Exploring Saigon Nightlife Like a Local with KKday

ho-chi-minh-nightlife-tour
I’m always on the hunt for local experiences, so when I saw this tour called Saigon Nightlife at a Glance in KKday, I knew I had to do it. What could possibly be better than exploring a city and discovering its secrets with a knowledgeable local? If, like me, you are looking for a deeper encounter with Ho Chi Minh—something beyond the typical sights and must-eats—this tour is exactly what you need.

ho-chi-minh-nightlife-tour
In the Philippines, you would never catch me riding a scooter, but Ho Chi Minh is the city of scooters. Everybody uses one to get to places. The flood of bikes, especially at rush hour, is crazy—but in such an unbelievable and amazing fashion, nobody gets hurt. So I figured I’ll put on a helmet and give it a go.

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My guide, George, arrived a few minutes earlier than the time that was communicated to me a day prior (plus points!), and after making sure I had properly strapped on my helmet, we sped off into the Saigon night. Our first stop was an eatery in District 4 called Ôc Phát. This restaurant is actually a quán ốc, a place specializing in snails and seafood. George had already pre-ordered what he thought were the best dishes—and it was such a relief because I didn’t want to stress myself out with making choices! Besides, I wanted to completely surrender to my local guide—this was the point of this tour, right?

ho-chi-minh-nightlife-tour
Apparently, the Vietnamese love drinking beers while eating seafood after work—but really, who doesn’t?! Most of the patrons are locals, but I saw some businessmen taking their foreign (visiting) colleagues here as well. I really it’s such a great way to experience Saigon’s food culture.

George had ordered clams in a lemongrass and ginger broth; grilled mussels topped with peanuts; crab claws (càng ghẹ) with chili, garlic, and corn; fried frog legs; and fried rice. Everything was SO GOOD—I couldn’t stop munching on the frog legs—but I think my favorite were the clams! To fully enjoy it, you have to dip it into the insanely delicious dipping sauce (nước chấm), which is made of garlic, chilies, fish sauce, sugar, and a bit of lime juice. I swear I can use this dipping sauce for anything!

ho-chi-minh-streetfood
ho-chi-minh-streetfood
I don’t like crab too much because I’m too lazy to deal with the shell and get the meat, but I ate a few here and I really loved them! The flavors are so fresh and each bite just demands to be followed quickly with another one—or a spoonful of rice!

ho-chi-minh-streetfood
ho-chi-minh-streetfood
Everything is best enjoyed with beer. Whenever I travel to places, I usually try the local beers so I went for the Saigon Special. I wish I tried the snails but I would definitely do so when I go back. The food servings were good for 4 people according to my guide, but we had almost demolished everything—that’s how good this feast was!

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While eating, I mentioned to George that I wanted to try the bo la lot, and he kindly offered to stop by a nice place selling those charcoal-grilled beef rolls wrapped in betel leaves, since it was on the way to the next stop. He thought I wouldn’t be able to eat anymore after our seafood dinner, but he underestimated me, hahaha! So we ordered 6 pieces of the bo la lot, which comes with a variety of greens, rice noodles, and dipping sauce. I loved the smokiness and the meatiness enveloped in fresh, crisp leaves!

ho-chi-minh-streetfood
ho-chi-minh-streetfood
For the next stop, George took me to a harbor where you can admire the Saigon nightscape. From our vantage point, we could see the soaring Bitexco Financial Tower, the second tallest building in Ho Chi Minh. All around me, locals were sitting on low tables and chairs, drinking beers, eating more street food. Apparently, hanging out like this in the city is typical, even if it’s a weeknight.

ho-chi-minh-nightlife-tour
ho-chi-minh-nightlife-tour
A bo bia ngot vendor passed by and George bought some for me to taste. Bo bia ngot is the Vietnamese sweet spring roll with shredded coconut, sugar crisp, peanuts, condensed milk, and sesame seeds. I loved how sweet, light, and comforting it was!

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On the way back to District 1, we drove through the Saigon Bridge and George showed me the Vincom Landmark 81, the tallest building in all of Vietnam with 81 floors. The skyscraper sits at the new high-end mixed-use urban development in Saigon.

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For the last stop, I was given a choice between desserts and craft beers—guess what I chose? George took me to Pasteur Street Brewing Company in District 1, where hopheads can enjoy delicious craft beers on tap. I was so happy to find that Saigon had such quality craft beers! I mean, the common notion of people with Saigon is limited to historical buildings, coffee, pho, banh mi, and plastic chairs facing the streets. I’m glad there’s something I enjoy back home but in a different set up—with new people to make friends with, too.

ho-chi-minh-nightlife-tour
ho-chi-minh-nightlife-tour
ho-chi-minh-nightlife-tour
The tour is inclusive of two tasters (175ml glass), but I wanted to try a variety so I offered to pay extra to try more beers. I loved the Burnin’ Down the House Double IPA, which boasts of the flavors of pine, citrus, stone fruit, and rambutan honey. If you love hoppy beers, I highly recommend this one.

ho-chi-minh-nightlife-tour
I was so curious about the Da Lat coffee so I also tried the Coffee Porter which has K’Ho coffee from the Vietnamese highlands. It was sweetish, dark, and slightly bitter, with a mellow roasted taste. I would love to have it again. Just like in Manila, you can actually ask for a small pour of their beers if you want to taste first before you decide on getting a full glass, so I was able to try the Jasmine IPA and the Spice Island Saison, which has the famous Phu Quoc black pepper. However, I found both a bit too light for me so I ended up getting another glass of the Burnin’ Down the House.

ho-chi-minh-nightlife-tour
The night wore on with me and my guide sharing travel stories and showing each other photos from our own adventures. I love that I gained a new friend because of this tour! I didn’t want it to end to be honest, but my friends were already waiting for me in another bar and the tour is only good for 3 hours. As George sped past other scooters and wove around alleyways, I couldn’t help but smile because of this unique experience I just had. The places we went to were something I wouldn't have discovered easily myself, even with the help of Google. Only a local, or someone who has been living in Saigon for quite some time, would know these things. Before I stepped off the scooter and handed back my helmet to George, I had already thought about my next trip to Saigon.


Now What?

Book your Saigon Nightlife at a Glance tour here.
Check affordable Saigon hotels here.

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Have you been to Saigon? What do you think about their nightlife? Their food? Do you love exploring local eats in your travels?

If you like my posts and would love regular updates on travel photos, food finds, restaurant reviews, dance articles, and drunken tales, follow Pepe Samson on Facebook!

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