Ho Chi Minh City “sprawls out endlessly into low-rise developments and industrial zones,” explains Jake Hornberger at Vietcetra. The city is broken into 24 districts consisting of 19 inner city districts and five suburban areas, some numbered and others named. But it’s District 1, between the Saigon River and Reunification Palace, “that marks the heart of the place and the obvious site for travellers seeking a serve of culture shock to make a base.” District 1 is “the locus of city life in Saigon,” where majority of the city’s commercial activity is concentrated and “home to most of the major sights and historical monuments such as the Reunification Palace and the Ben Thanh Market,” says Travelshopa.
Pham Ngu Lao is known as the “backpacker district” or the “budget travel district,” explains Tripsavvy. It’s a convenient place to find “cheap accommodation, food, nightlife, and to book tickets elsewhere,” and the destination for “a dose of the international, fresh-off-the-bus backpacker scene,” says The Hungry Suitcase. It’s comprised of a large city rectangle formed by Pham Ngu Lao Street and Bui Vien Street. “Both major roads as well as small connecting streets are buzzing with cafes, restaurants, bars, and places to spend money,” says Tripsavvy.
Nguyen Thai Binh Ward used to be largely industrial, notes Vietcetra, and today “it still feels like the location for a movie set in pre-1975 Saigon.” Home to Yersin market, where hardware materials are sold, “the nearby streets took on a similar persona,” but now it also has added “a series of trendy food and beverage establishments, giving these streets a lively underground atmosphere.”