Saigon is well-known for being extremely vibrant at night with many food streets and clubs, however, the city at day also looks very active with plenty of attractive destinations and historical landmarks.
Located in the tropical climate, Saigon has two distinct seasons, rainy season (from April to October) and dry season (from November to March). The temperature of the city ranges between 25 and 35 Celsius degrees.
The traffic in Saigon is very heavy, particularly in rush hours. Therefore, for travel within the city, the most convenient means of transport is motorbike or taxi.
Traveling to a new land without discovering the local culinary would be a big miss, and Saigon is not an exception. Saigon boasts its traditional dishes and street foods with and an endless list of worth-trying dishes, including Pho and Banh Mi.
Pho can be regarded as a national dish of Vietnam. It is favored by many Vietnamese and has been making great strides in terms of gaining popularity among the food world. A bowl of Pho consists of the rice noodles, the broth, some tender slices of beef, along with a little green onion on top. Moreover, there is usually a small plate of vegetables like herbs and bean sprouts and extra seasonings like lime, fish sauce, black sauce, and red sauce. Despite its outward simplicity, the bowl of Pho is underpinned with a complex arrangement of flavors and texture. Read more about authentic Pho restaurants in Saigon.
Pho in Saigon
While Pho is usually served as a main meal, Banh Mi can be regarded as both a main meal and a light meal. Banh Mi has also made its way to the world and known as a Vietnamese sandwich. It is a bread sliced down on the side and filled with meats, pate, pickled vegetables, cucumber, cilantro and finally a little of chili sauce. The meat can be alternated with fish, eggs or anything you want, creating many types of Banh Mi.
Besides Pho and Banh Mi, there are Banh canh, Bun bo Hue, Banh xeo, Banh cuon, Goi cuon, and the list goes on. If you are interested in exploring Vietnamese culinary, The culinary tours of I love food and I really love food might be for you.
Banh Mi in Saigon
Vietnam is the second biggest coffee exporter in the world and Vietnamese coffee is strong, affordable, and available nearly everywhere. In fact, it was the French who first introduced coffee to Vietnam, but gradually the morning cup of coffee soon became a local habit. The style of drinking coffee in Vietnam is unlike anywhere in the world. We combine coffee with condensed milk, coconut milk, yogurt, or whipped egg yolk (called egg coffee) to make very creative forms of coffee, and at the same time, very tasty. The method of making strong black coffee is also very special. The drip filter called Phin where coffee trickles directly into a cup along with the tantalizing aroma.
Drip coffee in Saigon
Coffee is often served with condensed milk, called Ca Phe Sua, which is popular and a cultural feature of Saigon, especially the youth. Vietnamese do not need a fancy place to enjoy coffee. While visiting famous attractions, you can stop by a coffee shop or small coffee stall, sitting on a small stool, enjoying your cup of coffee, and perhaps watch people in a park nearby.
As a French colonial for nearly 100 years and was the capital of the southern region of Cochinchina, Saigon has a lot of sites that still remain French culture from the years of occupation such as Ben Thanh Market - the famous symbol of Saigon, and Reunification Palace.
Built in the late 19th century, the total area is approximately 13,000 square meters. This market welcomes about 10,000 passengers every day. There are 1,437 market stalls, 6,000 traders, with 4 gates and 12 side doors.
You can find almost everything in this market, from tiny souvenirs to traditional costumes. Ben Thanh Market is not only a tourist destination, but this market is also the place for residents of Saigon do their daily shopping. However, pickpocketing is a considerable problem here, so pay attention to your belongings.
Ben Thanh Market
Reunification Palace (formerly called Norodom Palace, now called Independence Palace or Reunification Hall) is an architecture building in Saigon. It served as office and residence of the President of the Republic of Vietnam. Currently, it has been ranked as a special national monument by the government of Vietnam.
