Adventure

The Ultimate Guide to Travel in Saigon by a Local Expert

I was born in Saigon and 28 years experiencing the changing of Saigon. I heard many stories from my Grandparents of Saigon in the past, Saigon from my parents after the independent day, and Saigon in my eyes and heart as young generation.

Unlike any other city in the world, Saigon and its unique local taste brings me the motivation to do things differently, to work harder for the future of the city and also bring the beauty of Saigonese and Saigon City to friends around the globe. This is the special guide for any of my friends coming to Saigon- all from our own experiences.

Welcome to Saigon!

(This post was posted on Triip.me by Ha&Friends – a group of local experts in Ho Chi Minh city. You can see the original one here: Special Saigon Travel Guide)

Part 1. Where to Stay in Saigon?

District 1 is where the most of major hotels are located and easy to take a cab, uber or grab taxi or Mai Linh taxi, Vinasun or even walking around the centre.

You can book a hotel on Agoda.com, booking.com or book an Airbnb house in Saigon. Just check all the prices and also take a look at reviews from other customers- you will easily choose one for your stay in Saigon.

Part 2. What to See in Saigon?

Within District 1:

Notre Dame Cathedral or Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica: The cathedral had occupied its current site since Easter of 1880.

The building design and materials are 100% imported from France certainly do make the building stands out from the surrounding area, drawing many locals and tourists for a photo opportunity. In front of the church, there is a small courtyard, where the statue of the Virgin Mary stands, the statue was also claimed to shed tears in 2005 (this has however been refuted by Catholic Church officials).

Couples love taking wedding photos at The Cathedral

Couples love taking wedding photos at The Cathedral

Saigon Central Post Office – The building was constructed when Vietnam was part of French Indochina in the early 20th century.

It has a Gothic architectural style. It was designed and constructed by the famous architect Gustave Eiffel in harmony with the surrounding area. Inside Saigon Central Post Office there are are two painted maps created just after the post office was first built. One of them is a map of Southern Vietnam and Cambodia titled “Lignes telegraphiques du Sud Vietnam et Cambodge 1892” which means “Telegraphic lines of Southern Vietnam and Cambodia 1892”. The other, is the map ofgreater Saigon, is titled “Saigon et ses environs 1892” which means “Sai Gon and its environment 1892”.

Inside the Post Office

Inside the Post Office

Reunification Palace: is an important historical evidence, witnessed the transfer of power between Saigon government and the revolutionary government after the liberation army advanced into the city.

War Remnants Museum: is at 28 Vo Van Tan, in District 3, in Saigon. It primarily contains exhibits relating to the Vietnam War, but also includes many exhibits relating to the first Indochina War involving the French colonialists.

Saigon Opera House: is an example of French Colonial architecture in Vietnam.

Built in 1897 by French architect Eugène Ferret as the Opėra de Saigon, the 800 seat building was used as the home of the Lower House assembly of South Vietnam after 1956. It was not until 1975 that it was again used as a theatre, and restored in 1995.

AO show is taken place here and must see in Saigon.

Nguyen Hue Boulevard and City Hall: French colonial city hall built in the early 1900s, now the headquarters of the People’s Committee.

Unfortunately, it’s not open to the public, but there is a small walking mall out front and running the length of the behemoth Rex Hotel, itself an important vestige of the American years when it housed the CIA headquarters. The park is a great spot for a good group photo with the majestic City Hall in the background, and the people-watching here is supreme.

Nguyen Hue Boulevard recently was innovated and built to be a walking boulevard for Saigonese and travellers. On Nguyen hue Boulevard, you will find a lot of interesting coffee shop, restaurant with a unique style :).

Nguyen Hue Boulevard from past to present.

Ngoc Hoang Pagoda or Jade Emperor Pagoda: is located at 73 Mai Thi Luu Street, District 3, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

Ngoc Hoang Pagoda is also known as the Tortoise Pagoda. This figurine-filled place of worship is considered by many to be Saigon’s finest. The Jade Emperor Pagoda is one of the most attractive pagodas in the city. Dedicated to various Chinese-Vietnamese divinities, in a mixture of Taoist and Buddhist styles, the pagoda houses numerous statues and delicate woodcarvings with intricate tiles on the roof.

