Hello city-lovers! Whether you call it Ho Chi Minh City or Saigon, blogger Liz Ledden shows us the best of this Vietnamese hub.
Want to see your city on IT? Copy and paste our list of fill-in-the-blank questions into an e-mail, fill in your answers, and send your responses to IntelligentTravel@ngs.org. And if you’re still waiting for us to feature yours, fear not! We’re going to keep posting as long as we keep getting them (please include photos and links!).
The first place I take a visitor from out of town is Quan An Ngonto to sample the ‘best of’ Vietnamese street food. The owners gathered the best food vendors and installed them around a courtyard on the grounds of a French colonial villa. The restaurant is heaving with locals and in-the-know tourists every day and night, and the food is fresh, tasty and really cheap (try the lemongrass clams!).
When I crave banh mi I always go to Banh Mi Bistro for their delicious take on the chicken baguette.
To escape the non-stop stream of motorbikes on the chaotic streets I head to La Fenetre Soleil for a ginger juice. Up a dingy stairwell on a central, busy corner, La Fenetre Soleil is a cool cafe with a vintage French feel – think floorboards, a chandelier, high ceiling, mismatched furniture strewn with cushions and large French style windows looking out to the street below.
If I want to drink cocktails in funky surroundings I go to Q Bar or Amber Room.
For complete quiet, I can hide away inside the Hindu temple on Ton That Thiep Street – it’s nearly always deserted, is adorned with colourful patterned tiles and feels like a real oasis of calm.
If you have to order one thing off the menu from Trung Nguyen Coffee it has to be a Legendee, this famed Vietnamese coffee brand’s premier brew, made using the digestive enzymes of a native weasel which gives it its ultra smooth taste.
Ipa-nima is my one-stop shop for great handbags – colourful, whimsical creations using leather and all sorts of embellishments.
Locals know to skip touristy, expensive Ben Thanh Market and check out Tan Dinh Market instead, for cheap local cuisine, fabrics, fresh fruit and vegetables and household items.
When I’m feeling cash-strapped I go to Wrap & Roll for a delicious, cheap and fresh assortment of Vietnamese snacks, including roll your own spring rolls.
For a huge splurge I go to Cepage for fine wine and gourmet cuisine in stylish surrounds.
Photo ops in my city include Dong Khoi Street and the Opera House and the best vantage point is the Saigon Saigon Bar at the Caravelle Hotel after dark – it offers a fantastic view of the city lights and streets below.
If my city were a celebrity it’d be Madonna – has an interesting history but is constantly reinventing itself.
The most random thing about my city is women wearing pyjamas while out and about, sometimes with heels.
My city has the most baby-loving men.
My city has the most tiny women.
In my city, an active day outdoors involves a walk in one of the parks, like the grounds of Saigon’s Zoo, or pounding the pavements shopping and eating.
My city’s best museum is The Reunification Palace.
My favorite jogging/walking route is through my local neighbourhood on the way to the market, stopping en route for iced Vietnamese coffee.
Any noodle stand at Tan Dinh Market is the spot for late-night eats.
You can tell a lot about my city from witnessing the constant construction and change.
You can tell if someone is from my city if they learnt to ride a motorbike before they could walk.
In the spring you should break out the plastic poncho, as rainy season begins.
In the summer you should frequent any venue with air-conditioning, it’s sweltering.
In the fall you should go for daytime walks and eat at outdoor restaurants- it’s not too hot, not too rainy.
In the winter you should travel to Sapa in northern Vietnam for misty mountain views and a cosy fireplace at the Victoria Hotel.
A hidden gem in my city is the outdoor restaurant behind the mosque on Dong Du Street for great home-style curries and amazing fried chicken.
For a great breakfast joint try Au Parc Cafe.
Don’t miss the Tet (Vietnamese New Year) festival in February, when Nguyen Hue Boulevard is transformed into a rural village, complete with mock bamboo bridges and colourful flower displays.
Just outside my city, you can visit the famous Cu Chi Tunnels for a dose of war history (and even a crawl through one if you’re not too claustrophobic!).
The best way to see my city is by taking a metered taxi from point to point and walking around the areas that interest you.
If my city were a pet it would be a puppy – busy and hyperactive.
If I didn’t live in a city, I’d live in a scenic mountainous town that still had good food and coffee available!
The best book about my city is Graham Greene’s The Quiet American.
When I think about my city, the song that comes to mind is “Hotel California,”
or any other naff tune people love to sing at karaoke.
If you have kids, you won’t want to miss a trip to any local market for a visual feast and friendly banter with the kid-loving locals.
A Ferrari and a cyclo driving side by side could only happen in my city.
My city should be featured on your cover or website because it’s diverse, dynamic, entrepreneurial, ever-improving and home to some of the best cuisine in the world!
For more about Saigon, check out Liz’s blog about eating, drinking, shopping, traveling, and living in Vietnam.