Things to Do in 72 Hours in Saigon

By: City Pass Guide

For most travelers, 72 hours is enough in crazy Saigon. The traffic is lethal, the chaos is incredible and the weather is stinking hot. Many who travel to Vietnam are overwhelmed by one of Southeast Asia’s most bustling cities, and with rustic Hanoi, romantic Hoi An and the lazy beaches of Nha Trang beckoning, most tourists just want to move on.

But what if I told you that Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam’s metropolis of commercial promise, could be the best part of your trip?

There are just so many interesting things to do here in 72 hours. I’m talking about a plethora of delicious street food from all over Vietnam, rich, sweet coffee on every street corner and a huge range of markets, malls and shopping centers with luxurious international brands at one end and ridiculous bargains at the other. Rent a motorbike or journey on foot, and get lost among Ho Chi Minh’s winding alleyways. Wander along one of the many canals and sample a tray of bap xao, or make the most of Vietnam’s best bars, clubs and street nightlife in a city that never sleeps.

Saigon Skyline

Talk with people, smile, interact, and you could find yourself belting drunken karaoke with a Ho Chi Minh banker, nibbling rice paper pancakes with that lady from the park, or touring around the city on the back of a local student’s motorbike.

Maybe you’ll invest in your own motorbike, fall in love with the freedom of it all, and end up an expat! Honestly, if you do it right a few days in Ho Chi Minh City can easily turn into a few weeks - embrace the chaos, and I bet you won’t want to leave.

But that isn’t really the purpose of this article. We’re not talking months or years here, no. We’re talking a matter of hours.

And so, after much thought, many tearful exclusions and the addition of 10 great street-snacks (make sure you scroll right down for these delicious nibblies!), I give you Saigon in 72 Hours.

Things to do in Ho Chi Minh City on Day 1:

From the Airport to the Hotel

Arrive, survive your first insane taxi ride, and settle into your accommodation. Look for the official taxi stand at arrivals rather than hopping in with one of the many touts that line the bay, since the touts will demand upwards of VND 300,000 to District 1 while the metered taxis tend to charge half the price. Just a heads up.

Breakfast: If you’ve not yet had breakfast maybe your hostel offers it! Many of Saigon’s hotels, hostels and guesthouses offer free breakfast and sometimes even a free beer included with your stay - just ask TripAdvisor. Otherwise check out my top tip for Saigon’s best snacks at the bottom of this post for something to nibble on until lunch time.

Sightseeing in District 1

Once you’re out of that crazy taxi, take a few moments to stow your luggage and all those important things that every traveller should guard with their life: passport, smartphone, credit cards and most of your cash. If you brought a hair straightener you are now the secret envy of all your female dorm buddies, so maybe chuck that in with the passport too.

The next step for all Ho Chi Minh City initiates is to get out and explore! The air will definitely be hot and the sun intense, but isn’t that why you went on holiday in the first place? If you are staying in District 1, which you probably are, I would suggest a morning of backpacker hotspot exploration. In other words, hit the streets.

Sample a smoothie at the popular alleyway enclave Five Boys Number One, at 84 Bui Vien Street, “buy something” from one of those women with gaudy trays of plastic things you don’t want, or embrace your inner tourist and take photos of EVERYTHING. Why not? You’re on holiday.


Touring the city on a cyclo is a one of the top things to do in Saigon

Today’s lunch will be on-the-go. Try a banh mi for VND 15,000 (one of those delicious bread roll sandwiches that are literally everywhere in the city) or a banh bao for VND 10,000 (a sticky dumpling filled with pork meat and often an egg or two. Purple dumplings are sweet inside instead, and green are just dough.

There is a bakery on Đỗ Quang Đẩu Street, District 1 which sells vegetarian savory banh bao - just ask the lady who sells them). Nibble your meal with your smoothie, or take it to the 23/9 park to enjoy under the shade of a tree.

