VietnamActivities & AttractionsOff-the-Beaten-Path in Saigon

Off-the-Beaten-Path in Saigon

Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) is a beautiful city to explore not only because of its economic growth and famous attractions but also because of its many urban tales, hidden pagodas, and quiet streets. Have a look at some of Saigon’s off-the-beaten-path locations to explore the unseen side of Saigon.

For Culture and History Learners – Off-the-beaten-path in Saigon

Wander around Cho Lon – Saigon’s Chinatown

As the largest Chinese community in Vietnam, Cho Lon has partly contributed to the historical and cultural Saigon. Although many Chinese residents left before the end of the Vietnam War, the area has retained its classical Chinese architecture for hundreds of years.

The main attraction of Chinatown is Binh Tay Market, where you can find all kinds of goods, ranging from Chinese and Vietnamese dried foods to traditional handicrafts. Besides, there are many local temples, including Thien Hau Temple and Quan Am Temple, which offer unique Chinese-Buddhist architecture. Many authentic Chinese restaurants have plenty of local foods like roasted duck, BBQ porks, dim sum, dumplings, and fresh Chinese noodles. Wandering around the streets, you can fully experience its Chinese heritage and lively local lifestyle.

How to get there?

From District 1, you can head west on Tran Hung Dao Street to get into District 5. You can choose from many transportation options: the bus (Route 1: Ben Thanh Station – Cho Lon Station), motorbike taxis, and on-demand taxi apps. Besides, signing up for a private Saigon motorbike tour with local tour guides could be a more convenient trip.

Take a Sip of the Vietnamese Coffee in Saigon’s Backstreets

off the beaten path saigon coffee

Vietnamese people often prefer strong coffee, which is roasted, brewed, and enjoyed very differently from the rest of the world. The coffee is usually loaded into an aluminum filter, poured over with hot water, and left to drip for a few minutes. This way of enjoying coffee, either with condensed milk or plain black, is popularly known as “ca phe phin”.

As an essential part of the coffee culture in Saigon, coffee shops are a favorite place for Vietnamese, especially young people, to gather with friends and colleagues, chat, and catch up over a nice cup of coffee. There are several hidden coffee shops in the city, contributing to another side of Saigon. Those coffee shops usually offer a unique ambiance with a distinct smell of coffee and vintage décor styles.

1. Tram Café

off the beaten path saigon tram cafe

Tram Café is decorated like a tropical forest in the middle of Saigon. The canopy of trees outside of the café creates a cool shade for the outdoor seats and tables. Meanwhile, inside seating is pretty cozy and comfortable with gentle lighting.

Address: 100 Tran Huy Lieu Street, Phu Nhuan District
Opening Hours: Daily 6:30 AM – 11 PM
Price: VND 40,000 – VND 66,000

2. Mockingbird Café

off the beaten path saigon mockingbird

The café is on the fourth floor of an old colonial apartment building hidden in a Saigon alley on Ton That Dam Street. Mockingbird Café is a charming café with a small bar counter and a great view of the old apartment.

off the beaten path saigon mockingbird 1

Address: 4th Floor, Old Apartment Building, 14 Ton That Dam Street, District 1
Opening Hours: Daily 9 AM – 11 PM
Price: VND 30,000 – VND 50,000

3. Things Café

On the first floor of the same building as Mockingbird, Things Café offers you another vintage ambiance. Unlike Mockingbird, Things Café is decorated with many old antique items, table lamps, chess boards, and old books.

Address: 1st Floor, Old Apartment Building, 14 Ton That Dam Street, District 1
Opening Hours: Daily 9 AM – 10 PM
Price: VND 20,000 – VND 55,000

Read more on Coffee Houses in Ho Chi Minh City

Visit Hidden Pagodas and Temples – Off-the-beaten-path in Saigon

Vietnam has a strong following tradition of Buddhism besides a wide variety of religions including Catholicism, Caodaism, and Hinduism. This diversity has led to a substantial collection of places of worship with unique architectural structures of these different religions. Visiting those local places of worship will allow you to uncover another unseen side of Saigon regarding religious and cultural life.

1. Giac Lam Pagoda

Being built in 1744, Giac Lam Pagoda is the oldest pagoda in Saigon. Many Buddhas are worshipped here, and many ancient statues are made of different materials, including wood, cement, and bronze. Most of these statues reflect the Vietnamese art of sculpture that first appeared in the 18th century.

How to get there?

Address: 565 Lac Long Quan, Ward 10, Tan Binh District

You can reach this pagoda by taking a taxi/motorbike taxi or catching a bus. If you prefer to travel by bus, you should catch bus number 27 at Ben Thanh Station and get off at the crossroads of Lac Long Quan Street and Au Co Street.

