Chinese Dry Cleaners, Art Spaces & Trendy Gyms: How To Spend A Day At Ho Chi Minh Sarani
Chinese Dry Cleaners
Did you know that in the pre-Independence era, many of the city's dry cleaners were Chinese? Some of them came to the city as far back as 1922. Chung King doesn't hail as far back as that. But they are old enough (check out the retro signage, some of whose letters are falling off). Many Chinese immigrants who opened these outlets had formal training in dry cleaning in China. Most have shut shop but Chung King continues to be popular. Head here if you want to get that vintage saree or suit cleaned to perfection.
Old Suit Tailors
Ho Chi Minh has two old suitmakers next to each other. Of these, Suleman & Sons has been around since 1956 and will whip up a tailored-to-fit suit, shirts, sherwanis, and other menswear in a jiffy. The other one, H Abdul Latif does tailoring for both men and women.
Every Kind Of Eating Joint
If you are ever in the area or around (Camac Street, Theatre Road, etc) and hungry, you will have a wide variety of cuisines and places to choose from. There's and outlet of the popular Chinese food chain, Chowman which does reasonably good Indian-Chinese. Feel like some biryani, chaap and kebabs? Head to Saima. The tiny kiosk eatery Sutanuti does a pretty huge range of dishes from tetrazinni to omelettes, and fish and chips. Gabbars Kitchen is the fancier joint of the lot with quirky Bollywood-themed decor - lovely old posters and photos and wall graffiti with famous phrases and dialogues from films. They do Indian food really well. Then there's the old Kolkata fave, Jyoti Vihar serving South Indian tiffin fare like idli-dosa. You have an outlet of the sweet shop chain, Ganguram. If you are looking for a quick snack and drink, hit up Green Apple or MRP.
Load Up On Candy Or Cigarettes
Along the pavement near Green Apple are a flock of streetside stalls selling all kinds of candy and chocolate, cigarettes, perfumes and small toys. It's hard to figure out how many of the perfumes are genuine though.
Get A Makeover
Looking for a new look via a trendy haircut? Or a mani-pedi and facial? Ho Chi Minh has several salons that will do the job with skill. Choose from local ones likes Shears or hit up national chains like Juice, Jawed Habib and Colors.
Been meaning to join a fitness class? Check out Real Yoga, a studio chain based out of Singapore that combines yoga with backbenders, Pilates, hammock asanas, and hot yoga with traditional postures. They have several fixed and flexible package options - ask for a plan at the entry counter. If you are more the gym type, there's Kick Fitness Gym with a mix of different classes.
Pamper Yourself At Spas
Destress with a massage at one of the two spas on this road - Lavana and Nirvana Thai Spa. Go for a foot rejuvenation package or try a short massage meant for your head, neck and shoulder. Nirvana has the Ayurveda-inspired potli massage which uses pouches made of various herbs which are warmed and applied over your body.
Soak In Some Culture
The street has two excellent cultural spaces. Known as a resource centre of diverse art forms, The Harrington Street Arts Centre (THSAC) specialises in curating contemporary art. Showcasing an incredible array of Indian and International artists, THSAC also offers several art appreciation courses and programmes.
ICCR (Indian Council Of Cultural Research) is a nationwide organisation (founded in 1950 by Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, independent India’s first Education Minister) that hosts some of the best music art and cultural programmes with artists from around the world. Keep tabs on their FB page to see what's coming up.
Swipe That Card
Shopaholics, you absolutely must check out the shop attached to ICCR - Kamala. It stocks a huge range of curated handicrafts and textiles from all over India. At the end of the street is Metro Plaza, a popular shopping place for city youngsters. They stock big brands like Wrangler and local manufacturers, and it is the main hub for Bangkok exports in Kolkata. You’ll find many stores to cater to all your clothing needs including an entire floor dedicated to shoes and sandals.