Friday, August 23, 2013

Out and About in Saigon

If you're visiting Saigon, I highly recommend staying in District 1 because it's so easy to get around on foot to all the tourist attractions in this vibrant city. Using the city map available free from the front desk at Somerset Chancellor Court Ho Chi Minh City where we stayed for a week, David and I had a great time exploring the areas around our serviced apartment... and we even walked right up to the Saigon river comfortably.

We also used Ascott's "Around Our Residence" free Facebook app to get travel tips and info on the places of interest, restaurants, bargains, etc around any Ascott, Citadines or Somerset serviced apartment.

Sight Seeing
People's Committee Building
I love the area because it has both high end luxury malls and historic old buildings all co-existing within the same area. 
Just 2 streets or so away from Somerset Chancellor Court is the Notre Dame Cathedral. It was constructed by the French between 1863 and 1880.
It's open to tourists on weekdays from Entrance is free, but it would be nice if you left a small token donation on your way out. Like most tourist attractions in Vietnam, they shut for lunch break around 11 am and re open at about 1pm. So do plan around this.
Although I find it modest and not opulent, the cathedral looks beautiful in daylight and I love that I'm able to hear the chimes from its bell tower from my apartment.
A few more minutes walk from the cathedral will land you on Dong Khoi street where you will find The Saigon Opera House. Also French in architecture, and beautiful both by night and day.
They have different performances/events/exhibitions scheduled there throughout the year which you will need to purchase tickets for before you can enter.

The Reunification Palace is at 106 Nguyen Du Street. It's hard to miss this place because it's so huge. It's open only from 7.30am to 11am and 1pm to 4pm. Tickets are 20000VND (that's about Sgd 1.20). 
They have free guided tours at 1 hour intervals in different languages or you can choose to just explore the place yourself. There are signs and info in English.
The basement was where all the secret ops sort of stuff went on... very interesting.
The Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens are also in District 1. About a 10 minute walk from Somerset Chancellor Court to Nguyen Binh Khiem Street. This zoo, is old school. No elaborate animal enclosures or anything fancy. Just some basic railings separating the animals from you. I love it for it's simplicity and also, you're able to get much closer to the animals. It only cost 8000VND to get into the zoo and gardens (that's about 50 cents in Singapore money). I'm amazed at how cheap the museums and other tourists attractions are in Vietnam, they're usually only about 30,000VND max (less than $2). In Singapore, everything is so super commercial, you can't expect to take your family out to the Zoo, or any other tourist attraction in Singapore without spending hundreds of dollars. Of course, with the small price tag, you cannot expect state of the art type attractions... but that's not what people come to Vietnam for anyway.


Food, Drink and Shopping
Lots and lots to eat in this district. Click here to read about my experience at Hoavien Brauhaus, a restaurant just 3 minutes walk away from our apartment. 
The two closest malls to Somerset Chancellor Court are Diamond Plaza and Kumho Asiana Plaza. Kumho Asiana Plaza is where you will find loads of restaurants including a Subway sandwich outlet and also the Hard Rock Cafe of Saigon. They also have a Lion City restaurant in there serving Singapore's Chilli Crab ( in case you're home sick).
At that plaza, we had dinner at BonBon. Prices are approx 300,000 VND for a main which in Vietnam, is pretty expensive, but based on Singapore standards.... hullo?? how to get a tenderloin for like $18 in a restaurant! The ambiance was nice, classy but not stuck up. On a side note, I think the food had quite a bit of MSG, I can't say for sure, but I usually get a sore throat if I eat food that's cooked with too much MSG.
The other mall right by our serviced apartment is Diamond Plaza. This place has big brand names and a huge department store. 
If you walk down Hai Bà Trưng street from Somerset Chancellor Court. You will find XU Restaurant Lounge at number 71. This restaurant is one of the upscale ones in Saigon serving Vietnamese cuisine.
At 95 Hai Bà Trưng, there's Blanchy's Tach. This is a cool bar with a relaxed atmosphere. Drinks are priced about the same as at XU where were were at earlier in the evening. 
We also found another bar close by called Republic. We were there really early in the afternoon, but they still served us. I reckon this place makes a good hang out at night, with kinda goth like decor and a good street view. 
If you want the down and dirty kinda shopping with lots of haggling and bargains, head to Ben Thanh Market from 6am to 6pm (there's also a night market on after 5pm there). Please be very wary of pickpockets here... but other than that, do enjoy the bustle and scouring for bargains!

Next post, I'll share with you my trip to Cu Chi Tunnels. :)

P/s- Click here to read my post and see pics of the apartment I got at Somerset Chancellor Court. 

3 comments:

  1. Anonymous11:01 am

    Why do people still keep saying Saigon? Didn't the name get changed to HCM city since long ago?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Yup. Most of the locals call it Saigon. And even the destination code when flying there is SGN.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Very informative article. Your post helped me to have clear insight about the tourist places in Singapore. It helped me to plan my tour well in advance. Can u please update more details on Singapore Zoo Ticket Price

    ReplyDelete