Your own Ho Chi Minh City Walking Tour

Having filled yourself with foodie goodness, stand up and move your feet a bit. Go on your own walking tour. Here is a list of things you could walk to or wander past in District 1 on your first day, and each one could either be ticked-off in ten minutes of drawn-out for 2 hours - it all depends on you. I personally recommend “The Local” option.

  • The Tourist: Visit famous Ben Thanh Market and the Vietnamese shopping mall Saigon Square, District 1, for some excellent deals, hard-won bargains and fascinating people-watching. Squat at a street-bar on the one of the best backpacker strips in Southeast Asia, Bui Vien, and guzzle 50c beer with your friends.

    Ride in a cyclo and admire Ho Chi Minh City from the comfort of your own moving arm-chair, or sit down to some famous Pho on the corner of Phạm Ngũ Lão Street and Đỗ Quang Đẩu Street.

Ben Thanh Market

Ben Thanh Market

  • The local: Meet some great local people at 23/9 Park, District 1, or experience the local way of life with a stroll to the Co-Op supermarket on Cống Quỳnh Street nearby, a coffee with Saigon’s student population at one of our favourite secret cafes, or a meander down the chaotic Nguyễn Thượng Hiền, District 3. This street is one of my favourites for people-watching, and is jam packed with street-foods, boutique clothes shops, tradesmen and little Vietnamese houses.

    Try Cho Lon Market, District 5, for a more traditional Vietnamese market experience, or take a Xe Om to Đoàn Văn Bơ Street in District 4 in the evening and marvel at its colorful flan, weird meaty pancakes and delicious soups. Be careful with your things as District 4 is known for its thieves and pickpockets.

  • The High-Life: The rich, manicured and silk-clad segment of Saigon’s population tend to hang out in certain places around the city. Head over to the city’s famous Opera House and walk the streets surrounding it. Admire the plethora of international brands, pristine glass windows and tall, stone buildings towering over you, and wind up at the high-end coffee shop The Workshop on Ngô Đức Kế, District 1 to sample some of their finely tuned coffee specialities. I recommend the Aeropress with their freshly ground Dalat beans.

Opera House in Saigon

Dinner: You had a picnic lunch, right? So why not splash out for dinner. Saigon’s backpacker area doesn’t have much to offer in the way of class, but there are many delicious joints along the main strip Bui Vien which sell reasonably priced and tasty food. Meals on the strip tend to cost between VND 30,000 and VND 100,000 a plate.

We interviewed the owner of the Five Oysters at 234 Bùi Viện about how to own and run a successful business on one of the top backpacker strips in Southeast Asia - check it out here, and go and sample some of his yummy Vietnamese dishes!  

Hit the Strip

After dinner Saigon turns into a world of wonders, and tonight is a party night. As I mentioned before, this city never sleeps, and the backpacker district especially is packed with bars, clubs, street-side beer joints, live music and karaoke.

Your options are endless. I seriously recommend hitting the tourist strip at least once during your time in Saigon - there's a reason its one of the top backpacker strips in Southeast Asia!

In fact most tourists will stay around the center of the town, but there are many more sides to Ho Chi Minh City’s nightlife. I have a few suggestions here, and for the best of Saigon after hours make sure you look at our post on The Best Bars in Ho Chi Minh.

  • Broma, Not a Bar (41 Nguyen Hue, District 1): This bar is hard to find, atmospheric, full of interesting people, and confusingly named. So in other words it’s totally up my street. Broma, Not a Bar also sells delicious tea and shisha, and has a wonderful open mic night on tuesdays.

  • Acoustic Bar (6e1 Ngo Thoi Nhiem, District 3): The live music hub of Ho Chi Minh, and home to all the most authentic of Saigon musos. Beer here is an astonishing VND 100,000 but the excellent local bands, quality Beatles covers and a room full of smiling music-lovers will make it all worth it.

