Farewell My Neighbourhood
After nearly 9 years, I’m leaving my neighbourhood in Saigon’s Binh Thanh District, where I have many memories of many people, places & experiences…
Noodle Street: Nguyễn Qúy Đức, District 2
A wide variety of noodle dishes from across Vietnam all within a few steps of each other on a tree-lined street in District 2, Ho Chi Minh City…
La Vela Saigon Hotel | Independent Review
A contemporary, stylish 5-star hotel in Saigon’s District 3 featuring one of the largest rooftop infinity pools in the world…
Bun Rieu Cua Oc: Crab & Snail Noodle Soup
A broth of tomatoes & pulverized crab poured over white rice noodles & topped with marinated snails, bún riêu cua ốc is one of Vietnam’s most complex soups
Saigon Waterbus: Guide & Itinerary
The Saigon Waterbus should be near the top of every visitor’s itinerary for Ho Chi Minh City. As a way of seeing the city’s skyline, of experiencing its many different neighbourhoods & for sheer value for money, the Saigon Waterbus is practically unbeatable…
Sketches of Saigon: 5 Scenes
Over the course of a week, I sat & wrote for half an hour on five separate occasions at five random locations in Saigon, and described the scenes as they appeared to me, in the hope of capturing something of the spirit of the city….
The Cafe Apartment at No.14 Ton That Dam, Saigon
The old apartment block on Ton That Dam Street, in downtown Saigon, has been colonized by cool cafes, hipster bars & fashion boutiques. Gritty & intriguing architectural vestiges lurk in every nook & cranny of this enigmatic French colonial-era complex….
Exploring Saigon’s Railway Tracks: A Guide
Lined with intriguing architecture, temples, shrines, pagodas, fruit trees, flowers, cafes, casual dining & other such urban miscellanea, exploring the lanes alongside Saigon’s railway tracks, on foot or on two wheels, is a fascinating experience….
Coconut Ice Cream in Saigon
In the heart of one of Saigon’s best street food neighbourhoods, Nguyen Huong offers up a colourful, textural, tasty, Thai-style coconut ice cream. This sweet treat is a fun way to end a night of street food exploration along the buzzing sidewalks of District 10…
The Juice Lady, Saigon
I’ve only recently started to visit my local juice lady in Saigon. Now, however, I go there every day for fresh fruit juices & smoothies. In Vietnam, fruit juices are often served with added sugar, and smoothies with condensed milk, but it’s pretty easy to order them without…
The Floating Forest of Long An
Only 100km west of Ho Chi Minh City, Tan Lap Floating Forest is an enchanted patch of wetland where cajeput trees rise from the black, swampy waters, creating beguiling corridors through which canoes glide and raised walkways wind….
The Coast Road: Saigon to Hoi An & Beyond
Thanks to new coastal roads, it’s now possible to ride from Saigon to Hoi An, and beyond to Dong Hoi, following the coast all the way & avoiding the busy main artery of Highway 1 for the vast majority of the route. This is a salty, sunny, sandy & scenic road trip….
Hải Đăng Vegetarian Restaurant, Saigon
Hải Đăng is a simple, local, informal vegetarian restaurant in Saigon’s Binh Thanh District. The sheer variety and freshness of vegetable dishes on offer (not just tofu and ‘fake meat’) sets it apart from other Vietnamese vegetarian eateries in the city….
The Ocean Road: Saigon to Mui Ne
The scenic route between Saigon and Mui Ne, the Ocean Road is an easy, feel-good road trip, with a great balance of off-the-beaten-track experiences & creature comforts. Ride it in a day or linger for a week soaking up all it has to offer…
How to Send a Motorbike on the Train
Put your motorbike on the train & send it from one destination to another. This is a convenient, reliable & efficient service for riders in Vietnam…
Meat Feast: Hieu Map BBQ Shop
A very local, long-running establishment offering a variety of cheap, simple and tasty barbecued meats to take away, Hieu Map BBQ Shop is a decent option for a meat feast to share with friends….
The Boat Cafe, Saigon
Two wooden junks floating on the milk tea-coloured waters of the Kenh Te Canal in District 7, The Boat Cafe is one of those special places in Saigon that offer respite from the noise & chaos of the city without actually leaving it…
Quán Ốc Cẩm: Shell Feast
Dining out on snails, shellfish & beer is a national pastime in Vietnam. Everyone has their favourite quán ốc (snail restaurant) for a night of shells, booze, banter & fun: Quán Ốc Cẩm, in Saigon’s District 10, is one of mine…
The Myst Dong Khoi, Saigon
The Myst is a new, quirky, stylish & elegant boutique hotel in the heart of downtown Saigon. From its enigmatic exterior to its eccentric interiors, The Myst is a bold & unique addition to the high-end hotel scene in Ho Chi Minh City…
Mì Quảng 85 Noodle House, Saigon
Defined by its thick yellow noodles, crunchy rice crackers, quail eggs, fresh mint & salty-sweet sauce, mì quảng is a much-loved dish from Central Vietnam. The version at Mì Quảng 85 in Saigon is full of texture & colour, if a bit too sweet….
