Hanoi is associated with 36 trade streets where small alleys and lanes nestle between peaceful lush rows of trees and Saigon too sports and interesting maze of streets, which often surprises people who do not live here.
I am acquainted with Dong Khoi, Nguyen Hue, Le Loi and Ham Nghi avenue that they are crowded and full of colourful lights. However, I decided to visit other sides of Saigon when I come back to visit the city this year. I took one of the many corners leading into Saigon’s countless alleys you can enjoy some of the best features Saigon has on offer.
Saigon will take your breath away at first sight, where is luxurious, magnificent and beautiful, but it’s not one that’s full of must-see tourist sights. To experience the best of Saigon, focus on its minutiae; the little details of this big city. There’s no better place to do this than in the tangled network of narrow alleyways that fill in the gaps between the city’s major roads. All this rightly gives Saigon the reputation of ‘a city of dazzling features’. Getting lost on foot in the web of alleyways brings you into contact with friendly local people, great street food, intriguing architecture, and, best of all, local life. And this particular ‘attraction’ is free. ^_^
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For travelers, the alleyways are the best locations to people watch, and observe the intimate lives of local people, which is totally different from anything you may have experienced strolling on the main streets. You might capture Vietnamese families sitting flat on the house’s floor sharing meals, with their front door wide open. Some alleys are so narrow that the people who live in two opposite houses can actually talk to each other over the path, without ever leaving their homes. It’s very interesting seeing people chatting like that! The alleyways are also used as a public yard, where children can play and adults can exercise.
I got lost once in the maze of alleys in District 4. That is Alley for Street Food at Night, good choice for night street food lovers. After 6:00 PM, where numerous food stands are gathered in the alley, selling tasty street food, such as rice, porridge, rice noodle, sticky rice, spring rolls and lots more. [ Location: it is the 200 Xom Chieu alley in District 4 ]
But these countless alleys are full of attractions, endlessly entertaining visitors who love wandering and exploring unique features – and that is just “so very Saigon”. Like Lazy Alley with tons of restaurants, stores, fashion shops, and services available for lazy feet, which want to stay on one place for a day. Along the sides and above the top of this alley are two apartment buildings. You can find two restaurants, a nice coffee shop and two fashion shops. In front of the alley is a cafeteria open all-day. It’s one of the most popular places for young locals who want to find a place to hang out with their friends all night in Ho Chi Minh City. There are some delicious Vietnamese cuisine restaurants inside the alley that attract many foreign visitors. [ Location: 158 Pasteur and 71-73 Mac Thi Buoi Street, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1 ].
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Or Zen Alley has five pagodas enveloped in incense-smoke in a small area of Go Vap District. Less than a kilometer-long alleyway, there are five temples built within it. People often call it the “meditation” alleyway. The biggest difference of this alley is that it offers quiet space, pure environment, and good ventilation – [ Location: 498, Le Quang Dinh Street, Ward 1, Go Vap District ]
Or Flower Lined Alleyway: This alleyway is home to the largest wholesale flower market in Ho Chi Minh City. Ho Thi Ky Flower Market is nestled in the Le Hong Phong apartment complex in District 10, operating 24 hours a day. Between 1 am to 3 am, you’ll see the scene of a bustling flower market between buyers and sellers. The bargains from traders, boisterous laughters of porters, the “purr purr” motorbike sounds combine to create a unique lifestyle under rush, not to be confused with any other alleyway market. [ Location: Alley 57, Ho Thi Ki Street, Ward 1, District 10 ]
Or the coffee alleys are home to many cafes sitting right next to each other varying in style from retro to simple but lush hanging gardens.
I recommend exploring the alleys in the morning between 8:00 AM to 10:00 AM, when people are usually taking care of their housework and preparing meals, or in the late afternoon, from 3:00 PM to 5:00 PM, when children often play outside. You’ll get more chances of observing some more authentic moments of the local people’s real lives during this time.
To discover these alleys, of course, you must spend time wandering, seeking, and … getting lost. But don’t you worry, Saigon citizens are very enthusiastic and friendly. If asked for help, they will not hesitate to give you careful directions until you get out of those sinuous alleys. And that might leave you pondering whether getting lost in Saigon is a troublesome or lovely experience. Let go and check out Saigon’s Secret Alleys./.
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