Since I was born in Vietnam, most of my friends would come to me for travel advices whenever they want to have a quick getaway to Hochiminh city (aka Saigon). Shameful to say, I don’t think I know the city very well since Saigon changes almost every day and I can’t keep up (that also explains why most of the photos here I have to credit to the Internet). Nevertheless, here are some of the advices that you could use if you have a weekend free in Saigon. I will include the names in Vietnamese so you can easily show them to your taxi drivers or ask locals for directions.
1. Places that are picture worthy
1.a Places inside the city
– Notre Dame Cathedral ( goes by a Vietnamese name as “Nha Tho Duc Ba”).
– Next to Notre Dame Cathedral, there’s a central post office (Buu Dien Thanh Pho) that still retains most of its French architecture.
– From Notre Dame, you can take a walk to the Opera House (Nha Hat Lon). It’s a fair bit of walking but it will lead to you to the city central through some of the nicest streets of Saigon. Pay visit to some art gallery along the way if you are interested.
– From Opera House, you can walk to the Parliament house (Uy Ban Nhan Dan Thanh Pho). At night, the Parliament House is lit up very nicely. I’ve seen lots of photographers practicing their skills there.
1.b Places outside the city. It’s better if you can follow a tour group. The hotel receptionists will help you book your tour. Ask for “Sinh cafe tour group”. They are experts in organizing tours for foreign tourists so their guides can speak English (fluently, but I cannot guarantee their accents).
– Can Gio tour (1 day). They will take you to places like this (the brackish water area)
– The floating market at Mekong Delta (1 day). I’ve heard a lot of feedback that this floating market is not as good as the one in Thailand so if your schedule is tight, you can skip this.
– Cuchi tunnel (1 day).
2. Things/ places to shop
– “Ben Thanh” market. It’s a central, indoor market (closed at 5pm). You can find: local bags, clothes, shoes, dry local snacks, beautiful textiles. There are also tailors that offer to make your clothes within 1 or 2 days. This place is popular among tourists so most vendors can communicate in English but you have to haggle hard (start at half price and work it up).
– Night market: It’s at the outdoor of Ben Thanh market. Opens from 7pm onward. You can find fake branded clothes, bags here. Also bargain hard. (Adidas, Nike tshirts are about USD5 each).
– Saigon square: It’s an indoor market, closed at 6pm. I don’t remember the exact address but it is walkable from Ben Thanh market. It sells almost the same things as the night market but with more varieties.
3. Things/ places to eat:
Of course the best way is to have a local to bring you to hard-to-reach corners for really authentic Vietnamese food. However, the followings are really popular among tourists.
– “Ngon” restaurant at 160 Pasteur street. They have wide varieties of local cuisines ranging from the Northern delicacies to Southern ones so you can try a little bit of everything. It’s very affordable ($5-$10) and the ambience is really nice with al fresco outdoor sitting. Try to be there a bit earlier than others (say 11h for lunch and 18h for dinner) or else you have to queue up long time because the place is always very packed by tourists.
– “Bach Dang” ice cream. It is walkable from Ben Thanh market. Try their coconut ice cream (ice cream served in a fresh coconut)
– Local fresh seafood: Ngoc Suong restaurant at 106 Suong Nguyet Anh st.
4. Transportation: It’s best that you travel by cab (no booking fee, no surcharge anytime and it’s very affordable) but only use these following 2 companies:
– Mai Linh taxi. Call 38 38 38 38
– Vina Sun taxi. Call 38 27 27 27
Other companies are very likely to tout.