The Fine Arts Museum
Located only 15 minutes away from the Ben Thanh market yet this museum remains a hidden germ to most tourists (and even the locals). I always take my friends to this place because I love the French-inspired architecture and the mysterious atmosphere surrounding this place. The two buildings used for this museum were previously owned by one of the richest men in the old Saigon, and rumor had it that his daughter who miserably died from sickness often wandered around these buildings at night. When you walk along the halls, you would definitely feel the creepy yet intriguing aura that persists through time.
The art here is also excellent. You can spend a lovely morning to enjoy Vietnamese arts from the ancient times to modern Communist propaganda posters used during the Vietnam civil war.
Entrance ticket: 10,000VND
Vietnamese sandwich "bánh mì"
The central park, usually called "Park 30/4" (April 30th, 1975 was the date that the Northern government took over the Southern government) was quite a relaxing spot to enjoy a tasty quick lunch with "bánh mì".
A "bánh mì" usually costs 15-30,000VND. The most known bakery is "Bánh mì Hà Nội" but any other bakery would do the justice just fine. We bought the bánh mì in a bakery near the Fine Arts Museum. Stuffed with many types of vegetables and pork, bánh mì is healthy and has been loved by many Vietnamese generations.
The independence palace was used as a living and working complex (similar to the White House) for the former Southern Vietnamese government. The building was infused with both the traditional Vietnamese and modern French architectures. You will learn about the life of one of the most famous family in the Southern Vietnam :-)
A lot of communal activities take place here. For example, every year, a bike tournament organized by the Ho Chi Minh City's Television selected this place as the final destination. Also, as a child, I came here a few times for a talent competition organized among elementary and middle schools in District 1. So many great memories :-)
War Remains Museum
A collection of photographs from the past about the French-Vietnamese war and the civil war. I remember taking field trips here when I was young and the most haunting object ever was an infant (or fetus?) with disabilities that were kept inside a jar as evidence for the chemical "orange dioxin" that the U.S. army spread over Vietnam during the war. I don't think they keep the jar at the museum now
"Bánh tráng nướng" (Vietnamese grilled rice paper)
Usually referred as "Vietnamese pizza", rice paper is grilled with eggs, butter, little shrimps, garlic, and other spices on top. It's my favorite food-on-the-go!
Vietnamese dessert & cake
What could be better than ending a hot day with some sweet and delicious iced dessert. The shop is on Nguyen Trai (Distict 5), right across from the Sai Gon University. The are around is also a lively shopping area with many stores and stalls selling cloths, bags, shoes, jewelry, etc.
On picture from left to right: sen, sâm bổ lượng & bánh da lợn.
My Japanese friends like "sâm bổ lượng" (in the glass) the best because many of the ingredients used for this dessert are actually used for main dishes in Japan (i.e. dried Chinese apples), so it is interesting for them to eat the same food in a different (sweeter) way.