7 things to try for newcomers in Saigon

By Ma Lum   September 9, 2016 | 06:00 am GMT+7

Vietnam's largest city has something for everyone around the clock: from a leisurely walk, a journey to the past to spectacular sight of skyscrapers of Vietnam's business hub.

Nguyen Hue walking street

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Photo by Thien Chuong

Located in downtown Saigon, the walking street opened in April last year. On week days, vehicles are allowed to drive down Nguyen Hue Street, but from 6pm to 1am on Saturday and Sunday, vehicles are banned to make room for pedestrians. The street holds public events like parades, meetings and street festivals, and is turned into a flowery paradise during Vietnam’s traditional Tet holiday.

The street is the ideal place for young people to practice their hoverboarding skills or to put on street music performances. On the two sides of the street, you can also find several hot shopping spots.

Nhieu Loc Canal

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Photo by Thao Nghi

The boats, which depart from Le Van Sy Marina (District 3) or Thi Nghe Marina (District 1), carry tourists 4.5 kilometers along the canal to enjoy the peace and quiet of Vietnam’s largest city to a musical background. Tickets range from VND110,000 (5$) for a large boat (10-22 people) to VND220,000 (10$) for a small boat (3-5 people).

Century-old buildings

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Notre Dame Cathedral, photo by Huu Cong

Standing silently in the bustling city, buildings constructed following European styles draw the attention of any passers-by.  The names tourists shouldn’t ignore are Notre Dame Cathedral, Saigon Central Post Office, the Opera House and Ben Thanh Market.

Ham Thu Thiem Park

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Photo by Thuy Phuong

Almost all Saigoneers know this: to see the two different side of Saigon, glory and shabbiness, find Ham Thu Thiem Park. Looking along a dark river, tourists can record a panoramic view of District 1 and the prominent image of the 68-story Bitexco building, Saigon’s iconic tower. If you are a photography lover, visit the park before sunset to capture stunning images when the sun starts disappearing behind the skyscrapers.

Cholon

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Photo by Thanh Hai

Cholon, which means ‘big market’ in English and was formally known as Binh Tay Market, is Vietnam’s largest Chinatown. Visitors can find anything they want here, dried fruit, Chinese herbals and even flip flops. Cholon is a great place to see classical Chinese architecture reminiscent of years gone by with plenty of Chinese restaurants and temples in the surrounding area.

Fun-fact: The Cholon we know today is not the original. It was built from 1927 to 1930 as a replacement for the old Cholon which burnt down in a fierce fire at the time. 

Cu Chi Tunnels

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Photo by VnExpress/Hai Nam

The Cu Chi Tunnels form an immense underground network in Cu Chi District, about 70 kilometers from the center of Saigon. The tunnels were used to shelter during combat and to transport food and weapons for North Vietnamese fighters in the 1960s. Visitors can crawl through the tunnels, view command centers and booby traps and even enjoy the food soldiers lived on in the tunnels.

Coffee culture

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Racket coffee, or 'ca phe vot', is a must-try in Saigon. The coffee is filtered through a fabric racket, which offers an unique taste and smell. Photo by Phong Vinh.

Not just a beverage, coffee has become a part of life in Saigon. If Hanoians love to check into luxury coffee chains, Saigoneers just need a cup of coffee, a plastic stool and a space on the sidewalk to chat with friends. Prices for black coffee and white coffee, the city's beverages of choice, range from VND10,000 to VND15,000 ($0.5-0.7) per cup, just half the price you'd find in Hanoi.

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