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.


Golf in Vietnam

By: Simon Stanley


Golf in Vietnam. Great Experience

 


Although Vietnam has only 30 golf courses in operation, they are all very high quality and some outstanding designs by the top golf architects in the world. If you get the opportunity to play, you will not be disappointed and you will be made so very welcome wherever you go. As yet, there are no public golf courses in the country and golf is seen as a sport for the elite. Many of the top-position politicians and businessmen play golf as they see it as a good way to discuss business together.

 


Golf here is not as expensive as you would think. During the week, special offers mean you can play golf for around $60. This will include the green fee and caddie. Please note that caddies are mandatory and more about them later. Although many golf courses are ok for walking, due to the heat and the time taken to play 18 holes, it is wise to take a buggy. Prices vary from course to course, but a shared buggy charge will be around $15 per person.

 


golf in vietnam

 


Photo courtesy of Sea Links Golf Resort

 


When you arrive at the golf club, you will be welcomed by the Valet, who will direct you to Reception where you will book in. If you need rental clubs and shoes, the Receptionist will get them for you. Most golf clubs will offer acceptable rental clubs for about $25 for 18 holes or higher quality sets, such as Titleist or Taylor Made for $40. The price for shoes is usually $15. The Golf Shop will stock tees, gloves and golf balls and some clubs offer used golf balls for sale. They will also have a selection of shirts and caps for you to buy as souvenirs. You must be aware of the dress code. Each club will expect you to wear a proper golf shirt, golf shorts, not swimming trunks or very short shorts, golf shoes and each golfer must have their own set of golf clubs, Sharing is not allowed. All golf clubs have locker rooms and you will be given your own locker and key. Do not lose the key, otherwise they will charge you for a replacement.

golf in vietnam


Photo courtesy of Do Son Seaside Golf Resort


The caddie will help you on the golf course. When you book a tee time, insist on a caddie who can speak English. You will be spending 4 or 5 hours with them, so you do want to find out more about their life and you will find they are so interested in you. They will do everything for you except hit a golf ball. They will take care of your clubs, clean your golf balls, fill in divots, rake bunkers and repair pitch marks. They will describe each hole for you, tell you where the hazards are and even give you the line of the putt. As their salary is small, then you should give them a tip at the end of the round. The amount of tip is up to you, but the usual tip is 250,000 to 400,000 Vietnam dong per caddie ($13 to $20).



Make sure you are properly prepared for your round of golf. Drink plenty of water before you play and during the round. All golf courses have rest houses on the golf course and many return to the club house after 9 holes. Bringing your own drinks and food is a no no and should not be done.



After your round of golf, make sure you give yourself time to relax at the clubhouse with a welcoming and refreshing cold drink. Golf clubs are excellent places to eat, very reasonable in price and will offer both local and international menus.



Most of all enjoy yourself and take in the beauty of where you are. You are in a very special place with some friendly, smiling people who want to do their best for you and hope you will come back and see them again.


golf in vietnam



Other Golf articles by Simon Tinkler:
Golf in the North of Vietnam
Golf in Nha Trang
Golf in Da Nang
Golf in Phan Thiet and Mui Ne
Sea Links Golf Course - Heaven or Hell
Holes-in-One for BRG Group


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.


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?


10 Great Places to Shop in Saigon

By: City Pass Guide

Shopping is, whether unfortunately or not, an indispensable part of life. How can you eat if you don’t buy the food first? How can you buy the food if you have nothing to wear out of the house?

We need shoes for work, food for fuel, phones and laptops to communicate, vehicles to get from place to place, machinery, gadgets, jewelry, gifts, stationery, you name it we probably need it! And shopping in Saigon for that one thing you really need (or let’s face it, really want) can be a very daunting process. I needed an adaptor plug for my laptop the other day, and honestly I am still borrowing my friend’s plug because I just couldn’t face the chaos of Saigon’s commercial network. Where the heck do I buy an adaptor plug?

Ok so it turns out plugs are very easy. But the point still stands. Sometimes shopping here can seem too hard! And a bit of insight will go a long way. Therefore, we decided to put our heads together and come up with an excellent, insightful and very un-chaotic ten point guide to shopping in this beautiful madhouse of a city. Enjoy!

An Đông Market

What is it for? Saigon’s greatest fabric market

I already mentioned An Đông Market in my How to find a good Tailor article. An Đông Market is the biggest fabric market in Ho Chi Minh City. Whatever textile you desire, I am pretty positive that An Đông Market has it.

You might have to search the different booths for a while, at least if your wish is rather eccentric, but usually you find what you need. Prices in this area are mostly fixed and reasonable, but double-check.

