Explore Saigon through five senses with a local companion

Admin_Mar - May 14, 2021

LOCATIONS RECOMMENDED TO EXPLORE SAIGON THROUGH FIVE SENSES WITH A LOCAL COMPANION

Saigon enthralls and entrances people to fall in love with its enriched and diverse culture and cuisine. In this article, we will take you around Saigon in five senses: touch, taste, sight, hearing, and smell. Touch the tangible to feel intangible feelings, taste the delicious food of the city, go on sightseeing trips to famous locations, hear the sounds of the city coming alive with activities, and smell wonderful aroma to trigger your desire to experience. 

With the help of a local companion, it is a piece of cake to navigate this bustling city to experience the most of Saigon in our offered free walking tours. 

Touch 

To touch is to visualize. To feel Saigon through objects and see memories being formed. In this category, we will take you on trips to markets like true locals. You can bargain for the best price, witness the first sale culture and the gossipy ladies in a market – a kind of unmissable presence in any market in Saigon. 

Tan Dinh Market 

Address: 48 Ma Lo Street, Tan Dinh Ward, District 1, HCM

Opening Time: 5AM – 11PM

A blend between French and Vietnamese architecture, Tan Dinh Market was once the prosperous location for the rich to come and make expensive purchases. The most flourished product in this place and still nowadays is fabric or cloth to make into clothes. 

Tan Dinh market is usually crowded (Image source: Terranova)

Tan Dinh market is usually crowded (Image source: Terranova)

Ben Thanh Market 

Address: Le Loi Street, Ben Thanh Ward, District 1, HCM 

Opening Time: 7AM – 7PM

As the most famous shopping locations for tourists, Ben Thanh market sells all kinds of souvenirs and products to satisfy the needs of customers. Sellers in Ben Thanh market are organized into vendor stalls selling a variety of things: Ceramics, clothes, watches, lighters, t-shirts, coffee, handbags, shoes, conical hats, custom made suits and dresses, and Vietnamese fare such as noodle soup and fruit smoothies. At any given hour, the market is extremely packed with people coming and going due to its popularity as the biggest market in the city and with more than 3,000 vendor stalls of sellers. 

One of the largest and busiest markets in Ho Chi Minh city (Image source: Vovworld)

One of the largest and busiest markets in Ho Chi Minh city (Image source: Vovworld)

Taste 

Saigon doesn’t have any unique dish to it. To better understand this, Saigon is often compared to a hotpot – different cuisines act as ingredients that increase the taste of the hotpot. To experience Saigon through taste is finding restaurants that has been long-standing names in promoting the dish to tourists from across the world coming to Saigon. In this category, we will introduce you to pho and cafe – two indispensable dishes.

Pho Cao Van

Address: 25 Mac Dinh Chi Street, Da Kao Ward, District 1, HCM

Opening Time: 6AM – 10:30PM

What is that one universally known Vietnamese dish that its name once mentioned would immediately receive recognition? That’s right. It’s pho. Origin traced back to the mid 1880s in Northern Vietnam, this dish is heavily influenced and has both Chinese and French cuisine features: Rice noodles and spices were based on another dish brought by the Chinese while the French popularized the consumption of meat. 

This is a must-try dish for visitors coming to Vietnam because they can enjoy the taste of it made in Vietnam. Our local companions recommend Pho Cao Van – a 70-year-old pho restaurant where pho is made from the cooking with wood stoves. Not only is pho from this place enriched with flavor but visitors will also receive a heartwarming welcome from the owner with his generosity and dedication. 

A 60-year-old pho restaurant in the heart of Saigon (Image source: Tuoitre)

A 60-year-old pho restaurant in the heart of Saigon (Image source: Tuoitre)

Cheo Leo Cafe 

Address: 109/36 Nguyen Thien Thuat Street, Ward 2, District 3, HCM

Opening Time: 5h15AM-12AM, 1PM-6h45PM

This is a must-try dish for visitors coming to Vietnam because they can enjoy the taste of it made in Vietnam. Our local companions recommend Pho Cao Van – a 70-year-old pho restaurant where pho is made from the cooking with wood stoves. Not only is pho from this place enriched with flavor but visitors will also receive a heartwarming welcome from the owner with his generosity and dedication.  

Witnessing the changes of Saigon for nearly a century, Cheo Leo cafe gives off nostalgic feelings of the old times. Those who come to Saigon wishing to enjoy coffee in the old way and to listen to yellow music blasting from the radio should come to Cheo Leo and order a coconut milk coffee – a little cup that will seduce you to fall in love. 