Two Saigon Soup Houses
There are thousands of soup houses in Saigon: these are just two of them, but they are good ones, and they both offer three different kinds of soups. One of them is a longtime favourite of mine; the other was a recent ‘random encounter’…
Saigon to Dalat: the ‘Back Ways’
There are many ways to ride from Saigon to Dalat, but if you want a relatively direct route that avoids highways, there are several great options. These ‘back ways’ to Dalat utilize new, quiet & scenic roads to make the journey as fun as possible…
Hotel Nikko, Saigon
Ever since it opened a few years ago, Hotel Nikko has set the standard for modern, sleek, chic, high-end accommodation in Saigon. Its success has spawned many decent imitators in the city, but Nikko still has the edge over its competitors…
Silverland Jolie Hotel & Spa, Saigon
Pseudo-colonial decor, a very central location, good river views, and a lush rooftop bar and spa make Silverland Jolie a cosy nest in which to base yourself while visiting Saigon…
Dim Sum in Saigon
Dim sum is increasingly popular in Saigon. But my favourite dumpling joint is an old-timer in Chinatown. Boasting a 10 page bible of dim sum dishes, this unassuming place offers great variety, quality and value for money…
VIDEO: Saigon, My Saigon
My Saigon is not the high-rises or attractions of downtown. My Saigon is the local neighbourhood where I live – the alleyways, the market, and the people who inhabit it. In this film I’ve tried to capture the rhythm of daily life over 24 hours on a rainy season day in the area I live in…
Goat Noodle Soup in Chinatown
Deep in Saigon’s Chinatown, there’s a bowl of goat noodles that’s meaty, rich, silky and smooth. This soup is full of farmyard flavours: it’s a barn in a bowl. Make no mistake, this is a heavy breakfast, but it’ll keep you going till the evening…
Saigon Midnight Motorbike Loop
At night, Saigon is at its best: temperatures are cool, humidity is low, and traffic is light – it’s the perfect time to see the city. The Midnight Loop is an urban motorbike route designed specifically for riding after dark: a night out on two wheels…
The Cafe Apartment on Saigon’s Walking Street
Boasting over 30 independent coffee shops & fashion boutiques, the old apartment block at No.42 Nguyen Hue is the coolest address on Saigon’s Walking Street. I call it the Cafe Apartment: this is my complete floor-by-floor guide…
Saigon’s Street Food ‘Ghettos’
Throughout Saigon, there are clusters of crumbling old apartment complexes, all of which are on the verge of either collapse or demolition. Living conditions appear cramped and grim but, outside on the sidewalks, the street life and street food is among the best and most vibrant in the city…
Saigon to Hanoi by Motorbike: 5 Suggested Routes
Thinking about riding the length of Vietnam by motorbike? Here are 5 great routes between Saigon and Hanoi, each one specifically designed to suit the needs of different travellers, based on scenery and time frame among other things….
VIDEO: The Saigon River
Exploring the waterway that flows through my adopted home: this is my film of the Saigon River…
The Northern Hotel, Saigon
In the shadow of downtown Saigon’s high-rises, the Northern Hotel sits on a quiet street in the affluent yet quirky enclave known as the Japanese district. A five minute walk from such major landmarks as the Opera House and the Saigon River, the Northern Hotel offers very comfortable, mid-range accommodation…
Saigon’s Budget Sushi Scene
The last few years has seen an explosion of good-quality yet reasonably-priced sushi joints in Saigon. Décor is cheerful, ambience is informal, and customers are young & convivial: welcome to Saigon’s budget sushi scene….
The Saigon River: A Guide
Many cities are closely associated with a major waterway that runs through them: Saigon has the Saigon River. Currently, the city is in the process rediscovering and redeveloping its river. This is my personal reflection & guide to the Saigon River…
Grilled Chicken Corner, Saigon
At night, a scented fog hangs over a busy intersection in Saigon. The aromatic haze is the ‘Chicken Mist’ resulting from a dozen roadside barbecues hissing, smoking and grilling hundreds of fresh chicken carcasses. This is Chicken Corner, and this is where you come to get your poultry fix of crispy, tasty, delicious, grilled chicken in Saigon…
The Food Triangle, Saigon
Everyone knows Saigon is full of great food. But there’s one corner in District 1, where you can eat three excellent meals – breakfast, lunch and dinner – in three excellent establishments, all within a few metres of each other: I call it the Food Triangle….