  • Be a hobo (23/9 park, District 1, with a bottle of beer and a bag of peanuts): Skint? Not a fan of bars, people and being mainstream? Well why not buy a few cans of Saigon Special and a packet of peanuts and hit the local park. If you’re feeling local replace those peanuts with some dried meat or green mango with salt.

So there is Day 1! Tired? Well drink some more coffee, get some sleep and prepare yourself for Day much to see.

Acoustic Bar

Acoustic Bar

Things to Do in Ho Chi Minh City on Day 2

Breakfast: There are many women who sell Banh Uot in Ho Chi minh’s streets of a morning, but there is only one super amazing woman in this whole city who sells banh uot, happily pretends to understand my awful Vietnamese, and tailors her dish to my tastes. And where is this woman? Opposite the hospital on Pham Viet Chanh in District 1. Trust me, she is amazing.

That being said, search for the delicious words “Banh Uot” pretty much anywhere around Saigon in the morning, and you will find them. I would describe the dish as flat, wide strips of rice noodle nestled in a tangy sauce and covered with Vietnamese herbs, lettuce, bean sprouts and roasted garlic. There is optional chilli, and the dish comes with an assortment of Vietnamese sausages. Yum! It’s about VND 15,000 for a plate.

Vintage Cafe

The next stop on today’s itinerary is a bit of a pampering session at the cutest little coffee and cake shop in all of saigon. The 1985 Cafe, at 223/2K Pham Viet Chanh, is a bizarre mix of Japanese tea, French cakes, Italian coffee and other Vietnamese creations. They bring you iced tea and little cookies with every drink, and most of your fellow patrons will be young Vietnamese couples, university students and groups of selfie-obsessed women. Take a break from crazy Saigon and enter this totally random world of fluffy cakes for a couple of hours. Street coffee in Saigon is also good - famous among travellers for its rocket-fuel potency and delicious rich taste. I recommend you try some before you leave.

Traditional Ho Chi Minh City Market

Having calmed yourself with cake it’s now time to plunge into traditional Vietnamese chaos at Chợ Lớn Market, District 5. Chợ Lớn literally means “Big Market”, which is a very good name for this vast metropolis of tradesmanship, wholesale commerce, incense and rustic clamor. Take a xe om or a nice, clean taxi to the heart of District 5, known also as Chinatown, and get lost in its strange clash of Vietnamese and Chinese culture.

Cho Lon - Chinatown

Cho Lon Market

Lunch: One of the heartiest meals in Saigon is Cơm tấm - literally “broken rice”. Sit down at a street stall with the words “Cơm tấm” on it, and select your own preference from the range of fish, meat, vegetable and egg toppings available. I recommend that weird egg-loaf looking thing, which is in fact made from a mixture of pork bits, noodle bits and egg. I’m not really selling this am I… The dish usually comes with soup, and you can choose from a range of condiments including soy sauce, fresh lime, chilli and fish sauce.

Facial, manicure or massage

After a day of non-stop adventuring, a few hours to unwind at one of Saigon’s many spas will probably come as a serious relief. Relax, kick back and let someone pamper your poor tired feet with that pedicure you’re always putting off, wipe of the city grime with a cleansing facial, or let out the stress with a shoulder massage. When you’re fully revived, return to your hotel quick, and get ready for an evening of local Saigon nightlife.

Drinking is one of the best local thing to do in Vietnam

One of the best methods to experiencing local nightlife in Saigon is to get local. To meet with, befriend and hang out with local people, and then join them in an evening of beer, seafood and usually the odd snail.

As I mentioned earlier, a great way to do this is to loiter in the park that runs along Phạm Ngũ Lão Street - 23/9 Park. Students come here to talk with foreigners and improve their English. Chat with some of these friendly people, bond, and soon you’ll probably find yourself at a local grill, surrounded by Vietnamese, laughing at everything and drinking beer from a straw!

Huong Sen Spa

Relaxing spa atmosphere in Saigon

If you haven’t already been whisked off by a friendly local student, there’s a place on Bui Vien that you have got to try. Trust me.

