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Top THREE things to do in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) Vietnam

Updated on April 18, 2017

Scenic Saigon

The city is shining in the sun
The city is shining in the sun | Source
Buildings mushroom increasingly
Buildings mushroom increasingly | Source
A busy thoroughfare toward the downtown
A busy thoroughfare toward the downtown | Source
Rain typifies the city well
Rain typifies the city well | Source
It's nice at this viewpoint huh?
It's nice at this viewpoint huh? | Source
Night falls and lights turn on
Night falls and lights turn on | Source

01. Visiting iconic architectural structures

Having gone through French colonialization, then 1st Indochina War to Vietnam's War, Saigon or Ho Chi Minh City reserves many outstanding architectural structures as surviving remnants of history and civilization, for example, Notre Dame Cathedral, Central Post Office, etc. These buildings are located in the downtown and interact with other modern ones, which all contribute to the glorification of such a metropolis.

Once setting foot in this economic hub, you must spend time rambling around the downtown and feasting your eyes on those old-aged mansions. Also, you should take photos with those buildings as excellent backdrops. Or sitting around to observe them changing during the day is another interesting experience you'd better not miss. Don't forget to shop for unique souvenirs, such as meticulous kirigami postcards sold in front of Saigon Central Post Office.

For convenience and time-saving, I'd like to insert here my article, check it out

Walking route

Walking route (Photo: Google Map)
Walking route (Photo: Google Map)
Some colonially- architectural spots in the downtown
Some colonially- architectural spots in the downtown | Source
Must-see buildings
Entrance fees (Y/N)
Optional buildings
Entrance fees (Y/N)
Notre Dame Cathedral
N
Hotel Continental
N
Saigon Central Post Office
N
Hotel Majestic
N
Reunification Palace
Y (VND 30K/adult; 15k/Child)
HOSE building
N (Not allowed)
Saigon Opera House
N
HoChiMinh City Museum
Y (VND 25K/person)
HoChiMinh City Hall
N (Not allowed)
Ho Chi Minh Museum
Y (VND 10K/Person)
Ben Thanh Market
N
 
 

02. Sipping Coffee

Introduced into Vietnam in 1857 by the French colonists, Coffee, mostly Robusta until 1920 were planted all over the central highlands. Since then, alongside French coffee drinking style, Vietnam itself has formed a signature type of serving coffee - brewing coarsely-ground brown dark roast coffee in hot water through a small metal French drip filter into a cup. The black glittering water is then served with sugar or condensed milk, depending on one's flavor.

For Vietnamese people across the country, ca phe da is that dripped black coffee getting served with sugar or nothing but ice. If condensed milk is added to the cup while the brewed coffee is being dripped, then the water is stirred and poured over ice, it comes the name of ca phe sua da. Then comes a sort of coffee culture in Vietnam, especially in Ho Chi Minh City or Saigon where the tropical heat permeates all over. Thus a cup of hot coffee is a nice choice to start a day full of excitement, and iced coffee saves you from the sweltering heat during the day.

It's coffee time!
It's coffee time! | Source
A view from Sitting Coffee Park (bet coffee at 30/4 Park)
A view from Sitting Coffee Park (bet coffee at 30/4 Park) | Source
Sitting around, drinking coffee and having fun with friends sound interesting to do in the downtown
Sitting around, drinking coffee and having fun with friends sound interesting to do in the downtown | Source

Then you wonder where in town to enjoy such nice coffee, huh?

It can be anywhere, mainly by the streets. As you sit on a side walk and sip a cup of coffee, your eyes are roaming about over the hurtling crowd. Ideally it sounds like you're living in slow peaceful pace out of the fast-moving frenzy on the streets. Usually, blue-collar men drink coffee in a street vendor shop that simply displays some plastic chairs and tables at every nook and cranny in the city. Also, youngsters in town like to drink coffee at the 30/4 Park smack in the heart of the city, where they sit by the street, drink ca phe da and chat with friends or appreciate the architectural cluster (mentioned above). This type of coffee is pretty cheap, around VND10k/cup.

It's the coffee time!
It's the coffee time!

Or you can hole up in a garden cafe and enjoy fantastic landscapes or decor. There are some fabulous coffee shops around town. Even you can spend a night at an acoustic cafe drinking coffee and listening to musical bands playing guitar and singing. The coffee with live music may cost more, around VND50k/cup.

