10 Must Do before You Leave Saigon

By: City Pass Guide

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.

Visit Chinatown

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.


This Week in Saigon: Best Events 1 June - 8 June

By: Angee the Diva

Activities to delight your little ones for International Children’s Day

Salon Saigon has an amazing lineup this week

Call your friends! It’s time to Party!

Ho Chi Minh City is a lot of things, but boring is never one of them. If you have some special kiddies in your life, there are a number of events to enjoy International Children’s Day with them. If you’re into classical music, Salon Saigon has got a packed week for you! Or grab some friends and have a blast sampling Latin street food and craft beer on tap! Let’s dig in to the latest installment of Angee the Diva’s Best Events of the Week for 1 to 8 June.

CHILD’S PLAY FOR CHILDREN’S DAY IN SAIGON

International Children’s Day Buffet

Hotel Equatorial Ho Chi Minh City, 242 Tran Binh Trong, D5
Facebook
1 June | 6:30pm - 10:00pm | FREE to VND878,000++

Celebrate International Children’s Day with a sumptuous buffet at Hotel Equatorial Ho Chi Minh City. Kids will have a blast with face painting and balloon art provided in the kid’s play area and can live out their wildest Willy Wonka fantasies in the dessert corner with popcorn, self-serve ice cream and ALL the fixings. There is plenty for parents to enjoy as well with a huge spread of international gourmet delicacies including loads of fresh seafood. Enjoy time with your family and celebrate the special children in your life with a delicious meal and fun activities. As a special bonus, if you RSVP via Facebook, you will receive discounted adult tickets at VND660,000++.

Best Events of the Week in SaigonImage source: facebook.com/hotelequatorialhcmc

The Cruise Adventure

Saigon Sensation - Lounge & Dining Cruises, Ba Son Shipyard Terminal, 2 Duong Ton Duc Thang, D1
Facebook; +84 093 868 6883

1 June | 8:30am to 6:00pm | VND500,000 child - VND900,000 adult

Spend International Children’s Day cruising down the Saigon River with Saigon Sensation. Kids can have their own fun away from the parents! They’ll participate in costume parties and adventure games with professional entertainers. While the kids are playing, parents can attend a pearl jewellery workshop and take home a finished piece along with several other gifts, perks, and products. The whole family can come together to enjoy soft drinks and finger food as well during this 3-hour cruise. Choose a morning or evening slot to suit your fancy. Contact Saigon Sensation by message or phone today to book your space.

Best Events of the Week in SaigonImage source: facebook.com/saigonsensation

SERENADES BY SALON SAIGON

Classical Music Concert: “A Tale of Darkness to Light”

Salon Saigon, 6D Ngo Thoi Nhiem, D3
Facebook
1 June | 6:30pm to 8:30pm | VND200,000 to VND500,000

Salon Saigon proudly presents Vietnamese artists to classical music lovers in Ho Chi Minh City. “A Tale of Darkness to Light” is a journey through some of the most famous works by artists such as Johannes Brahms, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Wolfgang Mozart and others. Some of Saigon’s finest up and coming operatic vocalists, pianists, and violinists will dazzle and delight as they bring classical music to life. Purchase tickets in advance on Ticketbox or at the door. If you can’t make this performance, don’t worry. Keep reading to see what else Salon Saigon has to offer this week…

Best Events of the Week in SaigonImage source: facebook.com/salonsaigonarts

Love Triangle - A Solo Piano Concert by Gustavo Carvalho

Salon Saigon, 6D Ngo Thoi Nhiem, D3
Facebook
6 June | 6:30pm to 8:00pm | VND150,000 to VND300,000

In collaboration with the Institut Francais a Ho Chi Minh ville, Salon Saigon is excited to present pianist Gustavo Carvalho. After traveling extensively and working with many other masters of classical music, Mr. Carvalho is now in residency in Saigon as the laureate of the Villa Saigon program at the French Institute of Vietnam. He will play works of Robert Schumann and Johannes Brahms - the great loves of Clara Schumann, bringing their love triangle to life. Don’t miss this opportunity to see one of the world’s best contemporary pianists in action. Purchase tickets in advance on Ticketbox or at the door.

