Saigon Hidden Gems
Live Like A Local |05/06/2023amanaki icon5 minute
"What is essential is invisible to the eye", Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's wisdom has never been so aligned with the charm of Saigon.
In hidden alleys, or in a vendor that seems small and maybe a bit messy, you can find the most amazing things, if you're willing to open up your eyes to see "the diamond in the rough".
MORNING: Immerse in nostalgia at Ton That Dam old building
To us, the fun of exploring Saigon is the small, pleasant surprises that we get as we roam around to an unfamiliar alley, taking a turn into a random corner on a quiet street. No matter how long you've lived here, you never know what you're gonna discover with each stroll.
At Ton That Dam street, just about a 5-minute walk from where Amanaki Saigon Boutique located, you'll find yourself transported to a completely different time period, from the modern, skyrocketing buildings with bustling traffic of the city center, into the quiet, stoic modernist constructions. Tucked inside these iconic grayish buildings are hidden gems, waiting to tell explorers its nostalgic stories.
Mockingbird Coffee
Photo: Mockingbird Coffee
One of our favorite spots to go to contemplate the city's timeless charm in the early morning is Mockingbird Cafe. Located inside a-hundred-year-old Ton That Dam apartment, this cafe has been one of Saigonese important asset as it posses not just a lovely atmosphere which dedicated to the old Saigon, but also a perfect view of the Ho Chi Minh State Bank of Vietnam, one of the most iconic historical buildings in district 1.
At Mockingbird Cafe, as you're enjoying a cup of coffee to start your day, you're also got the chance to observe the striking contrast between the old and the new and mull over Saigon's long historic journey of change.
Opening hours: 08:30am-11am
Address: 4th floor, 14 Tôn Thất Đạm street, Nguyễn Thái Bình ward, district 1

**Chuyên Ký Eatery **
Photo: 9493.corner

As lunch time is getting closer, let us continue our nostalgic journey with another of local's treasured spot just about 200 meters from the cafe, Chuyen Ky Eatery.

Remaining in the old Ton That Dam neighborhood in the heart of an ever changing city after 70 years, Chuyen Ky is the place to be whenever you want to experience the authentic taste of Guangdong-Style Chinese food.

Humbly nested in an old market in district 1 with its beautiful vintage hand painted sign and simple arrangement, the place offers a menu of traditional Guangdong-Style home cooked food with rice served in artisanal clay pots, which we called "cơm thố". Back in the days, every Vietnamese household used to serve rice this way as the clay not only helped keep the warmth and softness, but also brought out a special aroma of the rice.

Opening hours: 11am–2:30pm, 5pm–9pm
Address: 65-67 Tôn Thất Đạm street, Bến Nghé ward, district 1

AFTERNOON: Explore charming gems at Saigon's Japan Town
After a morning roaming around in the past, let us explore a different part of district 1 which will bring you surprises in a completely different way.
As a complex city with contrasting colors of culture and style, Saigon embraces in its small streets and alleys many different worlds and Le Thanh Ton area is one of them. Known as a little Japan town of Saigon, this area consists of mostly Japanese restaurants, bars, eateries and stores which separate its vibe from the rest of Saigon.

Tokyo Moon Cafe
Photo: Maggie Chen

If you're new in town and haven't decided where to start, a small, local cafe, tucked away quietly in a small alley is always an ideal start. As you are finding your way to Tokyo Moon cafe, you will stumble upon many unique storefronts written in Japanese and have the chance to take a small stroll around this little town.

As lovely as its name, Tokyo Moon possesses a unique peaceful and romantic atmosphere that one can only find from a local cafe, furnished and decorated with lovely handmade details. At this cafe, they offer Italian coffee and a variety of handmade drinks, such as Yam Latte, Pumpkin Latte, Grain tea,... they also have a lovely selection of cakes for you to enjoy a perfect romantic afternoon tea break before moving on with your journey.

Opening hours: 11am–10pm
Address: 8A/1C2 Thái Văn Lung street, Bến Nghé ward, district 1


Okonomiyaki Shu
Photo: Dương Tiểu Bình

Operated by a Japanese couple living in Saigon, Okonomiyaki Shu is one of the places in district 1 where Saigonese can have a glimpse of Japanese lifestyle, from flavors to atmosphere.

You will easily recognize the eatery on Le Thanh Ton with its simple red noren, which is the kind of cloth curtain you usually see in Japanese spaces. Right at the door, you will immediately feel the charming smell of cooking okonomiyaki, known as Japanese cabbage pancakes, and encounter the traditional okonomiyaki open kitchen bar once you step inside.

Beside a menu which offers a variety of okonomiyaki in different styles, which you can see be made and served directly by the chefs right at the bar, the place also make you feel like you've just stepping into an anime with its simple arrangements of wooden window frames and tables, manga shelves and the sound of sizzling okonomiyaki on the open kitchen counter.

Opening hours: 11am - 11pm
Address: 15B11 Lê Thánh Tôn street, Bến Nghé ward, district 1

Night: Enjoy some of our favorite hidden hangout spots
The charm of Saigon doesn't end when the night comes, but only shines brighter near the end of the day. After dark, when the city comes alive with colorful lights, that will create a perfect mood for a cozy date with yourself or loved ones, and we know just the spot for you.

Secret Garden Restaurant
Photo: Secret Garden

Secret Garden, like its name, is a true hidden gem that we love to introduce to anybody who is willing to see through the appearances to find the beauty inside. The way to the restaurant is easy to find, but you might need to put some effort to walk all the way to the 4th floor of a degraded small apartment.

But once you reach Secret Garden at the rooftop, you will find yourself tucked away in a lovely open air garden with colorful curtains and lanterns, lovely wooden furniture and vintage tiles. In this cozy restaurant, you can enjoy the delightful taste of Vietnamese dishes while gazing over the lovely Saigon from your seats. A truly hidden place where you can find yourself a quiet corner but still not miss out on the colorful city lights at night.

Opening hours: 11am - 10pm
Address: 158 Pasteur street, Bến Nghé ward, district 1


Lost & Found Bar
Photo: Lost & Found

As the result of an American bartender's love for Vietnamese culture, Lost & Found is one of the places to be when the locals as well as expats in the town need a cozy spot to meet up with friends and enjoy a refreshing cocktail at the end of the day.

Like most of all hidden gems in Saigon, the bar is small and quietly located in between endless storefronts of a bustling street. Before reaching its door, one finds themself walking to the end of an alley and climbing the steps of a nearly abandoned apartment. As you walk through the steps, you will encounter beautiful graffities which pays tribute to Saigon made by anonymous artists.

Once stepping inside Lost & Found, you suddenly find yourself in the middle of a Saigon house in the 90s with vintage decoration & furniture carefully selected from antique stores, soothing lights and the welcoming clattering glassware sounds from the bar.

Opening hours: 6pm - 1am_
_Address: 19/6 Nguyễn Thị Minh Khai street, Bến Nghé ward, district 1

Tags: Art & Culture
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