If money is no object, you can go for some high-end cafe located in shopping malls or premier hotels like Highland or so (I don't have a taste for those). And if you like to explore more off the downtown, just make it to the 'coffee village' in Thu Duc Dist. - a 20km drive east of Saigon. This special place locates many nice garden cafe as well as street-side coffee shops. The prices are slightly variable, around VND30k/cup.

Such a retrospective-styled cafe in Thu Duc Dist., featuring old books
Such a retrospective-styled cafe in Thu Duc Dist., featuring old books | Source
Hot coffee with milk (ca phe sua) and served with ice into "ca phe sua da"
Hot coffee with milk (ca phe sua) and served with ice into "ca phe sua da" | Source
For those who can't drink such a strong coffee, there is a wide variety of other drinks for your choice
For those who can't drink such a strong coffee, there is a wide variety of other drinks for your choice | Source
A nice garden cafe
A nice garden cafe | Source
Strong coffee with such nice deco will definitely exhaust all your stress out
Strong coffee with such nice deco will definitely exhaust all your stress out | Source
A ballad night at a cafe is such a relaxing experience
A ballad night at a cafe is such a relaxing experience | Source
Just come and enjoy yourself, esp. at weekends
Just come and enjoy yourself, esp. at weekends | Source
Or hole up in a warm corner
Or hole up in a warm corner | Source
Or read a book at a nice cafe on the "book" street around the Notre Dame Cathedral
Or read a book at a nice cafe on the "book" street around the Notre Dame Cathedral | Source
Coffee and books!
Coffee and books! | Source

Apart from such a distinctive Vietnamese-styled brewed coffee, you also can try other types ranging from Americano, Espresso or Mocha, Cappucino or else at any ambient coffee shops around town. Just entering a comfy cafe, enjoying a cup of coffee mixed with the funky noise featuring the hustle and bustle of city life or harmoniously blended into acoustic music, you'll then gain unforgettable memories of Saigon Vietnam.

3. Tasting street foodstuff and drinks

Traveling to a country, we're supposed to experience everything from spectacular landscapes to outstanding cuisine. Yeah, we'd all love to taste indigenous foodstuff as a means for our thorough cultural experiencing. And coming to Ho Chi Minh City is to enter a world of foodstuff, especially street cuisine. The city is such an abundant source of food ranging from different dumplings to finger foods, especially junk food, with various flavors - hot, spicy, salty, sweet or crispy, being sold mainly on sidewalks at almost every single street corner.

RICE

The first thing you should try is broiled rice or cơm in Vietnamese. Living in a country whose main economy is on agricultural production i.e. rice or paddy plantation, Vietnamese people have long earned a habit of eating rice for their daily meals, since then established a large number of recipes. Sold in sidewalk eateries, broken rice or cơm tấm with different types of main courses whose prices are really reasonable (around VND 25 to 50k/portion), rises to serve most the city population - from manual workers to office employees. Here you are in Saigon - the northern city of Vietnam, whose flavor is laden with sweetness. Just drop by a 'cơm tấm' eatery that may feature some plastic chairs and tables, and your eyes will be enchanted with loads of dishes, but don't doubt its quality - the flavors are excellent - as I said - a little sweet yet really delish. There are several popular types, such as rice with fried pork ribs (cơm sườn), fried chicken (cơm gà chiên), beef (cơm bò), etc., which all are served with a kind of sweet and sour fish sauce (again, sweet). Also, apart from broiled rice, you can order fried rice as well, the flavor changes a lot - pretty salty, tasty and crispy.

Rice rice!
Rice rice! | Source

NOODLES

Noodles in addition to rice are what you must try right as you set foot hanging around such a foodie world. You may know how good Japanese Ramen is, but you'll absolutely not able to forget any types of noodles in Saigon. There comes a detailed menu that lists down different sorts of meat served for this meal, for example, noodle with beef (bún bò), noodle with pork legs (bún giò heo), noodle with bamboo shoot and duck (bún măng vịt), and that showcases regional signature recipes, like say Hue-styled beef noodles (bún bò Huế), Quang's noodles (mì Quảng).

