Ok ems and anhs, here are 10 free fun things to do in Saigon today. Keep in mind, that my sense of “fun” may be different from yours and yes, I have actual fun at libraries.
Visit a Library
There are actually libraries in Ho Chi Minh City, even if it doesn’t look like it at the first glance. Many international schools and universities have libraries that are open to the public if you behave properly. However, if you want to borrow books, you need to register.
The rainbow bridge near the State Bank in District 1 and District 4 is a popular place to hang out for young Vietnamese couples. It’s actually a nice place to go on Saturday evenings. If you can get your hands on a padlock, you can write the name of your soulmate on it and fix it somewhere there. Don’t worry, the architect used to be Eiffel. His tower still stands upright in Paris, so your little lock won’t crash the bridge.
Walking Street, Nguyen Hue
Since the opening of the new walking street next to Saigon City Hall on Uncle Ho’s birthday, it became a major point to hang out for Saigonese on free evenings. Walk around, play with the fountains and tease the cops whose job it is to guard the statue so nobody can get close to it. Don’t ask me why somebody would guard a huge bronze statue, but that’s how it is. If that is not enough fun for you, you may want to marvel at the efficient precision with which the traffic lights have been synced to form an absolutely useless system.
In the morning, Tao Đàn Park is the place to be. At the café next to Cách Mạng Tháng Tám street, hobby ornithologists are gathering with their feathered friends and the air is filled with different songs. It’s one of my favorite spots to unwind with a cup of Vietnamese coffee before the heat and bustle of the day starts gripping you by the nose.
Pretend to be a Tourist
This one aims at our expats in Saigon who already have forgotten how the city feels for tourists. Get your funny hat, a backpack with a bottle of water, camera and mosquito spray and that old I-Love-Vietnam-Shirt from the suitcase that is rotting under the bed. If you especially want to mimic a German tourist, don’t forget to put on white socks under your sandals.
Visit a Free Concert
On Saturday mornings, you have a chance to witness a free concert right in front of the Opera House. Just go there and watch, it’s really cool and features different orchestras. Sometimes it’s a march orchestra, sometimes a traditional performance and once I saw a group playing the strings.
Smile for a Change
Take some time and smile at all the obnoxious attention that you get whilst walking along the street. I know, we all got used to simply ignoring xe om drivers, massah girls and crap-selling students, but sometimes it might be nice to smile at them and listen to their stories. It’s been some time since we have been invited to play poker at some odd house, been offered some weird guy’s cousin for marriage or being proposed the best business opportunity of our life.
Challenge an Elderly
In some districts or at parks you find elderly men sitting there with their chess boards and playing. If you see one sitting alone, you can inquire if he’s up to a game. Keep in mind that he plays that game every day, so you will probably lose. If losing is not a shame, not knowing the rules is: check them out first, because Asian chess is different than ours.
At various holidays and sometimes just for kicks, they set up a stage at 23/9 Park, near Ben Thanh Market. Sometimes also opposite of Highlands Coffee on Pham Ngu Lao. It’s free for all and you may experience some nice songs and group performances.