District 5- China Town:

Cho Lon or Binh Tay Market: Saigon’s Cholon (China town) is Vietnam’s largest Chinatown with roots dating back to 1778; it’s also a place of great historical and cultural importance.

Chinese minorities hid here from the Tay Son and subsequently had to rebuild the area twice following attack with as many as 70% estimated to have died trying to escape on boats. Those who survived settled and began selling a variety of Chinese products. During the Vietnam War Cholon was a thriving black market for US soldiers trading in American Army issue supplies.

The area today is a popular site for those on the tourist trail and also attracts many Taiwanese and Chinese visitors. Cholon is an interesting place to see classical Chinese architecture reminiscent of years gone by with plenty of Chinese restaurants.

Thien Hau pagoda: constructed in the early 19th century, it is Chinese in inspiration and is dedicated to the worship of both the Buddha and the Goddess Thien Hau ( goddess of the sea and the protector of sailors).

Thien Hau was born in China and, as a girl, saved her father from drowning but not her brother. Thien Hau’s festival is marked here on the 23h day of the third lunar month. Inside, the principal altar supports the gilded form of Thien Hau, with a boat to one side. Many married couples come here to worship to have a beautiful healthy and intelligent baby.

Part 3. Outside Saigon- What to See?

Cu Chi Tunnel: is an immense network of connecting underground tunnels located in the Cu Chi district of Saigon, Vietnam, and is part of a much larger network of tunnels that underlie much of the country.

The Cu Chi tunnels were the location of several military campaigns during the Vietnam War, and were the Viet Cong’s base of operations for the Tết (Vietnamese Lunar New Year) Offensive in 1968. In Cu Chi Tunnel, You can even try shooting an AK47 and walk through the super dark, short and narrow maze of tunnels. It takes 1 hour and a half if travel to Cu Chi by private car or taxi- one way.

How to get there:

By Local bus: from Ben Thanh bus station, take the bus no 13- to Cu Chi Town, then when arriving Cu Chi town, take another bus- Bus no 79 to Ben Duoc or No 70 to Ben Dinh.

You can also easily to request a local expert in Saigon to be your guide and travel with you to Cu Chi tunnel.

Mekong Delta: is very famous for its fascinating floating market and fruit orchards as well as its friendly people, is vast marshland and forested area where most of Vietnam’s rice is grown. You will have one day to taste the local life of the Mekong people, enjoy the feeling on the boat with the flavor of rice, fruits and the friendliness of the Mekong land. It takes about 2 hours from Saigon to Mekong Delta.

A One-hour Flight to Some of the most beautiful beaches in the world: from Saigon, it’s easy. You can book air ticket of Vietnam Airlines or Vietjet Air (budget airlines)

Choose from Phu Quoc, Con Dao (stay at Six Senses), Nha Trang (check out Hon Tam, VinPearl, Mia Resort…), Da Nang (stay at Intercontinental, Fusion Maia), Hoi An (stay at Anatara, The Nam Hai Resort). or you can check on Agoda.com for more options and choices 🙂

Part 4. Where to Eat?

Vietnamese Restaurant:

Cuc Gach Quan: No 9 and 10 Dang Tat Street, District 1 or 92 Thach Thi Thanh, District 1.

Originally Vietnamese cuisine-the story behind this restaurant is the architecture he is from the South of Vietnam and really miss all dishes made by his grand-mom- he used his own office and house to build the first Cuc Gach ( means the brick) restaurant to let the customers enjoy the Vietnamese cuisine with the taste, flavours of our grandma cook’s talents. Since Brangelina come to Vietnam and enjoyed their dinner in Cuc Gach Quan- it becomes more famous and well-known- not a tourist trap. The Cuc Gach Quan in Dang Tat Street is more classy and more options for you to choose while Cuc Gach in Thach Thi Thanh (originally) has no menu and you will be served by the menu-set by the Grandma Cook.

