Did you ever see scooters dancing? Well, I did. It’s the only imaginable definition I have for the dazzling traffic in Ho Chi Minh city.
Dancing that is, because even though the traffic looks super scary at first, the Vietnamese have a way of gliding from left to right without blocking or hindering others. Impressive but not aggressive. However, if they would try this rodeo scooter style in Europe, they’d be mashed potatoes in a minute.
Scooter around with the locals
Of course there’s more than scooter overload in this beautiful Vietnamese metropolis, but it’s the first thing that will really stand out.
So what better way to discover the former Saigon, than like the locals on a scooter. Yup, you hear me, we scooter-ed (is that even a word?!) around the city for hours and I absolutely LOVED it. Have to admit that we didn’t drive the scooters ourselves – that mashed potatoes story works probably both ways – but we booked a tour with “Vietnam by scooters” and had some real fun being driven around by local students. You can find them here.
A big plus is that these students are super flexible and don’t do the typical touristy tour if you tell them you’re up for some more original or local things.
We decided to ask them what they usually like to do and followed their suggestions. On the menu: riding through zigzag alleys and narrow lanes, buying some fruits and chopsticks at the local market, drinking cold vietnamese coffee in one of the many street bars -with way too much sweetened condensed milk, careful here for the not-so sugary ones among us- and some second hand shopping.
My advice: book the day- and night tour. The busy street food stalls and a glimpse at the Ho Chi Minh skyline from the other side of the Saigon river are must do’s after sunset!
Food and fashion galore at “L’Usine”
Don’t forget to stop by L’Usine! This place is what I’d call the perfect holiday address. A trendy eatery with an urban industrial vibe AND a beautiful concept store with a selection of affordable and really cool brands from upcoming designers from all over the world. Have a healthy lunch – their juices are delish – and enjoy the company of hip locals and interesting global travellers. Don’t forget to buy yourself an amazing pastel-coloured jumpsuit to wear on the rest of your trip or go for an original vietnamese (coffee?!) souvenir. L’Usine is located on the first floor of a 19th-century French colonial building in the well known Dong Khoi Street, but also has a second – less beautiful- venue in Le Loi street.
L’Usine – 151 Dong Khoi Street, Ho Chi Minh or 70B Le Loi Street , District 1, Ho Chi Minh
p.s. The Dong Khoi venue is accessible through a staircase in a sketchy looking alley nearby. Look for the arrow sign.
Enjoy some singer songwriter moments at Cooku’s nest
Cooku’s Nest is a nice change from the city’ sky bars or touristy terraces. It’s a very small cosy coffee bar designed entirely in wood where local singer songwriters showcase their talents. Enjoy the easy-going atmosphere with a refreshing cold coffee – what other drink would you have while in Vietnam – and relax. Quite sure you’ll need it after a day in this crowded city.
Cooku’s Nest – 13 Tu Xuong, District 3, Ho Chi Minh
I hope these addresses give you an idea of where to start when visiting Ho Chi Minh. In case you’d like to know more about e.g. where to buy souvenirs, or which more touristy buildings you should definitely visit, you can always send me an e-mail and I’d be more than happy to share what I remember.