Ho Chi Minh is a sprawling, bustling metropolis and the most visited city in Vietnam. While it’s composed of 24 individual districts, most of Ho Chi Minh’s commercial and business activities are centered in District 1. Thus, this neighborhood is also the center of tourism. Here, you can find wildly popular spots like the Saigon Post Office, the Gia Long Palace, the Nguyen Hue Walking Street, and the Jade Emperor Pagoda.
This is not to say that the other districts don’t have anything unique to offer. In fact, depending on your interests, you may end up favoring other neighborhoods in Ho Chi Minh to visit or even to live in. Here are just a few examples of these treasures that are waiting to be discovered.
Phu Nhuan: Phan Xich Long Street
Phu Nhuan is considerably more relaxed compared to the bustling District 1. It shares borders with both Districts 1 and 3, but life here is slower-paced and a lot less hectic. What’s more, the cost of living is significantly lower. Indeed, many expats and tourists have come to prefer Phu Nhuan. It’s rather easy to find a reasonably priced Phu Nhuan hotel or khách sạn quận Phú Hhuận, and finding cheap but delicious street food and Viet coffee is even easier. Make sure to drop by Luu Gia Cafe to sample their egg coffee.
Phan Xich Long Street is particularly a popular area, especially during the weekends. Here you can find many of Vietnam’s traditional dishes, like bun dau, pho, banh cuon, bun bo Hue, and com tam. There are also a variety of Asian and international food chains, as well as a wide variety of vegan and vegetarian options. You can also find shops that sell clothes, accessories, and various souvenir items in the market.
Binh Thanh: Binh Quoi Tourist Village
Binh Thanh is a fast-developing district, so it may feel a little unrefined. However, it’s this quality that also makes Binh Thanh charming. In fact, you may sometimes get the feeling that you’re miles and miles away from the city, even if District 1 is just about 7 kilometers away.
To further take you away from the buzz of the city center, visit Binh Quoi Tourist Village. Located on the banks of the Saigon River, this 3.5-hectare paradise is an eco-tourism zone with lush foliage and a rustic charm. Some of the activities you can do here include kayaking and fishing in Binh Quoi 1, as well as swimming and other sports in Binh Quoi 2. Binh Quoi 3, on the other hand, is the perfect place for a riverside meal.
District 2: Saigon Outcast
District 2 is only 7.5 kilometers from District 1, but it couldn’t be more different. For one, it’s a bit more laid-back. For another, it also houses a relatively small residential population despite its size. There are also bigger, wider sidewalks. In addition, District 2 has a distinct appeal to Westerners. This is largely thanks to the urban environment with more Westernized establishments like bars and restaurants. Still, the neighborhood maintains its Saigon charm.
This unique combination of contemporary and traditional is what makes District 2 quite appealing to artists. Visit Saigon Outcast, an art hub that features various events like concerts, drawing classes, and even film showings. Each day has a different activity and they even have Free Food Wednesdays, where you can sample a lot of freshly cooked Saigonese dishes. Saturdays are usually for flea markets and mini festivals, while Sundays are for more family-friendly activities.
District 3: Secret Weapon Cellar
District 3 is about as busy as District 1, but doesn’t get the same amount of tourist attention. Still, this neighborhood has some of the best attractions in Ho Chi Minh City. There’s the Tan Xa Palace, for example, and the War Remnants Museum that reminds visitors of the horrors and the cost of the Vietnam War. There’s also the Tan Dinh Church, built in the 1870s during the French Indochina period and known for its attention-grabbing pink exteriors.
A literal secret hiding in District 3 is the Secret Weapon Cellar. It’s a small quasi-museum in Vo Van Tan Street, dug by a man named Tran Van Lai. This cellar is where the Viet Cong hid their guns, ammunition, and explosives, which were then used during the 1968 Tet Offensive. You can still see these decommissioned weapons in the cellar, as well as photos that reveal simple yet ingenious techniques on how these weapons were concealed.
With a land area of more than 2,000 square kilometers, there’s certainly more to discover in Ho Chi Minh, and these four places are just the beginning. Do check these out the next time you’re exploring the city.
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