Ho Chi Minh City bears an intriguing contrast of old and new — a fury of sights and sounds that begs exploring. Still, there’s only so many bowls of pho to be had or war relics to view before one is left wanting. Take Lam’s lead and be guided through Ho Chi Minh’s scrappy pavements and French colonial buildings to experience daily life beyond the tourist centres. Stylist, fashion designer and lifestyle blogger, Lam Thuy Nhan is a woman of many talents. She takes us on a stylish jaunt through the city of Ho Chi Minh.
Ho Chi Minh’s vibe…
The first things that come to mind are the million motorbikes (all sizes, colours and brands) that fill the roads.
Favourite thing about Ho Chi Minh…
Most Ho Chi Minh residents are really nice and kind folk. Besides that, I’m glad to be able to hunt down my favourite bowl of Cơm Tấm — only in Saigon.
Least favourite thing about Ho Chi Minh…
Pickpockets. Also, we don’t have many communal spaces to explore or visit. Trends catch on very quickly in Ho Chi Minh. If vintage cafes are trending today, you can be sure another ten will pop up in no time at all!
Fun fact about the locals…
Nobody takes any notice of red lights here, particularly when there is a traffic jam. I’d recommend you do the same, unless you want to get yelled at for holding everyone up. Besides that, the yellow light is understood as a signal to speed up and drive fast!
Best time to visit…
Excluding the rainy season between June to August, any time is a good time to visit!
What to pack…
There’s nothing you can’t buy cheaply in Ho Chi Minh so bring your passport and money and you’re all set. But watch out for pickpockets!
L: Draco Coffeeshop, R: REN boutique
Ho Chi Minh Black Book
Ben Thanh Market — The sprawling market is frequented by locals and tourists alike. Local handicrafts, textiles, ao dai, coffee beans, fruits or even raw produce can be purchased here.
Pham Ngu Lao Street — “Khu Pho Tay” or Western town in Pham Ngu Lao Street is Ho Chi Minh’s backpacker district. You’ll find street food stalls, pho eateries and live music bars scattered around the area. It’s the best place to grab a drink on the cheap!
For me, District 1 is always the best. “Khu Pho Tay” in Pham Ngu Lao Street has plenty of cheap accommodation for those on a budget. The streets of Dong Khoi and Mac Thi Buoi are studded with famous 5-star hotels like The Rex and The Intercontinental Saigon. Staying here will put you within walking distance of most of the city’s main attractions.
District 4 is famous for good street eats and I head there just for “oc” — a Vietnamese delicacy. You can find them at the stalls lining Vinh Khanh Street.
I always recommend Hoa Tuc restaurant as a great introduction to contemporary Vietnamese cuisine. It’s situated in the courtyard of a former opium refinery, and boasts a wonderful ambience.
The Vietnamese drip coffee at Café Runam on Mac Thi Buoi Street is a must-try.
For items at wholesale prices, head to Districts 5 and 6.
You can’t leave Ho Chi Minh without…
Taking a stroll along Nguyen Hue.