiful places in the world and with one of my best friends. However, I didn’t have my Tom there or any family and it was a little bit odd. I still had a great time but I don’t think I expected to be reminded of how much I missed everyone who wasn’t there to celebrate with me- cause that’s what happens. You have been warned.
This year, I was prepared though and it was ah-mazing (the pause is necessary). Let me tell you- Saigon is a great place to have a birthday. Firstly, there are so many great restaurants to ‘splash out on’ (i.e. pay more than $3 for a meal) as a treat. We managed to squeeze in two binge fests – the first of which was a very Western breakfast that I had been craving at Au Parc. It’s a really cute, rustic joint with an incredible menu. I knew they were famous for their weekend brunches but as my birthday was on Wednesday we had to opt for the regular brekky menu which was by no means a disappointment.
Every breakfast comes with a large basket of assorted fresh baked breads accompanied by a platter of homemade spreads including their orgasmic version of Nutella, delicious jam, the best honey I’ve tasted and I even didn’t dislike the marmalade- which is saying something. Then ofcourse you have to find room for your actual meal. I ordered the fresh fruit, homemade yoghurt and muesli. I know this is a bit of a cop out when you go out for breakfast but it was delicious, nutty and perfect. I couldn’t finish the bowl unfortunately as my love of carbs is so strong that I had already devoured half a loaf of the bread. Tom ordered the bacon and eggs much to my surprise. All egg orders come with three – any way you like- so you will not go home hungry. Infact, I didn’t eat until dinner that night.
After washing it all down with a cup of English breakfast (which I’ve been sorely missing in this Lipton world), it was off to paradise for me. I think I really will keep this Tom fella around- he shouted me an afternoon of pampering at Spa tropic before the night’s festivities. If you haven’t heard of it (which you probably haven’t because it felt to me like one of those really well kept secrets) it’s a beautiful place and you need to go.
I had a full body hour long Swedish massage to start things off. It was heavenly and the only massage I’ve had in Asia that didn’t make me feel like a spastic acrobat being contorted into weird shapes. It was just nice and relaxing. Tick. Next was a fantasticly peaceful manicure and pedicure. The girl didn’t try to make awkward conversation she just left me to my mags (would recommend bringing your own unless you’re into travel mags) and occasional dozing. She also did a flawless job. Oh! and I learnt a new word- my nails are ‘squoval’ shaped now. Huh.
Finally, the day was topped off by a ‘hair spa’ treatment. This involved a head massage for almost an hour – this is my favourite part of going to the hairdressers and is never long enough in my opinion so LOVED it. However, when they ask you what styling you want afterward, don’t ask for anything complicated i.e. curls. The poor girl trying to tame my mane spent about half an hour blowdrying the crap out of whatever treatment she’d just put through my hair and I came out looking like an 80’s soap star who hadn’t really tried that day. Still, that can hardly put a dampener on the amazing experience I had there. I will be back….but opting for a ‘natural’ look next time.
After all that pampering it was already cocktail hour so we headed to Chill Sky bar. I’d seen the billboards for this place and thought it looked kinda tacky but they had a rooftop bar and a happy hour so we were sold. It’s pretty crazy going up there as the lift is entirely enclosed and then staff lead you out on to the deck and you literally lose your breath. The view is in.cred.ib.le. I’ve never seen Saigon from that perspective before and it’s my favourite. Such a different city when you’re removed from all the chaos. Yes, the bar is incredibly overpriced and OTT to the point of being a bit kitsch but still, the drinks aren’t bad value during happy hour. Just be prepared to wait as the things are so elaborate they take about 15 minutes to make each one. Here’s an attempt at sharing the view but it really has to be seen to be believed.
After a few cocktails we were ready for dinner. We’d booked our favourite table at Warda, a great Shisha lounge/Meditteranean style restaurant downtown. There’s a table upstairs with great bead curtains that you can hide behind. They do amazing shared Mezze platters and the best Margaritas we’ve found in the city. Also, you have to try the chocolate fig pudding for dessert. I ordered two (to share I might add) and they came out covered in (too many surely to be accurate) birthday candles- too cute! My Saigon family also bought hats so we really got into the birthday spirit – and looked super cool ofcourse…
No night out in Saigon with that amount of cocktails is complete without a Karaoke session so next stop was Nice (I think that was the name). This was a club that consisted entirely of private Karaoke rooms which is quite odd for home but totally normal here. A friend of mine has family who live here and they’ve built a Karaoke room in their house! Safe to say, it’s more than a fad. Unfortunately I couldn’t give this place a glowing review, even though we had a great time. The service was a bit shit. We had reserved a room but they were cleaning when we arrived (on time). We had to wait around 20 mins and were upgraded to a VIP room as a courtesy but I’m not sure what was so VIP about it to be honest. Like I said, it was great and over far too soon (most places in Saigon close at midnight) but it was a school night so time for this birthday girl to turn into a pumpkin or whatever – after the amount of food consumed that day, it would make sense.
So there you go, some suggestions on where to go/what to do if you love carbs, pampering, cocktails or karaoke as much as I do. Thanks to everyone who made my birthday special- it was a great time in this crazy city.