A bit more than a month has passed so quickly in bustling Ho Chi Minh City a.k.a Saigon and tomorrow we are supposed to continue our travels towards North Vietnam (more about this tomorrow in a totally new post series!). Ho Chi Minh has surprised us in a positive way and has stolen our hearts a bit, we guess. If we decided to move somewhere for a longer period in South-East Asia, Ho Chi Minh would definitely be on our top list.
The best thing in this place is the big city feeling and the neverending hustle and bustle. The traffic is quite chaotic but at the same time Ho Chi Minh is the most developed city in Vietnam. Here you can find all the entertainment from big shopping malls to all kinds of restaurants and bars.
We have spent a lot of time in our volunteering place and that’s why exploring the city has limited to only one district. Even District 1 itself is such a big area that there is plenty to see for a long time.
We listed below a few favorites that have really caught us in Saigon. We will definitely miss this place even though many other cool places in Vietnam are waiting for us!
Our regular pub on Bui Vien
Bui Vien, also called “backpacker street”, is one of the most vivid streets in Ho Chi Minh. Both locals and foreigners gather here to party every night, regardless of the weekday. The noise coming from the motorbikes and bars is deafening and you cannot walk a couple of seconds longer without the vendors trying to sell you something or the massage girls forcing you to take their leaflets. The atmosphere is chaotic and maybe because of that so fascinating!
Our regular place on Bui Vien is a cheap plastic chair bar that doesn’t even have a name. This small place at the street corner became our favorite already during our first evenings and something makes us go back there almost every time. When you enter, the energetic ladies managing the place show you your place and bring ice cold drinks to the table. The draft beer that costs 40 cents doesn’t really break your wallet and you can order snacks at the bar or from the street food stalls that move around on Bui Vien.
It’s normally the same people sitting in the bar and we always end up spending the evening with them. When we sit in the crowd, we also make new acquaintances every time. That’s exactly why we like this place so much!
The View Rooftop Bar
This gorgeous rooftop terrace is right next to our place but still it took us weeks before we found out about it. The terrace on the 9th floor offers amazing city view over Ho Chi Minh. Even though the place and the service is very nice, the prices are still affordable unlike in many skyscraper restaurants. You get a beer for a bit more than one dollar and the menu starts from two dollars.
Thai Binh market
Even though this market place is located within a few minutes walk from Bui Vien, the atmosphere is very authentic and you won’t see many foreigners there. We do almost all our grocery shopping at this market and you can also buy cheap clothes, shoes and cosmetics. The prices don’t contain tourist extra and the vendors are not overly aggressive like at Ben Thanh market which is a very touristic spot.
Thai Binh market is a good place to get to know some Vietnamese lifestyle and observe what kind of food the locals are buying. You get even more out of the place if you have a local as a guide. We cannot even recognize many foods sold at the market but we have learned lots of new things during one month. One new acquaintance has been fresh bamboo that we have eaten a lot as a side dish with rice. You can also see everything possible from living frogs to roosters running in the streets. Apparently they are sold for rooster fights.
Shady small alleys
If you dare to dive to small alleys from the busy Bui Vien street, you will find yourself in a totally different dimension. The alleys are filled with small shops and food stalls and locals’ apartments. The doors are always opened to the street so when you wander there you can see inside the people living rooms, whether you wanted or not. Sometimes the alleys are so narrow that we barely can walk without turning sideways. Still, there are motorbike drivers weaving their way through the alleys confidently. It’s easy to get lost in these small streets and wandering around offers a nice break from the noisy city.
The delicious street kitchens are the best parts of Saigon and you can find cheap, local places even around the touristic area in District 1. Sometimes we have just had a look in an inner yard where we have found a street food stall and locals drinking coffee and playing chess. Vietnamese food is very tasty and offers memorable experiences if you just dare to sit down among the locals and order some new dish that you don’t know.
Have you ever been to Saigon and what is your favorite thing there?