Buddhism is the main religion with the most profound influence in Vietnam. Consequently, Saigon is home to numerous temples and pagodas. The architecture of temples and pagodas were varied through different historical periods and different locations. For example, District 5 is where many Chinese people live, as a result, most of the pagodas were built by Chinese, and thus, greatly influenced by Chinese style. Meanwhile, there are other pagodas that were built by Vietnamese and inspired by traditional Vietnamese architecture, especially in the Ly Dynasty (1010 - 1028) and Tran Dynasty (1225 - 1400), Vietnam dynasties that significantly supported the development of Buddhism.
Ong Pagoda (also known as Nghia An Assembly Hall) would be perfectly exemplified by Chinese culture and architecture in Saigon. This temple is dedicated to Quan Cong - a famous historical Chinese figure. This pagoda would surprise you with many intricate wood pictures and very skillful grillworks, along with many lanterns hanging nearly everywhere in the pagodas.
Contrary to Ong Pagoda, Vinh Nghiem Pagoda inherits both a blend of Japanese architectural style and traditional Vietnamese structure, which makes its appearance strong, stable and also majestic. In addition, the temple is also famous for its highest and most elaborate stone tower in Vietnam with 7 floors and 14 meters in height, completed in 2003.
Vinh Nghiem Pagoda
Read more about amazing temples and pagodas in Saigon.
There are plenty of museums in Saigon like history museums, art museums, and cultural museums. But the quantity of war museums is dominant, maybe because Vietnam had been through two big wars and there are so many things that needed to be said and so many artifacts that are still in good condition. The entrance fees of these museums are affordable. And thus, visiting these places would be an ideal choice, especially for history enthusiasts.
Note that the war museums might be uncomfortable due to the sensitive photos and graphic video clips about what happened in the wars and the painful consequences, especially at the War Remnants Museum.
War Remnants Museum
On the other hand, the Fito Museum - traditional medicine museum offers you an informative trip about how Vietnamese traditional medicines have developed with many well-preserved artifacts and pictures. The design of this museum reflects the iconic architecture of the traditional Vietnam style, giving you the instant cozy feeling as soon as you enter.
There are many other fascinating museums in Saigon, each of them presents a different topic and would offer you a different aspect of Saigon, at the same time, expand your history knowledge. And thus, they are really worth adding to your list of things to do in Saigon at day.
A bit further from Saigon's center is the historical sites, Cu Chi Tunnels. During the Vietnam War, the Communist Party built a complex system of small underground tunnels, including hospitals, kitchens, and offices. The whole system consists of two sections (Ben Dinh and Ben Duoc), and has 3 underground levels. The first floor is 3 meters underground, which can stand against the weight of tanks and armored vehicles. The second layer is 5 meters underground, which can stand small bombs, and the final layer is from 8 to 10 meters underground and can stand all kinds of bombs. You can find more interesting information about Cu Chi Tunnels by joining the Cu Chi Tunnels Tour.
Cu Chi Tunnels
Besides Ben Thanh Market, others offer you an authentic view of daily lives such as Binh Tay Market, Tan Dinh Market, and Ba Chieu Market. You will not see as many tourists here, and the variety of goods is amazing, irrespective of whether you're souvenir shopping or just simply browsing.
Binh Tay Market (also known as Cho Lon) was built in the 1920s. The market is built on an area of more than 17,000 square meters with ancient East Asia architecture. Binh Tay Market currently has over 2,300 businesses selling various kinds of products, including spices, jams, garments, shoes, leather handbags, appliances made from porcelain, plastic, aluminum, stainless steel, gold, and silver jewelry.
Binh Tay Market
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Saigon is a cosmopolitan, therefore, there is an endless list of things to do in Saigon at day. Whether you are into food, history or just want to have some sightseeing, Saigon will surely satisfy your needs and impress you with the hospitality of the locals.
At I Tour Vietnam, we offer various tours, ranging from half-day to multiple days with professional tour guides. Don't forget to check out our other local guides.
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Personally, I wouldn't recommend visiting the Ben Thanh Market, unless you can find yourself a local guide to walk you through the shops