I took the photo of my friend taking photo of my friend at Cuc Gach Thach Thi Thanh :)

 

Secret Garden: 158 Pasteur, District 1 and Mountain Retreat: 36 Lê Lợi, Bến Nghé, District 1:

These 2 restaurants have the same concept: Rooftop Vietnamese Restaurant inside the old building of Saigon. It takes your time to climb up from floor 1 to floor 4- before discover at the end of these dark staircase- have a warm cozy nice Vietnamese restaurant is waiting for you and it’s worth every single time or penny you spend. 🙂

Ngoc Suong Marina (seafood) – 172 Nguyen Dinh Chieu – Dist. 3

Temple Club & Unnamed BBQ Restaurant: 29 Ton That Thiep, District 1

It’s located above Fanny ice cream. Above Temple Club is an unnamed (so far as we can rememeber) outdoor BBQ restaurant. The BBQ smell will linger on your clothes for a while after eating but really good choice of marinated meat, and fun doing the BBQ yourself (more local and a lot more casual than Temple Club but can get very very crowded).

The Deck 38 Nguyen U Di, District 2.

Indulge with a river view and mouthwatering food

5ku Farm Thich Mat The, District 2- enjoy farm food with a river view!:)

 

I and my friends at 5ku farm- the view :)

Non- Vietnamese Restaurant:

Jaspas (Continental) – corner of Dong Khoi and Ngo Duc Ke

L’en Tete (French) – Corner of Nguyen Thai Binh and Calmette (have to pay attention, coz a bit hard to find, walk upstairs) – French

Au Parc Café (French)– 23 Hang Thuyen, District 1

L’olivier (French)– French restaurant in the Sofitel Hotel (17 Le Duan, District 1)

Pizza 4P’s (Italian) – 8/15 Le Thanh Ton, District 1 – Old school brick-oven italian-style pizza. They also make fresh burrata dily from local ingredients.

Khoi Thom (Vietnamese/Mexican Fusion) – 26 Ngo Thoi Nhiem, District 3 – where Vietnamese cuisine meets Mexican

Internos Restaurant (Spanish)– 26 Le Van Mien, Thao Dien, District 2 – Spanish restaurant that offers a famous suckling pig

La Maison (French) – 201B Nam Ky Khoi Nghia, District 3

Halal Restaurant:

Halal@Saigon, 31 Dong Du Street, District 1.

Lion City Café & Restaurant: 45 Le Anh Xuan Street, District 1.

Four Season Restaurant, 2F Thi Sach Street, District 1.

Vicki’s Teppanyaki & BBQ, 42 Le Anh Xuan Street, District 1.

Or you can check out Nguyen An Ninh Street, District 1 ( near beside Ben Thanh Market South gate)- more Halal restaurants there. 🙂

Vegetarian Restaurant:

Hoa Dang Restaurant: 38, Huynh Khuong Ninh Street, District 1

Hum Restaurant: 32, Vo Van Tan, District 3 or 2, Thi Sach, District 1

Thien Duyen: 505 Hanoi highway, District 2 ( inside Minh Dang Quang Pagoda)

Mandala Restaurant: 110, Suong Nguyet Anh, District 1

Coffee Break:

If you are not a coffee expert- don’t take over 2 cup of Vietnamese coffee per day- since most of Vietnamese coffee – using Robusta- not the Arabica line 🙂

Shin Cafe: 13, Nguyen Thiep, District 1- my favourite 🙂 Many kinds of coffee around the globe- and if you’re lucky enough, can see their coffee Masters do Coffee Cupping ( of Coffee Tasting)- Premium Coffee.:)

Coffee bean and one of coffee making equipments at Shin Cafe

Saigon Garden: 99 Nguyen Hue, District 1 ( newest)- full of restaurants, coffee shop, fashion, .. are covered by garden and trees.

L’usine: 1st Floor, 151 Dong Khoi, District 1 or 70B, Le Loi, District 1- my favourite 🙂

Saigon Oi: 4 floor, old Nguyen Hue Apartment- 42, Nguyen Hue, District 1. – my favourite

Ru Nam – 202 Pasteur, district 3 or 96 Mac Thi Buoi, District 1

Khanh Casa – 50 Dong Khoi or 66 Le Loi, District 1

La Fenetre de Soleil – 44 Ly Tu Trong

Specialty Food:

The above restaurants usually have a good range of food to choose from, however when you’re craving for one particular food only the best will do…

Banh Xeo An La Ghien

Many outlets around the city, one in 74 Suong Nguyet Anh

For Vietnamese Pancake — kind of like a large crepe filled with shrimp, pork, bean sprouts and herbs

 

Banh Mi Huynh Hoa, 26 Le Thi Rieng, District 1

For Banh Mi (Vietnamese baguette sandwich). You’ll also see them being sold at stalls on the side of the street. This Banh Mi Huynh Hoa is very famous since their Banh Mi is always made to fresh serve- and for me, as local people, always takes me at least 15 minutes waiting for my Banh Mi 🙂

Part 5. Where to Drink?