Downstairs you find the usual articles that you find in other markets as well. Fashion in Asian sizes, wholesale goods and food kitchens. If you are just shopping for small amounts of goods and not well-versed in using this kind of market, you might want to do some research on pricing beforehand.

Top Tip: Many fabric vendors sell at a fixed price. But if you buy a bulk amount, like for three shirts and two pairs of trousers, they are usually willing to give a discount.


Nguyễn Tri Phương Market

What is it for? From groceries to jewelry

Are you as sick of unfriendly, pushy vendors, bad quality and the regular tourist crap at Bến Thành market as I am? Would you like to shop at an extensive but largely tourist-free market that is not too far away from District 1?

Nguyễn Tri Phương Market is exactly that, a huge market in District 10 that has everything any other big market offers. From spice vendors to rice soup kitchens to goldsmiths, it satisfies your needs.

Of course, the freshest fruit and vegetables are sold out until noon, but there is a steady supply coming in. Fresh seafood and tea leaves are some of the recommended things there.

Top Tip: Right outside of the market on Bà Hạt street, there is a small stall where a lady sells traditional Vietnamese cakes. Give it a try, they are delicious! Especially the green sticky rice cakes that are filled with coconut or green bean paste.


Aeon Mall

What is it for? Sushi, mall and supermarket

Photo source: Quốc Thanh

What do I see in Aeon Mall that you don’t have in other shopping malls in Ho Chi Minh City? Or let’s rephrase the question: Why would I go to a mall in Tân Phú District when District 1 has more than enough shopping malls?

Well… I believe Aeon Mall is different. It is a place to shop for your everyday needs, rather than just luxury items. The mall includes a vast supermarket with many local and imported goods. Whether you want rice paper, olive oil, German biscuits or fresh blueberries, here you can get it.

It’s a Japanese shopping mall, so if you need some Japanese articles you can’t find in Lê Thánh Tôn street, chances are pretty high that Aeon Mall has it.

Three things are especially worth mentioning:

First, the shopping mall offers a free shuttle bus from several popular downtown locations, which is really convenient.

Second, the food selection is amazing. First and foremost you will find Japanese food at a reasonable price.

Third, Tân Phú District is one of the parts of Ho Chi Minh City where the land is relatively cheap, so many people from the countryside move there. A mall is a new experience for them and you may find it entertaining to watch what some people try to get on the escalator, while others apparently are afraid to get eaten alive by the vanishing steps…

Top Tip: Try the sushi. It cannot stand up to my favorite sushi kitchen in District 5, but it’s definitely a nice snack at a good price.


Hardware Street

What is it for? The manly alternative

Hardware Street

On Yersin street in District 1, you can find Chợ Dân Sinh, or Dan Sinh Market. You need to fix some pipes or the electrics? You want to fetch some nails, screws and angle irons for making your own bookshelf? You need ropes, lines or tape? You want to go all out and shop for the basic parts for your very own Battle Mech?

Then Chợ Dân Sinh is your paradise. Tools, parts and resources for the maker and the handyman in abundance. Walking through the hardware market and even just along Yersin street makes me want to build my own Death Star.

The area offers close to anything, a traditional man needs to mess up the house. Not just hardware, but accessories for boats and motorbikes, protective clothing and tape for fencing off the area.

It is really hard to walk through Chợ Dân Sinh and not getting dreamy about all the things you could create and how to improve your home. There are even materials and strangely formed metal artifacts where you rely on your best guess about what they are used for.

Grab your wallet tightly and get a hold on yourself. Put wax in your ears like Odysseus used to do, so you don’t hear the siren calls of that very useful percussion drill over there.

Top Tip: Right in the middle of the area is a chaotic shop for kitchenware. It appears small at first glance, but it has everything a kitchen needs. Everything.


Xô Viết Nghệ Tĩnh Street

What is it for? Everything for everybody

People might wonder why I pick Xô Viết Nghệ Tĩnh as a shopping location. There are no big shops there, no malls, no specialized vendors clustering together.

Well, that’s exactly it. The street is one of the major routes between Saigon’s District 1 & District 3 to the northern part of the city. The area is largely untainted by tourists, so the prices are normally within Vietnamese standards and the vendors are friendly and unobtrusive.

Whether you are out for cheap electronic items from one of these noisy bargain stores, bread from a variety of bakeries, fresh fruit and many other items for your daily needs, you can find them at Xô Viết Nghệ Tĩnh street and its surrounding alleys. But don’t expect any specialized stores or the highest quality.

The best thing about this street is the abundance of roadside kitchens. Eat a bowl of phở to replenish your energy or sip some nước mía (fresh sugarcane juice) while taking in the hustle and bustle. However, if you don’t like the chaotic Vietnamese traffic, this street is not for you. Especially during rush hour, traffic jams occur frequently.

