Doing Non-touristy Things In Touristy Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam!

by - October 22, 2019

It's actually been a few months since I went to Ho Chi Minh, but I thought I should write a blog post about it since many of my friends were asking about it.

I feel like Ho Chi Minh is generally a place that most Singaporeans like to visit, but most of them haven't been there recently. Places like Da Nang and Hanoi have also been gaining popularity, so it seems that HCM has seen a decline in interest.

Anyway, my friend and I decided to make a visit to HCM since both of us have never been there, and Jetstar also had this crazy sale so we were like, ah fk it let's just go.

Since we didn't have much time to plan for the trip, most of the places we went to were impromptu and gathered from my IG story responses. If you don't know, I've been trying this new thing called #planfaithstravels, where I engage with my followers and get y'all to do my vacay planning for me - from the Airbnb we book to the places to dine at. It's meant to make things more engaging and encourage more spontaneity in my life, so here's how my trip went according to what everyone planned for me!

Our Ho Chi Minh Airbnb

The perfect Airbnb has to be cheap and IG-worthy, and it wasn't hard to find a room that fit both criteria in Ho Chi Minh.

After going through the numerous listings and narrowing them down, we settled with the room with the highest votes - a cosy Living Studio located in Central Saigon District 1. It was going for approximately S$21 a night, with all the basic facilities such as WiFi and air-con.

Our hosts were really friendly, and could speak good English. We were also very delighted to be greeted by a very excited little doggo who followed us everywhere. The only downside to this place is that the location is a little far from the main city area, but that wasn't much of a problem because Grab fares were extremely cheap anyway.

You can view the Airbnb listing here.

The Vietnamese Food

Bahn Mi Huynh Hoa

I had at least 10 people telling me to try Bahn Mi, which is basically Vietnamese bread. There are many Bahn Mi stalls along the road which aren't the most hygienic, and a friend of mine even said she once saw a seller drop a bun onto the road and picked it up to serve!

According to Google Reviews, the nearest and not-so-bad Bahn Mi stall was this place called Bahn Mi Huynh Hoa with a 4.5 star rating.

I honestly can't remember what we ordered, but mine had meatballs in it and was really spicy. Wasn't the best actually, but for S$2 I guess there wasn't much to complain about. However I was happy with the portion as the sandwiches were rather big, and while the meat was cold, it was still quite flavourful.

Boo Coffee

I've heard of Boo Coffee before and came across many pictures of this cute cafe on Instagram. While there are many Boo Coffee outlets in HCM, we decided to go to the one located at 42 Nguyen Hue Street. The cafe is perched on the 9th floor of a rather old-looking building with only one lift, so we decided to take the stairs. On the way up you'll also get to see many bars, coffee shops, and pubs.

By the time we reached the 9th floor, my friend and I were exhausted. We ordered the super extra Cotton Candy Milk Tea (~S$2.35) and Marshmallow Fresh Milk (~S$2.88).

Thoughts? - The drinks are cheap, come in grande sizes, and really, really, sweet. Also, you'll leave the cafe with really sticky fingers and an unquenchable thirst for plain water. Regardless, it' s a nice place to sit and chill for hours.

The Note Coffee

The Note Coffee was undoubtedly one of the best coffee places we visited. It was also really pretty and unique. We had their Iced Mocha and Egg Coffee for ~S$2.05 and ~S$2.82, which tasted not bad. Each table also came with red heart shaped notes for you to pen down a message.

The only downside was that it was quite cramped, had no air-con, and had a dead cockroach in the toilet. There also weren't many locals there, except for some Vietnamese girls with fake accents and their angmoh summer boyfriends. On second thought, there were zero locals there when we visited, so I think The Note Coffee is more of a tourist attraction instead of a local hangout place.

Pho Hung

I love Vietnamese noodles, and I'm glad to say that I've finally found the best soup noodles of all time at Pho Hung. Flavourful soup, quick service (though not the most friendly), and fresh ingredients are what define this place. The noodles were well cooked, and there are also an unlimited supply of veges to add to your bowl. The portions are also not too big or too small, and come at ~S$4.69 a bowl.

By itself, the meat wasn't the best and some were not fully cooked, but delicious nevertheless.

Pizza 4P's


My friend and I visited Pizza 4P's on our fourth night, and by then we were running low on cash. At first glance, the restaurant looks super high-end, and we were prepared to walk away after dinner with empty pockets. To our greatest surprise, Pizza 4P's was super affordable, and we spent less than S$30 per person on a cheese platter and large cheesy pizza. You can mix and match pizzas too!

I really enjoyed the pizza crust which was thin yet surprisingly filling, as well as the gooey egg yolk on top. The pizza slices were also quite large.

In Singapore, S$30 per person at a high class restaurant is only enough to get you a milkshake and a sad bowl of ceaser salad, but boy were we full after dinner at 4P's.