Opposite number 145 Bui Vien, District 1, check out the Vietnamese BBQ and beer joint that spills out onto the sidewalk, smelling of gently roasting chicken. Tonight, pull up a cheap plastic chair at this joint and order some beef kebab sticks, grilled okra or Vietnamese sausage, washed down with a nice bottle of icy cold beer. Watch fire eaters and street dancers perform in front of you, and immerse yourself in the tourist-meets-local mess that is Bùi Viện.

If you’re feeling super adventurous why not sample some chicken gizzard or a chicken foot? Better yet, ask for vịt lộn and dig into Vietnam’s famous chicken fetus egg. I have actually come to love this weird type of egg, and it is regarded across Vietnam as a delicacy - it’s definitely a must try!

Grilled Chicken Foot

Grilled Chicken Feet

Things to Do in Ho Chi Minh City on Day 3

Breakfast: For breakfast today, get onto the backpacker strip Bùi Viện. Here, near the corner of Bùi Viện and Đỗ Quang Đẩu, there are a number of street vendors selling weird and wonderful things. Directly opposite Đỗ Quang Đẩu, a woman squats with a small table of minced pork and fresh herbs, which she will combine with delicious noodles or soft steamed bread and sweet chilli sauce. A little way down Bùi Viện a woman sells delicious fried Vietnamese pancakes, stuffed full of bean sprouts and herbs, crispy and hot.

Relax by the pool

After breakfast, grab your bikini, hail a xe om and direct him to the Van Thanh Pool in 48/10 Điện Biên Phủ, Bình Thạnh District for a morning of resort style sunbathing. This pool is one of many swimming pools in Ho Chi Minh City, and it is my favourite. For a tiny VND 60,000 you can spend as long as you like on the pool-side, nestled under an umbrella with a good book or splashing in the quiet blue water in front of your deckchair. It’s such a strange break from Saigon - in the middle of some exquisite tranquil gardens, and well off the main road. Bring your own food or drinks as eating here is expensive, and make sure you slip-slop-slap!

Lunch: On the way back from the pool, ask your driver to drive via Nguyễn Đình Chiểu in District 3. Near the intersection of Nguyễn Đình Chiểu and Pasteur Street there are a number of art shops which sell an incredible amount of crepe paper, ancient Chinese pastels, beautiful sketch-pads and a maze of exotic pens. There are also some interesting street-food options here, most of which are very cheap since they cater to students and workers in the local area. Try some vegetarian noodles or banh mi thit!

Museums and monuments

An unavoidable must see for all tourists who visit Ho Chi Minh City is the War Museum, and that is what you will do this afternoon. If you miss out on seeing the War Remnants Museum, you’re actually missing out on a key part of Vietnam’s past. The Vietnam War is no hiccup in history - the repercussions of that horrible period are very much alive today. The War Museum will upset you, but it will inform you too.

Whilst you’re feeling historical, why not wander around Duc Ba church in District 3, visit the lover’s enclave at Turtle Lake and watch couples be coupl-y (this is best in the evening when the lake is lit up from beneath by lovely soft lights), or spend some time at the Independence Palace. Avoid the men selling coconuts since they will definitely overcharge you - a coconut should be no more than VND 10,000! And preferably less.

War Remnants Museum

War Remnants Museum

Dinner: Dinner tonight is a visit to what I like to call “the turning circle food court”. At the corner of Phạm Ngũ Lão and Cống Quỳnh, opposite a busy turning circle, there is a delightful array of food vendors selling a full, 3 course meal between them. Start with some egg-fried corn flour wedges with a lovely salty sauce or some homemade wan-tans with sweet chilli, enjoy a main of hu tieu noodle soup with a selection of toppings including quail egg and pork or bun noodles from the lady on the corner, and wash it all down with a cup of sweet, syrupy goodness filled with water chestnuts and jelly. This corner is your metaphorical oyster.