Top Tip: At the beginning of the street, next to the bridge that leads to District 1, is a market street that turns into a massive street food joint in the evening.


Nguyễn Trãi Street

What is it for? Fashion and gifts

Nguyen Trai

It’s not a mall but it may as well be - for the best deals, a pleasant experience and a range of merchandise all in one convenient location, Ho Chi Minh City’s Fashion Street has you covered. I tend to visit this strip whenever I need to top up my closet, which I will be honest is not often - I’m definitely not a shopaholic. But when I do need that new pair of jeans, those ‘big-size’ heels for work, I come to Fashion Street every time.

I have honestly yet to find a spot in this city that has such a comprehensive collection of stuff all in one place. From cheap and cheerful tops to the finest of luxury brands and international labels, from shoes to bras, suits to bicycles, phones to sun-hats! Though Nguyễn Trãi Street is known as a fashion hot-spot it also has a number of shops selling gadgets, stationery and gifts.

There are a number of bank outlets along this strip, and even an ABC bakery for when you’ve had enough of buying and want to do some eating. Like I said, it’s like the mall that isn’t a mall but may as well be. Everything in one place.

I’m one of those strange individuals who likes to wear jeans even when it’s so hot that the air sticks to you, and since I’m also that stick-like combination of long and thin it is always very hard to find jeans that fit me here. Ok I will be honest, it’s hard to find them anywhere. Stick insects aren’t meant to wear jeans, period. But here on fashion street I have found not one, not two, but countless little boutiques that sell quality jeans at low prices, which fit me! Oh happiness.

A number of shoe shops also sell size 40 heels, which makes me equally happy. Countless boutiques offer unique pieces and cute jewelry, which makes me happier, and a collection of makeshift stalls selling helmets and t-shirts line the pavements at one end. You need to bargain at these stalls, but most of the shops themselves have fixed prices, ranging from VND 100,000 for a pair of pants to USD $100 for a designer dress.

Parking is either in front of the shops or inside an alleyway at 8 Nguyễn Trãi, and you will be charged VND 4,000 to leave your motorbike there, or VND 2,000 for a bicycle.

Top Tip: To fully absorb the bustle and energy of this street, leave your vehicle in the parking area at number 8 and browse on foot.


Saigon’s Boutiques

What is it for? Personal style

Saigon Boutique's

This one is more of a concept than a location. Do you like niche fashion? I’m not talking weird fluffy hats and bright red blazers (sorry, fellow artsy types) - I’m talking about those cute tops and unique cuts, those self-defining looks that you invest in when you want to wear your identity on your sleeve. Literally.

So, are you into that? I think most of us are to some degree - what we wear will always reflect who we are. And for those of you who love to be unique, trendy and stylish, Saigon is dotted with cute little shops selling just that. Two of my favourite spots are on Pasteur and Nam Kỳ Khởi Nghĩa Street.

If you travel up Pasteur Street from District 1 until it meets Trần Quốc Toản, there will be a number of little boutiques on your right. Surrounding them are some super cute cafes and tea shops, and my very favourite coffee chain Urban Station Coffee has an outlet up the road on Trần Quốc Toản! Perfect.

Make a visit to this little style haven, browse the vintage skirts, leather sandals and clean cut jackets, sip on a latte and embrace a bit of shades-on cafe culture. The average cost for clothes at these shops is a little higher than usual - expect to pay about VND 500,000 for a pair of super cute, totally unique jeans, and VND 300,000 for a lovely soft sweater. I myself tend to get stuck on the scarves...

Top Tip: Sizes at these shops are typically smaller and tailored to Vietnamese bodies. That being said, t-shirts, jumpers, sweaters and skirts tend to be a nice fit even for my broad, British shoulders!


The Student Market

What is it for? Flea market!

 Student Market

If you want off the beaten track, authentic, colorful, cheap and stimulating, do not miss the student night market at 6th quarter, Linh Trung ward, Thủ Đức District. If you are a foreigner you will, without doubt, be the only foreigner there. This is no traditional marketplace, but more of a flea-market. A spot of student nightlife for those students who live too far out of town to get to the real nightlife, and to be honest I would way rather wander this semi-rural playground than sit in a city bar.

The Linh Trung student market caters to university students in Thủ Đức District. It is a wonderland of street foods, from spring rolls to these bizarre flappy yellow pancake things which, I am told, are called ‘ram bắp’. ‘Bắp’ means ‘corn’, and this snack is made of corn, shrimp and a number of delicious things, rolled in rice paper and fried. You eat it with herbs and dip it in sauce. Yum!

