The coffee addict
Ho Chi Minh City is a city of cafes. You can find good strong coffee in little nooks and crannies around town without too much trouble – whether that’s in small street shops, roadside stalls or luxury hotels.
It’s also a city that never sleeps, so don’t be surprised if you see people drinking coffee at midnight on a street corner. Top tip: if you find the local black coffee too strong, shop owners will be happy to add condensed milk – it’s a classic Vietnamese combo.
Thuc Coffee, a 24-hour cafe on Pasteur Street, is my go-to; though I also love The Cafe Apartment on Nguyen Hue Street. But sitting at any street-side cafe, enjoying a drip coffee, is a great way to experience the energy of this vibrant city.
Whether you’re eating at street vendors or upscale restaurants, food is one of the great reasons to visit Ho Chi Minh City.
One of my favourite restaurants is Secret Garden, which does home-style Vietnamese food on the roof of a residential building. The fish dishes are particularly delicious. Try to catch the sunset from the roof before dinner.
Or try Temple Club, in an 1880s heritage building, which serves Vietnamese classics like bo la lot (grilled beef wrapped in betel leaves) and cha ca la vong (fried catfish). For a really special meal try Noir. The ‘dining in the dark’ experience heightens your sense of taste, making the menus all the more surprising.
Airport service manager
The urban historian
From the traditional ao dai still worn by many Vietnamese women and schoolgirls to the aromas of street food (stop for a banh mi, a typical Vietnamese sandwich), Ho Chi Minh City is still a traditional place.
One of the best ways to immerse yourself in it is by visiting Cheo Leo. Dating back 80 years, the cafe on Nguyen Thien Thuat in District 3 is regarded as the city’s oldest ‘stocking coffee’ cafe – a practice of filtering the coffee through a stocking, which gives it a special flavour. The milk coffee in particular is fantastic.
It’s a part of the old Saigon that still endures, and is popular with older people who hang out and socialise, while young people come for a taste of the city’s history.