Districts of Saigon

Hello!
I am planning on moving to Saigon next June and wanted to get a little more information about the various districts. I am a 31 year old teacher, looking to teach English in Vietnam. I am not looking to be super close to all the nightlife but wouldn’t like to be so far out from the city. What districts would you recommend for someone looking for a genuine Vietnamese experience but also with some of the comforts of home? I don’t want to be secluded but also don’t want to be in the center of all the action. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

Hello Louder86,

HCMC (Saigon) is a big city with as many as 18-20 districts (could be more). Some districts cover large areas as well.

IMO, much depends on where your school is located.
Most teachers try to find accommodations not too far from their workplaces.

Traffic in this city is horrendous, especially in the office hours. Even city authorities are at a loss to find a long-term solution to this mess.
35 solutions proposed to tackle Ho Chi Minh City traffic congestion

Dist. 1, 2, 7 ... these are so-called expat areas where you can prolly access all western amenities, nightlife etc.

Some expats choose to stay in Dist. 8, 9, 11, 12 and Thu Duc district ... which are all bit out of the way and I suspect not many good English language schools are there.

I'd suggest you stay in one of the central districts, somewhere in Phu Nhuan, Binh Thanh, Go Vap or Tan Binh. There are good language schools in those districts and they are not far from Dist. 1.

These are very Vietnamese areas and you can still find almost everything you need. ... nice coffee shops, restaurants, hospitals, supermarkets etc.... even busy local markets as well. 
Again, since a lot traffic passes through these central districts everyday, air pollution could be high.
If you find an accommodation in any of these districts, try to get one inside an alley, little far from those busy thoroughfares.

Take a look at this map to get some ideas. Click on it to zoom in.
The map doesn't show fringe districts like Hoc Mon, Cu Chi etc.

Once again, I'd recommend not to stay too far from your workplace (school).

Hope this info helps.

Welcome to Vietnam!  :cheers:

Everything @senwl said.
Cheap hotel in central area for a couple weeks until you land a job.
Then live near the school.
Walking more than 10 minutes to work is tough in the heat and you don't see Vietnamese walking - they motorbike.
Maybe the school will have ideas, or even help, finding housing. Dunno.
Don't worry, every area is a 'genuine Vietnam experience'!

senwl :

HCMC (Saigon) is a big city with as many as 18-20 districts (could be more). Some districts cover large areas as well.

You must be working from memory.  There are 19 quận (districts) and 5 huyện (rural districts).  Although Huyện Bình Chánh seems fairly urbanized, the other four seem like entirely different worlds.

I heartily concur with the suggestion that prospective teachers should look to the secondary ring of districts like Phu Nhuan, Binh Thanh, Go Vap or Tan Binh.  I don't know if any of the "premier" schools have started up in Thu Duc but life there is somewhat less hectic.  If you want to eat out in Western restaurants and spend time in night clubs then by all means live in Q.1.

Places like Hoc Mon, Nha Be and Binh Chanh are hardly rural these days and are basically suburbs of Saigon. There are still rural areas in these three Huyens, but I doubt now that would be called rural

colinoscapee :

Places like Hoc Mon, Nha Be and Binh Chanh are hardly rural these days and are basically suburbs of Saigon. There are still rural areas in these three Huyens, but I doubt now that would be called rural

I confess that I have never been through Hoc Mon except where it bounds on QL1A.  Same is true of Binh Chanh and it certainly seems built up along the highway.  Lagely uncontrolled Vietnamese development patterns seem to string commercial developments out along the highways instead of keeping them clustered in towns.  This pattern obscures a lot of otherwise beautiful countryside.   I have been through Nha Be when we took the small ferry to Can Gio.  It is still pretty much undeveloped.

How long since you were in Saigon?

colinoscapee :

How long since you were in Saigon?

Two years.  There may be changes but not that much.  When was the last time you were in Nha Be?  Keep in mind my comment about the tendency to develop along the roadside while obscuring the farmland behind.  I am perfectly willing to agree with you on Hoc Mon and Binh Chanh;  they are rapidly urbanizing.

I was in Nha Be 4 months ago. There are numerous buildings being constucted due to its proximity to Phu My Hung. I still wouldnt count Nha Be as farmland. You want to see change, check out D2, thousands of new apartments built in the last few years.

