Discover More, Vietnam by Linh Pham

We sent Linh a DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Vietnam to get his perspective on what it means to use a travel guide in his hometown.

Name:Linh Pham

Place you live: Ho Chi Minh City

Can you sum up Ho Chi Minh City in a paragraph? As Vietnam’s most busy and developed city, Ho Chi Minh is a mixture of fluctuating history, diverse culture and a growing economy with a touch of young energy that moves the whole country forward. It’s the kind of dizzy vibe that some may find chaotic. The city also shines its charm through the French colonial architecture that dominates city center, and Chinese-influenced buildings that play hide and seek through other parts of the city.

Can you sum up the people of Ho Chi Minh City? Generosity and hospitality are the specialty of Vietnamese people that make its fame worldwide. It cannot be easier to talk to or hang out with Vietnamese people despite the differences in language. Don’t be surprised when you just walk pass a wedding and are invited to join as a groomsman.

What was the experience like looking through the DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Vietnam? Even though I’ve traveled to and stayed here many times in the past, I just relocated here for a long-term stay two months ago. As a fast-moving city, Ho Chi Minh City seems fresh to me all the time and it is really cool to look at my city with a new perspective, since people perceive things differently. I liked reading about the link to Western culture through local spots.

Did you find anything new or inspiring about Ho Chi Minh City in the DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: VietnamI’m surprised to see so many exciting little things that I’ve overlooked just because they are too close to home. The Mariamman Hindu Temple, which is only few blocks from my place, had never been that attractive to me to walk in before reading about it in the book. Oh, and Cholon Walking Tour (Chinese town) with a detailed map is spot on! I know the place is packed with a temple and a pagoda but I had never heard about the early 1930s mosque in the middle of the bunch.

How did the Guidebook influence the photos you went out to take of Ho Chi Minh City? I spent my day off exploring some of the highlights from the book but then added some personal touch into that. As a professional photographer, I tried to free my mind from work and take photos like a tourist with my phone through the perspective of the guidebook, with the hope of creating more surprising photos. And it worked!

Tell us about the photos you shot for this project? From the same place, I tend to not take the photo of the iconic building or the famous tourist spot cause it is well illustrated and photographed in the book already, so no need for me to redo it for the millionth time. I try to capture photos that sill present the place, but with a personal point of view as a citizen of the city and the moment that bring moods to places.

Occupation: Photojournalist

What is a perfect day in Ho Chi Minh City? It would be sunny, not rainy. I would start with eating sticky rice with peanut and sesame and a glass of hot soya milk, then explore new exhibitions at Fine Arts Museum and shop for home décor antiques on Le Cong Kieu. After that, I would go to District 4 for delicious street seafood BBQ followed by drinks with friends at She Café with the view to the gorgeous Nguyen Hue walking street.

What do you love about Ho Chi Minh City? Vintage motorbikes, chaos and energy.

What do you dislike? Non-stop rain, bad public transportation and terrible traffic jams.

What would be surprising about Ho Chi Minh City to an outsider? It’s packed with freestyle motorbike drivers. It’s a common joke here that if you can drive a motorbike here, you can drive anywhere else in the world and pavement marks are painted to drive over.

If Ho Chi Minh City was a person who would it be? I would like it to be Pham Xuan An, the perfect spy, the one who is full of character and surprise, the one who has a double life but he lived each one at its finest.

What was your impression of the DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: VietnamI’m really into the detailed illustrations. I would love to have some big prints of these to hang at home. Otherwise, the clear layout, fully colored photos and big typeface make it easy to scan through the book at a glance.


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Name:Linh Pham


Ho Chi Minh City

Best place to eat? 

You cannot go wrong with street food anywhere, anytime. Go to street side restaurants on Vinh Khanh Street, District 4 for cheap seafood. More upscale, the hidden Cuc Gach Quan for an open, chill atmosphere and simple but familiar Vietnamese food, Dat Restaurant for fusion Vietnamese food and it may sound weird but Japanese style pizza at Pizza 4P’s is worth a try. 

Best place to drink?

Outstanding and cheap street fruit smoothies at Five Boys on a small alley at 84 Bui Vien, Phuc Long Coffee & Tea House for a good collection of tea, Pasteur Street Brewing Company for craft beer, L’Usine for stylish café and the hip ones hide in the old apartments at 14 Ton That Dam.

Best place to shop? 

Ben Thanh Market is a tourist favorite, Saigon Square for affordable clothes and Le Cong Kieu for antiques.

Best outdoor activity? 

Take a coffee in front of Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica, write and send a postcard at Saigon Central Post Office next to that. Otherwise you can take a road trip on motorbike to Tay Ninh to see the beautiful Cao Dai Holy See Temple that is 100km away from Ho Chi Minh City.

Local tip? 

It’s a bit tricky to get there, but Thu Thiem Park is a favorite hangout place for local youngsters and couples. From there you can have a view back to the city over Saigon River. The city shines best during the sunset when the light is on.

If someone was visiting what must they do? 

Pho (Vietnamese noodle soup), Com Tam (Vietnamese broken rice) and street coffee are must to do in Ho Chi Minh City.