You can read about Ben Thanh Market everywhere, so you know it’s mainly for tourists. Here are nine alternative things you can do in Saigon. Enjoy!
Instead of: Ben Thanh Market Visit: Binh Tay Market
Also called Cho Lon Market, Binh Tay is between Districts 5 and 6. Even though it is a part of many city tours, it is not as flooded with foreigners as Ben Thanh Market. The prices are a little lower, and it is mostly a wholesale market. Especially in the weeks before traditional holidays, the place is very busy selling tons of decorations. English speaking vendors are rare here in Chinatown, but Mandarin and Cantonese are widely spoken.
Instead of: 23/9 Park Visit: Tao Dan Park
Tao Dan Park is the favourite location for locals doing their morning exercises. You can also witness birds singing if you appear at the cafe here before 9 a.m. During traditional holidays you may witness bonsai exhibitions and other interesting events. This park is nice and peaceful, especially compared to 23/9 Park at Pham Ngu Lao street which is crawling with drug addicts and cutpurses after dark.
Instead of: Supermarkets Visit: Binh Dien Market
Binh Dien Market in District 8 is the biggest wholesale market for fruits and vegetables in the city. It does not only grant you the best price, you can also buy lower quantities of the freshest produce. A visit here is well worth the effort.
Instead of: Coca Cola Drink: Fresh Fruit Juice
Nuoc ep, or fruit juice, is available cheaply at street-side stalls. Like with so many things in Vietnam, go for the busiest stalls. Also try nuoc mia, sugarcane juice that is not only delicious, but also supplies you with the minerals your body loses every day through perspiration. Also try sinh to, the great Vietnamese fruit smoothies.
Instead of: Shopping Malls Visit: Nguyen Trai
There is a street for every commodity: lantern street, guitar street, used bicycle street and, of course, fashion street. While you can buy your fashionable shoes, nice dresses or typical shorts at shopping malls or Saigon Square, Nguyen Trai street is long, busy and entertaining on a whole new level.
Yes, they are pricier than others, but well worth it. Great coffee beans from farms all over the world are freshly roasted, ground and brewed. The taste is very different from your normal coffee, and if you are especially curious you can try speciality coffee beans prepared by different brewing methods. Three artisan cafes I can recommend are The Workshop, The Cupping Room and Shin Coffee. Coffee Republic also offers quality coffee.
Instead of: Pigs Eat: Indian Vegetable Curry
I always thought that a tasty dish requires meat, or it’s just not as filling and satisfying as it could be. Well, Indian cuisine changed that for good. It has awesome vegetarian dishes with that fabulous naan bread, and you don’t miss the meat at all. For the Muslims among our readers: most Indian restaurants offer halal food.
Instead of: Brownies Eat: Banh Chuoi
In Austria, cake with coffee is such an old tradition that people consider them as inseparable. Cakes in Vietnam, however, are different, such as the popular banh da lon (pig skin cake) or banh khoai mon (taro cake). I especially fancy banh chuoi, a Vietnamese banana cake with sticky rice that is usually eaten with warm and creamy coconut sauce. A good banana cake can make your day, so if you find one of those busy shops at street corners, mark the address.
Instead of: Heineken Drink: Local Beers
Why would anybody bother with international dishwater, if some of the greatest beers in Asia are brewed right around the corner? Platinum tastes just awesome and its headquarters are right here in District 1. Hoa Vien offers dark, Czech style beer on Nguyen Thi Minh Khai street. But don’t forget Pasteur Brewing Company on Pasteur and, of course, the ever-expanding medley of other craft breweries.