A Little Saigon Adventure

Ho Chi Minh City
One of the key characteristics and part of the charm of Ho Chi Minh – the ubiquitous motorbikes

So I did say that I’d start writing a bit about fitness and travel on this blog too, and when better to do so than after a recent short three day weekend trip to Vietnam for work. So in between work engagements, I had the chance to visit a couple of F&B establishments and shopping areas. I mainly stayed within District 1 though, with a short foray into District 3 for a meal.

New World Saigon
New World Saigon Hotel, District 1

And District 1 seems to me, a great place to be staying and wandering about in. I stayed at the New World Hotel Saigon, a five star hotel in Ho Chi Minh that I felt had considerate and quality service as well as nice big cushy beds. Along with complimentary bottled water, fast Internet, a pretty comprehensive and delicious buffet breakfast and other nice touches.

Many little makeshift stalls along the roads selling food stuff and souvenirs

Within walking distance are quite a number of local eateries and shops, the well-known Ben Thanh market, the rather exciting shopping market/mall Saigon Square and some upmarket ones like Rex Shopping Arcade (with LV and the likes) and Saigon Centre. Vincom Center, the Saigon Post Office and the Notre Dame Cathedral are also not too far off.

Here are some places and food I experienced in Ho Chi Minh City both this time and last year around the same time, which I’d like to share with you all:


1. Ben Thanh Market (this should be categorised under Shopping and Eating too)

Ben Thanh

Having been to other famous markets like Chatuchak in Bangkok and the souks in Marrakesh, I thought I had some idea of what these were like. But it seems every market has its own character and flavour, and Ben Thanh is no exception.

Ben Thanh 2

Filled to the brim with clothing, souvenirs, food and much more, it is bustling with colour, activity and atmosphere. Salespeople tend to grab and pull you to get you to buy things though, so those with such phobias – do beware.

Ben Thanh 3

I just love all the colours

I didn’t manage to try any of the local food stalls there, but I heard that they are pretty good.

Would say it definitely warrants a visit if you’re going to Ho Chi Minh City.

3. Saigon Post Office, 2 Công xã Paris

Post Office

Probably the most or one of the most beautiful post offices in the world I think.

4. Notre Dame Cathedral


Right across the post office in big within a big square, the Notre Dame Cathedral is majestic, intricate and full of old world charm – and evidently a very popular spot for couples to take their wedding photographs.

5. Saigon Opera House, Đồng Khởi

Outside Opera House

Again another beautifully decorated building, one which is nestled right in the middle of busy roads and high end shops.


1. Saigon Square, Nam Kỳ Khởi Nghĩa

Saigon Square

Pretty awesome for shopping I’d say! It is partially air conditioned, most stalls allow you to bargain, and the stall holders are not pushy, making it an overall pleasant environment to buy things or even just browse. Filled to the brim with casual clothes, dresses, shoes, men’s clothing, accessories and more.

Quite similar to the Bugis Street/Village shopping area in Singapore!

3. Vincom , 72 Lê Thánh Tôn

Outside Vincom

Erm, ignore the colonial building, Vincom Center is the glass building behind it! Packed full of food places in the basement, including the well-known Wrap & Roll Chain and many local and regional F&B offerings. I think there’s a Beard Papa Sweets and a Thai Express too. Korean bakeries are present here too, like Tous Le Jours and Paris Baguette – it seems these chain stores can be found at many spots within the city.

Shops-wise, there are many international and regional brands, like Zara, Benetton, Charles & Keith, Bata and more. Not so many local stores, but I suppose that’s to be expected. There are many kids/baby shops here though!


1. Pho, Pho and more Pho

Beef pho and fried spring rolls from Pho 2000
Pho, spring rolls and fresh coconut from Pho 24

Pho shops seem to be pretty much everywhere in Ho Chi Minh City. Small roadside stalls, chain restaurants, and nice establishments.

I mainly visited chain places as I was there for work, and these were not too bad though not as delicious as I had hoped/expected. Fairly cheap (around US$5 for a main, side and drink?) and good though! And many branches all around the city.

From a very authentic looking Pho shop next to the KFC behind New World Saigon / opposite AB Tower… I forgot the name though

They were all quite nice, from chains to little dinky ones, so it was hard to compare.

2. L’uisine

The L’usine branch at 70B Le Loi

A chi chi café chain, L’uisine offers a mix of East and West, mainly sandwiches, salads, cakes and the like. Utilising an increasingly popular part-shop, part-café concept, the L’usine café I visited was decorated with very clean fresh tones, and had a lovely, enjoyable ambience.

L'usine 2

Plus the Vietnamese pork salad I had there was amazing.

Pork Salad

Me at Luisine

3. Hatvala, 44 Nguyen Hue


A friendly little 2 storey restaurant / café, Hatvala offers simple Vietnamese fare in a lovely, comfortable environment. The soft shell crab and fried spring rolls were really yummy. And there was free WiFi!

Hatvala Crab

Hatvala Spring Rolls

It’s not that cheap (around US$10 or so per pax I think), but reasonably priced – and you get to enjoy your food in comfort.

4. Xu Restaurant and Lounge, 71-75 Ha Ba Trung

Xu Restaurant

For a more luxurious meal or social drinks, there is Xu Restaurant and Lounge, a tasteful place that oozes class and ambience. The dishes were creative and overall were pretty good as well, with some hits and some misses.

Xu Dumpling and Roll

Xu Pork and Prawns

7. Chill Sky Bar and Restaurant

View at Chill Sky Bar

Located at the top of the 69 and 70th floors of a commercial building in Ho Chi Minh, Chill Sky Bar and Restaurant offers stunning views of the city. By night, it is simply enchanting, filled with all the lovely colourful lights of Ho Chi Minh.

Me at Chill

Some other things to see/do in the city:


Trung Nguyen Coffee

Goose on Road

Tiger Crystal
What I was in HCMC for – the Tiger Street Football 2013 Grand Finals!


HCMC Roads

I found Ho Chi Minh City to be quite a nice place to visit for a couple of days!


And now, off to Hong Kong!


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