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Looking for original things to do in Saigon? After several months exploring this city, we have some unique ideas to round out your itinerary.
Some suggestions are hidden gems, known only to locals and expats. Others involve popular attractions but in novel and entertaining ways. Maybe you’re on a package tour and seeking to fill a “free day” in Saigon.
Maybe you’re an independent traveler and seeking the offbeat. Either way, we hope these tips help you have a better, richer, more individualized experience in Saigon.
What About the Classic Things to Do in Saigon?
You can read our list of standard highlights in another post.
This is a supplementary list of lesser-known things to do in Saigon.
1. Adventure Eating
Vietnamese food is absolutely delicious 99.9% of the time, but it can also be extreme and exotic. If you want to push your culinary limits, try adventure eating at Bo Cap Lua Restaurant.
They serve tarantulas, scorpions, lizards, live worms, fried worms, and other “unspeakable” items. You can see more of the disgusting things we ate at Bo Cap Lua.
Bo Cap Lua
17B 11th Street
Go Vap District
Ho Chi Minh City
2. Jade Emperor Pagoda “Secret” Canal Walk
The Jade Emperor Pagoda is one of the popular things to do in Saigon. But few know about the lovely canal, only a few hundred feet away.
After you visit the Jade Emperor Pagoda, take a stroll along the canal. It can turn this common attraction into an uncommon experience.
You’ll glimpse an unseen side of Saigon. Quiet streets, quaint neighborhoods, and several other temples line the canal.
You can simply enjoy the peaceful beauty of the canal or use it to structure a “temple crawl.” There are many temples on the canal to explore, but we recommend visiting Vinh Nghiem Pagoda (Mahayana Buddhism) and Wat Chantaransay (Theravada Buddhism).
Combined with the Jade Emperor Pagoda, which is Taoist, you’ll see 3 radically different styles of spirituality (that exist in the same small community). AND you’ll enjoy a scenic walk, away from the chaotic streets of Saigon.
You can see more photos and read the full details of this canal walk here. It includes directions to the canal and info on why this canal is the biggest environmental accomplishment in Saigon.
3. Suoi Tien Buddhist Amusement Park
Suoi Tien is the craziest amusement park in Vietnam (maybe all of Asia). It’s actually a combination culture park/amusement park.
Suoi Tien has a sprawling waterpark, the longest roller coaster in Vietnam, and all the fun stuff you’d expect. But the massive Buddhist monuments and active temples (next to the rides!) make Suoi Tien a unique travel experience.
It’s a surreal mash-up of deep Buddhist culture AND superficial amusements. Even if you’re not interested in the rides, the gargantuan sculptures and monuments are worth the price of admission (which is only $5USD).
Suoi Tien offers some of the most spectacular sights and is one of the most unusual things to do in Saigon.
Check out more photos of the amazing park here.
Hours: 8am – 530pm
120 Hanoi Highway
Tan Phu Ward
District 9, HCMC
4. The Amazing Viet Show
The Amazing Viet Show is a fun way to unwind after a day of sightseeing. Saigon has many entertaining shows, but this is the wackiest. It features “extraordinary people” with “unusual talents.” Or you could call it a Vietnamese freak show – with a difference.
The headline acts are contortionists, sword swallowers, and the like, but between those acts are song and dance performances featuring Vietnamese music and costumes.
Vanessa had her first cyclo ride at the Amazing Viet Show. A man put these contraptions in his eyes and pulled a cyclo full of people across the stage! You can read more about that crazy story here.
Tickets start at 640,000VND ($28US). The best place to buy tickets is at the theater because they often offer in person discounts.
The Amazing Viet Show is performed at the V Show Theater.
147 Cach Mạng Thang Tam Street
District 3, HCMC
5. Binh Quoi Tourist Village
Binh Quoi Tourist Village is a rural oasis in the heart of the city. It looks like a Traditional Village on the Mekong Delta. It’s a staged reproduction, but it’s beautiful, peaceful, and entrance is free.
Binh Quoi Village feels like entering a different world and different era. You can relax in bamboo huts that line the many waterways. You can paddle a boat on the lake. You can scramble across monkey bridges. And more.
There are even restaurants and a hotel if you desire. The best time for a peaceful visit is on weekday mornings. There’s a large, traditional buffet on weekend evenings, but it’s more crowded (and you can’t see the scenery in the dark).
Find out more about Binh Quoi Tourist Village in this post.
Binh Quoi Tourist Village
147 Binh Quoi Street
Binh Thanh District, HCMC
6. AO Show at the Saigon Opera House
The Saigon Opera House is one of the most historic landmarks of the city. Every Saigon visitor comes to the Opera House for sightseeing, but few actually watch a performance.
