Special Streets in Saigon That Are Local Secrets

practicalities - Saigon/HCMC: April 25, 2019

Aside from the most famous attractions in Ho Chi Minh City, we are here to pick the coolest, most interesting and special streets for you to discover. These are all streets of a very walkable length that are packed with interesting goodies and treats. If you follow our tips, we are sure you will see, feel and experience Saigon in a way that offers a real insight into local life compared to when visiting its more well-known areas.

The Antique Street - Lê Công Kiều: An old-timey charm of Saigon

The vibe of Lê Công Kiều Street is rather surprising given its location amidst Ho Chi Minh city’s busy District 1 attractions and features like the hundred-year-old Bến Thành Market, Hàm Nghi street, and the under-construction Metro Line. Despite its surroundings, Lê Công Kiều Street could be described as peaceful and nostalgic. It’s also pretty cosy - you can easily spot one end of the street from the other, just 200 meters apart.

Back in days gone by, Lê Công Kiều Street was just a minor alley, until the French changed its name to Reims Street in 2910. In 1955, Saigon’s government renamed it after an unsung hero in the French colonialism period, Lê Công Kiều - the name that it retains today. Its golden period is generally said to have spanned from 1980 until the early 2000s.

Top 5 Secret streets in SaigonImage source: inspiravel.com

Along Lê Công Kiều Street, you will find a truly unique vintage shopping experience. At Kiều Market, each kiosk usually specializes in one or two particular antiques, such as ceramic ware, bronze ware, or even objects of worship. The kiosks are also varied in terms of their size and goods sold - some exhibit hundreds of various types of artifacts, while others just sell old camera accessories.

Top 5 Secret streets in SaigonImage source: i-english.net

A typical day at Lê Công Kiều market starts at around five in the morning and continues through until the street lights flicker on in the early evening. Some locals visit here not only to seek antiques and enjoy the nostalgic ambiance, but also to meet and talk with experts and enthusiasts who share mutual interests.

Top 5 Secret streets in SaigonImage source: znews.vn

Through its ups and downs over time, Lê Công Kiều - the ‘Antique Street’ - retains its peaceful and laid back feel that’s hard to find in bustling Saigon.

How to get to Lê Công Kiều Street.

The Old Book Street - Trần Nhân Tôn - where to find ‘disappearing’ books in Saigon

If you crave long-lost and forgotten gems from Vietnamese childhoods gone by, then here is the place to visit.

At first, this street was only a destination for two-wheeled cart vendors to gather and sell old books and magazines while constantly in “ready to run mode” in case the police arrived (since they were often selling books illegally). After just a few years, small to medium bookstores had popped up everywhere in the area, and by the late 1990s, there were more than 20 bookstores located on the Trần Nhân Tôn Street in District 5.

Top 5 Secret streets in SaigonImage source: blogspot.com

Nowadays, as the street still retains 15 small bookstores, this is probably the first place for old book lovers to begin their quest.

Top 5 Secret streets in SaigonImage source: blogspot.com

If you have a chance to pass by this street, you will surely notice the attractive charm that this place has to offer. Here they sell old books, diverse in both quantity and category. Books are fairly well-organized into sections such as comics, pre-1975 magazines and famous literary works of both Vietnamese and English authors dating back to the mid-20th century. The prices are fairly reasonable, usually just half the typical cost of a new book, so this meets the diverse needs of social groups ranging from intellectuals to casual readers, from the elderly to bookworm youngsters.

When asked about the current state of the book industry, one shop owner agreed that the book business is dying, at least partially due to the domination of technology. Though sadly disappearing, there are still corners of Saigon where small shops are maintaining ‘analog’ book culture. Just as Hanoi's Láng Street specializes in old books, Trần Nhân Tôn Street is also loved by many keen readers, who visit the area to pursue their search for a new read.

Top 5 Secret streets in SaigonImage source: znews.vn

What also attracts book lovers is the enthusiasm of the store owners. In fact, you don’t have to search for a book on your own. Just name a book or its genre, and the owner will immediately remember its location and hand you the exact one amidst thousands of other books. Just because they’re well-organized by category, it doesn’t mean things are neat. Books are piled on shelves, bursting out of cabinets, or simply stacked on plastic chairs. Note that if you spot the book of your choice, don't try to remove it yourself - the precariously placed book may easily fall on you if you’re not careful enough! Our tip is just to ask for help to be on the safe side.

How to get to Trần Nhân Tôn Street.

The Music Street - Nguyễn Thiện Thuật: A hidden gem featured on CNN

Since 1975, Nguyễn Thiện Thuật Street in District 3 has long been known as the place to go to acquire various types of musical instruments. The great number of shops displaying alluring instruments and projecting seductive sounds and rhythms are what make this street such a hidden charm tucked away in the busy Saigon streets.

The majority of the products to be found are popular items like acoustic guitars, classical guitars and mandolins. You can also find Vietnamese ethnic versions of instruments such as oboes, flutes, clarinets, free-reed mouth organs, horns and more. Like any craftsmen, the guitar makers here trade on their reputation, and there are over 30 guitar shops on the 500-meter-long street.