Late-night Coffee

Finally, to end your 72 hours in Saigon why not visit one of the city’s few 24/hr coffee joints. Heritage Coffee and Clothes at 10 Pasteur, District 1, serves a delicious range of hot and cold drinks with not a drop of alcohol in sight. If you like the sound of a trendy, fairy-light filled coffee shop that also sells unreasonably stylish clothes and spills out onto a quiet street, this is the hangout for you.

If a night-cap is your thing, I recommend buying a bottle of whisky at a nearby Circle-K and combining it with the Heritage’s rich, hot ca phe den. This after-hours grotto also features a spectacularly ugly bulldog. You literally can’t go wrong.

And there you have it! 72 hours in Saigon full of great things to do. But wait, there’s more! Check out my list of Saigon’s Best Snacks - try these, and you may well never want to leave.

Saigon’s Best Snacks:

  • Bánh tráng trộn - sit down with one of the ladies who carry those two baskets full of miscellaneous foods on pole across their back, and ask for bánh tráng trộn. You will receive a bag of delicious rice paper strips, dried beef, quail eggs, nuts, herbs, and oiled spices mixed before your eyes. You can ask for a vegetarian version, or for her to replace the oil with fresh lime juice. 

  • Bắp xào - This is a little corn-based dish, which you can buy from one of those bicycles that drive around screeching “bắp xào đây”. The dish is made of corn (“bắp”) cooked in warm butter and topped with dried shrimp, herbs and spices, and it makes a great comfort food.
  • Waffles - Another delicacy carried in two baskets on a pole across a woman’s back, you can smell these waffles from a mile away. Watch the vendor mix and cook your waffle, and nibble on its sweet, hot goodness as you browse the streets.

Waffle Vendor

Waffle Vendor

  • Củ sắn - A white, root vegetable which you can buy from the baskets of the bánh tráng trộn lady. This tastes a little bit sweet and vaguely milky, and is a very healthy, refreshing snack for those who are thirsty.
  • Tiny Banh Bao - Hanging from the pole of the above mentioned baskets are an array of biscuits, crackers and other exciting baked goods. One is what looks like a tube of tiny banh bao. These are in fact little sweet cakes, costing only VND 3,000 or 4,000 per tube, and they make an excellent compliment to a bag of bánh tráng trộn.
  • Fruit - the healthiest, arguably the sweetest and definitely the freshest option for Ho Chi Minh City street snacks is fruit. Make sure you don’t spend more than VND 20,000 for a little box of jackfruit, mango, papaya or watermelon, and enjoy it in the shade. If you’re feeling adventurous try it with some salt, Vietnamese style!
  • Cakes and pastries - Given its French influence, it is no surprise that Vietnamese cuisine has been inundated by French inspired pastries. Walk along Pham Ngu Lao to find one little street stall selling yummy cream puffs and little sweet pies for an average of VND 3,000 per item. Your stomach will thank me!
  • Smoothies - The perfect internal air-conditioning. You will have no problem finding a smoothie in Ho Chi Minh City’s District 1, and a good price is from VND 15,000 to VND 25,000, depending on the size.
  • Soy milk - Keep a look out for the trucks of soy milk that tend to frequent Saigon’s streets in the mornings. You can buy milk with sugar or without, and it is VND 5,000 per plastic cup. You can have it hot or iced - yum! There is usually a vendor beside 23/9 park on Nguyễn Thị Nghĩa, District 1.
  • Deep fried doughs - I will never ever be able to avoid buying this, no matter how much my waistline expands. Look out for the carts selling delicious, crispy hot breads that have been deep fried before your eyes, and nibble on their sweet doughy goodness as you thank your lucky stars for all things unhealthy.

Deep Fried Dough

Deep Fried Doughs

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 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.


Saturday, 15th September 2012


From 7pm till late


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

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?

Saigon Artbook Did It Again!

