This isn’t just Saigon’s secret, all over Vietnam narrow alleyways are often home to the best finds. Be confident enough to venture out of the backpacker’s district and poke your heads into sketchy looking lanes as they often house cool, boutique, Asia chic stores and cafes. We found some of the raddest restaurants and coffee shops sprinkled up stairways and down side streets.
When you jump on a bike in Saigon you realise how well traffic operates in this seemingly chaotic city. It’s a huge adrenaline rush to be on the streets with the 14million locals. Everyone is courteous and aware making you feel as safe as cycling in any other city. We recommend ‘Ride, Bite and See Saigon’ on Airbnb experiences with Linh.
Crossing the road
Flying straight into the hectic city of Saigon was a little daunting at first. Once settling in to our accommodation, we wanted to head out for a bite but found ourselves stuck on our block. With no traffic crossing in site and a herd of motorbikes constantly zooming past us, we wondered if we would ever be able to eat. That’s when a lovely old local lady grabbed us buy the arms and trudged us straight out on the road. We parted the traffic just like Moses parted the red sea, with bikes swerving around us and trucks coming to halt to let us go by. So this secret…? Walk out slowly, at a constant pace and with confidence – any hesitation and you’ll be stuck just like we were.
Cafes in Vietnam come in all shapes, sizes, specialties and themes. While in Saigon do your very best to never visit the same café twice. The culture around cafes/ tea shops is incredible. If you go out at 11:00pm, curb sides will be adorned with child sized stools and chock a block full of locals meeting in the street for an iced tea or coffee blend. The way Vietnam extracts their coffee is super long resulting in an extra strong buzz.
Some of our favourites:
Era Coffee - 58C TRAN QUOC THAO STREET, DISTRICT 3
L’USINE - 70B LE LOI, DISTRICT 1
UP CAFÉ - 269 NGUYỄN TRỌNG TUYỂN
Saigon has so many markets. All have different specialities and are great for different bits and bobs.
Ben than – Want the latest yeezys or designer scarfs and bags? Ben Than is the spot. This chaotic market in the centre of Saigon has all the rip offs you could dream of – however the rip offs here aren’t the greatest and while you can find all the Calvin Klein underwear your heart desires – there’s a better spot for more “high quality” rip offs. Also, quick tip: take 70% off the price the stall holder starts with then work your way down from there.
Saigon Square – This is the one if you’re happy to spend a bit more for higher quality rip offs that are more original. I had a look at some of the Chloe bags and Celine sunglasses and they fooled me.
Cholon (Bin Tay) – this market has a heavy Chinese influence and features many textiles, handicrafts, fresh produce as well as sooo many food choices you’ll definitely leave with a food baby.
Sax-n-Art – Saigon’s jazzy jazz bar.
Vietnams king of jazz Tran Manh Tuan started this bar to bring soul to the music scene in Ho Chi Minh. The cover charge is built into the price of the first drink and there’s probably an equal number of tourists to locals present, but the main thing is the music is incredible. Only the best musicians make up the house band and their crazy talent would bring me back every night of the week.
Saigon Outcasts – Bar featuring good foods, better beers, a half pipe and above all a rock climbing wall. From what I gather it’s a real expat haven in the city and a fun place for adults to play.
Pasteur street brewing co – The on trend tap rooms combine American craft brewing techniques with the flavours of Vietnam. The combination of western culture with local Vietnam can also be seen in the hip crowd that gathers – millennials of all cultures gathering to enjoy the sweet nectar, brewed to be enjoyed by everyone.
Pagoda- Jade Emperor
If you’re looking for the gram – this is your spot. The dusky pink hues of the walls with the jade/turquois roofing is the perfect spot for a photo. BUT, beyond that its also so incredibly interesting watching the community use this as a place of worship. The way they light the incense and say prayers to specific deities allows you to get a glimpse at local life in Vietnam.