4D/3N Backpacking Mui Ne Without A Tour (Part 9) : Walking Tour & The Art of Crossing The Street Like A Boss in Saigon (HCMC)

Before we begin our walking tour around Saigon (HCMC), my sister and I already mapped out the places that we want to visit on the map. Besides that, I had Google Maps on my smart phone in case we got lost or needed directions. We left the hostel after lunch and made our way towards the first destination. To read my review of Eco Backpacker’s Hostel, click here.

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How To Face The Traffic & Cross The Streets in Saigon (HCMC) Like A Boss

In one of my earlier blog posts, I promised to share the tips and tricks of surviving Saigon’s (HCMC) chaotic and intimidating traffic. My sister and I managed to get by Vietnam’s city traffic effortlessly by practising several tips and tricks even though it was our first time there. 😉

Vietnam’s chaotic traffic is something you got to get used to through experience. The sound of endless honking and the sight of incoming traffic from all directions that does not seem to stop can be quite intimidating for beginners. So, here are the basic steps and the tips and tricks we used to face the traffic and cross the streets in Saigon (HCMC) like a boss:

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Step 1:

  • Observe the traffic conditions in all directions before attempting to cross the street

Step 2:

  • Attempt to cross the street when the road is clear (if you’re lucky!) or when there is less traffic on the road
  • If it is a wide road, walk slowly and steadily across the road, towards the middle of the road and stop if needed. Then, repeat Steps 1 and 2

What we did:

  • We watched the incoming traffic, but avoid making eye contact with the motorists as we crossed the road as cool as a cucumber (and like a boss!). That was the trick! 😉 Rest assured, the motorists will try to avoid running over you when they see you on the road.
  • That said, do not attempt to cross the road blindly and recklessly! As much as the motorists would prefer to avoid running over you, they will not be able to avoid you or stop in their tracks in time if you suddenly appear out of nowhere! Give them enough time to react accordingly to your presence on the road and everything will be fine. Get what I mean?
  • Also, beware of snatch thieves while you are walking or crossing the road in Saigon (HCMC)! With that, I wish you good luck and happy crossing the roads in Saigon (HCMC)! It is an experience you will never forget 😀
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Motorists travelling on the road in Saigon (HCMC)

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The Independence Palace

The Independence Palace is also known as the Reunification Palace. It is a landmark in Saigon (HCMC). It is the home and workplace of the President of South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. It took us about 20 minutes to walk from our hostel to the Independence Palace. Visitors are not allowed into the area. Photography is allowed. The guards on duty were friendly and helpful.

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The Independence Palace a.k.a Reunification Palace, Saigon (HCMC)
The busy road in front of the Independence Palace, Saigon (HCMC)

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Saigon Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica

It is also known as Basilica of Our Lady of The Immaculate Conception. It is an approximately 6 minutes walk from the Independence Palace. The Neo-Romanesque Catholic church was constructed between 1863 and 1880 by French colonists and was the most beautiful church amongst all French colonies at that time. English-speaking staff distributes tourist information from 9am to 11am, Monday to Saturday.

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Eva & Erika at Saigon Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica
A Neo-Romanesque Catholic church built by French colonists in Saigon (HCMC)
Saigon Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica in Ho Chi Minh City
A street vendor selling one of Saigon’s favourite snack – banh trang nuong a.k.a Vietnamese rice paper crepe/pizza (for 10,000 VND a piece) in front of Saigon Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica

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Saigon Central Post Office

Saigon Central Post Office is a post office in Saigon (HCMC). It is located near to the Saigon Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica. This Gothic, Renaissance and French-influenced building was constructed when Vietnam was a part of French Indochina in the late 19th century. In the post office, one can buy and post a postcard back home, change currency or even shop for souvenirs.

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Greetings from Saigon Central Post Office, Ho Chi Minh City!
Saigon Central Post Office is located in front of Saigon Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica, Ho Chi Minh City
Saigon Central Post Office, Ho Chi Minh City
The Saigon Central Post Office is a Gothic, Renaissance and French-influenced building
Inside the building of Saigon Central Post Office
Various bank ATMs & money changers in Saigon Central Post Office, Ho Chi Minh City

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Ho Chi Minh City Hall

Ho Chi Minh City Hall is a beautiful French colonial style building that was built in 1902-1908. The building is not open to the public, but visitors can take photographs outside of the building. The walk from Saigon Central Post Office to Ho Chi Minh City Hall took about 5 minutes. We arrived there in the evening, thus managed to enjoy both the day and night view.