Vietnam abounds in noodles
Vietnam abounds in noodles | Source
A hot delish bowl of Hu tieu
A hot delish bowl of Hu tieu

Especially, you have to taste Hu tieu, such an amazing street haute cuisine in Saigon. Having created by Chinese Vietnamese people since the old Saigon, Hu tieu now dominates the city's street food segment thanks to its omnipresence that catches your attention over any corner down the street. This specialty is so cheap, around VND10k/bowl (and, of course, no mention of food hygiene). There are several sorts, for instance, Hu tieu kho (dry Hu tieu), Hu tieu my (Hu tieu with instant noodle). And sometimes as you wander, you may hear knock knock sounds generated from someone on bike riding around for Hu tieu ordering - that then comes another fancy name - Hu tieu go (knock-knock Hu tieu). There you see a Hu tieu cart nearby which will serve the neighborhood for a while before seizing another place else. Don't forget to have a bowl, well, at night as you're tired and hungry after rambling about.

That's how VN's unique baggette bread looks like!
That's how VN's unique baggette bread looks like! | Source
And the stuff inside tastes perfect!
And the stuff inside tastes perfect! | Source

VIETNAMESE "SANDWICH"

Formerly as a product of French colonialism in Indochina, Vietnamese sandwich or simply bánh mì is a combined style of French baguettes with pâté, jalapeño, mayonnaise, and other native Vietnamese ingredients, including cilantro, cucumber, and pickled carrots and daikon.

Specifically, here come many types of fillings making up various fancy names, including bánh mì thịt (pork slice-filled baguette) or even bánh mì thịt nguội or bánh mì đặc biệt (special combo" - such a classic sort) that is made with various Vietnamese cold cuts - sliced pork or pork bellies, chả lụa (pork sausage), and head cheese, along with the liver pâté and vegetables like carrot or cucumbers; bánh mì xíu mại (a baguette with crushed pork meatball); bánh mì trứng (fried eggs with onions served in a baguette), or even bánh mì chay (vegetarian style featuring tofu and veggies).

Sometimes you see a street vendor ride a bike crying out "bánh mì Sài Gòn - Đặc biệt thơm ngon" (Saigon-style baguettes with specially delicious taste). Just call up and get a loaf of baguette with a small box of condensed milk. No need of a place. You just sit down on the sidewalk and eat such bread with milk.

The bread is sold everywhere around town with dead-cheap price. Just stop by and grasp a loaf and hang out.

And here's foodstuff for drinking!
And here's foodstuff for drinking! | Source

FOODSTUFF FOR DRINKING

“When in Saigon, do as the Saigoners do“, so dine out, grasp some beer and say "1 2 3 dô" (dô - /jɔː/ like 'Cheers').

As a so-called living habit, drinking or 'nhậu' usually takes place at night - after work Saigon citizens well, mainly men gather together for dinner and drinking, in a small restaurant - here on a pavement, popularly ôn Hoàng Sa Str. (near Điện Biên Phủ traffic circle). The drinking is accompanied by a variety of dishes (đồ nhắm). You can order lots of food, but within the sidewalk eating 'culture' edible snails gain the wondrous popularity. Darn! There rises a plenty of snails - say, blood cockles, clams, razor shells, etc. with numerous recipes - like, grilling, broiling, steaming, frying and so on, right there - on the pavement. Sitting on a plastic chair, raising a glass of beer up for a long-drink, you then enjoy picking a snail while talking with friends. If you say no to beer or any beverages, it's ok because picking a single snail out sounds pretty fun, by the way.

Grilled seafood

Seafood abounds!
Seafood abounds! | Source
Yeah, let's get the party started!
Yeah, let's get the party started! | Source

And seafood is sold on the sidewalk as well. Don't underestimate a street-vendor restaurant or a cart (a wheeled stall). You can order so many types of seafood for your drinking. Squids and small octopus on fire are such mouth-watering dishes. The foodstuff is cooked right there near your sitting or you just do it yourself like a barbecue party, your nose is overwhelmed by their fragrant steam while your stomach is boiling. Hold on a second, and here you are! Enjoy!

If you don't like seafood, don't worry - the sidewalk can serve you well with other grilled dishes. As rumor has it, grilled goat meat alongside beef and pork is so yummy. And even you're a vegetarian - ladies' finders or okra is a nice choice for grilling (but I wonder what you are doing there as a veggie? - just kidding).

It's nice to have something delish and drink some beer
It's nice to have something delish and drink some beer | Source
Can't you believe it? It's just by the street!
Can't you believe it? It's just by the street! | Source

Drinking feast

Would you go for drinking with that foodstuff?

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JUNK FOOD - SMOOTHIES - DRINKS

Here we're going into the junk food world. Are you ready?

