Top THREE things to do in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) Vietnam
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.
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Entrance fees (Y/N)
Entrance fees (Y/N)
Notre Dame Cathedral
Saigon Central Post Office
Y (VND 30K/adult; 15k/Child)
N (Not allowed)
Saigon Opera House
HoChiMinh City Museum
Y (VND 25K/person)
HoChiMinh City Hall
N (Not allowed)
Ho Chi Minh Museum
Y (VND 10K/Person)
Ben Thanh Market
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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).
Would you go for drinking with that foodstuff?
JUNK FOOD - SMOOTHIES - DRINKS
Here we're going into the junk food world. Are you ready?
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
Which one would you go for?
Welcome to Saigon
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French Colonial Structures in Saigon at http://hubpages.com/travel/French-Colonial-style-Architecture-in-SG
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