Ho Chi Minh City
It’s been a little while since our last adventure as life seemed to have got in the way, but 2016, as promised meant that it was time to get back on the road. Next stop, Vietnam. After a quick change in Hong Kong we landed in Ho Chi Minh City. Eleni and I plus two of our lovely friends were ready to get our Vietnamese rice hats on and see what Saigon had to show us.
Ho Chi Minh City, once a French colony, also wears its original name, Saigon. From mouth watering street eats to upmarket rooftop bars, this bustling Asian metropolis is definitely one of our favourite cities so far. They even seem to have inherited the Europeans chic style. You’ll often see girls in stilettos and a Chanel mini dress scootering around the city and slurping pho on street corners. It is also famously known as the scooter capital of the world with over 30 million across the country, so be prepared to play dodgeball while crossing the road.
TIP Be aware of having your phone or camera out, luckily we didn’t come across any thieving scoundrels but we were warned that they swing by on their bikes and snatch like swooping magpies. Despite this we never felt unsafe.
We had a few days in the city so we decided to head to the Backpackers District to book a tour. Yes that’s right sometimes we play cheesy tourists. A 5am start and we were on the bumpy road to the Mekong Delta, to see the worlds biggest Floating Market Cai Rang then a morning spent on the riverbanks indulging in the local specialities of snake juice, coconut candy and bee pollen. Off we rode on our rickety bicycles waving 'Xin Chao' to the locals. A private tour costs 20USD or a group for only 9USD including lunch, it’s a 4 hour journey from the city and gets you back into town by 6pm. The tour is definitely worth it but can be a bit of a tourist trap especially when you go in a larger group.
HCMC with its bustling streets and delicious eats is definitely one of our favourite Asian cities. The weather is hot all year round and the people couldn't be smilier so if you're thinking about a trip to Vietnam make sure you swing by Saigon for a day or two.
Here are our Top Four Tips on where to Eat, Sleep and Do. Enjoy!
The city is made up of Districts, just like The Hunger Games, we found Districts 1 & 3 were best to stay in. With a mix of vibrant Vietnamese culture and Parisian chic elegance, it really stands out from any other Asian city. You’ll find yourself surrounded by French Colonial architecture, street stall- lined boulevards, mammoth roof top bars and pho for breakfast, lunch and dinner. What more could you ask for! It’s all about the Cafe Culture in Saigon, there are coffee shops on every street corner from trendy Grinds to traditional Vietnamese Cafes and street vendors brewing their own Ca Phe Da (iced black coffee).
Nail and beauty salons are a dime a dozen so go get your talons some loving. We came across one opposite Ben Thanh Market £3 for a pedicure and another £3 if you want a foot massage. Oh and not to mention all the massage parlours around the city. Prices range between 130,000 – 200,000 dong (USD 6.50 – 10) for 60 mins, bargain!
One of the highlights for us was definitely The War Remnants Museum. It costs $1 to get in and really is something special but make sure you take some tissues, we cried buckets! The photography in particular is extremely moving.
The Four Things To Do
1 Tao Dan Park
For a totally one off experience, go between 7am- 9am Songbird enthusiasts head here to let their birds sing for a morning symphony. You’ll see up to 100 locals with their birds having a good old sing along. Twit Twoo!
Find them here : Nguyễn Thị Minh Khai, Bến Thành, Hồ Chí Minh
2 Saigon Street Food By Night Tour
We thought this was going to be a bit of a tourist trap, but we were wrong. Get on the back of a motorbike and let your taste buds go wild. Tickets £24 for a 2.5 hour tour here
3 Go for a Vietnamese coffee
Vietnam is the second largest producer of coffee in the world after Brazil, you must try a Ca Phe Da on ice. Vietnamese Coffee = Concentrated black coffee dripped onto condensed milk. for 15,000 Dong, which is about 50pence. Lets just say it’s an acquired taste but when in Rome!
4 Visit the Markets
Ben Thanh Market for great Pho, delicious dried mango, ‘designer’ clobber and really beautiful teapots. Make sure you barter. The dried mango is sensational!
Find it Here: Lê Lợi, Bến Thành, Hồ Chí Minh
6 am – 6 pm daily for the indoor market, and about 6 pm – Midnight daily for the night market
The Four Places to Stay
1 For Little Budgets Town House Saigon
Doubles from £20, Dorms from £5.50 B&B, 50E Bùi Thị Xuân, Ho Chi Minh, +84 8 3925 0210
2 For healthier budgets The Liberty Saigon Citypoint Hotel
Doubles from £56.54, 59 Đường 61 Đường Pasteur, Quận 1, Pasteur, Quận 1, 700900, +84 8 3822 5678
3 For Medium Budgets Hotel Des Arts Saigon M Gallery Collection
Doubles from £108, 76-78 Nguyễn Thị Minh Khai, phường 6, Hồ Chí Minh, +84 8 3989 8888
Doubles from £210.54, 21/4 Trung Street, Vĩnh Phú, Thuận An, Bình Dương, +84 650 3785 555
The Four Places to Eat
1 Bun Cha at 145 Cheap as chips and epic Vietnamese food
2 Nha Hang Gong A mega menu with an epic vegetable curry and Green papaya salad
3 Cuc Gach Quan A rustic family run villa hosting delicious local cuisine
4 Blanchy Street Nobu Londons' ex Head chef makes this hidden gem the best sushi in Saigon. Make sure you say hello to Andreas, the owner, he's always on hand and is in the know of all the cities hot spots.
The Four Best Rooftop Bars
1 Duc Vuong Hotel this is the cheapest rooftop bar in Saigon. Nestled in the busy backpacker street of Bu Vien, beers cost about 30p at Duc Vuong. The views aren’t the best but the atmosphere is buzzy and the drinks are cheap as chips.
195 Bùi Viện, Phạm Ngũ Lão, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam, +84 8 3920 6991
2 Chill Sky Bar chill out lounge music, sublime views of the city
3 Social Club Hotel Des Arts Saigon this might the winner for us, DJ playing house music mixed with a bit of Lionel Ritchie, epic cocktails and what seems to be the trendiest crowd in Saigon. Definitely put on a pair of heels and soak up the best 360degree views of HCMC
4 Eon51 this famous Heli bar Financial Tower you can’t miss. A little bit more pricey but worth it for a drink or two
50th Floor, Bitexco Financial Tower, 2 Hải Triều, Bến Nghé, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam, +84 8 6291 8750