How to Live Like Local in Saigon – Ho Chi Minh

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How to live like local in Saigon
How to live like local in Saigon

Heading to Saigon – Vietnam and looking for a more authentic experience than the oft-bemoaned backpacker street. Saigon is incredible fun and visiting it can give you a true and interesting insight to a way of life very different from your own. Here’s how to get a flavor for the local life in good ol’ Ho Chi Minh:

  1. Stay like a local

Saigon is depicted as a green country prone to agriculture and horticulture, so its unique features are closely associated with farming activities and tenuous farmers, gardeners. Then, to truly experience the life of a local, it is believed that you should leave far away from bustling big cities and stay in the peaceful areas, e.g. the Mekong Delta. Having a homestay in the proximate of the Mekong River is absolutely ideal. What you can gain from this choice of staying may be fascinating insights in the locals’ life, ranging from the way they work to earn their daily life, keeping their cultural traditions to exposing their spiritual life. If possible, traveling to the country in special occasions or festivals will blow your mind to new and stimulating things. Besides homestays, hostels are regarded as a good choice if you would like to live like a local in Saigon. This is also a cheap form of accommodation when it is far away from noisy and hustling cities. You will easily get access to the idyllic life of innocent farmers as well as learn about charming and simple things from their life even within a tight budget.

  1. Eat authentic street food

Saigon is full of street food, and it’s an important part of the culture. Not only is much of it delicious, it’s cheap too. For breakfast and lunch, there are banh mi stands on virtually every street; stopping at one is an absolute must. With it’s crusty-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside bread, pâté and assortment of meats, the banh mi is arguably Vietnam’s most delicious creation: can you really say you’ve been to ‘Nam if you haven’t eaten one? (Answer: no). For the best one in the city, head to Huynh Hoa Bakery at 26 Lê Thị Riêng, District 1 (it’s super close to backpacker street) between 3-11pm. You’ll spot it a mile off from the long line of loyal patrons waiting for their daily dose of deliciousness, but the queue moves quickly and trust me, it’s worth the wait. ₫35,000 (£1.15/$1.50) for the best sandwich of your life.

At dinner time, you should ditch District 1 for the neighboring District 4 (a 10-15 minute Grab ride) and go to Ben Van Don street, which my friends and I have dubbed ‘Restaurant Road’ because of the sheer volume of delicious street restaurants. Ôc Phât at 96 / 61B, 109D Ben Van Don is our favorite. You can eat everything from fish and morning glory (the plant, not the other thing) to frogs’ legs and snails- both of which I was not keen to try, but found surprisingly tasty. It’s a great opportunity to get a true taste (see what I did there) of Vietnam and to rub shoulders with the locals- you won’t see many other foreigners there!

  1. Transferring and shopping like a local

Regarding public transport in big cities, you will not have to worry about anything since there is more than one type: buses, xe om (motorbike taxis), grab bike, or taxicabs. Even you can ask for a private van from some travel agent. Especially, it is easy to travel by bus around Hanoi Ho Chi Minh City as the blog how to take a bus in Saigon. However, ever wonder how to get to and get around rural areas where the public transport is not common at all? Don’t get anxious as two big bus stations in Ho Chi Minh City (Mien Dong and Mien Tay) are where you can find bus lines of your expectation. Meanwhile, asking any local for showing you how to travel in the countryside is always welcome, and even they can transfer you to your destination for free if both of you are the same way.

When it comes to shopping in Vietnam, what is supposed to be the most special element is the art of bargain? You will shop like a local in the case that you are successful in bargaining some possible products in the market. To do that, learning some useful sentences for travel in Vietnam is certainly the first necessary step.

  1. Drink at a beer club

Love drinking, hate talking to people? Beer clubs are a somewhat-confusing pub-club hybrid. You can get cheap, and often all-you-can-drink beer with a side of music so loud your ears will be ringing for weeks. It might be a bit in-your-face upon arrival, but a few cold ones will probably help you enjoy it a little more. With their flashing lights, dancing girls and DJ sets, these clubs are not exactly traditional, but they’ve become very popular with the younger generation. Mahalo and Vuvuzela beer clubs are popular chains and have cropped up all over the city. Even if they don’t become your preferred watering hole, they’re definitely worth a visit.

  1. Watch sunset from Thu Thiem park

There are plenty of great rooftop bars in Ho Chi Minh City that boast excellent happy hours, but they’re most often frequented by expats and tourists. For a more authentic experience, head to Thủ Thiêm park in District 2 next to the Saigon River. You’ll see a handful of food carts, drinks sellers and a line of small plastic chairs facing out onto the river- and probably very few westerners. Get there around 6pm, BYOB, pull up a chair and chill out as you watch the sun go down and the city light up. It’s a little off the beaten track, so here’s the exact Google location: follow this and you won’t go far wrong. Assuming you’re staying on Bui Vien backpacker street, it should take you between 15-20 minutes to get there by Grab bike/taxi.

You can also do something similar- though a little less peaceful- on the Thủ Thiêm bridge that connects District 2 and Binh Thanh District. There’s a wide pavement on the bridge where you can park up and gaze at the Saigon skyline as the sun sets and the night lights up; it’s pretty beautiful. You’ll find lots of locals doing the same, especially young couples seeking a little privacy from their parents.

  1. Out for KARAOKE with friends

Belting out ballads isn’t limited to the hundreds of karaoke bars spread all over the city. In Vietnam, you do not need to be drunk or possess an ounce of talent to pick up that mic and unleash your inner Whitney. Since being a little drunk definitely helps most people feel a little more musical, I’d recommend going to a karaoke bar. They’re generally pretty cheap, and huge amounts of fun. You get a private room, a catalogue of songs and the staff bring you beer on beer on beer. I had a great experience at Kingdom Karaoke at 67-69 Pham Viet Chanh Street, District 1. Catwalk and Avatar are also popular choices, but there are a myriad of others- you’ll definitely find something. Happy singing!

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