See the guy in yellow with his hand out as he drives into traffic? It works.
Starting on Pham Ngu Lao, a short walk east brings you to the Ho Chi Minh City bus centre, which sits on the south side of a massive roundabout. This is one of the best places in the city to watch the craziness of Saigon traffic.
Once you’ve got your fill of traffic pictures and video walk up to the north end of the roundabout to find Ben Thanh market. If you want to shop, this is the place, plus it’s a good stop for food and drinks. Continue east on Le Loi and you’ll come to Lam Son Square, which sits between the Saigon Opera House and the People’s Committee Hall. Snap some pictures of these beautiful buildings, and the statue of Ho Chi Minh himself, then head north on Dong Khoi.
Ho Chi Minh: still drawing a crowd.
Your walk up Dong Khoi will take you past several small boutiques selling art and other souvenirs, as well as the new Vincom Centre, a modern shopping complex filled with name-brand designer shops. Finally Dong Khoi brings you to the Notre Dame Cathedral. Snap some pictures of the pigeons, sitting on the statue of the Virgin Mary, then have a look inside.
The pigeons never leave.
Just to the east you’ll find the city’s post office, which is also worth a quick visit, then head west, down Le Duan, through Cong Vien Van Hoa Park. Here you can cool off in the shade, by grabbing a café su da from one of the many street vendors, or you can continue on to the Reunification Palace. The Reunification Palace is my favourite Saigon landmark; it gives you a retro feeling upon entering and offers great picture opportunities from the roof.
No swimming allowed.
Head west along the Palace’s southern fence, along Nguyen Du, then go south when you reach Thu Khoa Huan. This brings you back to Ben Thanh market, at the wet market entrance, and you’re back in the same area where you started.
This tour can be easily done in two hours, if you don’t shop or take any prolonged breaks. There is no right or wrong time for the tour, but I prefer starting in the afternoon so you can see the sunset from the Palace roof and end at the Ben Thanh night marketfor drinks. So get off your motorbike and see the city the old fashioned way!