Like all great cities, Saigon has a little something for everyone. For some people books are a deep and meaningful part of existence while for others they are just a way to kill time but no matter where you sit on the reading spectrum we’re all more interested in reading when we travel. Perhaps it’s something to do with seeing a language you don’t understand plastered all over shop signs and covering every inch of the newspaper, reminding you of the complex pleasure of reading in your mother tongue. Or, more likely, it’s just all that extra time on your hands, on buses, trains and airplanes that makes you finally delve into the paperback your girlfriend bought you for Christmas. But what if you run out of things to read knowing full well you have a six bus ride or an eight hour flight tomorrow? Never fear, this is Saigon’s Top Five for Book Lovers.
Tu Quan Sinh Vien
A few book shops to get things started. Tu Quan Sinh Vien is located on Le Duan street, a stone’s throw from Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens. A big hit amongst the city’s student population, Tu Quan Sinh Vien has a good selection of imported books and magazines in English, Chinese and French. A bookshop’s not a bookshop without a cafe and Tu Quan Sinh Vien doesn’t disappoint, even throwing free wifi into the mix.
Saha Book Bookshop
This is the place to find if you’re lost. Saha Book Bookshops is one of the only places you can go in Saigon and be completely sure you’re getting authentic travel guides, not one of the poorly-printed knock offs they sell in souvenir shops and on the streets. Full of maps and great travel literature in multiple languages, Saha Book is a great place to go if you’re in the midst of planning future travels.
Ca Chep Bookshop
Ca Chep is the sort of bookshop I like. A modern building but with traditional sensibilities, Ca Chep is a five-story bookshop with such an ordinary-looking facade it’s easy to walk right by. Pay close attention and find number 211-213 on Vo Van Tan Street in District 3 Saigon and you’ll be rewarded with your pick of thousands of books on a range of subjects and in a range of languages. Each floor is fit for purpose in this building with the ground floor housing Vietnamese best-sellers, the second floor home to souvenirs and stationary, possibly two of my favourite things, the third floor is a cosy, colourful space for children and the fourth floor is for foreigners where there is a whole section for imported and translated works. I almost forgot the fifth floor. Yes, you guessed it – a cafe! The cafe offers incredible views of the city and, incredibly, is open until 10pm.
The Alcove Library Hotel
Now you’ve bought all of your books where on earth are you going to read them? If you’re lucky enough you could book yourself in for a few nights in the Alcove Library Hotel. Located in the centre of Saigon just off Nguyen Van Troi street, this boutique hotel’s main draw for visitors, aside from its timeless architecture and luxurious rooms, is its extensive library. The Alcove Library Hotel has such a huge range of fiction and non-fiction books to choose from and so many comfortable and stylish places to sit and read them it’s a wonder any of the guest make it out into the city.
From bookshops to library hotels to books fairs, each March Saigon plays host to an annual Book Culture and Development Fair. Now in its eight year, the fair gathers together hundreds of local and foreign publishers all of whom offer discounts on their stock. More excitingly though, the fair organises a programme of events to go with the business side of the fair including author’s talks, signings, film screenings and readings, all of which make for a rather lovely day out.
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