To get the most out of Saigon, and discover what makes this city unique, leave the so-called 'must-see' sights behind and follow my Top 5 Things to Do in Sai Gon
1. PANORAMIC VIEW FROM SKYSCRAPERS
Panoramic view of the city? Look no further than Saigon Sky Deck on the 49th floor of the Iconic Bitexco Financial Tower and Chill Sky Bar on 27th floor Rooftop of AB Tower
At a fee of VND200,000 per adult and VND130,000 per child (4 - 12 years old), you will get a pass to Saigon Sky Deck, located on the 49th floor and enjoy the superb view of Saigon below. There are telescopes for your pleasure. If a good cocktail is what you are after, go unwind with a drink in the skyscraper’s lounge on the 52nd floor.
Local Insight: Opening hours is from 9:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. The last ticket shall be bought 45 minutes prior to closing time.
Chill Sky Bar is an enviable location for travellers looking to get above the street-level deluge of motorbikes and honking trucks. Spectacular views, sophisticated design, stellar service and excellent food are this rooftop bar’s cornerstones.
Local insight: Weekday’ happy hour lasts from 5:30 p.m. till 8:30 p.m.
2. CHILLING IN A COFFEE SHOP
Coffee is second only to rice in value of agricultural products exported from Vietnam. Coffee has became an important part of a Vietnamese everyday life. It is easy to catch a sight of people enjoying coffee at any time during the day. Saigon has different types of coffee shops to meet different demands: watching movies, listening to music, reading magazines, watching street-life, or, oddly enough, even coffee places for couples, cat lovers and Japanese maid theme.
Local insight: Vietnamese coffee is almost exclusively Robusta. Robusta strains contain about 40–50% more caffeine than Arabica.
For local style, head to Trinh-Coffee where some of the most popular songs by Trinh Cong Son, a talented music composer, are performed.
3. HEAVEN OF STREET - FOOD
Phở is a must-try whether you like it or not. If you don’t try phở, then you’ve never been to Vietnam. Don’t try street-stall food until your stomach has become acclimatized! Some of our recommendations: Phở Pasteur, Phở Hòa, Phở 24h, Phở 2000, Phở Hùng and Phở 5 sao. It’s best if you have local friends to take you to stalls that serve for the local, not the tourists for the genuine experience of Phở of Vietnam. Check out Top 5 must eat dishes in Sai Gon and Top 5 cheto round off your Sai Gon’s street food tour
Local insight: Take your time to try some other traditional foods, such as Bun Bo Hue (spicy beef noodle soup) and Cơm Tấm (broken rice) among others.
4 .WAR REMNANTS MUSEUM
Once known as the Museum of Chinese and American War Crimes, the War Remnants Museum is consistently popular with Western tourists. Few museums anywhere drive home so effectively the brutality of war and its many civilian victims. Many of the atrocities documented here were well publicised but rarely do Westerners get to hear the victims of US military action tell their own stories.
While the displays are one-sided, many of the most disturbing photographs illustrating US atrocities are from US sources, including those of the infamous My Lai Massacre.
US armoured vehicles, artillery pieces, bombs and infantry weapons are on display outside. One corner of the grounds is devoted to the notorious French and South Vietnamese prisons on Phu Quoc and Con Son Islands. Artefacts include that most iconic of French appliances, the guillotine, and the notoriously inhumane ‘tiger cages’ used to house Viet Cong (Vietnamese Communists; VC) prisoners.
The ground floor of the museum is devoted to a collection of posters and photographs showing support for the antiwar movement internationally. This somewhat upbeat display provides a counterbalance to the horrors upstairs.
Even those who supported the war are likely to be horrified by the photos of children affected by US bombing and napalming. You’ll also have the rare chance to see some of the experimental weapons used in the war, which were at one time military secrets, such as the flechette , an artillery shell filled with thousands of tiny darts.
Upstairs, look out for the Requiem Exhibition . Compiled by legendary war photographer Tim Page, this striking collection documents the work of photographers killed during the course of the conflict, on both sides, and includes works by Larry Burrows and Robert Capa.
The War Remnants Museum is in the former US Information Service building. Captions are in Vietnamese and English.
5 BEN THANH MARKET
The most central of all the markets, teeming Ben Thanh and its surrounding streets comprise one of the city’s liveliest areas. Everything that’s commonly eaten, worn or used by the Saigonese is piled high: vegetables, dried fruit, meats, spices, scorpions in alcohol, sweets, tobacco, clothing, one-day suits, wristwatches, blingtastic jewellery, hardware and more spill forth from a profusion of stalls. Souvenir items can be found in equal abundance. Vendors are determined and prices usually higher than elsewhere, so bargain vigorously (although some stalls have 'Fixed Price' signs).