Eating and Drinking in Saigon
I didn’t think it would be possible to stretch a USD as far, or live as well on a relatively modest amount of money in Vietnam as it was in neighboring Cambodia, where I was arriving from, but I was incorrect. Certain things are especially cheap in Vietnam, and the two that were most notable to me were food and clothing. I spent only a couple of days in Saigon, now Ho Chi Minh City, but left with an extremely full stomach, and a handful of shoes, shirts, ties, and belts all purchased few a few bucks each. If the quality of these items turns out to be awful, I would still consider them phenomenal bargains, and well worth their cost, if only for the experience of bargaining and having my feet measured for shoes with a piece of paper and a pencil on the side of the road. The food was some of the best and cheapest I have ever eaten, and we ate every meal on the street, most at the outdoor street food market located just across the street from our hotel.
We ended up staying at a place called The Golden Central Hotel Saigon, which was a few blocks from the War Remnants Museum and a few blocks from the Cathedral, but most notably, was around $50 USD a night. It wasn’t a palace, but it was a perfectly nice 4 star hotel with a rooftop pool that had a decent view and free breakfast, which seemed pretty good, although we didn’t eat much of it.
I had no idea when I booked it, but I would now consider this hotel’s best selling point its proximity to the outdoor street food market located just around the corner. This was basically a collection of street food vendors brought together under a large, unenclosed roof, with a large area filled with tables for customers eat at. I am not sure if these are common throughout the city, or if this was just a lucky break, but frankly, I never had a reason to investigate further because this one was so damn good.
We ate everything from banh xeo, to frog legs, to spring rolls, to fried unidentified meats, to grilled fish on a stick. Everything we ate was phenomenal, and I don’t think we spent for than a couple of bucks on anything. There’s no shortage of great food anywhere in the city, but if you spot one of these hawker like places, definitely stop in.
There were a few places we stopped for beers that offered great views of the city. The One Plus Beer Club is located on the roof of the Saigon Trade Center building. It isn’t located near any major landmarks that I’m aware of, but is on the way back to downtown/riverfront from the Jade Emperor Pagoda. While it lacks the cheap prices of the rest of the city, it does offer great views, a large outdoor deck, and if you go at night, a clubbing experience. A similar place is the Heli Bar in the Bitexo Financial Tower. It also lacks cheap drinks, and an outdoor area, but does offer some of the best 360 degree views in the city given its location in Saigon’s tallest building. If you’re lucky and show up on the right night, it also offers some interesting live American music. I wouldn’t hang out at either of these establishments for extended periods of time, but for a drink and view, they’re tough to beat.