Our visit to Ho Chi Minh- my daughter’s first taste of Vietnam

If  travellsing to Vietnam, the odds are quite high you’ll end up going to Ho Chi Minh at some point. It is pretty kid friendly- apart from the roads. There is a fair bit to do, and a variety of things to eat. What’s more, the people are nice and love children (though this can mean random cooing and touching your child’s face, much to Daisy’s dislike). Here’s what I did with my three-year -old during our short stay in Saigon, plus a few tips on getting around this bustling city.

What we did:
Following a friehd’s suggestion, we went to Saigon zoo- a bargain at only 20,000 Vietnamese Dong (about a dollar). It was a good way to ease Daisy into things as she loves animals and there were of course lots of other children there.

First off, we took the train around (you have to pay extra for this but I found it good for orienting myself) then wandered to see the different animals. It isn’t a huge zoo but it’s ok. It also has some mini fairground-rides with a section especially for little children. Daisy enjoyed it and was just disappointed you couldn’t feed the elephants ( in Melaka you could).

On a rainy afternoon we tried out the play area in the Vincom Centre, combining a little shopping with the basement play area. After a helicopter ‘fairground style’ ride (30,000 dong) we got a ticket for the “Sunflower” area. Daisy chose it for its bouncy castle and trampoline. It was good for a couple of hours and the fact they have kid-sized toilets was a bonus.

Vincom Centre’s basement “Sunflower” play area

Temples:
There are many but here are the ones we went to:
Jade Pagoda- it is a beautiful old Taoist temple, but quite crowded with the mix of worshippers and tourists. I would recommend reading up about it before you go, to help you understand some of the rituals going on. Daisy found it good to explore.

Jade Emperor Pagoda

The next ones we went to I found by putting ‘temple’ into google maps. Xa Loi Buddhist temple was walking distance so off we set. When we “arrived” according to the navigator, all we found was a metal fence with construction work behind it. I was just pondering the situation, when a felow tourist said he’d found another entrance round the corner.

It’s only a small temple , but the highlight for me was the beautiful Buddha inside. For Daisy it was being helped to light incense by a nice old lady called Phuong.

This lovely lady, Phuong, goes to Xa Loi temple every day to get money for food.

We also visited the Sri Mariamman temple- round the corner from the Anpha Boutique hotel in district 1. It is a lovely Hindu temple my daughter spotted. You can buy flower offerings and incense outside, which Daisy was keen to do.

At night: One evening we went down “Walking Street” (Nguyễn Hue). Which is actually a pedestrianised street in between two main roads. There were lots of people selling things and people dressed up as different characters for money, but it’s worth a visit. I was impressed that Daisy gave back the lollipop proffered  by a pig. We also went to the nearby Rex Hotel to enjoy the great rooftop-view.

Eating out:
You are honestly spoilt for choice here, but if you want a place with scrumptious Vietnamese food, nice decor, a huge menu and great service, try Ngon (which means delicious). It’s opposite Reunification Palace, in District 1. You can see the Vietnamese spring rolls being made fresh and enjoy the setting while you wait for your food.

Fresh Vietnamese spring rolls, Ngon restaurant

Fried rice pancake at Ngon restaurant

The Fig Lounge and Coffee is a bit off the beaten track. It’s a nice, relaxed place good for a light lunch and some unusual drinks.

Getting About:
You can get about the Centre a lot more quickly if you’re on a motorbike, but I didn’t fancy it with my 3-year-old as it’s so very busy. I found the best option to be Grab Car and Uber: get yourself a Vietnamese SIM card so you’re not reliant on wifi and get the Apps if you don’t have them already. The good thing about Grab and Uber is you don’t have to phone up and you know how long you’re going to have to wait for the car to come,

What do do about crossing one of the roads with non- stop traffic? The first time I came to Vietnam I stood there for ages, waiting for the traffic to stop; it never did! So what to do? Take a deep breath when you see traffic thinning out a bit, when there’s a gap roadside by you, step down and walk. Don’t stop! This was the advice I was given and whilst a bit nerve wracking, does work. I pick up Daisy to cross busy roads too, as I figure she’s harder to spot.

If you are, like we were, just passing through, I’m sure you’ll enjoy the lively Ho Chi Minh.