Cyclo Resto

If you're looking for a nice, quiet place to have lunch, Cyclo Resto is the place to go.

A hidden gem nestled in a narrow street, the quaint restaurant serves authentic home-cooked Vietnamese food which come in lunch sets. The sets consist of sides, the main course (rice with chicken, fish, or pork), and soup. After the meal, we were each served a cup of free egg coffee.

It was raining heavily after we finished our meal, and the hosts even walked us out with an umbrella to find our Grab. No wonder they're rated 4.5 stars on TripAdvisor!

Things To Do in Ho Chi Minh

Get a manicure

There are numerous manicure parlours and hair salons around the area where The Note Coffee is located. After walking around and "surveying" the different parlours, we decided to settle for one (can't remember the name) that offered a gel mani and pedi from ~S$10.

I know that most people are wary of salons that are dubious or shady, but most of the beauty salons in HCM are clean, un-shady, and very legit. They also give really good service. In fact, my pedi is still going strong after 3 months!

Try laughing gas at Bui Vien Street

We chanced upon this bar along Bui Vien Street and decided to relax there since it was going to rain soon. 5 minutes into sipping our cocktails, we saw a few tourists lying on the bar's couch looking drunk and sucking eagerly on big, white balloons like nobody's business. Curious, my friend and I asked the bartender what the balloons contained, to which they replied "laughing gas".

Naturally, we were curious and decided to try it. A balloon of laughing gas cost US$2, and came in the size of one and a half heads. Not sure if it was because of the cocktails we had before, but we did feel a little lightheaded after trying the laughing gas. But the highs come and go quickly, and in small bursts.

In case you're wondering, laughing gas is NOT illegal in Singapore, and it's just a funny name for Nitrogen Oxide. Trying it once or twice won't hurt, but doing it over long periods of time can cause mental and physical problems.

Ben Thanh Market

Shopping is a must in Ho Chi Minh, and there's no better place to shop than at the Ben Thanh Market. It's located near Pizza 4P's.

I bought a few fake Tommy shirts, some handmade coasters, and a rattan bag. Things there are quite cheap, and the sellers aren't as aggressive as the ones you'll meet in Bangkok or Bali. They wont really pressure you into buying their stuff, and are open to bargaining as well. Most of the sellers were so polite that we actually felt bad bargaining with them. A lot of the sellers can also speak Mandarin, so it was easy to communicate with them and ask questions.

While most of the market is situated in this white building, you can also walk out of Benh Thanh Market and down the road towards a shopping street. There's a small night market there selling almost the same things as the Benh Thanh Market, but with fresher air and less crowds.

Get a tattoo

I decided to get my fourth tattoo on my trip to HCM, so my friend booked an appointment on 1 August at Tadashi Tattoo. My previous tattoos were all black, so I wanted to get a coloured one dedicated to my mom.

Our appointment was at 12pm, but by the time we ended it was almost 4pm. There were so many customers, and there was even some video shoot going on while we were waiting for our turn. The staff at Tadashi Tattoo are professional and quite friendly, and were more than happy to give us a reasonable quote.

My tattoo cost ~S$150 and took about 1 hour to complete, and it felt so therapeutic that I even dozed off midway. I would say the waiting time took longer than the tattooing itself, so book early guys!


Our Ho Chi Minh trip was a generally pleasant experience, and we enjoyed how there were so many things to explore. Food and shopping was cheap, and it was also easy to commute around via Grab. There also aren't many scenic places here since Ho Chi Minh is more of a bustling capital than a beach town or island city, so your days here will be spent eating and buying pretty things you don't need.

I also loved how the locals don't really care about foreigners and leave us alone, since I'm not really the kind to socialise or make small talk. They aren't the most polite, nor are they rude, so I suppose the best word to describe them would be indifferent - and I appreciate it.

On the other hand, Ho Chi Minh can be quite dirty and smelly, especially at the more ulu areas, or at back alleys. If you're using Grab to get around, the drivers don't have the habit of picking you up at the doorstep (perhaps due to the heavy traffic which makes it hard to get to certain places), so be prepared to walk an extra few minutes or run across a busy road to meet your grab driver who parked against the traffic.

Most things in Ho Chi Minh are priced in USD and Dong, but it's best to just pay in Dong. If you have USD, it may be too large for the shops to accept. The Singapore Dollar is useless here, and you won't be able to change it in Vietnam. However you can try your luck at goldsmith shops if you are really desperate.

Love this post? Feel free to share and comment below or check out my other travel review to Phnom Penh here.

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  1. Hi, faithfully

    May i know how do you edit the picture, they looks so nice! fabulous!!! I admire your photography skill!!

    1. Thank you for the compliments!! I use Lightroom to edit the photos :)


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