There’s more to Ho Chi Minh – Saigon than just the typical touristic architectures, restaurants and streets. Observe the local Vietnamese’s daily routine and you will get a little exposure to their unique and rich culture. If you watch these locals closely, though, they will lead you to places and experiences that are normal for them, but definitely fascinating for foreign visitors. Since most travelers don’t really have that luxury of time to people-watch the Vietnamese, this guide will make the task easier. Check out this list of interesting Saigon secret spots you wouldn’t know about without a local friend.
1. Tao Dan Park for Bird Watching
Saigon is blessed with green parks that act like oasis tucked within the hustling and bustling streets of the city. Tao Dan Park, located in Nguyễn Du, Trương Định and Nguyễn Thị Minh Khai streets in District 1, has something birdy going on every morning. Walk to the further end of the park past the huge, tall trees with squirrels to find a bunch of locals that come together at this spot for breakfast, with their fascinating birds. Find a table and order a banh mi for a unique breakfast experience.
2. Chè Lam Vinh Mau for a Sweet Treat
Get a sweet taste of the best Vietnamese dessert, chè; a cup of fresh fruits (lychee, mango, jackfruit and longan among others), mung and kidney beans, jellies and black-eyed peas which only costs $1.1 or less. You can find the local chè master, Lam Vinh Mau’s food stall at 31 Nguyễn Thái Bình Street, District 1.
3. Zen Alley for a Time of Peace
Believed by the locals to be sitting on a “dragon line,” i.e., a spiritual and mystical alignments of land forms, this street in Le Quang Dinh Street, Binh Thach District is a generally more peaceful spot in Saigon. Five pagodas stand within the stretch of the alleyway, one of which holds a Hue-style architecture, the Gia Lam Pagoda. However, during religious festivals, this alleyway is Cone of the busiests in the country.
4. Hồ Con Rùa (Turtle Lake) for Cà Phê Bệt
While big cafes such as Coffee Highlands and Trung Nguyen Coffee are popular to the upper class locals and expats, the average, normal Vietnamese would head out for a coffee on the “flat ground.” Head to the traffic circle (roundabout) of Công Trường Quốc Tế, at the junction of Trần Cao Vân and Phạm Ngọc Thạch streets for your ultimate local Vietnamese coffee experience. Order a coffee ($0.25 – $0.50) and some skewered snacks ($0.50-$1) from street vendors and sit on whichever pavement you prefer. Locals getting an iced Vietnamese Robusta Coffee late in the afternoon is a common sight.
5. 217 Nguyen Van Thu for Bun Cha Ha Noi
Although an original recipe of Ha Noi city, Bun Cha somehow made its way to the streets of Saigon. While not as common as Pho, Bun Bo, Bun Rieu and other popular noodle meals, a few local eateries serve this cuisine with great excellence, one of which is found in District 1. For less than $2, you will get delighted with grilled pork patties and pork belly soaked in tasty sauce, served along with fresh vegetable salad and filling rice noodles (bun).
These are just a few hidden places in Saigon. Have you been to anymore exotic spots that even us locals don’t know?
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