Ho Chi Minh City has everything I love about Asia: food, chaos, contrast of old and new, fast paced development and long standing traditions, bright lights of sky scrapers and back alley living. I’ve only spent a few days there, but here are my ‘non touristy activity’ highlights!
- Ride a motorbike through the streets of HoChi Minh City – Shanghai has bikes, Saigon has motorbikes, everywhere! Riding in an uber from the airport to my airbnb I was amazed at how the motorbikes moved between cars, it all seemed so dangerous and chaotic. I soon learned that although the roads are packed, the traffic flows nicely and no one is going so fast that its dangerous. Crossing the street on foot is also super fun, because the cars and bikes just slowly yield to you like a parting sea.
- Drink Vietnamese Iced Coffee (Cafe Sua Da) – Cafe Sua Da, which translates to coffee, milk, ice is made with espresso like coffee concentrate and sweetened condensed milk, served over ice. I don’t think there is a better beverage on a hot, humid day! If you stop in to a coffee shop, you’ll receive a nice glass of weak iced tea to quench your thirst alongside the iced coffee!
- Wander through the alleys – Much of life in Saigon takes place in the crowded alleys. Walking off of the main roads you’ll discover a seemingly never ending maze of alleys and paths. The first few turns bring you to small cafes, hotels, restaurants, bars, shops and convenience stores, further away from the main road is mainly residences,
- Indulge in street eating – more than anyplace else I’ve been, people don’t only order food from stalls, carts, trucks and tiny restaurants on the street, but also eat at tiny tables outside on the sidewalk. I was lucky enough to have a friend bring me to a totally local spot and order a feast of interesting Vietnamese dishes. Ordering pho is just as fun!
- Bar hop in the backpacker’s area (khu Tay ba lo) – I’m definitely not a backpacker and I’ve only stayed in a hostel once, but I love the atmosphere of the ‘backpacker’s area’ in HCMC. The main street is packed with bars frequented by backpackers, expats and locals. Everyone seems friendly, inclusive and happy to be there. Bar hop, or just sit outside, eat Muc Kho (salted, grilled, dried squid) and watch the action!