Quick Guide to Ho Chi Minh City

As some of you know, I used to travel to HCMC almost every month in the past year or so. So people have often asked me to share with them what to do when they go to that city. Now that I am blogging, let me share this with you so that anyone who wants to go there will be benefit from this.

This post will share:

  1. How to get around safely in HCMC?
  2. Where to eat in HCMC?
  3. What to do in HCMC?
  4. Where to change money in HCMC?

Getting Around – The Taxi Question

from airport to hotel: Take only Vinasun or MaiLinh Taxi – Green and white. the rest of the taxis will rip u off. if you are heading to city ie District 1, your taxi shouldnt be more around 100-120k dong max. when u come out of the airport, turn left, head to taxi area, vietnam has no queue, system so when you reach there, look for the man in green with red tie, tell him u want Vinasun taxi. dont let the other taxi pple psycho u or justtake anyother cab that happens to come. u can just keep waiting until u get the Vinasun or Mailinh taxi. they may bluff u and say that other cab is good, airport cab etc etc.

This is an interesting article on taxi scams. http://www.lookatvietnam.com/2012/04/scam-cabbies-still-scour-for-prey-at-hcmc-airport.html

Change money: change abit at the airport. the rate sucks. when u reach the Ben Thanh market, outside the market there are some streets. across the streets along the shop houses there are gold shops that offer money exchange. u can change there. the rates are good and legitimate.

food:

Pho Hung – best beef noodles 241 Nguyen Trai Street District 1

Another great Pho place near the air port.

For vietnamese food – Try din ky 137 nguyen trai street District 1

here is a place where locals eat. u wont find any foreigners here. waiters cant really speak english but can get english menu. try the claypot clams with lemon grass

for vietnamese hot pot – go to xien xien 167 Tran Phu District 5. its a 10 min taxi from ben thanh. district 5 is actually chinatown. this place gets sold out fast, so try to be there before 7pm. after 7pm no point going cos alot of things will be sold out. try the BBQ froglegs and vietnamese satay.

For classic vietnamese food, go to Cuc Gach Quan – 10 Dang Tat, Tan Dinh, District 1. tel 38480144 or 01657101010 (mobile) This is a very nice restaurant in a colonial house. it is set in a residential area so it doesnt feel commercial. the owner is an architect so u should tour around the house to see the different levels. very nice place. Try the fruit juice, its a pleasant surprise. for rice, order the brown rice. it is very nice. Check it out at  http://www.cucgachquan.com.vn/en

Other places for nice food, u can try Pasteur Street. Pasteur street is right in teh city centre. its not a long street so can walk. alot of restaurant and pubs. but very touristy. but nice ambience at night.

How about breakfast? Fancy some really delicious breakfast served on a sizzling hot plate? Try this place for Ostrich Steak! Its my favourite breakfast place! Not to be missed!

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Drinks – Rex Hotel 5th floor open air bar. nice live music and nice city views

Tailor – Thu Khoa Huan (Too Kwa Hwoon) Street, District 1

There are lots of tailors on this street. men and women. but must be careful because their fashion sense may not match ours. for men its quite nice.

Paintings – Go to Nguyen Hue street. on both sides u will see big painting shops. u can bring photos and commission them to do portraits.  the painting quality here is consistent. Bargain! i bought mine here at USD 100. opening price was USD 150. Bui Vien Street at Pham Ngu Lao also has alot of painting shops but quality is not consistent. it is cheaper here. a-tuk bought some nice ones here but i cant find any.

I love these Lempicka Reproductions!

Spa -Spa Authentic

Thao Dien Village, 195 Nguyen Van Huong Street, Thao Dien Ward District 2 This is an expensive spa so its quite alot of ang moh. not as expensive as singapore but expensive for vietnamese. My sister visited it and loved it.

The one i always go to is

Ngoc Anh Beauty Spa 36-38 Nguyen Cu Trinh Street, District 1

This one has pretty good masseurs; they all got certificates. but u must tip about 200k dong. this is very near ben thanh market so its convenient. taxi maybe 15000 dong.

