Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), formally named and still also referred to as Saigon, is the largest city in Vietnam by population.
The name commemorates Ho Chi Minh, the first leader of North Vietnam. This name combines a common Vietnamese surname (Ho, 胡) with a given name meaning “enlightened will”(from Sino-Vietnamese 志明; Chi meaning ‘will’ (or spirit), and Minh meaning ‘light’), in essence, meaning “light bringer”.
HCMC is a place that I enjoy going for short vacation. Simply love the food, coffee and the simplicity of life there. You can literally let go, chill out and indulge yourself there.
There was once I visited HCMC in one of the Chinese Lunar New Year holiday. The Vietnamese also celebrates this festive season and most people were off for the golden week. Shops were closed and many started operation a week later.
Look at how crowded the place is filled with people celebrating and enjoying the flowers festival.
View from my hotel room in Rex Hotel Saigon.
Look at the beautiful fireworks display at the stroke of midnight to welcome the new year.
HCMC is known for seafood indulgence. One of the restaurant I like best is in District 5, Bien Dong Seafood.
Lobster cooked in 2 ways, steamed & grilled
White clam porridge
Steamed flower crab
Baked and grilled cheese oysters
Snails cooked with coconut milk
Stir fried morning glory
Seafood fried noodles
Another place to go for good seafood meal is at the night Ben Thanh Market, District 1. The street stall is set up only after 7pm on a busy road where it will be closed for vehicles from 7pm onwards.
There are a couple of must order dishes whenever I am there.
The seafood fried rice is a definite must as you will get chunks of prawn and squid in diced with every mouthful. The rice goes extremely well with their green cut spicy chili with maggie sauce.
The grilled red snapper cannot be left out too.
Next better player will be none other than their grilled tiger king prawns.
Traditional Vietnamese fresh paper wrap roll
Fried spring roll
Fried butter frog legs
Stir fried morning glory with beef
I am salivating just by looking at the pictures. Losing my grip anytime soon! 😱
Hai San Ran Bien @ 220 Pasteur, District 1 is another option for seafood consideration as well.
Yearning for pig’s blood? If so, this place next is for you. This item, unfortunately, has been banned in my country mainly due to hygiene reason. There is this stall located alongside street of Ben Thanh Market that sells really good pig’s blood soup.
The soup stock is really power. Rich, flavourful and having sweetness of the white radish, carrot and pork bones simmered for hours.
Another favourite street snack of mine will be none other than Banh Mi, Vietnamese baguettes which can come in many form of fillings catered to each individual’s taste.
Usually, the baguettes will be spread with liver pate, strips of pork, cucumber, carrot, cilantro and maggie sauce. In addition, I will always make it a point to top it off with an extra egg omelette. It is just so good that you have to give it a try if you are ever in Ho Chi Minh.
A good bbq place will be at Bo Tung Xeo restaurant located in 31 Ly Tu Trong, District 1.
The bbq ostrich and beef over a small charcoal stove really brings over the meat flavours. The correct way to eat is to wrap the meat with the vegetables provided.
In HCMC, one of the must eat is their traditional Vietnamese Beef Noodles (Pho Bo). Almost everywhere you can get to find them as it is one of their local cuisine.
There is one stall inside the wet market of Ben Thanh where I would usually go and have breakfast.
Typical Vietnamese Pho noodle
Vietnamese spring roll
Sugar cane shrimp
A glass of ice cold coffee with milk to the breakfast finale.
Another safe joint to go is their Pho 2000 chain of restaurant.
Their version of the Vietnamese Pho noodle.
Fried spring roll
Fresh spring roll
There are other places where you can find good authentic Vietnamese local cuisines.
Wrap & Roll restaurant at Vincom Centre is one such place. You may be glad to know that there are 2 branches of the Wrap & Roll restaurant here. One in Ion Orchard and the other at Buona Vista (The Star).
Mon Hue restaurant chain is also one other place to go for authentic Vietnamese cuisine.
A higher end restaurant would be the Ngon Restaurant (Nha Hang Ngon) @ 160 Pasteur, District 1.
For those who enjoy Japanese cuisine, there are places that you can go for the fix as well.
Tokyo Kitchen @ 91 Le Thanh Ton St, District 1 serves acceptable Japanese ramen noodle at an affordable price.
Mi Nhat Osaka serves the best ramen in HCMC. This restaurant is located in 18 Thai Van Lung, District 1. You will get to see a lot of the Japanese expatriates dining in this restaurant.
Shabu Kichoo Hot Pot & BBQ restaurant beside Crescent Mall, District 7 can be one of your meal option if you are in the vicinity.
Vietnamese sure knows how to enjoy life. Chilling out at cafes & bars are a norm in HCMC.
What I really like about chilling out in HCMC, you will never get ‘chased out’ by the shop owners. You can stay for as long as you like and they will still welcome you unlike other places (outside Vietnam) where the shop staff will give you a kind of unwelcome stare if you are not patronizing.
There are lots of cafes, beer gardens, bars & pubs in HCMC for chilling out. I will share a couple of these places with my personal experiences.
Evening view of HCMC. Great place for chill out.
Night view of HCMC from the Chill Skybar @ 76 Le Lai, District 1.
ID Cafe @ 34D Thu Khoa Huan Street, District 1 is one of my favourite must visit cafe each time I am in HCMC. Love the nostalgic interior decoration of the cafe. Cozy place for recharging.
For beer lovers, you have to make a trip to this place, Bar 5 Saigon @ 44-46 Pasteur, District 1 for beer buffet. The bar serves free-flow of beer on tap daily from 3pm to 7pm at only 130,000 VND ($8) nett. Drink till you drop!
Apart from food and cafes, there are also a couple of tourist attractions within Ho Chi Minh City Centre where you can explore in the city centre.
1. Ho Chi Minh City Museum which showcases Vietnam’s history with exhibits from all periods.
2. Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral, officially Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of The Immaculate Conception is a cathedral located in the downtown of Ho Chi Minh City. The cathedral was constructed between 1863 and 1880 & has 2 bell towers reaching a height of 58 metres.
3. Saigon Central Post Office is a post office in the downtown Ho Chi Minh City, near Saigon Notre Dame Basilica, the city’s Cathedral. The building was constructed when Vietnam was part of French Indochina in the late 19th century and is now a tourist attraction.
4. People’s Committee, a French colonial architectural building at the Nguyen Hue Street.
5. Jade Emperor Pagoda (玉皇殿) was built by the Chinese community in 1909 and is a Taoist pagoda located at 73 Mai Thi Luu Street , District 1. This pagoda is popular amongst their locals as well as tourists who come here to pray for good blessings and good luck. From 1984 onwards, it is known by the new Chinese name 福海寺 (Luck Sea Temple) and as the Tortoise Pagoda. Interestingly, the former US President Barack Obama also paid a visit to this temple during his state trip to Vietnam on 22 May 2016.
Well, that’s all I have for you now. Hope you enjoy Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.