Ho Chi Minh usually surprises tourists with various city dynamics and charms. However, besides its hustle and bustle, there are some peaceful places where you can escape from the noise of a developing city: the hidden alleyways in Ho Chi Minh City. They hide among the crowded roads and skyscrapers, and the residents there have their own “culture” and characteristics. Some are just normal alleys which some are hundreds of years old; some are specialized for coffee shops, street foods, arts and even religions. Here is a guide for you to explore other sides of Ho Chi Minh City.
Coffee is a must-try drink when you visit Vietnam. You can easily spot a coffee shop on every street. While the ones on bigger roads can be very spacious and have some green spaces, the ones that are located in hidden alleyways in Ho Chi Minh City would rather be smaller, cozier and have their own styles. Note down the addresses of some suggestions that you can take a look when you are in this delightful city:
Address: 2/45 Cao Thang, Ward 5, District 3
Price: VND 40,000 - VND 80,000
Opening hours: 8 AM - 10 PM
If you are interested in the underground style, this is the place for you. Decorated with huge motorbikes, colorful barrels, and weird-yet-unique model is what makes this store peerless.
A corner of VietGangz Brotherhood
Address: 193A/D3 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia, Ward 7, District 3
Price: VND 36,000 - VND 146,000
Opening hours: 7 AM - 11 PM
Besides drinks, this coffee house also serves different types of cakes and snacks. It has a modern and refreshing decoration with many ornamental trees and a lake of Koi fish. Its furniture is also wooden, which create a harmonious feeling with the background.
Oromia Coffee has a green view
Ut Lanh Cafe
Address: 283/37 Pham Ngu Lao, Pham Ngu Lao Ward, District 1
Price: VND 30,000 - VND 50,000
Opening hours: 7 AM - 10:30 PM
This place creates an old Saigon, the former name of Ho Chi Minh City. Even the sign plate of the store is written in the font was used in early Vietnamese advertisements. You can see many household items in the previous century here from tablecloths, teapots, newspaper to televisions, and cassette players. Don’t forget to try some favorite chips from the Vietnamese 80s generation.
Ut Lanh cafe designed in a vintage style
Gio Day Thun Cafe
Address: 140/12 Vo Thi Sau, Ward 8, District 3
Price: VND 30,000 - VND 49,000
Opening hours: 10 AM - 10 PM
With the capacity of 20 - 30 people, this is definitely a quiet hideout with a mysterious, bohemian decoration in this lively city. There is also an acoustic live show in the weekends.
The cozy atmosphere is what people love about Gio Day Thun
These coffee stores can be difficult to find since they are built in a maze of alleys, so don’t hesitate to ask locals for directions.
Check out more Coffee Apartments in Ho Chi Minh
Street food is a remarkable part of Vietnamese cuisine. You can find all kinds of food from main courses to desserts on the sidewalks. Especially, at hidden alleyways in Ho Chi Minh City, there are plenty of hawkers who sell dishes from different regions of Vietnam. The food may not be decorated elegantly like ones in luxurious restaurants, but the taste will not let you down, and the price, of course, is much more affordable. Therefore, street food alleys are the preferred places for students and office workers to hang out with their friends after school or work. Food stalls here only open from afternoon to evening, when the weather is cooler, after that the hawkers would move to other locations or come home to prepare for the next day. It can be very crowded at times so keep an eye on your belongings while enjoying your meal. It is worth customizing your food tour to have time trying street food. Here are some alleyways that you can find without difficulty:
76 Hai Ba Trung Alley
Address: 76 Hai Ba Trung, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1
Price: VND 10,000 - VND 20,000
Opening hours: 3 PM - 6 PM
This alley is not very wide so there is just enough space for the hawkers sitting on both sides with their ingredients and a small path for customers to walk through. Here you can find Vietnamese noodles such as Bun Thit Nuong, Bun Rieu, or snacks like tapioca dumplings, pan-fried rice cake, sweet soup.
Each hawker in the alley sells a different dish
284 Le Van Sy Alley
Address: 284 Le Van Sy, Ward 14, District 3
Price: VND 15,000 - VND 55,000
Opening hours: 8 AM - 11:30 PM
Instead of hawkers with their small mobile food carts, this alley has some ordinary food stalls that have several plastic tables and chairs. These stores open from morning till midnight so that you have more chances to explore this place. It has varied types of dishes for you to choose from.
Different types of sweet soup at 284 Le Van Sy Alley
181 and 200 Xom Chieu Alley
Address: 181 and 200 Xom Chieu, Ward 15, District 4
Price: from 10,000 VND
Opening hours: 4 PM - 11 PM
The two alleys on the two sides of Xom Chieu Street is a familiar address of the low-income workers and students. The food here has exceptional quality and, of course, is inexpensive. Xom Chieu is also an area with lots of eating destinations so you can go around and discover more.