2. The Floating Temple (Mieu Noi) in Go Vap District

off the beaten path saigon floating temple phu chau

A beguiling sight in the heart of Vam Thuat River, this floating temple in Saigon sits on a river islet that covers an area of 2,500 square meters and is over 300 years old. From the overwhelming number of dragons at the entrance to the pompous architectural blend of Vietnamese and Chinese styles, this multi-colored architect is bound to attract you. After years of neglect, the temple rose to worship again in the early 90s. Luc Cau, a Chinese-Vietnamese resident, invested his hard-earned money and financial support from persuading the locals into renovating the site.

How to get there?

From the Ben Thanh Bus Station, take bus route 18 and get off at the 26th stop (Industrial University). You should head to Nguyen Thai Son Street, turn right, reach the end of Nguyen Thai Son Street, and turn right into Tran Bao Giao Street. In the following 500m or so, you’ll see the parking where people leave their vehicles (for a small charge) to take a boat to the temple.

Address: Vam Thuat River (a branch of Saigon River), Ward 5, Go Vap District
Charge: US$ 0.5 for a boat ride (both ways).

3. Nhi Phu Temple (Ong Bon Temple)

off the beaten path saigon nhi phu temple 7

Situated right in the middle of the busy and chaotic Cho Lon, this temple is not to be missed. Roughly the same size as the Floating Temple, Nhi Phu Temple has a long history, commencing in the late 18th century. Its architecture and interior decoration are purely Chinese, or to be more precise, in the Fujian style. The highlight must be the awe-inspiring altar of Ong Bon – the major God of the temple – an erudite man who led Chinese entrepreneurs to success in new lands. Various statues of other Gods made from gypsum should not be missed either. Enjoy the tranquility as you admire intricate wood carvings and exquisite ceramics while treading through the evergreen garden engulfing the temple.

How to get there?

This temple is about 7 km from Ben Thanh Market. You can get a motorbike taxi to get here or take the bus Route 1 (Ben Thanh – Cholon) and get off at the 24th stop on Hai Thuong Lan Ong Street.

Address: 264 Hai Thuong Lan Ong, Ward 14, District 5
Free entrance.

Read more on the Best Temples and Pagodas in Ho Chi Minh City

For Nature Explorers – Off-the-beaten-path in Saigon

Explore Thanh An Island

off the beaten path saigon can gio

Thanh An is a small island in Can Gio District with an area of around 130 square kilometers. It might take you approximately 3 hours to reach it from the center of Saigon by bus. A relatively quiet attraction without many tourists, Thanh An retains its natural beauty and particular aspects of local life. Thanh An Island, therefore, has gradually become a favorite destination for young people to have a day camp trip on weekends.

One of the most attractive factors of this beautiful island is a paradise of fresh seafood at a reasonable price. You must notice that it seems to be challenging to find hotels or guesthouses on this island.

How to get there?

From Saigon, there are two options for you to get there. The first one is to catch bus number 75 (Saigon – Can Gio) to the last stop – Can Thanh, and then take a boat to the island. You can also go by motorbike or private car to enjoy the peaceful sceneries of Can Gio. However, it is advisable to prepare a map and ask some locals you meet along the way to make sure that you are going the right way, or better yet, have a local guide to take you.

Have a Peaceful Time in Tao Dan Park

off the beaten path saigon tao dan

Tao Dan Park in District 1 can be considered a small tropical forest in the middle of Saigon. This park has been essential to Saigon locals’ lives for hundreds of years. Visiting Tao Dan in the early morning and the late afternoon, you will often see people doing light exercises, jogging, playing badminton, and aerobic dancing. The highlight is the beautiful sounds of hundreds of birds standing out in the calm atmosphere. Many bird breeders gather at the park to compete in the morning for the bird with the best singing voice.

How to get there?

The park is in District 1 at the block, surrounded by four streets: Cach Mang Thang Tam, Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, Nguyen Du, and Huyen Tran Cong Chua. It is a 15-minute walk from Ben Thanh Market. Take a right to Le Lai Street, another right to Truong Dinh Street, head down the road until you reach the intersection with Nguyen Du Street and you would find the park right in front of you.

Read more on Public Parks in Ho Chi Minh City

For Shopping Lovers – Off-the-beaten-path in Saigon

Get Lost in An Dong Market

off the beaten path saigon an dong

As the biggest wholesale market of Saigon, An Dong Market is one of the traditional markets where you can find anything ranging from food to furniture and accessories. Clothes, fabrics, and handicrafts are among the most popular items here. Many merchants are coming to An Dong Market daily due to its variety of goods in terms of both number and price factors. Besides, the market can offer you a wide range of local foods, especially traditional Vietnamese desserts and dried foods, such as cashews, pecans, and pistachios.

How to get there?

You can take bus number 56 (get off at the 10th stop) or number 11 (get off at the 16th stop) from Ben Thanh Station or hail a ride with taxis.
Address: B63 Cong Truong An Dong, Ward 9, District 5

For other attractions in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), check out our guide on Ho Chi Minh City Districts Overview

Summary of Off the Beaten Path in Saigon

Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) has always been worth exploring due to its famous attractions, many quiet alleys, local places of worship, and beautiful suburban areas.

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