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A Walk Along Dong Khoi Street



When you visit Saigon, make sure to take a walk along its trendy Dong Khoi Street. One would surely be captured by its paved sidewalks,  serene plazas and breathtaking French colonial architecture.

Rue Catinat, Tu Do and Dong Khoi Street. Three different names.  Three markers for each phase of Dong Khoi’s history. It was known as “Rue Catinat” during French colonial times,  named after  17th and 18th century French marshal, Nicolas Catinat. The name was changed to “Tu Do” or “Freedom Street” in the 60′s during  the  Vietnam War. In 1975, the communists took over and changed the name  again, this time to “Dong Khoi” Street meaning “Total Revolution”.

The street has evolved from being the heart of French glamour and prestige to a center of dirty intrigues during the Vietnam War. A walk along Dong Khoi Street is a journey along the core of Saigon’s rich history. It may not be as grand as it used to be, there may not be much left of what has been once a center of grandeur and I may not even be able to provide any point of comparison, but with everything the street has gone through, I could say that walking along Dong Khoi still captivates the eye and takes one’s breath away.

Start the day right with a perfect cup or glass (yes, glass!) of coffee, popularly known as “ca phe” in Vietnam. Vietnam is the world’s second largest coffee exporter next to Brazil. Their ca phe is one of a kind with its perfect roast and blend. Try “caphe da” (Vietnamese iced coffee) and “ca phe sua da” (Vietnamese iced coffee with milk) made using traditional Vietnamese coffee recipe.

Get your perfect brew at Gloria Jeans or Coba Cafe. But Saigon is surrounded with several coffee shops. You can walk around District 1 and find the right ca phe that suits your taste buds for just a dollar or 2.

Don’t forget to try “Pho” (pronounced “fa”)    during your stay. Pho is a Vietnamese noodle   soup  served with beef or chicken.The noodle is made of  rice and often times, the soup is served   with basil,  lime, bean sprouts and mint leaves. You have to add  these ingredients to the soup for an added flavor and  a little aroma. I was told that Pho24 is the most expensive Pho restaurant in Saigon, and it’s a restaurant that no foreigner should miss! You can try other vietnamese cuisines during your stay, but make sure not to skip eating Pho. Also, if you’re in Saigon to live as a Dong millionaire, try out the authentic French cuisine at Annamite Restaurant in 21 Tu Xuong. A person can spend as much as 300,000 to 500,000 Dong for a meal, pretty cheap for a very fine restaurant.

You can do your shopping at Ben Thanh Market. But BEWARE! Vendors at Ben Thanh are pretty aggressive, they will pull you if you ask for the price, bargain and leave without buying anything. If you know that you won’t be buying anything from them, do not dare to bargain. But if you are buying something, you will be needing your haggling skills. Ben Thanh Market is a haven of overpriced items. The Vietnamese do not shop at Ben Thanh because of this. However, since a variety of items, from coffee to clothes and souvenir items are sold at Ben Thanh Market, it became very popular to foreigners. Haggling won;t be a problem since most vendors can speak English but if you are buying something and you don’t agree on the price, start to walk away. You would be surprised at how much the prices would decline in your favor. Remember to bargain at half the price you were initially told. Prices in Ben Thanh are around 3 to 4 times as much as the prices in other markets. A variety of street foods are also sold here.

Hotels in Saigon range from 3 to 5-star hotels. You may choose to stay in 5-star hotels but if you are on a budget, I recommend that you stay at Golden Wind Hotel. The owner/manager including the staff are very accomodating and friendly. You can ask them for a map around Saigon and they will be very willing to provide you with directions. The rooms are clean and the beds very comfortable. You can get a triple sharing bedroom (breakfast for three persons included) for as low as $33 per night.

DON’T MISS:

  • Notre Dame Cathedral
  • Saigon Post Office
  • People’s Committee Hall
  • Saigon Opera House
  • Ben Thanh Market
  • Trendy Dong Khoi

MUST TRY:

  • Tiger Beer
  • Vietnamese Ca phe
  • Vietnamese Pho

FOREX:

$1 = 20,800 Dong. There are money changers outside the airport. But the black market days in Saigon are over. Have your money changed at the airport for a better rate.

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