The Xom Chieu Alleys is a suitable place to explore street food in Ho Chi Minh City
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Have had enough of alleys with two boring white walls? There are many hidden alleyways in Ho Chi Minh city with beautiful paintings or unique structures waiting for you to discover. In the past few years, a lot of young Vietnamese have learned about graffiti, so compared to other modern style and freestyle drawings, it is more commonly available in arts alleyways. These alleys do not have any opening hours but if you want some nice photos of Instagram worthy places, we recommend coming there before the evening for better lighting. While you are enjoying your midday work, take a break and visit the mentioned alleys.
15B Le Thanh Ton Alley
Address: 15B Le Thanh Ton, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1
This alley creates a vibe of Little Japan. There are hundreds of Japanese households have lived here and considered Vietnam as their second home. Some of them have opened their restaurants, so those are what you might see first when you come to this place. It also has a long wall with graffiti drawings. The residents do not think that is vandalism; it has become a feature of this intoxicating alley.
Japanese restaurants in the alley
The wall with graffiti drawings
144 Pasteur Alley
Address: 144 Pasteur, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1
Although it is just a small path leading to a restaurant, its walls are full of pictures of must-visit destinations in Vietnam and some kinds of delicious fruit.
Some creative drawings at 144 Pasteur Alley
288 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia Alley
Address: 288 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia, Ward 8, District 3
The alley is decorated thanks to a graffiti project of some young people. They sketched the portraits of the Vietnamese and colored them, made the area more outstanding and dynamic.
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Ho Chi Minh City is more than 300 years old. Therefore, it is understandable that the age of some alleys in this city is up to several decades. One of the most famous old alleyways is Hao Si Phuong, the name of an alley at 206 Tran Hung Dao, Ward 10, District 5. At first, there were only Chinese that immigrated to Ho Chi Minh City lived in this alley. Years after years, people moved in and out, now, although most of the residents here are still "nguoi Hoa" (Chinese Vietnamese), there are also "nguoi Kinh" (Vietnamese). Every house has a similar structure, however, their colors are different depending on the owners’ interests. Because of which, this alley has an ancient yet bright, colorful look.
Hao Sy Phuong has an iconic blue balcony railing
There are many ways to explain the name Hao Sy Phuong. The most well-known explanation is that Hao means generous, Si is equal to authors, and Phuong is a group of people with the same job. Besides, there are some theories such as the alley used to be home of some workers whose boss’s name is Hao Si, or it was named by Mr. Hao, who built and leased all the houses here. Whatever it means, Hao Si Phuong is still a peaceful place without loud noises or vehicle smog.
You might think of a scene in an old Chinese movie while wandering here. The sad news is, since the infrastructure has gone bad, the government has planned to conduct the expropriation soon, so visit this charming alley before it is too late.
Zen is a Japanese sect of Mahayana Buddhism that aims at enlightenment by direct intuition through meditation. The alley at 498 Le Quang Dinh, Ward 1, Go Vap District is called “Zen Alley” since there are four pagodas located here, which makes both the residents and the visitors feel relieved and lighthearted. Chau An Pagoda was built in 1952 and it is also the first one to be built here. Many Feng Shui masters, the experts in geomancy, state that this alley is located on the land of a dragon, and Chau An Pagoda, Ngoc Phuong Vihara and Gia Lam Pagoda are respectively the head, belly, and tail of the dragon.
Chau An Pagoda is the first pagoda in the Zen Alley
This kind of land is said to have considerable influence on its inhabitants’ destiny. Many years ago, people in the Zen Alley were very poor and lived in shabby houses, the pagodas’ infrastructure was also poorly done. It was not until every pagoda was reconstructed that the living conditions of the households developed, at least that is what the residents say and believe. Most of the time the alley is serene, tranquil and clean. It is only crowded on the first and fifteenth day of the lunar month when many people come to pray.
Located at 1017 Hong Bang, Ward 12, District 6, people in this alley has made statues of Buddha for more than one hundred years. There are more than ten families that keep the tradition of making Buddha or statues of other gods and pass it down from one generation to another. Walking down the alley, you can come across sculptures of different sizes and shapes and the workers who are sculpturing, painting, or completing them.
A craftsman is working on his statues
Everyone would be working hard in silence for intensive concentration, but the sounds from their manufacturing processing still create an active and lively atmosphere. In the past, the statues were made from the wood of jackfruit trees. However, nowadays, popular materials are concrete and plaster. The products can be customized and after completing, they are shipped to many places in Vietnam and the world.
When searching online, the internet might only show you just the flashy photos of this city. To get to know more about it, we would like to offer you the Day Adventure and Night Adventure, two fascinating-yet-safe motorbike tours. And if you want to understand why hidden alleyways in Ho Chi Minh City are the gems of this city, check out our Saigon’s Other Sides tour. There are many uncover destinations and special activities included so that you can have another view of our city.
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