Best Events of the Week in SaigonImage source: facebook.com/salonsaigonarts

Cine-Concert: Princess Monoke & Music Box

Salon Saigon, 6D Ngo Thoi Nhiem, D3
Facebook
8 June | 8:30pm to 9:30pm | VND150,000 to VND300,000

Salon Saigon opens its doors for patrons to enjoy a wonderful evening of cinema and live music. Princess Monoke (1997), is a Japanese animated film directed by Hayao Miyazaki and is a visual delight! On June 8, the screening will be accompanied by the unique live music of Music Box. The Music Box duo consists of Niko PALM and Christian Bouaziz, who fuse jazz, rock, and electro music into something fresh, imaginative and playful. Come out to experience a whirlwind of sound and stunning visual cinematography in the cozy setting of Salon Saigon. Purchase tickets in advance on Ticketbox or at the door.

Best Events of the Week in SaigonImage source: facebook.com/salonsaigonarts

IT’S PARTY TIME IN SAIGON!

Second Pentathlon Championship

Malt South, 35 Nguyen Luong Bang, D7
Facebook
8 June | 3:00pm - 6:00pm | FREE

The 2nd Teacher’s Pub Pentathlon Championship is about to kick off at Malt South in District 7! Represent your school with a team of at least 4 people to compete for major bragging rights. Teams will compete in 5 events: shuffleboard, cornhole, flip cup, pub quiz, and an epic hot wings challenge. The victorious team will not only win the pride of their school, but they will also receive a Pub Pentathlon trophy and choice of a bottle or VND1,000,000 voucher. Don’t forget to stay hydrated with something from their extensive menu of craft beers on tap. Grab some coworkers and get ready to compete for the title!

Best Events of the Week in SaigonImage source: facebook.com/maltsouth

Indika 3 Years Birthday Party!

Indika, 43 Nguyen Van Giai, D1
Facebook
1 June | 6:00pm to 11:00pm | FREE to VND100,000

Indika is turning 3 and it’s time to party! Get in on the fun from 6:00pm to 7:00pm with a community jam session and drum circle. From 7:00pm, enjoy acoustic rock from South African band, August Oak Tree. Then at 8:00pm, groove along with Heavy Pet as they bring their unique brand of dub music to the stage. In between acts, Saigon Dub Station will be rocking the decks. And what’s a party without some choice beverages? Get saucy with free beer and rum punch from 6:00pm to 8:00pm! Head to the party early to enjoy free entry before 8:00pm. You don’t want to miss out on this birthday bash as Indika Saigon turns 3 years old!

Best Events of the Week in SaigonImage source: facebook.com/IndikaSaigon

The Taste of Latin America

Machotaco Mexican Street Food, 17 Tran Quoc Toan, D3
Facebook
8 June | 8:00pm to 10:00pm | VND1,000,000

Three Latin American chefs are hitting the kitchen at Machotaco Mexican Street Food in District 3 to bring an odyssey of flavours to Saigon. Chef Mike of the United States, Chef Esmerido of Cuba, and Ricardo of Mexico will unite to bring a fiesta of flavours. Don’t miss this opportunity to sample all the bold flavours of Latin America on one special night in Saigon. Tickets are VND1,000,000 and includes a drink pairing of 3 Heineken Silver beers and 3 tequilas.

Best Events of the Week in SaigonImage source: facebook.com/MachoTacoSaigon

What are you most excited for this week? Angee the Diva’s Best Events of the Week has plenty of options for you to enjoy. Don’t forget to take a pic and tag #iAMHCMC on Facebook or IG. We’d love to see you out having a great time in Saigon. And say, “Hey!” if you see me around any Ho Chi Minh City happenings! #YoureWelcome 😘

Banner Image source: baroque.org


Escape Hunt and Ubiquest in HCMC

By: Aleksandr Smechov

City Pass tries out two of Saigon’s most popular live detective games, Escape Hunt and Ubiquest, playing the role of a hard-nosed detective investigating a murder mystery.