Plenty of fruit jelly
Plenty of fruit jelly
They are all delish!
They are all delish!
It's such a great pleasure to have all of them
It's such a great pleasure to have all of them
Fruit paradise in the tropics!
Fruit paradise in the tropics!
Mixed rice paper (Photo: Online)
Mixed rice paper (Photo: Online)
Grilled rice paper and fried beef balls
Grilled rice paper and fried beef balls | Source

JUNK FOOD

Don't hesitate to try mixed rice paper (bánh tráng trộn) - a type of mixing rice paper strips with mango strips, minced peanuts and lime juice. The taste is exotically excellent, you'll find yourself gobbling up for sure then. This junk is famously sold around the Turtle Lake (Hồ Con Rùa) in Dist. 1, but you can buy around any schools as students are as-matter-of-factly main customers.

Another popular is grilled rice paper. It is made by placing a round rice paper on fire, putting egg on, sprinkling some mince peanut, chopped pork, boiled shrimps and other stuff. Just wrap it up and enjoy. And you also can try fried beef or fish balls. Served with chili sauce, this street specialty is of great delight for you to enjoy such a night dining out.

A colorful world of Che
A colorful world of Che | Source

CHÈ OR SWEET SOUPS

Saigon Saigon! When you visit this city, remember to try chè or sweet soups. Your sweet tooth will be certainly satisfied with a battery of chè around any corner in town. Cooked with various beans, sweetened by sugar and flavored with different edible stuff, chè is such a wonderful choice for you to cool off in the tropics. Thai-styled chè (chè Thái) is now increasingly popular, in addition to long-established traditional ones such as black bean soup (chè đậu đen), mixed bean soup (chè thập cẩm) and so on. Just ramble around Co Giang St. or Le Hong Phong St. you can drop by a small street shop there and enjoy yourself.

You can sit around on plastic chairs and enjoy such a nutrient-rich and eye-catching glass of Che
You can sit around on plastic chairs and enjoy such a nutrient-rich and eye-catching glass of Che | Source
Or you can buy some ready-prepared che in a plastic bag and hang around elsewhere (Source: Online)
Or you can buy some ready-prepared che in a plastic bag and hang around elsewhere (Source: Online)

SUGARY DRINKS

Sugar Cane Juice and Centella Smoothie Both are sold at the same place on the sidewalk.
Sugar Cane Juice and Centella Smoothie Both are sold at the same place on the sidewalk. | Source

SWEET-TOOTH DRINKS

And drinks!!! No beer or wine is mentioned here, but teeny popular drinks that you must gulp down in Saigon whatever age you reach. The first must be sugar cane juice!! It's an everywhere dead-cheap drink that saves you from the tropical serenading heat. Sweet, yeah, but it'll surly slake your raging thirst. You only pay VND 5K to 10K (less than 1USD) for a glass of such sugary drink.

Smoothies smoothen your day!
Smoothies smoothen your day! | Source

Smoothies are the second drink you must try. Given that South Vietnam abounds in fruits, most of them are delectable and healthy as done in smoothie. There is a long list of fruit smoothies such as strawberry, papaya, avocado, mango or mixed ones. Or centella smoothie mixed with minced green bean (đậu xanh rau má) is another good choice. Each costs around VND 20K to 50K only (around 2USD). Just right on the sidewalk lays a street-vendor cart that serves such delightful drinks for you.

Ice cream is everywhere!
Ice cream is everywhere! | Source

Next, ice cream! Ice cream! Come on, it's sold around parks or along streets by motorbike vendors or street-side shops. The prices depend on types of ice cream, but it costs around VND 10K to 50K (1~3USD). The city is hot, though, ice cream will bring it down and cool you off for sure.

Then comes bubble teas - though born in Taiwan - that has in recent years earned such a good deal of popularity in Vietnam - Saigon, especially for teenage segment. Colorful as it is, this drink offers icy multiple flavors, including mint, pepper-mint, chocolate, etc. With reasonable prices (roughly from VND 25K to 40K, or 1~3USD/cup), it's nice to suck it while you stroll around town.

Bubble tea! Bubble tea!
Bubble tea! Bubble tea! | Source
Colorful and flavor-ful bubble tea
Colorful and flavor-ful bubble tea | Source

Junkies

Which one would you go for?

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Welcome to Saigon

Saigon is a nice destination, huh?
Saigon is a nice destination, huh? | Source

Author's notes

All the pictures posted here in the article without cited sources belong to the author. For further information, please contact me at nhphuc2310@gmail.com.

