However, one can truly experience the authentic Vietnam and the rich culture of Ho Chi Minh City by venturing off the beaten path and embracing the local traditions.




The Quiet American: A Reflection on Vietnam


The Quiet American: A Reflection on Vietnam

In the 2002 movie, “The Quiet American,” renowned actor Michael Caine captivated audiences with an opening monologue that encapsulated the essence of this extraordinary country. With profound insight, he uttered the words, “They say you come to Vietnam and you learn a lot in a few minutes. But the rest has got to be lived.” This powerful statement, written over seven decades ago, continues to resonate with undeniable truth even in the present day.


When you visit Vietnam, it is essential to allocate at least a week of your time to explore Ho Chi Minh City. The city is teeming with rich history and offers hidden experiences that are not immediately apparent to casual visitors.

Many tourists may be unaware of the multitude of experiences available to them in Ho Chi Minh City, while others may hesitate due to language barriers and a lack of local knowledge. However, the locals in this city are known for their exceptional friendliness. By letting go of your apprehensions and embracing the opportunities that await, you may find that your experience in Ho Chi Minh City is truly transformative.

When you visit Ho Chi Minh City, you can experience several exciting things.

Suction Cup Massage

The suction cup massage has a long-standing history predating modern medicine. It has been claimed to have curative properties for a wide range of ailments and provides various health benefits. However, I maintain a level of skepticism regarding its effectiveness.

The massage therapy technique utilized in this process utilizes glass cups and fire. During the session, the massage therapist carefully heats the air inside the cup before promptly placing it onto various parts of your body, such as your back, neck, and shoulders. As the air begins to cool, it creates a suction effect on your skin, drawing blood towards the surface. While the overall experience is typically enjoyable, it may become slightly uncomfortable towards the end. Nonetheless, this unique and incredible therapy is a must-try, whether you seek it out on the street or in a spa setting.

Hair Cut – This option is specifically tailored for gentlemen, but ladies can also indulge in the experience. In Vietnam, Hot toc (haircut) offers a budget-friendly and distinctive experience. Local salons provide comprehensive services, including haircuts, face shaving, ear cleaning (ray tai), and hair washing, all for approximately US$10.

In Ho Chi Minh City, there are various types of hot toc shops available. However, it is advisable to avoid the high-end, tourist-oriented salons that cater predominantly to the wealthy, as they do not accurately portray the local community.

A barber washes a customer's hair at Dong Tay mobile barbershop in District 2, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Hoang An / Tuoi Tre
A barber washes a customer’s hair at Dong Tay mobile barbershop in District 2, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Hoang An / Tuoi Tre

In Vietnam, the latest trend in men’s grooming is the emerging popularity of the “barber shop”. This modern and fashionable hair service for men is gaining widespread attention. Alternatively, there is the more traditional “hot toc” where skilled barbers and stylists cater to both your hair and facial grooming needs, providing exceptional service and ensuring customer satisfaction. These “hot toc” establishments are my preferred choice for their high-quality services.

When you visit Saigon, be sure to try out the famous street haircut if you’re looking for an affordable option.

Finding a reputable shop in the suburbs requires some strategic planning and guidance. Although language barriers may be present, using a translation app and simple gestures should be sufficient to navigate through the process. It is important to remember to generously tip the service providers, especially if the services procured are more affordable. Despite their meager wages, these hardworking individuals tirelessly strive to deliver satisfactory results.

Experience Exotic Cuisine in Ho Chi Minh City

Indulge in a culinary adventure and sample the authentic local delicacies that are not commonly found in the tourist hotspots. One must-try dish is bun dau mam tom, a delectable combination of vermicelli, fried tofu, and shrimp paste. Another intriguing option is hot vit lon, also known as balut, a popular street food in Vietnam. If you’re feeling more adventurous, give oc (snail) a try. These unique and flavorful dishes offer a truly authentic taste of Ho Chi Minh City.

