It is a fairly common complaint in the HCMC expat community that there is not much to do in terms of leisure activities in Saigon. This is partially true; until recently, the Vietnamese population with expendable income was very small, so “unnecessary luxury” activities are not yet as prevalent as in many big cities. A large part of the problem, though, is that most expats aren’t as in-touch with the local community thanks to the language barrier and, for that reason, don’t hear about fun things to do in their vicinity. To help remedy that issue, we’ve put together a list of some of Saigon’s overlooked leisure activities.
1. Go-Karts — 582/12 Huỳnh Tấn Phát, District 7
Who doesn’t love go karts? There’s nothing like the exhilaration of the zipping around a series of tight turns in an amazingly agile little car, and the fact that you can go over the advisable speed limit without worrying about maiming yourself adds to the fun.
Kart1 is located past Phu My Hung in District 7,But it is worth the 30-minute drive from the city center. It is run by two German expats, and they have taken care to keep their establishment up to International safety and cleanliness standards. The carts are well-maintained, the track is about 350 meters long, and the price is well worth it. $13 for 15 minutes may seem steep initially, but you can take 30 laps within that time and, by the end, you will have thoroughly satisfied your need for speed… for the day, at least.
2. 3D Art Museum — #2, Street 9, Tân Hưng Ward, District 7 (Near Nguyễn Hửu Thọ Street)
This is one of the best leisure activities in Saigon for kids and adults. If you want to spend the afternoon relaxing in the most Vietnamese way possible, this is the place for you. The entire purpose of the museum is to take photos in a variety of aesthetically styled environments. It delivers on its purpose in spades. The museum is essentially a series of rooms filled with floor-to-ceiling paintings, most of them incorporating some trick of perspective to allow human model to blend into the imagined world. Some of the paintings actually look like MC Escher works in which the visitor gets to be the star. It’s a great place to go for some lighthearted fun… or for some great Facebook profile pictures.
3. Escape Rooms — Locations all around Saigon, especially in District 1
Escape rooms are a worldwide phenomenon, but many people either do not know what they are or do not know that Saigon has them. It is surprisingly fun to be locked in a themed room with clues in the form of puzzles hidden around you that will aid in your escape. How authentic and well-constructed the rooms are is what can make or break an escape room experience, and the rooms in Saigon tend to be of incredibly good quality.
At the city’s most popular escape room, called LOST Escape Room, the price varies from $6 per person if you are going on a weekday morning to $10 if you are going in the evening on either a weekend or a weekday. You and your partner(s) have 60 minutes to escape the rooms, which include rooms themed around a haunted school, a prison break, and a UFO crash site.
This option certainly wins the award for the most intellectually stimulating way to spend your afternoon in Saigon.
4. Archery — In the athletics complex at 4 Pham Ngoc Thach Street, District 1
On the surface, archery may seem like a luxurious activities in which only the very rich engage. The archery in Saigon does not require special clothing or expensive equipment, though. It does not even have a steep learning curve. In fact, the archery center in the athletics complex in District 1 is aimed at beginners, and the staff there, many of whom can speak English, are great at introducing the sport to people who want to try it. After just five minutes of explanation, you will be raising your bow and firing at the target. Sure, you’ll have to start out firing at the bullseye from only five meters away, but you still feel like a complete badass pulling back your bow string and letting arrows fly
Surprisingly, you will not have to spend a lot of money to become engaged in this sport. A half an hour at the archery range only costs around $2.25 including equipment and training. This beginner level archery range is a fun and very affordable way to become interested in an addictive new physical activity.
5. Binh Quoi Park — 1147 Binh Quoi, Binh Thanh District
Binh Quoi is a delightful respite from the hustle and bustle of Saigon’s urban sprawl. Its rolling fields and the stone paths that intersect them form a beautiful backdrop for an afternoon of play and relaxation. Visitors are required to rent one of the sheltered tables in the park, but it is a perfect place to have a picnic. The park even has a restaurant, and they will bring food to your table if you ask. Binh Quoi is always crowded enough to feel lively, but it is one of the few places in Saigon Proper with enough open green space to run around without limits.
Obviously, this is just a very small sampling of what there is to do in Saigon. Even though there may not be as much going on as in Los Angeles or London, there are still hundreds of niche clubs and group activities to explore with social networking sites. Saigon is a city of over 10 million people, so there are plenty of concert venues and entertainment centers to amuse yourself. Even if you do not speak a word of Vietnamese, there is absolutely no reason to be intimidated when faced with the prospect of finding your own fun doing leisure activities in Saigon. Enjoy yourself, expats.