Top 5 Secret streets in SaigonImage source: i-english.net

According to one guitar maker, the process of making an instrument from scratch usually lasts about a month. Advanced pieces with high levels of detail can take up to four months to complete. The guitar prices here range from about USD200 to USD1,000 (VND4.5 – 22.7 million), which is quite reasonable compared to similar products in other countries. Many of the guitar craftsmen here use timber harvested from European and North American forests to make their creations, sinces Vietnamese wood and other tropical types are not so sturdy or long-lasting.

Top 5 Secret streets in SaigonImage source: i-english.net

Nguyễn Thiện Thuật Street is home to many shops and each possesses a different strength or specialty. Some specialize in instruments, others in instrument repair. One thing they have in common, though, is the set of values and rules that they maintain. Like no other street of businesses in Saigon, the shops here don’t compete with each other; instead, they choose to help and support one another to grow and thrive.

Top 5 Secret streets in SaigonImage source: i-english.net

Nguyễn Thiện Thuật Street will appeal to any guitar lover. Just spend a morning wandering around, and witness how passionate the shop owners are when speaking about guitars. Observe them cherishing every single note or teaching younger generations, and you will clearly understand the importance of embracing and preserving music to Vietnamese people. That importance is how Nguyễn Thiện Thuật Street commits itself to maintaining a lasting love for music, traditional as well as modern.

How to get to Nguyễn Thiện Thuật Street.

The Traditional Medicine Street - Hải Thượng Lãn Ông

Nowadays, District 5's Hải Thượng Lãn Ông Street is well known as the "traditional medicine street", where shoppers can purchase all different kinds of ingredients for home treatments and remedies.

Before 1975, the road was named Khổng Tử (or Confucius) and renamed to Hải Thượng Lãn Ông, a famous Chinese historical figure,after Vietnam’s reunification.

The history of this special street dates back to the late 19th century, when Chinese migrants settled in the Chợ Lớn area for trading. Accordingly, precious medicinal herbs from China were also brought over to serve the needs of the Chinese community in Saigon. From there, the area gradually formed into the bustling traditional medicine street that you can find today.

Top 5 Secret streets in SaigonImage source: wikimedia.org

Today, the area sells almost every kind of medicinal herb imaginable, sourced from all regions of the country. Some rare medicinal herbs that can not be found in Vietnam are imported from neighbouring countries, such as China, Laos, and Cambodia for trading. That’s why Hải Thượng Lãn Ông street can be considered as the biggest traditional medicine street in Vietnam, and it’s where almost all Oriental medicine hospitals across the city and the Mekong Delta region seek traditional remedies and treatments from.

Top 5 Secret streets in SaigonImage source: wikimedia.org

Chinese medicine is well trusted by a lot of Vietnamese people, as it is said to detoxify the body and provide natural cures to many ailments, according to traditional wisdom. This is in contrast to Western medicine, which mainly focuses on improving resistance in the human body, rather than performing functional detoxification.

Over three centuries, the Oriental medicine business at Chợ Lớn area, specifically on Hải Thượng Lãn Ông Street, has undergone many ups and downs. Nowadays, Vietnamese physicians tend to combine Oriental medicine with other methods to offer what they consider to be the most effective results.

How to get to Hải Thượng Lãn Ông Street.

The Never-Sleep Flower Street Hồ Thị Kỷ - “Little Dalat” amidst Saigon

Located in the heart of Ho Chi Minh City’s District 10, Hồ Thị Kỷ flower market was established in 1980 and has been Saigon's largest flower-trading hub ever since. Flowers from all over are gathered here daily, not only to meet the demands of locals but also to spread the joy of flowers across the country.

Top 5 Secret streets in SaigonImage source: dulichtoday.vn

The market is open 24 hours a day. At dawn, the market is always bustling with the transportation and setting up of flowers for the new day. The market is especially hectic when special occasions of the year approach, like Tet, Valentine's Day, Women’s Day or Teacher’s Day in Vietnam.

Hồ Thị Kỷ flower market trades hundreds of types of flowers, varied in colour and origin, be they from Dalat city or elsewhere in the country.

Top 5 Secret streets in SaigonImage source: onemoregapyear.com

This “Little Dalat” is a great source to shop for fresh, beautiful flowers at a relatively low price in Ho Chi Minh City. From chamomile and marigolds to orchids, roses, and sunflowers - the flower paradise here boasts a colourful scene and wafting fragrances to attract and impress any visitor. As well as specialising in flowers, this market also sells baskets and decorations that flower lovers just can’t resist.

Top 5 Secret streets in SaigonImage source: dulich.net

Come to Saigon’s Hồ Thị Kỷ flower market, especially at night - you are sure to get closer to the nature of authentic local lives and witness the beauty that lies in their hard work.

How to get to Hồ Thị Kỷ Street.

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