Take your Opera House experience to the next level by catching the AO Show. Often called “Bamboo Cirque,” it’s like a Cirque du Soleil show about contemporary Vietnamese culture. The AO Show combines acrobatics, dance, and dazzling choreography.
It’s not only a great show that’s fun and amazing. It’s also a great travel experience that meaningful and gives insight into the culture. The central theme is how rapid modernization and urbanization is changing Vietnam (for better and worse).
Tickets start at 630,000VND ($27US). It’s best to buy tickets at the Opera House. Check for package deals that include dinner at a local restaurant too. These are often a bargain.
Saigon Opera House
7 Lam Son Square
District 1, HCMC
7. Live it Up in Phu My Hung
Speaking of rapid modernization and urbanization, visit Phu My Hung to see a different (wealthier) side of Saigon. Located just 15 minutes from downtown, Phu My Hung is an upscale neighborhood that offers high-end dining, shopping, and entertainment.
An evening here can be both fun and enlightening. You’ll have a high-end experience, and you’ll see how Vietnam’s growing middle-class lives.
There are many easy options here. We recommend visiting the Crescent Mall, but not really for the shopping. There’s a pretty lake behind the mall and a picturesque walkway around the lake. Several fine restaurants line the walkway. And at the end, there’s the Starlight Bridge.
At night, this bridge doubles as a water fountain and puts on a lovely light show. For dinner, we recommend Cham Charm Restaurant. It’s a rather expensive seafood buffet, but the décor is beautiful. The theme is the ancient Cham civilization of Vietnam.
Much of Saigon (and Vietnam) is rather poor, but that’s not the whole story. The temptation is to make the poor rural farmer the symbol of Vietnam. That’s still partially true, but a complete picture must also include Vietnam’s growing middle class.
You can glimpse their changing lifestyle and values in Phu My Hung.
101 Ton Dat Tien Street
District 7, HCMC
8. Mix with Locals at Tao Dan Park
Tao Dan Park is a big, beautiful park in Saigon. It’s one of the few green spaces in Saigon, and it’s a great place to mix with locals. Early morning is the best time to visit. The whole community comes out to enjoy the cool morning air. Locals of all ages and from all walks of life meet here to socialize and exercise.
The whole community comes out to enjoy the cool morning air. Locals of all ages and from all walks of life meet here to socialize and exercise.
You’ll see people practice a wide variety of martial arts, including Tai Chi. Dancing is another popular activity at Tao Dan. You’ll see everything from Asian Fan Dancing to Waltzing to group Line Dancing.
Most of these are open and communal. So it’s your chance to conquer the language barrier through physical activity and play. Know a little Tai Chi or a bit of line dancing, join in. Why not?
It may be one of your most memorable moments in Saigon. Read more about Tao Dan Park here.
Tao Dan Park lies along Truong Dinh Street, between Nguyen Du Street and Nguyen Thi Minh Khai Street.
9. Traditional Culture Show at the Golden Lotus Theater
If you want to taste classic Vietnamese culture, check out the Golden Lotus Theater. It’s the most enjoyable “traditional” dance and music show in Saigon.
This is a fun show with all the elaborate costumes, vibrant dances, and soulful music you’d expect and few things you wouldn’t. Like a 1000-year-old water puppet show that ends with fireworks.
We stress enjoyable and fun because authentic performances of ancient culture can drag on. Let’s be honest, as interesting as they may be culturally and historically, they tend to get boring for the average visitor.
At the Golden Lotus Theatre, the show maintains a quick, entertaining pace. You can read more about this show here.
The Golden Lotus Theatre is inside the Rex Hotel.
141 Nguyen Hue Street
District 1, HCMC
10. La Fênetre Soleil– For a Quirky and Cross-Cultural Evening
By day, it’s a mild-mannered café. By night, La Fênetre Soleil is quirky hub for cross-cultural encounters. This Vietnamese club has a French name, serves Indonesian food, specializes in live Jazz music, but has weekly Salsa dancing on Wednesdays and weekly Swing dancing on Sundays. And that’s not all.
They also host a variety of special events too. One of our favorites was a presentation by the “Saigon Storytellers” group – where some locals and expats told true but well-crafted stories from their lives (kinda like The Moth podcast).
So if you’re looking for a different kind of nightclub in Saigon, try La Fênetre Soleil. Contact the club for what’s happening during your visit.
Phone: 08 3824 5994
44 Ly Tu Trọng
District 1, HCMC
There are many other unique things to do in Saigon. Of course, the best will be the ones you create. Hopefully, this list helps with both specific tips and ideas to spark your own imaginative itinerary.
Which things to do in Saigon interest you? If you’ve been to Saigon, we’d love to hear your unique tips?