I ended my near to 4 months “expat” stint in Vietnam and would like to share some of my experiences there. I fell in love with beautiful Saigon – my days there were filled with joy and laughter. Thank you Saigon.
Go local and take a motorbike. You can go on a bike tour or go for a short ride with the Motorbike “taxi”. Do remember to haggle for a good price.
Angels-in-us Coffee – A good foreign coffeeshop with cosy ambiance to have a quality afternoon chat. The cafe latte and green tea latte there were very good.
Coffee in the Park – This is a ‘must try’ if you are game enough! Go to the public park opposite Diamond Plaza in the evening – find a comfortable spot and sit down. Hawkers will go around selling drinks and local snacks. The coffee i had was thick and fragrant – each cup cost less than a buck.
Do remember to buy some coffee sachets before leaving VN – Do you know that Vietnam is the world second largest coffee producer after Brazil?. I recommend Trung Nguyen or Vinacafé – you can find them in any supermarket.
3. FINE DINING
Bobby Chinn - Newly opened in Saigon. Quality food & service at a convenient location (Located right beside Intercontinental Asiana Saigon). You can celebrity-chef watch too – we saw Bobby several times there.
New York Steak House - Value worth fine dining experience. The restaurant served complimentary amuse-bouche and cocktail with their steaks. You also get to pick your ‘weapon’ for the meal. I LIKE.
Fahasa – The mainstream bookstore in Vietnam (Like Popular in Singapore). The English book titles there were 20%-30% cheaper as compared to Singapore. What we really liked were the pens – you can get nice ink pens at 50 cents here.
Tribooks (Dong Khoi, Ly Tu Trong) – A premium bookstore in Saigon. The place to go for less common English titles and more fancy stationery.
SahaBooks (175/24 Pham Ngu Lao) – Sahabooks sells authentic Lonely Planet titles. Past editions were sold at up to 40% off.
These beautiful lacquerware are good souvenirs. There are many lacquerware shops in District 1 (i.e. Dong Khoi, Le Loi, Nguyen Hue & Ben Thanh market etc.). Do negotiate for a good price.
6. VIETNAMESE CUISINE
Cuc Gach Quan - Home style Vietnamese food in a French colonial setting. The must orders here are sauteed beef with zuchinni flowers, squid in tumeric sauce & fried fish in passionfruit sauce. This place is fully packed everyday- best to make a reservation.
Truly Hue (4E Le Loi District 1- near Ben Thanh Market) – Tasty Central Vietnamese food at very affordable prices. Do try the many flour based side dishes and the delicious rice with mussels.
My friends and I tried several spa recommendations from tripadvisor and some of them were really disappointing.
The 2 spas i really like are Intercontinental Asiana Saigon Spa & L Apothiquire. Both of them are high-tier spas in Saigon. I will recommend the more value worth monthly promotion (2.5 hours of scrub/wrap/massage) in Intercontinental Asiana Saigon Spa and the hot stone massage in L Apothiquire.
8. SAIGON ZOO
Saigon Zoo – Definitely not a world class zoo but for 80 cents per adult entry – lets not complain. It’s a nice place to go for a walk and have a picnic on a Sunday morning with good weather. I thought the bears there were pretty cute too.
9. SINGAPOREAN CUISINE
Lion City – I was so happy when i saw Lion City opening in Kumho. As a true blue Singaporean – I craved for a good plate of Hokkien Mee every so often. The Singaporean fare served there were decent particularly the Hokkien Mee was pretty flavorful. I met the head chef Alvin (a Singaporean too) in the restaurant. A friendly chap who had some very interesting experiences setting up restaurants overseas. We had an interesting conversation on how difficult it was to find green chili (The kind we put in Wontan mee) in Vietnam. Lion City actually grew their own green chilies!
10. HO CHI MINH CITY FINE ARTS MUSEUM
Fine Arts Museum – Do not be put off by the dodgy appearance, the small collection of art pieces inside were beautiful. I actually enjoyed this better than the popular war remnant museum.
11. JAPANESE CUISINE
Kissho - Interesting Japanese teppanyaki place. The meal was highly interactive and the chefs would sometimes even sing and dance. Gimmicky yes but at the same time, entertaining and tasty.
There are many good bars in Saigon and below are some of my personal favorites.
Chill Sky Bar - The ‘in’ place to be seen in Saigon now. I have to admit that the view from the sky bar is stunning (See photo above)! Do go early as the bar is often fully packed (esp. in the weekends). A cocktail costs ~SGD 18-20.
Level 23 @ Sheraton – The ‘go to’ sky bar before Chill was opened. The view is restricted but it’s a great place for conversations. A cocktail costs ~SGD 12- 14.
Xu - Another ‘see & be seen’ bar with a wide selection of martinis. My fave is the signature xutini (vodka with vanilla, honey, tea and cream) – Absolutely delicious. A cocktail costs ~SGD 8- 10.
13. CHINESE CUISINE
Kabin - A really good place for quality dim sum. I love the use of the fresh crunchy prawns in many of their dim sum. Do note that the restaurant is only open from 12noon-230pm and 6-10pm.
14. LIVE MUSIC
[Left] Cooku’s Nest Cafe - This is my favorite cafe in Saigon. The band comprised of a violist, guitarist and a singer who will sing popular English ,French & Vietnamese songs. The place will be fully packed when the performance started around 8-ish.
[Middle] Hard Rock Cafe - Only if you like deafening rock music. The cafe is good for hearty Western food too.
[Right] Carmen Bar - Latin music with a fun relaxing atmosphere.
15. SAIGON COOKING SCHOOL
Saigon Cooking School - The good ranking in tripadvisor is very well deserved. The culinary class was very professional. We started the day in Ben Thanh market to buy some fresh produce to be used in our cooking. The whole lesson was fun, hassle-free and useful.
I attended the cooking class twice and learnt a total of 6 easy-to-replicate recipes at home. The photos above (except the dessert) were my creations in the class. Don’t they look delicious?