Saigon to Phan Thiet by Train: Passengers & Motorbikes
The daily, non-stop express train between Saigon & Phan Thiet/Mui Ne is a cheap, easy, fun, fast & efficient way to get from the city to the beach. Put your motorbike on the train with you & let the rails carry your wheels….
Edenstar Hotel: Saigon Mid-Range
Centrally located with a rooftop pool and sleek modern rooms, Edenstar is a solid Saigon mid-range hotel. Catering to all types of visitors, Edenstar is on a narrow street, lined with tall trees, and within walking distance of most of Saigon’s major attractions…..
Cơm Tấm, Saigon: 7 of my Favourites
I love cơm tấm. Some of my happiest moments in Saigon have been sitting down with a good plate of barbecued pork & broken rice, watching the city go by. Saigon and cơm tấm are inseparable, and this city does it better than anywhere else. Cơm tấm is the quintessential Saigon experience. Here’s where to eat it….
Sweet Saigon: Where to Eat Chè
A kaleidoscopic world of luminous colours, shifting shapes, unfamiliar textures, esoteric ingredients & rich flavours, chè is a fascinating sub-category of Vietnamese cuisine. Commonly translated as ‘dessert’, in reality chè is so filling & nutritious that it’s a meal in itself….
Saigon’s other Lunch Lady
Everyone knows who Saigon’s Lunch Lady is, right? Well, probably not this one. Ms Nga is 43 years old. She serves a different soup each day of the week, from her cramped, ramshackle soup stall. Originally from Thai Binh (a northern province famous for producing excellent cooks), she moved to Saigon in the mid-90s…
Ma Maison Boutique Hotel, Saigon
Hidden deep within a network of alleyways, Ma Maison is a warm, bright boutique hotel in a typical, local Saigon neighbourhood. Decorated in French Provençal fashion and located away from the city centre, Ma Maison plugs travellers straight into genuine local life…
The Café Quarter, Saigon
In Phú Nhuận District – Saigon’s unofficial ‘café capital’ – a small grid of leafy streets plays host to a collection of trendy coffee shops. Bounded by the Thị Nghè Channel and Phan Xích Long Boulevard, I call this the ‘Café Quarter’…
Saigon’s Parks & Open Spaces
Saigon might be known as a burgeoning city full of motorbikes and exhaust fumes, but it still has a great many green spaces in which to escape the heat, noise and pollution. From lush gardens dating from French colonial times to sleek, modern, waterfront promenades, here are Saigon’s best parks and open spaces…
My Protein Diet Week
I spent a week on a protein diet in Saigon. I ate Vietnamese food from street vendors & informal eateries as much as possible, and I recorded it all in my Protein Diet Diary on this page…
Two Months on a Motorbike
In 2014, I embarked on a 9,000km, two-month motorbike road trip through Vietnam. During my time on the road, I kept a full and illustrated diary of my travels, an annotated map of my route, and made a short film of the journey…
Phở Gia Hân, Saigon
I was first drawn to Phở Gia Hân by the enticing aroma that wafted over the narrow street on humid evenings. A family-run soup house in a local neighbourhood, this is one of my favourite places for phở in Saigon…
7 Great Streets for Street Food in Saigon
Saigon is arguably the best place to explore Vietnam’s extraordinary street food scene. The city boasts so many street food outlets that it feels like a gigantic open-air restaurant. This is my guide to 7 of the best streets for street food in Saigon…
The Lunch Lady’s Menu: An Illustrated Guide
The Lunch Lady in Saigon is famous for serving a different soup every day of the week. Here’s her weekly menu, illustrated with tantalizing images of each of the dishes…
The Lunch Lady: A Diary
Ms Nguyen Thi Thanh is The Lunch Lady. Her famous ‘rotating menu’ (she serves a different dish each day) is a huge draw for locals, tourists & foodies from around the world. I ate lunch here everyday for a week to see how good it really is…
The Best Phở in Saigon
It’s surprisingly difficult to find a truly outstanding bowl of phở (beef noodle soup) in Saigon. But, after 8 years living & eating in this city, I’ve finally found a place that, in my opinion, serves the best bowl of phở in Saigon…
Saigon to Phu Quoc Island Motorbike Loop
Flying to Phu Quoc is easy, but if you want a real adventure, riding there by motorbike is much more fun. This road trip takes you from Vietnam’s biggest city to some its best beaches, via the waterways & back-roads of the Mekong Delta…
After the horse meat scandal in 2013, many people in Europe discovered they’d eaten horse without knowing it, but in Saigon some restaurants specialize in horse meat, and it really is delicious!
