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Travel tips

How to spend free time in Ho Chi Minh City

May 22, 2018 by Jamie Burke

Recently, Copywriter Jamie traveled across Southeast Asia on our tour, Vietnam & Angkor Wat. Her first stop was Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam’s bustling Southern metropolis. Along with dodging scooters while crossing the street (definitely look both ways), she found a few other fun ways to spend free time. Check out her list below.

Get some pho

Eager cooks set up sidewalk eateries all over the city—it’s impossible to miss—and many of them are making pho. Pronounced “fuh,” pho is a soup made with either chicken or beef and rice noodles, topped with herbs like basil and sprouts. It’s a traditional breakfast in Vietnam, so locals make grabbing a bowl part of their commute, hopping off their scooters and grabbing a stool to sit and eat.

If you’re not feeling quite as adventurous, plenty more Western-style restaurants also serve up authentic pho—I especially liked Propaganda Bistro.

Try a Vietnamese iced coffee

While you can find Starbucks in Ho Chi Minh City, I’d recommend branching out for a Vietnamese iced coffee (called cà phê đá on menus!). It’s a strong, drip coffee that’s poured over ice and sweetened condensed milk—and is the perfect way to cool off and get your caffeine fix.

Visit markets

Whether it’s spices, fabrics, produce, or even pig’s feet, you’ll find it all in the markets of Ho Chi Minh City. Even if you’re not in the mood for shopping, it’s interesting to see the locals going about their day, collecting groceries and supplies for their homes. Plus, there’s usually a stall or two where someone is cooking up a local specialty. After exploring the Ben Thanh Market, I snacked on an amazing banh xeo, a Vietnamese-style egg pancake, at nearby Banh Xeo Em Oi. I also took a walk over to Cho Than Dinh, which was a more authentic market and a bit less crowded.

See the city from above

Ho Chi Minh City is the biggest by population in Vietnam and is the country’s economic center. Aside from hitting the sidewalk and exploring, another way to soak it all in is from above. For just a few dollars, you can visit the Saigon Skydeck of the Bitexco Financial Tower to see it all from 262 meters high.

Look for antiques

These days, many of the shops along “Antique Street” are selling reproductions—so you have to be a bit of a savvy shopper. Still, there is a ton to look at and you might just find a super unique souvenir if you take the time for treasure hunting. Just come prepared with a budget, so you’re not tempted to splurge on something that might be too good to be true.

Have you visited Vietnam on tour? Tell us your free time tips on our Facebook page!

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About the author | Jamie Burke
Always on the lookout for the next best meal ever, Jamie loves exploring the world—and all the great food in it. When she's not working to inspire new travelers, you'll find her biking around Boston, eating at her favorite sushi place, or hanging out at home with her family (and cat).

Visit Asia on tour

Grand Tour of Southeast Asia: Vietnam, Cambodia & Thailand
22 days | 26 days with Laos & Bangkok extension

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