Outside of theatre and video games, you don’t see much role play or interactive activities in Ho Chi Minh City. Luckily, we uncovered two detective games that drop you in the middle of a murder mystery, letting you live out those Sherlock Holmes fantasies (minus tobacco pipe and risk of death). Escape Hunt and Ubiquest are difficult (to an extent), immersive and rewarding – read on to find out exactly why they are some of the most fun you will have in Saigon.

Escape Hunt

Located somewhat furtively above The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf is the quietly decorated lobby area of Ho Chi Minh City’s Escape Hunt office. Four rooms sit at various angles, blocked off by tall curtains. These are the escape rooms, and you will know nothing about them until you walk in, have the door shut and locked on you, and be given one hour to solve the mystery and find the key to unlock the door.

Escape Hunt HCMC

Escape Hunt is the brainchild of an English Psychologist who, after experiencing health issues and moving to Thailand, developed the idea of a detective game that has 2-5 players pitted against an intricate mystery.

Escape Hunt now has 25 locations, with a slew of others set to open in North America. The Ho Chi Minh City Escape Hunt branch was opened in September and has been popular with teens, universities, companies, tourists and expats.

Escape Hunt Saigon

Three of our staff stopped in for a 60-minute sleuth session. We were ushered into a low-lit room, explained the rules and left to solve the mystery and find the key to the door within an hour timeframe.

We heard the door sadistically lock and some moody music creep up. The game master was available for hints, but each time we asked for help from her we got minutes shaved from our remaining time.

Escape Hunt in Ho Chi Minh City

The puzzles are tricky, teamwork-oriented, and require some outside-the-box approaches. Few if any have solved the mystery and escaped the room without at least a few hints from the game master. Finding the next clue or coming upon an item you were searching for feels highly rewarding, and you get sucked into the role quickly. Time flies as you use a whiteboard to jot down notes and figures, collect pieces of evidence and nervously glance at the large LED clock ticking away.

It’s thrilling, addictive and relies on individual strengths working in unison rather than outsmarting the other person. As a team-building exercise or a rainy-day diversion, Escape Hunt is ace.

To check out available mysteries and booking options, check out the Escape Hunt booking page.

Ubiquest

Ubiquest Vietnam

Ho Chi Minh City’s second live detective game takes players outside the claustrophobic confines of a room and throws them in the streets of Saigon.

This doubles as a self-directed walking tour, but you may want to do the tour part after the live game – you’ll be too busy role playing a hard-nosed detective, questioning actors in various roles, finding mafia-tied ancient artifacts or any of the other challenges Ubiquest presents.

For our experience, we chose the Urban Tales game, a murder mystery set in Cho Lon, Ho Chi Minh City’s China town. We were picked up by a cute yellow 1967 Citroen 2CV, a happy-go-lucky young driver creaking away at the ancient dashboard. We arrived at a dilapidated living space, escorted up to the top floor and into one of the rooms, a few curious residents peeking at us through open doorways.

We were briefed, told to search the evidence room and given our gear (map, notebook, water, etc.), including cell phones for further instructions from the head detective.

Urban Tales takes three to four hours to complete. Be sure to go when the wind blows and the sun’s behind the clouds – you can easily get exhausted walking around in the unbearable heat on a cloudless day. Sun block and a decently wide hat are all but mandatory. You’ll be provided water but it’s a good idea to bring a bottle of your own too.

Ubiquest detective game

For entirety of the game, we set out into the streets of Cho Lon with our map and collection of evidence, going from actor to actor, uncovering details of the murder. The characters drop you clues and hints when you press them for information, sometimes refusing you if you don’t put enough pressure or reasoning into your argument. The acting is hilariously campy, and the game would benefit from some natural English speakers with an acting background, but the campiness is tolerable in the grand scheme, and allows you to play out your own amateur detective fantasies without judgment.

Ubiquest Cho Lon

We were pitted against two other teams, and although we were the first to find out the murderer, another team found the sacred artifact before us. Afterwards we all took cyclos to a Chinese restaurant for free lunch.

