Saigon Guide for AFL Asian Champs Visitors!
This article was originally written for the AFL Asian Champs 2016 Official Footy Record. Get it at the field. We have published the info online as it’s choc full of advice for before you get to the field on Saturday. For more information on the tournament visit – www.afl-asia.com
Welcome to Saigon!
It’s literally on from the first bounce when you jump off that plane at Tan Son Nhat International Airport(1)! Swans former number 1 man about town Tim Pickert has given us his personal tips on getting the most from your time in the ‘Gon.
Currency Exchange and General Transportation around Saigon:
-All of the currency exchange booths past customs at the airport offer very competitive rates, so don’t be shy to exchange some cash there. There are also several money changing locations around central District 1, including the corner of Đồng Khởi and Nguyễn Thiệp (2)(opposite the Sheraton). If unsure just ask the rate before handing over your hard earned.
-As you hopefully realised at the airport the reliable taxi operators are Vinasun (white with red and green) and Mai Linh (Green), both metered taxis and no-nonsense. Stick to the reliable companies and you shouldn’t go wrong. UBER is also huge in Ho Chi Minh City and usually only a few minutes away from wherever you are in or around the city centre – jump on the app and get around this way if you prefer.
Give yourself a day to stroll down Nguyen Hue walking street(3), visit the Ben Thanh Markets (4) to grab yourself a few bargains (aim for close to half the starting price), or see the historical side by visiting Reunification Palace(5), Notre Dame Cathedral(6), or the War Remnants museum (7) for an educational (yet confronting) look at the Vietnam War.
There is no doubt that Saigon ranks somewhere at the top of the ladder when it comes to nightlife in South East Asia. Whether you wear tight jeans and run long beards, shorts and singlets, or shirt and slacks – The ‘Gon has something for everyone.
Saigon’s best general bars –
Guys and gals looking to enjoy a drink, play some pool and request a few anthems should look no further than a little chunk of District 1 consisting of Pasteur Street, Ton That Thiep Street, Huynh Thuc Khang Street and Ho Tung Mau Street(8). Here you will find an abundance of sports bars, cocktail bars and themed bars full of beautiful and friendly staff to keep you occupied for a large part of the night! No set dress codes for most of these places, smart casual might get you a bit more attention but nobody discriminates. Depending on the crowd, these bars tend to try and shut it down around 3am, but they’ll stick around until 6 if you promise to keep drinking! Beer prices are around $2-3 USD, spirits $5-6 USD.
Some Higher End Saigon Bars-
For those looking for a more fancy night out – There is certainly no shortage of up-market venues to visit. A few notable establishments offering great city views are Glow Skybar (93 Nguyen Du, D1)(9), Broma: It’s Not A Bar (41 Nguyen Hue Street, D1)(10) and some other popular up town nightspots are Xu Restaurant Lounge and Blanchy’s Tash (71 and 95 Hai Ba Trung Street)(11). The prices of drinks jump a bit at these venues (close to prices back in Aus) but great spots to party and some offer awesome unspoilt views of the city.
The backpacker area of Pham Ngu Lao(12) and it’s infamous sister Bui Vien Street(13) is always worth a visit when you’re in town. Street-side plastic stools, cheap beer, loud music and a fair bit of chaos is what you can expect when you run the Bui Vien gauntlet.
Later on – Most will experience the (AMAZING) beer garden hot dogs at Apocalypse Now (Thi Sac Street)(14) and the seediness of Go2 Bar (Bui Vien Street)(15) during their stays – But please bear in mind that although Saigon is generally a safe city day and night you need to keep your wits about you (as with anywhere you travel).
Dining in Saigon:
Where to start? Vietnamese food! The local delights are as expected – Cheap, amazing and absolutely everywhere! My advice in short – “Try everything once, and go back for the stuff you like!”
A few of my local personal favourites worth trying are:
- Phở noodle soup (great for hangovers),
- Banh Mi bread rolls, (Pork/Egg/Chicken/Duck/Meatballs – WHATEVER!),
- Bún thịt nướng (Vermicelli noodles with pork, salad, bean sprouts and a spring roll)
- Bò Kho (Chunky beef and vegetable stew – Topped off with a bread roll to soak up the sauce)
Every cuisine is well represented in Saigon, with styles and prices to suit everyone. Official caterer of the #Champs16 is Al Frescos Group, they have a huge range of pasta, pizza, ribs, steaks and more and venues right around town. Check out www.afg.vn to find the closest to you. The Racha Room (12-14 Mac Thi Buoi Street)(16) is one of the leading higher end restaurants. Craft beer lovers shouldn’t leave without a visit to the Pasteur Street Brewing Company (144 Pasteur Street)(17). For a taste of Italy, visit Ciao Bella (11 Dong Du Street, D1)(18), Relish and Sons (44 Dong Du Street, D1)(19) for gourmet burgers and Quan Ut Ut (168 Vo Van Kiet Street)(20) for a great American BBQ and craft beer.
Few quick Saigon visitor tips:
- If you get a chance get into Shrine Bar (A chilled out and very unique cocktail bar) for one of their famous El’ Gordo cocktails and a meal upstairs if you’re peckish! Address is 64 Ton That Thiep Street, D1(21).
- Sticking around and looking to watch some live sport or enjoy a decent pub meal in a relaxed Aussie style environment head to the Al Frescos Group owned Dtwo Sports Pub in Thao Dien(22) (an expat area 15 mins from city centre) or Pitchers in another expat area a similar distance from town on Nguyễn Lương Bằng in District 7(23). In town Game On(24) and Phatty’s(25) are the 2 most renowned Sports Bars also doing a great range of Western (and Asian) feeds showing plenty of sport.
If you feel like an Indian curry head to Baba’s Kitchen in Bui Vien District 1(26), Robin’s been making some of Saigon’s best curries for ages!
- For fresh juices with an emphasis on health and well being – Head to JuicElixir at 18A/1 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai Street, D1(27). You won’t be disappointed!
- For a low key beer drop into Chilli bar (89 Ton That Dam Street, D1 right amongst the streetside market)(28). Chances are you’ll bump into a couple of Swannies there and be sure to request a few songs from Macca and the girls!
- Fancy a cheesecake while you’re in town? Head to see the Milner brothers at Cheesecake Ngon (44 Trương Quyền Street, D3)(29) for the best cheesecake in Saigon!