8 THINGS TO DO IN DISTRICT 3 - SAIGON
District 3 is a bit quieter than District 1, and it's very interesting for vegetarian/vegan visitors, as it has many restaurants of that kind. There are also many temples and churches to visit, where you can relax and find peace amidst the chaotic and noisy city.
1. Pink Church (Tan Dinh). It looks like a Disneyland castle, but it's a working Catholic church! Definitely one of my favorite places in District 3. As you can imagine, it's from the French colonial years. It was built from 1870 to 1876. On Sundays it's closed to visitors, it only opens for mass.
There is a bar right in front of the church with rooftop views, in case you want to have beautiful "Instagram pictures". The prices are a bit high (of course, you pay for the view), but it's worth it to enjoy the Pink church from above.
2. Turtle Lake. It has a very interesting architectural form. It was built during the French colonial period as a water tower to supply the area. It's actually not a lake but a roundabout with an artificial pond. It's surrounded by traffic, like every other place in the city, but it has benches to sit and the lotus plants give a relaxing atmosphere. It's worth visiting at night, when young people sit around the "lake" to eat, drink and hang out; street food is very cheap and there is a great vibe. To know more about the history of this peculiar place, check this post from Go Vietnam!
3. Archbishop's Residency. Another beautiful example of French architecture, built in 1790. It can be visited only by appointment; I didn't know that, so we just had a walk inside the gardens. Like any other park or garden in the city, it's a great place to take a break from the traffic and hustle and bustle of Saigon.
4. Nguyen Dinh Chieu street. Long street with trees and sidewalks, which has many vegetarian restaurants alongside. If you want to have a fancy meal or try something different other than vietnamese street food, here are some of the most famous places: Prem, Mani, Bong Sung or Hum.
5. War Remnants Museum. We weren't able to visit this place due to time restrictions. It had a very long line to go in and it wasn't high on our list of things to see, so we passed on it. But from the number of people waiting it seems like an interesting attraction. The photos are taken from the outside. If you want more information about the museum, check this post from Culture Trip.
6. Xa Loi Pagoda. A beautiful temple with a bonsai garden, perfect to take a rest while walking through the district, and if you are lucky maybe you will find the monks chanting inside the temple. We found a group of students praying. After walking awhile through the busy streets it was nice to escape to a calm and tranquil place.
7. Vinh Nghiem Pagoda. It's the biggest pagoda in Ho Chi Mihn, and the busiest too. It feels less peaceful than the other temples, there is always people around praying and burning incense. Right next to the Pagoda you will find a few vegetarian/vegan restaurants.
8. The river canal. The canal area has a lot to offer; it's a beautiful area with nice coffee and beer places. It's not completely touristic, you will find many local people in these coffee places, and don't expect the workers to understand you in English; luckily the menus are usually written in both Vietnamese and English.
Where to eat vegan in District 3:
If you are in the touristic areas the vegetarian places will be fancy and expensive, which is good too if you want something special (try the street mentioned above, Nguyen Dinh Chieu, to find one of these fancy places). But if you want to eat like the locals, look for one of the Buddhist vegan restaurants; the magic word is 'Chay' (vegetarian/vegan in Vietnamese). Prices go from 15k to 40k (less than 2 euros) depending on the area; they serve Co'm (broken rice) with vegetables, tofu cooked in many different ways and vegan 'meat' and 'fish'. They also have the vegan version of Bun and Pho (rice noodle soup), spring rolls and Banh (sandwich made of french baguette). You can search on Google Maps for 'vegetarian restaurants' and go to the ones with Vietnamese names including the magic word :)
* Vuon Chay. If you are visiting the Pink Church, here is a nearby restaurant to stop. The staff doesn't speak English very well, but the menu is in English. They have a big variety of vegan dishes. Higher prices than the traditional Buddhist restaurants.
Where to stay in District 3:
During the weekend we spent exploring the District 3, we stayed at LeBlanc Saigon, a small hotel in a quiet street run by a local family. They were very friendly and helpful, and prepared a vegan breakfast for us :) The hotel is conveniently located between districts 1 and 3, perfect to walk to the main monuments of the city. The room was spacious and comfortable, with views to the small street.
Let us know if you have any other
favorite places in District 3!