Urban Tales is an eclectic way to discover Cho Lon – or any other part of Saigon – just be sure to go when the sun isn’t blazing.

For more games, check out the official Ubiquest page.


Best Things to Do with Kids in Saigon

By: Barbara

Many of Ho Chi Minh City's things to do are suitable for families with kids of all ages. If you are living in Vietnam as an expat or just visiting, we list the 10 best things to do with your children in Saigon.

Don’t forget to comment below to let us know what are your recommendations!

City Parks and their Playgrounds

The city's parks are places where childish exuberance, which can be hard to contain in a hotel room, can be unleashed. Van Thanh Park in Binh Thanh District has paths and a field for little people who just need to run, as well as a small playground and a swimming pool. While the kids are busy being energetic, adults can relax in a bamboo hut over a small pond or work up a sweat on the tennis courts.

Saigon Parks

Listening to Songbirds

Tao Dan Park in downtown District 1 also has room to move, making it a popular spot for city dwellers to take their morning and evening exercise. And it's not just people who visit the park. Songbirds are taken to the park's little cafe (fronting Cach Mang Thang Tam Street) every morning, their cages hung from purpose-built frames to encourage them to sing. It's a fascinating experience to visit the bird cafe, especially watching the bird owners take their beloved pets home by motorbike.

Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theatre

The park, which has large playground and an indoor play centre, is a short walk from the Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theatre. The 55-minute water puppet shows, all in Vietnamese, need to be booked a few days ahead.

You could continue the bird theme with a visit to Pet Me Coffee in Phu Nhuan District. This small drinks-only cafe has a resident mini-owl and several parakeets, which can be petted, as well as some larger more exotic birds who hang out at the front of the coffee shop.

Photo Source: Golden Dragon Theatre

Family-Fun in Suoi Tien Amusement Park

One of the city's wackiest attractions in town is the Buddhist-themed Suoi Tien Amusement Park. Allocate a full day here, especially if you plan to visit the vast water park section. The amusement park can be quite baffling if you're not well versed in Buddhist stories because there is limited signage in English. Still, a stroll through the strange displays, which include a wish tree and The Royal Herbal Wine Palace, can be very entertaining. There is also an aquarium, 4D cinema, a dolphin show and the Snow Castle, the perfect place to escape Ho Chi Minh City's heat ... by plunging into a sub-zero world of ice and snow.

Photo Source: Suoi Tien - Andrea Hale

Pretending to Be Adults in Kizciti

Younger kids will enjoy learning about the world of work at Kizciti in District 4. The staff here usually has enough English to explain how each activity centre works. Each child receives a small amount of kizo, the Kizciti currency, on entry and they must decide how to manage it. Some activities cost kizo, and some earn it. A small open-air cafe serves basic food and coffee to sustain the "kiz" and their parents through a long day of "work", which can entail learning to be a pilot, a paediatrician, a delivery person or a firefighter.

Photo Source: Kizciti

Indoor Kid’s Play Centres and Playgrounds

Ho Chi Minh City has several indoor play centres and amusement arcades. In the city centre, Vincom Center has a play area and a game zone in its basement. In District 2, there's a play area in the garden of Snap Cafe and in District 7 there's an air-conditioned indoor playground inside Bee Bee Premium Kid's Cafe (4th floor, 96-98 Cao Trieu Phat, Phu My Hung).

Older kids can while away a few hours at Paintball Saigon, X-Rock Climbing, in the pool at Lan An Sports Club or at the bowling alley on the fourth floor of Diamond Plaza.

Photo Source: Snap Café

Visit a Witch-Themed Café

Younger kids can be entertained for hours at the witch-themed Ba Cay Choi (Three Broomstick) cafe on the third floor of The Vista Walk in District 2. Activities at the cafe, which can be entered via the stairs or a giant slide, include candle-making, baking, hat-making and painting. Make sure you order something with a suitably disgusting name from the food and drink menu, such as bug mud or ghost pumpkin spaghetti.