TOP 5: Things To Do in Saigon
Saigon is a fantastic city, but it’s not one that’s filled with typical tourist attractions. To get the most out of this city, leave the so-called ‘must-see’ sights behind, and follow my Top 5 Things to Do in Saigon.
11 Fresh Markets in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City)
Local markets exist in another dimension to the rest of the city. Vibrant, bustling, fresh & organized, there’s magic in these markets…
Saigon’s Hidden Cafes
Saigon has thousands of independent coffee shops. Hidden down narrow alleyways, tucked away in forgotten colonial villas, or concealed in enigmatic old apartment buildings, there’s a whole sub-culture of ‘indie’ cafes in this city. These are my favourites.
Although less widely eaten than dog, cat meat is still on the menu in many Vietnamese restaurants, especially in the north. So what does it taste like?
Walking Saigon’s Alleyways
Between all the busy main roads, Saigon is riddled with narrow alleyways, which are quiet, cool, charming and great for walking. Here are some of my favourite areas in the city for alley walks….
Southeast Loop: Motorbike Guide
If you’re looking for a road trip within reach of Saigon that takes you to beaches & mountains, but stays off busy main roads; this is it. Saigon, Mui Ne, & Dalat are all connected by quiet, scenic back-roads: this motorbike guide shows you how to do it.
Each morning for the last couple months I’ve opened my front gate in Saigon to greet the new day, only to find a fresh mound of rat droppings on my door step. By way of ‘revenge’ I decided to pay a visit to one of Saigon’s rat meat restaurants…
13 Public Swimming Pools in Saigon
If you’re not lucky enough to be staying at one of the smarter hotels with a pool, or if you’re an expat looking to escape the heat & clamour of the city, Saigon has plenty of good & inexpensive public swimming pools to choose from…
Street Food Week
Can you live only on street food in Vietnam? Is it any good and is it really that cheap? To find out I spent a whole week eating exclusively street food in Saigon. Find out what I ate, where I ate, & how much I spent in this Street Food Week diary.
Bếp Than Eatery: Vietnamese Tapas
Bếp Than Eatery is a small, cool, and ‘cutesy’ place to relax with some lite Vietnamese snacks & mojitos by the Thi Nghe Channel in Saigon: a great place to ‘snack & chat’ with friends.
Videos: Saigon to Hanoi by Motorbike
Four films made during our motorbike trip from Saigon to Hanoi. These videos give you a good idea of how fabulous the scenery is, and how much fun a road trip in Vietnam can be.
Saigon to Hanoi: The Scenic Route
Vietnam Coracle will be away from August 1-23 on a motorbike trip from Saigon to Hanoi with a best friend. Click this post for an introduction, route map & photos of the road trip. Follow our journey on my Twitter, Facebook & Google+ pages!
Bún Mắm: the Mekong in a Bowl
Bún Mắm is a robust Vietnamese soup from the Mekong Delta. It’s packed with contrasting flavours, textures and colours. You’ll find bún mắm all over southern Vietnam, but one place in Saigon is especially good.
TOP 5: Rooftop Cocktails in Saigon
Saigon is at the heart of Vietnam’s economic boom: new high-rises and five-star hotels go up every year. On the upper storeys there are stylish bars with views over the city, catering to the country’s nouveau-riche and wealthy foreign visitors. But, with the price of drinks still relatively low, rooftop cocktails are affordable for travellers on all budgets, especially if you make the most of Happy Hours.
Cà Phê Bệt: Saigon’s Street Coffee Scene
At 5 o’clock in the afternoons in Saigon, high schools and universities disgorge their students into the busy streets. Dusk is one of the coolest times of day, and many of these students head for one of the city’s parks, where they buy food and drink from street vendors and sit on the grass talking into the evening hours – this is Cà Phê Bệt.
Snails & Shellfish: A Guide
Snail eating is incredibly popular in Vietnam. A night of shells & beer is a very local experience. Young & old feast late into the night. The snails come in all shapes and sizes and they’re delicious. ‘Shell tapas’ is a fun night out that everyone should try
Broken Rice & Pork Stew, Saigon
Wherever you are in Vietnam, you can always rely on broken rice or pork stew to fill you up. Breakfast, lunch or dinner; these two pork dishes are always available. Forget phở – the famous beef noodle soup – the real national dish of Vietnam is pork and rice!