By: Phuong Tran

Saigon Artbook Did It Again!

Saigon Artbook is a quarterly publication that catalogs the work of three artists who live in the Saigon area, in the hope of promoting innovative and undiscovered artists. With each catalog, Saigon Artwork hosts a party where people can come to meet the artists and enjoy their work. For more information, visit Saigon Artbook Webpage.

The third Saigon Artbook, held on 24 and 25 April at 2 Le Cong Kieu Street, District 1 in Saigon, attracted a huge number of spectators and fans to the illustrations of Kristopher Kotcher (Frenemy), Khoa Le and Laurent Judge. Strong interest during the first two Artbooks had prompted the organizers to hold the third Artbook over two days. Given the success, they may have to extend future events even further.
The exhibition was only open to people who had registered online for a limited number of free tickets, but such was the interest that all tickets had been claimed within the first half-hour! This proved the effectiveness of Saigon Artbook’s viral marketing.
With each ticket, a person was given two coupons: one for a bottle of Peroni beer and one for the beautifully designed book featuring artworks of the three artists – the main reason most people come to the quarterly exhibition.

Saigon Artbook third versionTwo coupons were used to exchange for one Peroni and one artbook copy

The building that Saigon Artbook chose was a run-down, old-style house on Le Cong Kieu Street in District 1. They had spent several days painting and decorating it, and I was surprised at how they virtually turned it into a new house.

Saigon Artbook third versionFrenemy Artwork on the rooftop

On the first floor, right after a typically French, narrow stairway, was a big room with a yellowish wall offset by windows painted red. This provided a good background for the artworks.

Most people could lurk around this exhibition area, have a chat, exchange their coupons for a beer and the book, and of course talk to the artists.
Each artist had their own ways to express their skills and artistic sense. Kristopher (or Frenemy) occasionally chose a random wall to draw on. Khoa Le created an awesome body-painting on a female model. Meanwhile, Laurent was busy signing fans’ books – well, he not only signed but drew: every single one of his signatures was an artwork in itself.

Saigon Artbook third versionLaurent's signature (I think this one is specially for me!)
Saigon Artbook third version


Frenemy was busy with his iconic cartoon creatures

The second floor was the rooftop where people could enjoy the DJ’s performance and watch Khoa Le’s body-painting model (many guys took photos with her as well). This was a great place for people to relax in the fresh air while sipping Peroni beer and having a good chat with new friends.
I went to the last two Saigon Artbook parties but this one was the biggest and it just keeps growing. I really look forward to introducing my foreign friends to this must-see event in Saigon.

City Pass Guide caught up with the three illustrators:

From left: Frenemy, Khoa Le and Laurent

City Pass Guide: Could you define your style in one sentence?

Frenemy: Cartoonist, colorful with a mixture of graffiti.
Khoa Le: Pop-surrealism meets illustration.
Laurent: Many, many styles mixed together but mainly impressionism and surrealism, I think. 

CPG: What is your source of inspiration?

Frenemy: From the cartoons and comic books that I watched and read when I was a kid. I have read a couple of manga titles before but never get into it much because I don’t like the style.
Khoa Le: From many things, music, film, cartoons, books, novels, magazines, etc. I particularly listen to Radiohead and Muse.
Laurent: I basically read, watch and observe whatever exists around us.
CPG: What is your favourite artwork out of all the ones displayed here today? And why?

Frenemy: Each of my artworks communicates a different message and has its own beauty and characteristics. It would be unfair if I favour this over that.
Khoa Le: It would be my “Deep Sleep”. It completes my satisfaction.
Laurent: It is “Lightning Bolt” because it comprises many styles: impressionism, surrealism, cubism, etc. I also have all the times and a huge variety of objects combined altogether. Its details are so rich that one can easily get lost while looking at the piece.Saigon Artbook third versionDeep Sleep by Khoa Le

Saigon Artbook third versionLigtning Bolt by Laurent Judge


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