Off the Beaten Track: Ho Chi Minh Edition

Reunification Palace in Ho Chi Minh

The famous Broadway musical Miss Saigon says it all: The heat is on in Saigon! Now named Ho Chi Minh City yet still known to all as Saigon, this ever moving and never boring metropolis is the place where one can find the best of the old and the new, the cheap and the extravagant.

They say that if you stay in a place long enough, you will soon uncover its mystery and become familiar with it. But with a short trip to Saigon, you won’t have the luxury to wait for the mystery to present itself before your eyes. You have to unlock them yourself by going to roads less traveled by tourists. Get out of the tourist comfort zone and into the local adept way of life.

Fantastic way to get around Saigon.

  • Rent a bike. Much of Ho Chi Minh is biker-friendly, and there are shops from which you can rent a bicycle. Perks? Biking is faster than walking, giving you a more efficient way of exploring the city. On the other hand, it also is slower than taking the bus and other kinds of public transportation, giving you the opportunity to take in sights and to even stop if you see something interesting.

Quan Am Pagoda in Cholon

  • Take a trip to Cholon. Most tourists stay within the Saigon area. The more adventurous souls, however, go to Cholon, Vietnam’s largest Chinatown and the best place to have dim sum. Roam around and observe how the Hao people, or the Chinese Vietnamese, go through their day-to-day activities. If you’re lucky enough, you can have chitchat with a local who will spill the beans about how the place was once a hothouse for opium dealing. Who knows, it still might be a busy place for selling the drug.

  • Swim and frolic in Dam Sen Water Park. If you expect something upscale, skip this activity altogether. After all, you can find a lot of other water parks anywhere else in the world. But what Dam Sen can give you that no other water park can is a glimpse of the local life in Ho Chi Minh, in a more relaxed and fun atmosphere.

Delicious dish on a rainy morning

  • Learn how to make pho. Any tourist who visits Ho Chi Minh City will agree that pho is delicious and that one will never tire eating it. If you want to taste the same goodness of this iconic soup, then learn how to make it! Ask for a local to help you source the ingredients, and have them teach you how to whip up a mean pho. If your hostel has provisions for cooking, then well and good! If there’s none though, just ask around and take down notes as best as you can.

Domestic and international airlines fly to and from Vietnam from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, Davao International Airport, as well as from the Mactan-Cebu International Airport.


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