There are more cool cafés for you to bring your children to: A long rainy Saigon afternoon can be spent playing board games and snacking on poutine at Monopolatte Au Play Cafe, while a long scary evening can be spent eating ribs. (There's a pool in the outdoor section).

Photo Source: Witch Coffee

Playing Detective in Escape Hunt

Escape Hunt is a game played indoors with a group of two to eight people. You are locked inside a room with a mystery murder to solve. It is one of the best thing to do in Saigon for families with teenagers. You must work together to find clues that will help you find out who is the killer and how to escape.

Learning Arts in Vinspace

In the expat area of District 2, there is a range of activities for older kids. Some of the more interesting include taking a workshop or joining a summer camp at Vinspace art studio.

Photo Source: Vinspace

Saigon Reunification Palace

The Reunification Palace is a prime example of a must-visit family-friendly attraction that has a special appeal for kids. The roomy but slightly run-down public areas could be the backdrop for a princess fantasy, while the basement war rooms will appeal to hero-types. Making the palace even more appealing is its location, a short walk from the Haagen-Dazs ice cream cafe.

Families traveling to Vietnam with kids should not worry about things to do in Saigon. We only listed our top 10 attractions but there are many more great ideas that will make your stay memorable. You may also want to read our article What to Do in 24-hour in Saigon.


Arabian Night in HCMC

By: Quang Mai

Funds raised from the event will be donated to Nguyen Dinh Chieu School for the Blind in District 10 to renovate and buy equipment for a Multi-Sensory Room that supports 305 students here to develope their academic learning. Multi-Sensory Learning happens when more than one sense is used to acquire and retain information – so applicable for children with multi-disabilities.

Date:

Saturday, 15th September 2012

Time:

From 7pm till late

Venue:

InterContinental Asiana Saigon
Corner of Hai Ba Trung & Le Duan St., Dist. 1, HCMC

Ticket cost:

VND3,165,000 per ticket
VND31,650,000 per table of 10

Bookings:

events@auschamvn.org
Tel: (84-8) 3832 9912

Please click here to visit Arabian Night micro website

XO Tours: Much imitated but never replicated!

By: Barbara Dorothy Clarke

We all know that it is near on impossible to copyright an idea and protect intellectual property in Vietnam.

But what does that mean for your day to day business when you have an original idea and an excellent product?

Luckily although people can steal your ideas – in minute detail – and almost totally replicate your offering - it’s the little things that make a brand – and ensure that brand still stands head high above any pale imitations.

Spend 5 minutes with Tung who is the founder of XO Tours and his passion and enthusiasm for what he does is palpable. It is a simple idea – tourists want to see the real Saigon but not on the back of a grubby motorbike and behind an even grubbier driver. Step up XO Tours with female drivers with class, style and excellent English who are also able to provide a female perspective on life in Vietnam.

XO Tours was the first company in Vietnam to offer affordable motorbike tours with attractive female tour guides dressed in traditional Vietnamese Ao Dai. All the XO guides are handpicked and fluent in English but it is Tung’s focus on service that really sets XO Tours apart.

Tung invests heavily in every detail of his brand and his employees imbue the same high brand values. All his employees are trained to the highest standards – whether it is presentation, language skills, driving skills or personability . All employees are full time and their bikes are upgraded at Tung’s expense to ensure maximum comfort and safety for clients.

This is a business where the customer experience is king – people are buying memories and that is what he aims to deliver. Staff retention is key and bonuses and profit sharing make for motivated and loyal employees who are focused on growing the company by providing the best experience they can.

Customers come from all over the world and a high percentage of business comes from word of mouth – simply the best publicity you can get – being number 1 on Trip Advisor for 2 years can’t be bad either.

Bristling with new ideas, Tung started with basic tours – he was the first to do night tours – then first to do foodie tours. Now others are jumping on the bandwagon - some good -some not so good….

In spite of this, XO Tours is expanding and bookings are full – anything between 18-24 guests go out on any one night.

So competitors can steal his ideas, follow the same routes , and visit the same areas, cosy up to the same suppliers…..

Imitate they may – replicate never!

Do you know of any businesses with similar experiences?

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