In January, I was back in Saigon for a few days. I love this place. It’s crazy! So many people! So many motorbikes! So much Internet! I’ve seen the future and it’s Vietnam. You’ll see it too because apparently Thomson Holidays is now flying to Vietnam weekly with a 787 from Gatwick. And tourism in Vietnam is already up something like 25% over last year. 25%!! That’s crazy. Go now before it gets any crazier.
I wish I had spent more time in Saigon but this was just a quick trip to take advantage of a flight deal on Malaysian Airlines. It was actually cheaper for me to fly LHR => KUL => SGN than it was for me to fly LHR => KUL. Odd but who am I to complain.
I felt like I was too busy while I was in Saigon but that’s probably because it was such a short visit. Here’s what I got up to while I was in town. Consider this my tips for 36 hours in Saigon…
Food tour with Urban Adventures. I love tours with Urban Adventures, especially their food tours. This was was no exception — although perhaps our guide’s English could have been a tad better. No matter…who needs to talk when the universal language of travel is FOOD. While on this tour, I met the nicest couple from Tennessee who run the blog Epicurious Passport. They are my new Instagram friends. So many food highlights on this tour but I loved just sitting on the small stools on the sidewalk, digging into broken rice and chicken wings, and then hitting the market at the end of the tour for an excellent Bahn Mi. Book this tour.
Boat Ride and Walking Tour: I got super lucky on this short morning breakfast boat ride and then walking tour. I was the only passenger so I had the tour guide and entire boat to myself — and uh, all the food too. Much Bahn Mi was consumed. My tour guide was excellent and did a wonderful job providing unique insights into Saigon’s property market and economic growth as we cruised in a loop around the Mekong, checking out both where the kajillionaires live and how life continues as it did ages and ages ago. The only downside to the walking part of the tour was the heat — I practically wilted walking around Chinatown. Book the boat ride here. (You may have to contact them separately to ask about the walking tour after the boat ride.)
Pasteur Street Brewing Company: My hotel had a special deal with Pasteur for, uh, free beer, so I dropped in here one afternoon to mooch off the wifi and check out the beer. The bar is very narrow and up a steep staircase so don’t go in high heels. Pretty much every Englishman and American in Saigon was in the place when I entered. I tried a couple of their IPAs — the Jasmine IPA was particularly interesting — and eavesdropped on all the expat conversations. I’d recommend going here at off hours because it was super crowded when I visited. I would have enjoyed it more had it been quieter.
EON 51 Heli Bar at Bitexco Financial Tower: I decided to do what I do best in countries with tall buildings like this. Skip the viewing deck and visit the bar instead! This place was all red and black and reeked of stale smoke — a weird place for a mid-afternoon drink — but the staff was friendly and helpful and the views were fun. Apparently, no one is actually allowed to use the helicopter landing pad — city-wide ban on helicopters apparently — so that was disappointing.
Vincom Center Mall: This place was right around the corner from my hotel so it was hard not to visit. Plus, I love malls in foreign countries, especially their food courts. Good if you need a cold blast of air conditioning, clean loos, some retail therapy, and a break from street food.
Saigon, Saigon…I will back for you again. And again. Love it here.