Colorful Saigon Alleys

The main streets of Saigon bustle with traffic and life all day and night. However, networks of alleys branch out behind them like a labyrinth, holding surprises and secrets of their own.

Alleys where Saigon people can have breakfast

Saigon’s alleys are a microcosm of its main streets. Street vendors, flea markets, schools, hospitals, temples and churches can all exist in an alley. In each area of the city, alleys have their own unique features. In the city centre, for instance, the alleys are often paved, quiet and clean, shaded by beautiful purple Bougainvillea flower trees. They provide peaceful respites from busy city life.

The alleys in densely populated residential areas away from the center are often more chaotic. They wind like roads through a village, at some points so narrow a motorbike can barely pass; at others wide enough for a kid’s football game. Some contain temples, and on the first day of the lunar month, you can hear the soothing sounds of the mo, a small wooden bowl people strike rhythmically when praying.

At the entrance to many alleys, you’ll find small carts selling hu tieu noodles, bread or coffee. Before going to work or school, residents of the alleys stop to have breakfast, gossip and read the newspapers. At days’ end, the alley buzzes like a beehive, with the sights and sounds of motorbikes running and children playing, the smells of cooking filling the air.

or drink coffee before work

Some Saigon alleys are famous in different ways. Coffee shops in alleys on Nguyen Du, Pasteur and Pham Ngoc Thach are favorite places for celebrities to get together and relax away from the public spotlight. The winding alleys of District 04 are filled with food stalls and restaurants, destinations for foodies to enjoy cuisine from all regions of the country. People tell the story of Alley 287 Nguyen Dinh Chieu in District 03, where house number 70 was used a secret weapons storage tunnels during the war. The alley was a setting for the movie Biet Dong Saigon.

restored weapon houseThe house where Viet Cong soldiers restored up to 3 tons of weapons in American war time

No matter how it was made, whether purpose-built by the city or evolving organically, each alley in Saigon has its own story and culture, reflecting the diversity and lifestyle of its neighborhood. Like in an alley is not separated but connected in a way that reflects Saigon as a whole: lived in close quarters, out in the open but still respectful of privacy. Hidden from sight, Saigon’s alleys have somehow become a lively icon of the city itself.