On the last night of my weekend trip to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam, I was walking around District 1, close to the Bitexco Tower looking for a place to have some local dinner. It was one of those nights where you’ve run out of things to do, and you’re still full from the previous meal, but you’re also too tired to keep walking around, so dinner it is.
For no particular reason, I looked up and saw this logo that says “Chin Chin” on the side of a narrow building. Frankly, it reminded me of a fusion bar & restaurant called “Fang Fang” in Lan Kwai Fong in Hong Kong. Its oriental look and dark windows have me convinced it’s a pretentious bar I can afford (because we’re in Vietnam), which was perfect because it really was too early for dinner.
We crossed the street and checked out the menu. Turns out, it’s a three-story building with two bars and two restaurants in it, probably from the same group. We headed up to ChinChin which was a tad fancier than I thought it would be. Thanks to language barriers, we were invited into the bar even though the staff was still on their break. No problem, they’re super nice and hopped up: the music came on, the lights dimmed a little, and the place came to life even though our small party was the only customers there. The menu came and man, was I confused. First, I was sitting in front of one out of two windows in the whole place, where the only light streaming in was from a huge bubble tea sign from across the street. Defeated, I got my phone out for the flashlight, and after confirming with another human being, I came to accept that what turned out to be a very strong and over-the-top cocktail was indeed only less than US$4 during happy hour.
We must have sat there for almost 2 hours, determined to kill as much time as we could before we went across the hall to dinner. Now that it’s dinner time, we saw some people head upstairs and followed. Turns out Rice Fields, the Vietnamese restaurant, had a seating area on the roof. Even though it wasn’t raining at the time, us fellow tourists were all careful to pick a table that’s covered, having learned the hard way that torrential rain doesn’t like to announce itself in this part of the world.
I’ve gotten into the bad habit of calling things a tourist trap, despite being happily ‘trapped’ by these places. This place serving up local delicacies is definitely one, but like myself, everyone seemed very happy: the atmosphere and service were amazing, and even though it’s not what locals would pay, it’s still much cheaper than what you would pay for food half as good in a city like Hong Kong.
75 Hồ Tùng Mậu, Bến Nghé, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam