Sherry Ott last lived in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam and is now
continuing her nomadic lifestyle by traveling the world exploring
far off places. She is the Co-founder of Briefcase
to Backpack, offering career break inspiration and advice
to Americans; and she also shares her own travel experiences via
her website, Ottsworld.
The city with two
names – Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) or Saigon? As women we can
exhibit multiple personalities and I find Saigon to be the same.
HCMC is the more progressive personality always moving forward
towards the ‘western’ model. While Saigon is the alluring,
sexy personality; reminding me of the old mystique of the Orient.
HCMC is not only a mouthful, but it reminds me that progress is
on the way; can you guess which name I prefer?
For the audacious
woman traveler, Saigon holds many finds and experiences you won’t
find anywhere else in the world. The fact that Saigon is a rapidly
developing city means that it’s ever changing. One day your
favorite café will be there, and the next day it won’t.
No warning, just gone to make way for ‘progress’.
It’s personality is sometimes gritty and hard-edged, and
sometimes elegant and luxurious; it just depends which streets
you walk down. For those Journeywomen who thrive on uncertainty,
Saigon is worth a stop!
a year living in this ever-changing city, I slowly evolved from
tourist sites to expat insider tips. Since you are a JourneyWoman
presumably simply passing through, I’ve tried to pick some
of my favorite insider tips that you can accomplish on a short
to know the real Saigon...
the grittier side of Saigon and see how the locals live,
pass up all of those cyclo drivers that are ‘pitching’
you their tours in District 1, and get out to see the real
Saigon with Mr. Binh.
Nguyen Nam Binh (Ben)
Mobile +84 0958760273
Let me explain
what a cyclo tour is; you sit in an old cyclo (3 wheeled
bicycle contraption with a ‘bucket’ seat) and
let a guy peddle you around the city. Mr. Binh and his buddies
will take you on a one of a kind 2-hour cyclo tour of the
lesser seen districts of Saigon, D5, D8. D10 – all
for approximately $12USD. The tour will also provide you
a first hand experience with the crazy Saigon motorbike
traffic. It looks like chaos to the westerner, but there
are ‘guidelines’ which everyone operates by.
Having taken his tour multiple times, I can’t say
enough good things about this cyclo experience. Mr. Binh
is reachable by phone or text and speaks English well. Please
note the standard disclaimer here: Going out into Vietnam
traffic or crossing the street may seem unsafe, so please
use your best judgment as you travel throughout Saigon.
the food fanatics...
for fresh, local, clean, budget eats – then grab some
food at Wrap
and Roll, a Vietnamese chain you’ll find all over
the city. The air conditioning and clean atmosphere will
be a great respite after the cyclo tour! Everyone does Pho,
but Wrap and Roll serves up authentic spring rolls and salads
from around Vietnam with a variety of sauces. The menu has
pictures and is in English. It’s sort of like eating
street food, but inside in a nice environment!
connection is alive and well in Saigon – namely in
the form of food. Le Jardin
(French bistro, 31 Thai Van Lung, D1), Au
Parc (23 Han Thuyen Street, District 1),
and La Camargue
(191 Hai Ba Trung Street, District 3) are three of the favorites
of expats and won’t disappoint. However, my favorite
is a tiny family run bistro tucked away where no one will
find it serving up amazing mussels and wine – Ty
Coz located at 178/4 Pasteur. The atmosphere is simple,
but the brothers who run it provide all the personality
One of the
most surprising things about Vietnam is the extensive array
of ethnic cuisines offered throughout the city. My favorite
which dishes up Arabic food in a typical Vietnamese dingy
alley but packed with middle eastern atmosphere. The juxtaposition
of the two cultures will be fascinating to any traveler.
markets are better than others...
you want to stay off the tourist trail, then be sure to
Thanh market where you’ll be assaulted by eager
souvenir vendors and potential pick-pockets, and instead
go to Cho
Lon Market in District 5. It’s just as big, but
it’s where the locals go to shop. You may not find
your tourist souvenirs there, but you will see how the locals
shop. Wander down the back alleys to see the specialized
street markets such as the motorbike parts street or the
temple street. This is a great place for photography; people
are willing models if you ask first. P.S.
If you have time, check out both these markets as they each
have their own unique flavour.