Discovering Saigon

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The more you explore Ho Chi Minh City, the more you discover – and the crazier it gets. Here are a few ways to escape the frenetic tourist sites and see a secret side to Saigon.

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Visit the 3A Alternative Art Area

If you want to get a taste of Saigon’s artistic side, the 3A Alternative Art Area is a great place to get started. The street used to be filled with abandoned warehouses, which have since been transformed into shops, studios, galleries and cafés. Many of the buildings are decorated with colourful graffiti and are often used to host creative events, such as fashion shows and film screenings.

Explore Antique Street

While in Ho Chi Minh City, you’re sure to visit some of the famous markets, but don’t miss out on the lesser-known shopping spots. Right across the road from Ben Thanh Market is Antique Street, or Le Cong Kieu Street. Here, you can sift through rare antiques – some legit, some not – and come away with a one-of-a-kind gem that no one else has.

Take a motorbike taxi

While wandering around Ho Chi Minh City, you may notice men perching, leaning or napping on motorbikes, occasionally shouting ‘motorbike!’ These guys are Xe Om drivers, otherwise known as motorbike taxi drivers. You can arrange a journey and a price with them, hop on the back of their bike and make your way to your destination like a local. In theory, the journey should be cheaper than a regular taxi, but the final price usually depends on how good you are at bargaining.

Tailored clothes via Vietcetera

Visit the apartment cafés

Once nothing more than a block of apartments known for housing military personnel, 42 Nguyen Hue Street has been transfor-med into a hub of quirky cafés and boutiques spanning across all nine floors. Since becoming pedestrianised in 2015, the road is now known as ‘Saigon Walking Street’ and is a lively night-time hotspot for locals.

Try fertilised duck egg

For many of us, new cuisines are one of the most exciting reasons to travel to a new country. And, for a select few adventurous foodies, the weirder the dish, the better! Ho Chi Minh City certainly delivers when it comes to unusual eats, and fertilised duck egg (hột vịt lộn) is one of the weirdest. The egg is served and eaten in the same way that a boiled chicken egg is eaten, except it has a partially developed duck foetus inside. If you’re brave enough to give it a go, you won’t have to look far to discover this popular snack in Saigon.

Go to the Artinus 3D Art Gallery

The Artinus 3D Art Gallery is made up of a number of rooms, each painted with lifelike 3D images relating to a different theme, including Renaissance art and ancient Egypt, as well as some images that depict famous views in Vietnam. While the museum may not have the best art in the city, it is a fun alternative day out, if you feel like doing something a bit different. There are also plenty of amusing photo opportunities for those who want a silly selfie or two.

Drink egg coffee

Egg coffee is normally found in Hanoi, where the drink was apparently invented, but there are a few places that serve it in Ho Chi Minh City. It is made from egg yolks, sugar and condensed milk, whisked together to make a meringue-like foam, and poured over strong Vietnamese coffee. Egg coffee, or ‘cà phê trứng’ in Vietnamese, is arguably more like liquid dessert than a regular coffee. One of the best places to find the sweet treat in Ho Chi Minh City is at Luu Gia Café on 8 Duong Hoa Cuc Street.

Egg coffee via RunAwayRice

Take a cooking class

If you’re a big fan of Vietnamese cuisine, there’s no better way to enjoy the food than by learning how to make it. There are tons of cooking classes in Ho Chi Minh City, many of which include a trip to a local market to buy ingredients. If you have your heart set on mastering a specific meal, private classes often allow you to choose your own dishes to cook.

Karaoke

When you think of karaoke in Asia, images of Tokyo might spring to mind. However, singing your heart out can be just as much fun (if not more) in Ho Chi Minh City. There are more karaoke bars than you can possibly imagine, and getting together with friends or colleagues to belt out some classics is a popular pastime in the city. The Vietnamese seem to have no end of confidence when it comes to performing, and their enthusiasm is contagious. Not every karaoke club has English songs, but the ones without are still entertaining!

Get some tailored clothes

Although the delightful town of Hoi An is usually the first stop for tourists wanting made-to-measure clothes, Saigon shouldn’t be overlooked. The city is home to plenty of skilled tailors who can whip you up some trousers, tops, dresses or shirts in a matter of days. There are a few renowned places, but it’s best to spend a little time researching tailors online and find one with a portfolio of clothing in your desired style.

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