Experience the Heart of Vietnam: Explore the Suburbs with a Privatized Tour Guide

Discover the true essence of Vietnam by embarking on a personalized journey to the vibrant suburbs of Phu Nhuan District, District 12, or Go Vap District. Leave the busy city center behind and venture into the heart and soul of the local culture. Immerse yourself in the flavors and traditions of this captivating country by indulging in an authentic dining experience at a cherished local restaurant.

To ensure an unforgettable outing, secure the services of a knowledgeable and passionate tour guide who will accompany you throughout the afternoon or evening. Let them lead you to hidden culinary gems and introduce you to signature dishes that will leave an everlasting impression on your taste buds.

By engaging the expertise of a professional guide, you will not only savor delectable local cuisine but also gain valuable insights into the history, traditions, and stories that make each district unique. This immersive experience promises to be an enchanting adventure that will touch your heart and create lasting memories.

Embark on this captivating journey to the outskirts of Ho Chi Minh City and discover the unparalleled allure of Vietnam’s suburbs. Get ready to savor delectable dishes, forge connections with the locals, and gain an unparalleled understanding of the exquisite Vietnamese culture. Don’t miss out on this incredible opportunity to create memories that will resonate within your heart forever.

Discover Authentic Vietnamese Cuisine

While District 1 in Vietnam offers a variety of excellent restaurants and street food options, truly experiencing the local cuisine means venturing beyond the city center. The key lies in exploring the places where the locals dine on a daily basis. As you move further away from the tourist hub, you will uncover the true essence of Vietnamese gastronomy.

An stall selling snail dishes at a local market in District 3, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Dong Nguyen / Tuoi Tre News
An stall selling snail dishes at Vuon Chuoi market in District 3, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Dong Nguyen / Tuoi Tre News

Rent a Bicycle: Many people may not have considered exploring the streets of Saigon on a bicycle. However, this mode of transportation is actually quite safe and offers the best way to discover the city’s suburbs. Renting a bicycle is easy, as there are several shops that provide this service. A quick internet search or inquiry with your hotel or tour guide will help you find a suitable rental option.

To optimize your biking experience in Ho Chi Minh City, we recommend acquiring a local sim card for your mobile phone. By having access to a reliable maps app, you can confidently navigate the city, freely discovering its wonders while effortlessly ensuring a safe return to your starting point.

Young residents try out the city's bike sharing service in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, December 4, 2021. Photo: Hoang An / Tuoi Tre
Young residents try out the city’s bike sharing service in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, December 4, 2021. Photo: Hoang An / Tuoi Tre

Navigating Ho Chi Minh City by bicycle is surprisingly convenient. With the high volume of motorcycles on the roads, the chances of a car collision are significantly diminished. Additionally, the presence of slower-moving motorcycles fosters a sense of community while commuting.

In close proximity, you will find multiple beverage and food establishments, ensuring you do not need to burden yourself with excess provisions apart from a drink container and a raincoat. However, it is essential to protect your entire body from head to toe due to the scorching daytime sun that prevails throughout the year.

Rent a Motorbike

If you are looking for an exciting adventure, why not consider renting a motorbike to explore Saigon and the surrounding provinces? With a motorbike, you can freely explore the city and discover hidden gems at your own pace. Whether you want to visit famous landmarks or venture off the beaten path, renting a motorbike provides the flexibility and freedom you need. So why wait? Rent a motorbike today and embark on an unforgettable journey in Saigon!

Commuters travel by motorbikes on Hoang Van Thu Street in Phu Nhuan District, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Dong Nguyen / Tuoi Tre News
Commuters travel by motorbikes on Hoang Van Thu Street in Phu Nhuan District, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Dong Nguyen / Tuoi Tre News

There are a few cautions to keep in mind regarding the possibility of riding a motorcycle in Vietnam. It is important to note that the law does require individuals to possess a valid Vietnamese license. Additionally, it is worth noting that your travel insurance may not provide coverage in the event of an accident if you are riding a motorcycle without a license.

Before riding a motorbike in Vietnam, it is highly recommended to have prior experience. Driving on the opposite side of the road can be quite challenging for western tourists. Therefore, it is crucial to be prepared and adequately insured if you intend to rent a motorbike.