To get to Linh Trung the best and cheapest option is a local bus. You can take number 19 bus from Lê Lai Street, behind the 23/9 Park in District 1, and watch the city go by from your air conditioned local bus. Ask the driver or a fellow passenger to let you know when you hit Linh Trung.

I went the first time with my good friend Trang, and when I asked her for some clear directions to use if I ever came again (which I have, many times!) she told me ‘after seeing two big horns of the elephant you will hear the bus driver cry "Suối Tiên" in a BIG voice! Wait for him to turn left, ignore two stones, and jump off at the second stop’... As much as I love the Lord of the Rings, maybe skip the quest and just ask a local.

To get home the last bus is at 7:30 p.m., and we would advise getting to the bus stop by 7:15 p.m. to make sure you don’t miss it. The bus stop to get home is on the opposite side of the street to where you arrived, and a little way up. If in doubt ask a student - many speak English, and they’re bound to want to practice!

Top Tip: Take a walk down to Hồ Đá Lake and watch the sun set over its beautiful blue waters. Buy some snacks from a vendor as you near the shore!


Saigon Square

What is it for? Fashion, souvenirs, phones, and people watching!

Saigon Square

Famous Saigon Square is a key player in Ho Chi Minh City’s top 10 places to shop, and for good reason! This strange mix of shopping mall and traditional market is centrally located, air conditioned and has its own toilets. There are now three outlets, but the main one is at Nam Kỳ Khởi Nghĩa Street in District 1. The Square is known for its good prices and a far more pleasant browsing experience than nearby Bến Thành Market, for its wide range of merchandise and for the high quality of that merchandise.

And it’s fun! People from all over the world visit Ho Chi Minh City and almost every single one of those bubbly tourists goes to Saigon Square at some point during their stay. The Square is the perfect spot for people watching. Actually if I’m honest I don’t really go there to shop - if you stand on the second floor balcony and look down you can spend hours just wondering about the people you see milling about beneath you. Arabs in their beautiful long robes asking the price for that Gucci knock-off handbag, the typical sun-bleached Aussie giggling in a Saigon Beer singlet, those impossibly blond Swiss kids flitting between the clothes racks… Call me Hitchcock, but voyeurism is fascinating.

From cheap synthetic t-shirts to local designs and boutique fashion pieces, some of the best shopping in Ho Chi Minh City is available in Saigon Square. Shoes, glasses, jewelry, swimwear, ski-wear, phones and handbags - the Square is a wonderland for the shopaholic! I personally like to buy my work clothes here since there are so many little shops selling cute tops and pencil-skirts, but my colleague insists it’s got the last word on raincoats and ski-jackets. Each to his own. I guess you could call this market a kind of ‘Room of Requirement’.

Top Tip: ATMs are at the Nam Kỳ Khởi Nghĩa entrance, and there are toilets inside on the second floor.


Tân Định, District 1

What is it for? Filling your stomach

At the far corner of District 1, over the rainbow and beyond the pot of gold, there is a street that makes my stomach smile. Heck, it makes it leap about! But in excitement, not discomfort.

I only found it because I work in Phú Nhuận and decided to cycle home an adventurous way one day, but it’s by no means a secret. A lot of expats live around there, and for good reason. At night time, when all daytime clutter is packed away and Saigon’s equally chaotic nighttime clutter is set up, this places becomes a haven of food. I myself have to recommend an evening visit to three main places:

First, on the corner of Hai Bà Trưng and Trần Quang Khải Street there is a market. Here you will find all sorts of snacks, drinks and meals from snails to noodle soup! I usually go by the mantra “if you don’t know what it is, try it and then you will,” which is exciting but, admittedly, sometimes ill-advised...

Another recommendation is Trần Khắc Chân Street. All along here people sell different foods. There is a bakery about half way along, and so many noodle stalls you start seeing strings of yellow and white everywhere you look! Ok not quite, but noodles are good and this street has many.

Finally, for beers and BBQ or maybe a spot of late-night sushi, hit up the corner of Trần Khắc Chân and Hoàng Sa Street. I came here with a new business partner of mine to celebrate the opening of our company. We sat in the bar on the corner and ate beef and grilled okra while we sipped 333 beer and watched the night. Street singers and street dancers performed on the street, and lovely ladies sold those giant crackers that you’re meant to eat with beer but taste amazing just on their own.

I also ate sushi at a restaurant a little further down another night, and apart from being one of the cheapest spots for sushi that I have found in Saigon, the food was also delicious. Apart from anything else you’re right next to the river! How can anything seem bad when the moon is glinting on silver water and everything smells a bit salty?

Top Tip: Skip lunch so that you’ve got plenty of room to try EVERYTHING.

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