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Ho Chi Minh City Hall, Saigon
The French colonial-style Ho Chi Minh City Hall lit up beautifully at night

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Ho Chi Minh Square

Ho Chi Minh Square is also known as Saigon Square by the locals. It is located just opposite Ho Chi Minh City Hall. You will see a bronze statue of Ho Chi Minh standing and greeting his followers. The public is not allowed to enter the square or be anywhere near the statue. The square is guarded by 24-hour police/army surveillance when we visited it.

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A bronze statue of Ho Chi Minh standing and greeting his followers at Ho Chi Minh Square
The city view from Ho Chi Minh City Square at night

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Ben Thanh Market (At Night)

Like most night markets in Asia, make-shift stalls were set up along the streets and a wide variety of items such as clothes, souvenirs and street foods were sold. From travellers’ reviews, the night market was better than the day market in terms of service and price. The vendors here were friendly and less aggressive as compared to those in the day market. From our experience, this was proven true. A word of caution, beware of pick pockets and scams when at the night market.

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Ben Thanh Market (During The Day)

We visited Ben Thanh Market again during the day to buy a pair of ao dai for ourselves. The ao dai is Vietnam’s national costume worn by women. It is a tight-fitting silk tunic worn over a pair of pants. The shops in the market are divided into several sections – clothes, shoes, bags, souvenirs, electronics, etc.

The moment my sister and I stepped foot into the clothes section, the sellers whom are mostly women began to harass us to buy from their shop. They began to block our way, if not grabbing our hands and forcefully pulled us towards their shop! 🙁 That was how aggressive, daring and desperate those women were! Despite the harassment, we kept our cool and surveyed for the best price.

Like any other market, bargaining is a must when buying something at Ben Thanh Market. Start your bargain about 50-60 percent off the offered price and work your way from there. If they refuse to sell you the item, walk away politely and bargain at other shops instead.

The average price for an ao dai is 350,000 VND, however a seller from another shop quoted us 600,000 VND for the exact same piece! We left that particular shop in an instance. After a long session of bargaining and sweet talking, we managed to buy 2 ao dais for 450,000 VND. 😀

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Ben Thanh Market, Saigon (HCMC)
The day market at Ben Thanh Market, Saigon (HCMC)
The clothes section at Ben Thanh Market, Saigon (HCMC)

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Pham Ngu Lao Street

Pham Ngu Lao Street in Saigon (HCMC) boasts a lively nightlife with throngs of street vendors, cafes, bars, and clubs in close proximity. Interesting nightlife entertainment spots include The View Rooftop Bar, Seventeen Saloon, Go 2, and Crazy Buffalo as well as many smaller pubs that offer cheap drinks and happy hour promos. 😀

It is a common place for socialising or to meet friendly expats who are more than happy to share a few tips about travelling in and beyond Vietnam. Other interesting streets in Saigon (HCMC) are Le Loi, De Tham, Bui Vien, and Do Quang Dao streets. The journey to Pham Ngu Lao street from Ben Thanh Market took about 8 minutes.

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Crossing the street at night in Saigon (HCMC)
Chilling and enjoying a glass of cocktail at the Crazy Buffalo, Saigon (HCMC)

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That’s the end of my 4D/3N Backpacking Mui Ne Without A Tour adventure! 😀 The next morning, my sister and I took the public bus No. 152 from the bus stop at Ben Thanh Market to Tan Son Nhat International Airport. The fare was 5,000 VND per person. The journey to the airport took about 40-50 minutes, depending on the traffic conditions.

To know how does the bus look like or learn how take the bus or even a taxi (and avoid the infamous taxi scam) from Tan Son Nhat International Airport, click here. A complete list of my backpacking Saigon (HCMC) and Mui Ne blog posts is available here.  May the information shared here benefits travellers to Mui Ne, Vietnam. Happy and safe travels! 🙂

 

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2 Comment

  1. Nice blog and everything is in details 🙂 thank you 🙂

  2. Hi Jeannie,

    Thank you for the compliment and for dropping by my travel blog. Appreciate it much. Happy travels to you! 🙂

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