10 Must Do before You Leave Saigon
Okay, I get it. You came to Saigon, visited Chill Skybar, Bier Garden and the Post Office and now you want to leave soon and visit the cleanest city of Vietnam, Da Nang. But before you board that plane, remember to try at least a few of these:
Get a Bánh Mì Thịt
But not the ordinary run of the mill bánh mì thịt! Check out this small bánh mì shop on Xô Viết Nghệ Tĩnh street, somewhere around 105 or so. I have eaten there a couple times and the bread was always crispy, the pork nice, the sauce savory… Try it!
Shop at Nguyen Trai Street
As Zoe already stated in her three step guide to Saigon’s fashion street, this place has everything when it comes to shopping for shoes, shirts, helmets or dresses. If you are not out for shopping, it doesn’t matter: Just visit this busy blend of night market and arterial street.
Get a Massage
They are everywhere. Massah sir? Fu massah, body massah? Just do yourself a favor and don’t pick the cheapest options out there, because your experience may be… not as relaxing as it’s supposed to be. Read more about spas, massage salons and general well-being in Saigon.
Eat Mi Quang
Every day for breakfast, I wanna eat mi quang! Yes, while mi quang is my favorite noodle dish in Vietnam, I have to confess that it’s different here than in central Vietnam. I love the version with the thick yellow noodles we have here at some kitchens and I strongly recommend that you try them once in Saigon, so you can compare them to Da Nang, where the noodles are so delicious, that they got their own song:
Drink Bia Saigon on Bui Vien Street
Bui Vien street is the notorious backpacker’s street in the Pham Ngu Lao quarter and usually packed with tourists. You know these scenes from documentaries about Antarctica, where the shores are swarming with thousands of penguins. The difference is, the penguins huddle together because it’s cold, while the backpackers do it because the beer is cheap. Over a bottle of your favorite Bia Saigon you can join a heated discussion which type is better. Red or green?
Dander Along Dong Khoi Street
If Pham Ngu Lao is not your cup of beer, try the more upscale Dong Khoi street. The restaurants are more elaborate and the girls who try to get you to enjoy a spa treatment wear the traditional long dress. If you go there on Saturday morning, you may witness a free concert in front of the Opera House. In the evening you may see colorfully lit shops and people playing traditional instruments.
Try to visit the famous Cho Lon Market (Binh Tay Market) when you are here. Yes, I mentioned that recently in “9 Alternative Things to Do in Saigon”, but it’s true. Also hang out there and try a plethora of Chinese food. If it’s August or September, check out the lantern market for the Full Moon Festival. However, don’t bother with Chinatown during or right after Tet Holiday. There will be nobody there because everybody is traveling to visit their relatives.
Take a Cyclo Ride
Not the most efficient method of cruising through the city, but a very old and popular way of experiencing Saigon. However, due to recent events when travelers have been scammed by cyclo drivers on a regular basis, I’d advise you to book at your trusted travel agency around the corner, Loi Dat for example.
Drink a Ca Phe Sua Da
Well, even if most of the street coffee is fake and made of corn, chemicals and soybeans, having one cup of this typical Saigonese beverage is an absolute must when you are here. Avoid when pregnant though! Read more about fake coffee at this article about Vietnamese coffee culture!
Photo by: Khánh Hmoong.
Ride the Chaos!
Take a xe om, our good old favorite motorbike taxi, on a Friday at around 6:00 or 6:30 pm from District 1 and tell the driver to take you to Nguyen Van Cu Bookstore in 551 Xô Viết Nghệ Tĩnh street, Bình Thạnh District. To be fair, this may be the horror of your life, but interesting if you want to witness a Vietnamese traffic jam on a main street at rush hour, clogged with motorbikes, the air thicker than at Buena Vista Social Club on cigar day and your ears ringing from all the hooting that’s going on.