Foot Massage

Go to this place at:

Mac Thi Boi Street (Muck Tee Booi) its near Nguyen Hue street. I cant remember the name of the foot massage but u will see a sign with 2 feet. its opened by Taiwanese so there are chinese characters. very good foot massage. best i had in vietnam. and cheap. tip about 50-100k depending on your satisfaction. but its not posh. its a shop house type.

For hanging out and shopping

Pham Ngu Lao (farm ngoo lao) – backpackers district. lots of things to buy but not much bargaining. cant bargain as much as Ben Thanh market but its quite a pleasant place to hang out. lots of cafes, pubs and small restaurants. Lots of DVD shops. can buy children DVD.

Ben Thanh (Burn Tarn) Market – good for buying crafts. the egg shell art and crafts are nice. watever u do, bargain at least 50%.

Nite market – Every night outside Ben Thanh market has a night market. nothing special just clothes. but got alot to eat. if u want supper here is the place. Order the grilled red fish. its actually red tilapia but sometimes they call it red snapper. its gooood. However, note that it is TOURIST PRICED!

Best Drink in Vietnam – Try this drink while in vietnam – Sinh to (smoothy). try the Sinh To Sapoche. its actually chiku fruit smoothy. very nice. i drink it almost everyday in vietnam. u can also try other smoothys. in the menu, look under Sinh To – it means smoothy. Sinh To Tom (pineapple) is oso nice. Sinh to is pronounced as ‘Shinto’

For Breakfast and pastry

This very nice cafe along Nguyen Hue. its a corner cafe along the same side as the painting shops. its near Palace hotel. i cant remember the name. but its along the main road. from there u can see rex hotel. It looks very colonial. I love the old world charm of the place.

Vietnamese bread is good. Try it.

Tours Le Jours – A popular bread chain from korea. very nice pastry and cakes.

Tired of the Old World Feeling?

New HCMC – Phu My Hing (Foo Mee Hng) District 7

This is the new HCMC. everytime i get sick of the congestion i come here. it is about 20mins taxi from Ben Thanh. It is the new city so it has nice condos, roads everything. it is very much a modern city and feels like Singapore and australia.  this place is pretty safe because it s mostly expats or rich vietnamese. alot of koreans. in fact the town is designed and built by taiwan. there are some malls here with cineplex. also a lot of nice restaurants esp international cuisine. alot of korean food, even indian food. nice place to come in the evening to get away from the 3rd world feeling. here people actually observe traffic rules and you can walk slowly across the road when it shows the green man. it applies to no where else in HCMC!

Sight Seeing:

The War Remnants Museum

I find other war sights nothing much but this particular museum stands out because it evokes feelings. They have the usual military hardware displays, mock-ups etc but it is the photo-collection that really touches you. The feelings that are evoked by the sufferings of the people, and also the spirit of the people, I think these are really the things that captured my attention and made me want to cry.

Just look at this picture, of a mother’s love for her child. This child was deformed by chemical weapons but there is not doubt that in the mother’s eyes, the child is the most beautiful in the world.

This is the indomitable human spirit!

The Catheral of Notre Dame is beautiful! Standing there with my beautiful wife Abigail.

Safety Tips:

1. Dont walk and talk on handphone. motorbike theft snatching your hand phone is common. my agent lost 10 phones this way already. if u need to call or sms, enter a shop and do it then come out again.

2. in Ben Thanh market or Pham Ngu Lao, chain your wallet.

3. Take only Vinasun or Mailinh taxi. A friend’s wife was charged 500 000 Dong for a taxi ride from Pham Ngu Lao to Ben Thanh market. it should only be 20k. as it was her first time in Vietnam, she didnt know.

4. in vietnam, when u cross the road, u cannot stop. the rule is to keep moving and the motorbikes will avoid u. if u stop, it actually confuses them and it becomes more dangerous. give way to cars because they dont avoid u but if its a motorbike, just walk, let him avoid u. it takes practice but after awhile u get used to it. vietnamese people will laugh at u if u stand at the road and wait for the bike to pass.

Have Fun in HCMC!

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