Acoustic Bar – 6C Ngo Thoi Nhiem, end of the alley – Live music every night from 9pm to 11pm. Most fun is on Saturday nights – my favourite 🙂

Bar Carmen – Ly Tu Trong street – Flamenco & Spanish live music

Jazz Art – Le Loi Street – Jazz and Saxophone live performance – my favourite 🙂

Hardrock Café – Hai Ba Trung Street (Kumho building) – you know what to expect

Shri – Level 23 Centec Tower, 72 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, District 1

Glow Skybar – 93 Nguyen Du, District 1

Breeze Sky Bar – Rooftop of Majestic Hotel, 1 Dong Khoi, District 1

Many of the major hotels in District 1 have a rooftop bar with great views. Most notably are the Caravelle, Rex and Sheraton.

North Dame Cathedral at night!:)

North Dame Cathedral at night!:)

 

 We enjoy the street sugar cane in the afternoon then move up to sky bar for luxury drinks- how diversified !:)

We enjoy the street sugar cane in the afternoon then move up to sky bar for luxury drinks- how diversified !:)

Part 6. Where to Shop?

Shopping Centre: Check out Vincom or Union Square near the City Hall in district 1.

Ben Thanh Market:

The most central of all the markets, teeming Ben Thanh and its surrounding streets comprise one of the city’s liveliest areas. Everything that’s commonly eaten, worn or used by the Saigonese is piled high: vegetables, dried fruit, meats, spices, scorpions in alcohol, sweets, tobacco, clothing, one-day suits, wristwatches, blingtastic jewellery, hardware and more spill forth from a profusion of stalls. Souvenir items can be found in equal abundance. Vendors are determined and prices usually higher than elsewhere, so bargain vigorously (although some stalls have ‘Fixed Price’ signs).

Bargaining tips:

Don’t show you like the product too much – the more you are keen to own it the higher the price they will quote.

Start with 1/3 of the price they gave, be ready to walk away (determiningly), they will give you a counter offer, and you take it from there.

If they are rude to you (it happens, sorry), just quietly walk away.

The House of Saigon: 16-18-20 Thu Khoa Huan Street, District 1- Near North Gate of Ben Thanh Market. – My Favourite 🙂

Catherine De Nour: (Silk and Home Linen): 74b Hai Ba Trung, District 1. – My favourite 🙂

Dong Khoi Street: is the place for branded goods and well known international brands. Expect to see air conditioned departmental stores big enough just like in any other well known cities in the world. Also available are the many cafes and eateries catered for the better off locals and expats.

Part 7. Moving around

When you arrive Tan Son Nhat International Airport, you can take a taxi ( remember Mai Linh or Vinasun with meters) to get to your hotel- it costs about 100,000 VND- 170,000 VND ( $5- $8,5) if your hotel located in District 1 and about $12-$15 if in District 7. Or if you are an Uber or Grabtaxi(Uber of South East Asia), you can book an Uber to drive you back to the hotel. Remember most of the drivers don’t speak English, so after you book an uber, it’s better text/sms them your location, or check their car number) 🙂

For private car renting to travel around Saigon without the local guide- it costs about $55-75$ ( around 8 hours). My recommendation is that you move around in foot as district one isn’t that big with all the attractions within a few hundred metres from one another. Alternatively, you may want to take a taxi or Uber during off peak hours to move around in comfort. 🙂

Taxi: Pls take: Mai Linh Taxi ( Green one) or Vinasun Taxi

Welcome to Saigon- Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam!

If you want to experience Saigon on the motorbike, or rent a car or even a local expert to go with you during your stay in Saigon, don’t hesitate to let me know, i will find for you- or even it’s easy to send message, talk and ask local experts in Saigon on triip.me. 🙂

Hope this guide will minimise your stress, worry, concern and maximise your time in Saigon and bring you a lot of memorable memory, smiles and happiness, and the happiest part for me and my friends is hearing or reading your mail/message ” I love your city, Saigon”.

Source: me and my friends’ experiences, wikipedia.

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