For other articles, please check out:

Tay Ninh Province at https://hubpages.com/travel/Tay-Ninh-Province-Why-not
Thu Duc Town at http://hubpages.com/travel/Thu-Duc-Saigon-A-joyful-suburb
Da Lat Half Way to Heaven at http://hubpages.com/travel/Do-we-need-a-long-trip-to-change-horses-in-midstream
Life Trap Escape at http://hubpages.com/travel/Life-Trap-Escape
Ke Ga Cape at http://hubpages.com/travel/Sunset-on-Ke-Ga-Lighthouse
Mui Ne Beach at http://hubpages.com/travel/Mui-Ne-Such-a-Paradise
Da Nang City at http://hubpages.com/travel/Thomas-Wanderlust
Hai Phong City at http://hubpages.com/travel/Hai-Phong-Once-Coming-Then-Staying
French Colonial Structures in Saigon at http://hubpages.com/travel/French-Colonial-style-Architecture-in-SG
Top 3 things to do in Saigon Vietnam at http://hubpages.com/travel/Top-ten-things-you-must-do-in-Saigon-Vietnam
Can Gio a nice choice at http://hubpages.com/travel/Can-Gio-A-nice-choice
Cat Ba Island at https://hubpages.com/travel/Cat-Ba-Island-Shining-in-the-Sun
Ta Dung at https://hubpages.com/travel/Ta-Dung-Vietnam-A-Pearl-of-The-Highlands


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    • profile image

      Wendy Pham 15 months ago

      Amazing! I'm speechless as seeing those mouth-watering food pics. Damn excellent! I can't wait to read the update.

    • profile image

      Wendy Pham 15 months ago

      Amazing! Those jaw dropping pictures dazzle me. So gud! I can't wait to read the update soon.

    • profile image

      Phuong 15 months ago

      Many dishes are very delicious!

    • Thomaswanderlust profile image
      Author

      Nguyen Hong Phuc 15 months ago from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

      Thanks, Wendy. I'll keep you posted on my update and other articles.

    • Thomaswanderlust profile image
      Author

      Nguyen Hong Phuc 15 months ago from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

      @Phuong: yeah. Actually Saigon is such a foodie world, but within the confines of street foodstuff and drinks, I'd like to draw some lines over junk food and other sweet stuff as well. Maybe I'll tap into the excellent food/dishes in Saigon someday. Thanks for your reading and comment. Appreciated!

    • profile image

      Dong Chieu 15 months ago

      Well, a great posted. Hope we are nice time together in furture in among of these places. But,i just feel hungry now :)

    • Thomaswanderlust profile image
      Author

      Nguyen Hong Phuc 15 months ago from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

      @Dong Chieu: haha, so do I. Anyway just arrange your time and let's hook up together soon ^^

    • profile image

      Dragon 15 months ago

      Yahoooooooo.

      This is so good to read. I love the pictures so much. Go for some beer sometime buddy.

    • Thomaswanderlust profile image
      Author

      Nguyen Hong Phuc 15 months ago from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

      @Dragon: Thanks a lot. I'd like to introduce those things to you sometime buddy. Hey, go for some beer, huh? Yeah! How come we live in Saigon don't do like other Saigoners do, huh?

    • profile image

      bud_saint 15 months ago

      Thank you for such an informative article. I'm gonna hit Saigon in early June, and have been confused over where to go and what to do. Now my confusion vanishes as I learn a lot from your writing. Keep doing great, dude.

    • Thomaswanderlust profile image
      Author

      Nguyen Hong Phuc 15 months ago from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

      Thanks, bud_saint. I'll lack banh-xeo, but I don't have any pic, so update it soon.

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      裴工织 8 months ago

      I hear 'bout a famous kind of food named "mam tom". Is it popular in Saigon?

    • Thomaswanderlust profile image
      Author

      Nguyen Hong Phuc 8 months ago from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

      well, that's such a traditional sauce to serve Dog Meat. Anyway, we now have lots of derivations of such food, say noodle with tofu and shrimp sauce. Come on, we'll have it someday here smack-dab in the city

    • profile image

      裴工织 8 months ago

      Thomaswanderlust! I tried "shrimp sauce" as you recommend, it's so disgusting! Never will I try it again!

    • Thomaswanderlust profile image
      Author

      Nguyen Hong Phuc 8 months ago from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

      lmao, you'd better give it a try again, buddy. Actually you don't have to eat it with Dog Meat, but with noodle ^^ come on, I'll take you around for some noodle with shrimp sauce someday.

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