You have the option to conveniently rent motorbikes from your hotel or local shop in the city at a cost of approximately $10 per day. It is generally recommended to opt for renting from your hotel as they will provide support and guidance throughout your rental process.

Explore the surrounding provinces of Dong Nai, Binh Duong, and Long An, or venture into the outer districts of Thu Duc and Binh Chanh, all with the flexibility and freedom of a motorbike. Capture breathtaking moments, pause at your leisure for a cup of coffee or a delicious meal. Embark on an exhilarating journey, discovering picturesque landscapes and immersing yourself in the charm of these captivating destinations.

Having a local sim card and a maps application will greatly aid you in navigating through the suburban areas and ensuring you find your way back home.

Experience the best of the city and provinces by planning a visit to various locations of interest. With a well-thought-out itinerary, you’re guaranteed to have a fantastic day exploring all that the region has to offer.

Experience the Tranquility of a Pagoda – Take a leisurely ride on your bicycle or motorbike to explore one of the magnificent pagodas in Ho Chi Minh City. Immerse yourself in the serene ambiance and embrace the spiritual essence of this vibrant city.

This region is home to some of the largest pagodas in the world. Upon conducting further research, one can discover a wealth of renowned pagodas situated within a 20 to 30 kilometer radius of the city center, specifically in District 9 and District 12. These pagodas offer a unique and memorable experience.

Museums

Ho Chi Minh City is home to several renowned museums that offer insights into the history and culture of Vietnam. While these larger establishments are well-known to tourists, there are also numerous smaller museums that have been lovingly preserved by local organizations. These hidden gems showcase the unique history and culture of the region, offering visitors a deeper understanding of Vietnam’s rich heritage.

There are numerous privately owned small museums that can be discovered in unexpected locations, such as tucked away behind a café or on the upper floors of a food store. Conducting prior research before your travels will reveal an assortment of astonishing hidden gems that are often overlooked by tourists.

A collection of old banknotes at Lua Sai Gon Café in Phu Nhuan District, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Hoang An / Tuoi Tre News
A collection of old banknotes at Lua Sai Gon Café in Phu Nhuan District, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Hoang An / Tuoi Tre News

Discover a local marketplace – While many travel guides suggest visiting Ben Thanh Market in District 1, Vietnam, this renowned market is largely geared towards international visitors. For a truly authentic experience, venture into a local market where the main emphasis is on fresh food and meeting the everyday needs of the local community.

Our establishment does not offer a multitude of T-shirts or typical souvenirs. Instead, we take pride in our incredible, dedicated team who adhere to traditional methods of food delivery. While this may surprise some individuals from the western world, it presents an ideal opportunity for photographers to capture truly remarkable moments.

Discover local culinary delights at nearby markets where you can indulge in a variety of noodle and rice dishes. Don’t bother with breakfast, as these markets offer a wide selection of food. Prices typically range from $1 to $2 for these delectable treats.

A fresh fish stall at a local wet market in Go Vap District, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Dong Nguyen / Tuoi Tre News
A fresh fish stall at a local wet market in Go Vap District, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Dong Nguyen / Tuoi Tre News

One of the most disheartening aspects of being an expat is observing tourists visit Ho Chi Minh City and observing them from a bus, oblivious to the richness of the local culture. They confine themselves to the city center for a few days and, at most, take a day excursion to popular destinations such as the Cu Chi Tunnels.

By primarily observing the bustling streets from the comfort of a bus window, visitors often miss out on the authentic Ho Chi Minh City experience.

Southern Vietnam has evolved into a highly interactive and inclusive culture, marked by increased English proficiency and a growing receptiveness among local shop owners towards non-native speakers.

Discover the incredible charm of Ho Chi Minh City by immersing yourself in its vibrant culture. Plan your visit, seek expert guidance, and allocate ample time to fully appreciate the beauty of this extraordinary locale. Live Ho Chi Minh City and create lasting memories that will forever reside within your heart.

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