Saigon streets are under a lot of pressure at the moment, as the drive for modernisation pushing on. This is one of the most amazing cities in which I have ever lived. On the face of it, it’s more modern than most Vietnamese cities, but there is definitely an underbelly that is as “old Asia” as you could imagine. Scratch the surface of the glitzy shops and shopping Malls and there are just as many side street cafes, street food vendors and classic examples of old Asian street life as any other Vietnamese city. For that matter, in many ways, it is more Vietnamese than most.
The districts each have their own flavour, and I like that. Sure, Districts 2 and 7 are more Western, than the rest of the place, but even here it is not hard to find the real Vietnam lurking. Even in Thao Dien, the most Western part of the city, you’ll find Hot Toc shops cutting hair and shaving faces for a dollar a throw. That bowl of Pho or Bo Kho is never more than a short stroll away and There are hundreds of places to indulge in your morning cup of Caphe Sua Da as you watch the world go by from of the Saigon streets here.
District 1 is the beating heart of the business side of Ho Chi Minh City, this is where the vast majority of the entertainment venues are. But even here the story is not a simple one. Saigon streets like Pasteur with its bright lights and girlie bars late at night, transforms into something much more sedate and “local” as the sun comes up. However, it’s the lesser known street that I like.
Take a trip over the Calmette Bridge from District 4, not the centre and at the end you’ll find Dang Thi Nhu, developing as fast as any Saigon streets. Roasters coffee shop signals the entrance to the street and as you travel along its packed full of shops, spas, restaurants, and other great finds. It is here that one the latest craft breweries have opened their taproom. The Winking Seal is a great spot in which to chill out after work, grab a fabulous craft beer and meet up with friends. Just a few doors away Scott and Jeremy’s, one of the well known restaurants in the city, serve quality food to discerning foodies.
This whole area is undergoing a transformation at the moment as work continues apace on the new Metro system. The whole of Ben Thanh Roundabout is being dug up and current is surrounded by the tell-tale hoarding that signal this construction work. Eventually all will be back to normal, but for now, we are very much in the breaking eggs to make the omelette stage.