Phu My Hung may be creeping downward into Nha Be.  I remember about ten years ago being shown some swampland south of Phu My Hung which I am sure is covered with apartments today.  I still think that if you get off the beaten path it is more rural than you think although due to its swampy nature not really all farmland.  It may be outside of HCM but for an excellent example of how Vietnam's unregulated development policies hide the countryside, travel down Highway 1 through Long An Province.  The northern part of the route is crowded with factories, including plastics factories that seem perilously close to the La Vie water bottling plant.  The only signs of agriculture along the highway include shops selling used tractors and rice harvesters, along with livestock feed outlets.  As a former agriculturalist, my eyes are naturally drawn to the used tractor places.  Yet we know that Long An is one of the premier rice growing areas in Vietnam.  Aside from a few peeks, and sometimes the delicious aroma of ripening rice, the first place you will see an unbroken stretch of farmland is on the relatively new cutoff road that encircles Long An City.  Even there, there are cafe võng, restaurants and gas stations and unsold subdivisions coming up.  It really is a shame how this form of roadside development obscures one of the great beauties of the country, it's farmland.

I know the area around Saigon very well. Been through many backroads and know about the countryside through Nha Be, and Long An. The point is Nha Be is changing and its not just on the main roads. Yes, there is still lots of countryside, you would expect that in a suburb that is 100 sqklms.

Having clocked up around 120k riding motorbikes on VN roads, Im sure I can show you many roads that you dont know about. The back road from Saigon to Go Cong and on to Cho Gao in Tien Giang for example.

Long An City, I presume you are referring to Tân An.

colinoscapee :

Having clocked up around 120k riding motorbikes on VN roads, Im sure I can show you many roads that you dont know about.

I am sure you could.  Unfortunately my wife seems to have an inordinate fear of any route that she does not know, unless she can follow someone who does.  One exception, as we had too much invested to turn back, was when we took the road to near the southern tip of Nha Be to the ferry at Hiep Phuoc.  It crosses to Cần Giờ.  I highly recommend it if you have not already done so.  I love all ferries but especially the smaller ones.

colinoscapee :

Long An City, I presume you are referring to Tân An.

Perhaps.  I never entered the city as we took the cutoff.  My wife always referred to it as Long An City, perhaps without knowing it's correct name.  She insists that I defer to her in all matters Vietnamese, so I of course have the wisdom to comply.    :cool:

I have been to Can Gio and Can Thanh about 7 times over the years.

The younger generation now refer to Long An as LA, same as Los Angeles.

I wouldn't call Nha Be rural but I also wouldn't call it developed. Nha Be, bottom of D7, Binh Hung are developed along raised dirt roads. Someone puts in a road and houses go up, so you have these snakes of houses surrounded by swamp and ponds. When it rains, in no time the water is over your shoes on your motorbike on the main road from Nha Be to D7.  Saigon has an expansion problem on the south side due to water.

The rural area I like are all the farms along the highway down to My Tho.

I remember Nhà Bè as an area of nothing but water, water, and water.  Its name (house of raft) came from the string of anchored rafts (bè) on which daily activities were given a chance to continue while the boats were stuck waiting for rising tides.

There was an old 2-line ditty describing the unpredictable life and temporary relationships among people who lived on the water back then:

"Nhà Bè nước chảy chia hai
Ai về Gia Định, Đồng Nai thì về"

(At Nhà Bè the water flows and parts
Some people follow its way to Gia Định while others would head to Đồng Nai}

Gia Định back then was a spread-out semi-rural tỉnh that was made up by many quận: Gò Vấp, Tân Bình, Hóc Môn, Thủ Đức, Nhà Bè, and Bình Chánh. It's gone now, with some of its parts incorporated into Saigon.

At 10th grade when all high school students had to choose majors,  my choice forced me to transfer to a different school that was located in Gia Định (instead of staying at the top high school for girls located in Q1 now).  I thought of the change as an exile because in my mind, Gia Định was another world, with its culture so far below what I was familiar with in our capital.  Oh, the arrogance of youth!

Saigon would have been a much nicer small city in those days. I know some areas in Thu Duc  just off the main road which still has small farms and the waterways. Its all very quaint and gives you a glimpse of what life used to be like.

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