At this coffee shop, the aroma of coffee is freshly preserved thanks to the use of earthen pots and rackets in the coffee making process. Each drip of coffee is guaranteed to bring you into a trance and immediate relaxation. 

The retro atmosphere of Cheo Leo gives off a melodic and nostalgic feeling (Image source: Retro Coffee)

The retro atmosphere of Cheo Leo gives off a melodic and nostalgic feeling (Image source: Retro Coffee)

Sight 

Saigon is a hustle and bustle city. So many things to see and do. However, coming to Saigon, tourists are recommended to visit Tan Dinh church due to its extraordinary beauty and long historical standing. However, our local companions would also be willing to take you on a memory trip back in time, to see artifacts of wartime and learn about significant events in Vietnam’s history. You will see beyond the lifestyle and daily activities of Saigon when exploring this category with us. 

Tan Dinh Church 

Address: 289 Hai Ba Trung Street, Ward 8, District 3, HCM

Opening Time: Open 24 hours

Widely regarded as the second biggest church in Saigon after the Notre Dame Cathedral, Tan Dinh Church is a Romanian-style church built in 1876 with certain Gothic and Renaissance elements in its architecture. 

After many renovations, in 1957, the church was painted in the salmon color and retained the look until today. 

A look at Tan Dinh church from the top (Image source: VnExpress)

A look at Tan Dinh church from the top (Image source: VnExpress)

Cafe Do Phu – Museum of Hidden Arsenals 

(Once covered in another article)

Address: 268/70-72 Nguyen Dinh Chieu Street, Ward 6, District 3, HCM

Opening Time: 7AM – 10PM

Displayed on sight are the exhibitions of historical artifacts that were used to transport weapons essential for the Tet Offensive in 1968. There were also pictures of soldiers who played an integral part in the Offensive and later sacrificed or were captured. 

The house, along with Do Phu cafe, used to belong to Mr. Tran Van Lai, publicly known as the billionaire Mai Hong Que who purchased the house to use as safe houses during wartime. 

Artifacts are still preserved until the present days (Image source: Vietnamnet)

Artifacts are still preserved until the present days (Image source: Vietnamnet)

Hearing 

Loud. Crowded. Energetic. Dynamic. Saigon is often described by these keywords. However, we believe that markets are places where you can find the essence of life in Saigon. Why? Because markets are where people find essential items, where they come and do business. It is a place where activities are bustling and continuous. You will hear people talking in loud voices. You will hear the chopping sounds on the wood board. Things are raw and real in a market. Therefore, in the hearing category, we will take you to Chessboard Market or better known as Ban Co Market. 

Chessboard Market – Ban Co Market 

Address: 664 Nguyen Dinh Chieu Street, Ward 3, District 3, HCM

Opening Time: 6AM – 8PM

What is interesting about this market is its name. Due to the distinct characteristic of houses inside the market are organized into parallel lines that interweave into many small blocks like a chessboard, hence the name is called. 

The market is also widely known for selling “SIDA” clothes or secondhand clothes. The name originated from the Renovation Period in the 1908s when the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) called for donations and collections of old clothes to assist Vietnam after wartime. Until this day, Vietnamese people still have the habit of calling secondhand clothes SIDA. 

The paradise for secondhand clothing shopping (Image source: VovTV)

The paradise for secondhand clothing shopping (Image source: VovTV)

Smell 

After taking you onto trips exploring Saigon through four senses, have you felt something missing? Smell is intentionally left as the last category. Do you know why?

Because on every trip to explore each sense, you have experienced through the sense of smell, also, albeit unbeknownst. You can smell the raw taste of seafood in the markets, the mingled smell of people coming and going. Can you remember the aroma of coffee and the delicious taste of pho? 

Do you remember the musty feeling of the museum of hidden arsenals where things are preserved? Or the earthy taste of the ground in Tan Dinh church? 

My friend, you have enjoyed Saigon through all of your five senses! 

If you would like a more in-depth explanation of each location, head to our booking section to get yourself a local companion who can accompany you on the tour across Saigon. 

As a nonprofit organization led by students to provide a cultural exchange for foreigners who love exploring every corner of Saigon, Saigon Hotpot is dedicated to bringing about the most authentic and unbiased local information to keep you updated. Check out our blog for more content like this!

Written by: Liên Lê

Image Sources: Google

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