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What to See, Taste, and Do on a Late-Afternoon Walk in Phú Mỹ Hưng

There are probably Saigoneers who will grow old without ever setting foot in Phú Mỹ Hưng, just like how several of my relatives living in District 8 have never visited Nguyễn Huệ Walking Street. Having grown up in the southern district too, I’ve gone three decades without visiting Cần Giờ or District 12, though our proximity with District 7 means I’ve gotten a few chances to get to know Phú Mỹ Hưng.

My personal theory is that Saigon’s numerous residential enclaves are too self-sufficient and our public transportation network too underdeveloped to encourage citywide exploration. With affordable ready-made meals, groceries, optic shops, nước mía carts, pharmacies, hair salons, pet shops, cinemas, nhậu eateries, and any other amenities necessary to sustain life accessible just a short bike ride away, many Saigoneers feel little incentive to venture out of their residential bubbles — which is a shame because Saigon, to me, is a city of endless novelties.

Phú Mỹ Hưng is a sleepy residential town south of Saigon.

First envisioned by Taiwanese land prospector Lawrence S. Ting in the early 1990s, Phú Mỹ Hưng remains Saigon’s most successful urban planning project, turning forgotten swampland into a livable, spacious, and smooth-running town that is still thriving after decades. Today, Phú Mỹ Hưng is known among Saigoneers as Saigon’s unofficial “Korea Town,” hosting the city’s most populous and arguably authentic collection of Korean restaurants, cafes and drinking establishments. Of course, it would be amiss for Saigoneer to run our Korea Chapter without including Phú Mỹ Hưng.

Inside Crescent Mall where our Stroll began.

On this Stroll feature, the Saigoneer team headed to Phú Mỹ Hưng to visit some of Saigon South’s most iconic spots, like Ánh Sao Bridge and Bán Nguyệt Lake Park, and try out a few Korean activities that we’ve only seen on TV dramas. Without giving away too much, I can make a bold claim now that the Korean sauna, or jjim jil bang, is as fun as it looks on the screen and was the best stop in the whole trip.

1. Photo Time

Address: 5th Floor, Crescent Mall, 101 Tôn Dật Tiên, D7

Photo stickers are a mainstay of Vietnamese friend groups.

While the photo booth was first invented in New York a century ago, East Asia really took the technology to another level. Photo booths first arrived in Vietnam at the turn of the century via South Korea; if you’ve taken photo stickers with friends before here, that was probably at a Korean-style photo booth. Our first stop, naturally, is at Crescent Mall for convenient parking, and the Photo Time store is just a few floors up — a whimsical start to document this memory with the team. Birthday dedications on Instagram stories, specially made Spotify mixtapes, and Facebook pokes — today’s expressions of friendships have seamlessly integrated with our cyberworld, but there’s just something special about holding in your hand a physical copy of a photo, feeling the texture of the paper, and how the printed colors depict your crazy poses.

Choose a headband (or five) to complete your look before getting the photos taken.


  • Many fun props, from fluffy cat paw gloves to duck headbands, to enhance the beauty of your visage
  • A simple vanity station to zhuzh up before taking the photos
  • Limited selection of filters and frames

Cost: VND30,000 per person

  • The shop provides a link with a QR code to download the photo sets and a video recording the posing, which turns out to be surprisingly delightful. This link only exists temporarily, so remember to download the files.
  • Download the app for a first-timer discount code.

Friendship milestone unlocked!

2. Ánh Sao Bridge & Bán Nguyệt Lake Park

Walking in April under this heat is unbearable, so we started at 5pm.

Right behind Crescent Mall is the home to Bán Nguyệt (Semicircle) Lake and Ánh Sao (Starlight) Bridge, which leads pedestrians to a spacious park right on the lake shore. The most common comment I get from friends and families who’ve never been here is that the area doesn’t feel like Vietnam. On one side, a placid water surface reflects frond-heavy nipa palms and a bright setting sun. On the other side, a curvy stretch of elevated shopfronts with white steps leads to expansive walkable paths. According to the civic space’s original planners, they took inspiration from Singapore’s waterfront to craft the Bán Nguyệt Lake area.

Ánh Sao Bridge is pedestrian-only, though skateboards and segways seem to be fair game.

Ánh Sao Bridge earns its name from the peppering of floor lights on the bridge's surface illuminating the path in the evening. While the idea is quite cute in a slightly cheesy way, in practice these rays of light can be disorientating if you’re not careful while walking. If the northeastern side of the bank has a put-together foreign feel, once you’ve crossed the bridge to the other side, that very Vietnamese sense of chaos is in full reign: entrepreneurial locals have turned the area next to the park, where Tôn Dật Tiên Street meets a dead-end, into a race track for miniature cars. In the evening, one can find racers of all ages excitedly careening on the asphalt on Hello Kitty bikes, Frozen-themed cars, and other wacky themed vehicles.

A top-tier park well-suited for your picnicking needs.


  • Buskers lending their musical talent to lake-side performances
  • Well-maintained grass patches for picnics and dog-walking
  • Miniature racecourse

Cost: Free
Tips: Some finger food and cold beverages would be perfect to enjoy here while you walk around taking in the beautiful sunset and raucous atmosphere of childlike glee.

3. Avocado, Durian and Pumpkin Ice Cream

Address: 1 Đường N, D7

The kitschy exterior of Quán Thỏ Ngọc Xinh Xinh.

Vinahouse music picks, odd interior style, and kitschy decorations: this little corner cafe is a confounding mess in terms of vibes, but luckily, the food and drinks are a treat. Quán Thỏ Ngọc Xinh Xinh — I know, what a name — advertises kem bơ sầu riêng bí đỏ, and manages to deliver that with great aplomb. For the uninitiated, kem bơ is a cold dessert made famous by Đà Lạt, featuring a base of avocado purée and a scoop of coconut ice cream with desiccated coconut flakes sprinkled on top. Here, the menu expands on that concept by adding durian and pumpkin purée as options. Once you can get over the mental hurdle of thinking that pumpkin purée is essentially baby food, it’s a pleasant, cooling snack for a hot summer day in Saigon.

Not baby food! But I won't fault you for thinking otherwise.


  • Campy Instagram check-in sets
  • Hottest Vinahouse tracks to relax/study to
  • Quite well-balanced kem bơ and other desserts

Cost: VND55,000 per person
Tips: If the cafe’s ambiance weirds you out, get the desserts to-go and hop to the park to enjoy while people-watching and sitting on the grass.

4. Perilla Restaurant

Address: 161 Tôn Dật Tiên, Tân Phong Ward, D7

Perilla / Tía Tô focuses on wholesome food that's supposed to be good for your health.

As much as I enjoy the savory, saucy, finger-lickin’ goodness of Korean fried chicken, my favorite thing about Korean cuisine is its serious dedication to side dishes, best known as banchan. Perilla restaurant in District 7 has one of the most generous, diverse, and tasty collections of banchan in Saigon. Elsewhere, you might get a few types of kimchi and some dried anchovies, but Perilla’s banchan spread is made fresh every few days and changes often depending on the season. Ever since a Korean colleague introduced me to this place, I have lovingly gorged myself on their banchan every visit, and the best thing is that you can ask for refills. The menu has staples like K-BBQ and deonjang jjigae, but also many other home-style Korean dishes that you might not find at Saigon’s typical K-fastfood places. Perilla’s homey atmosphere makes it an ideal stop for a cozy trip to Phú Mỹ Hưng, getting your stomach well-satiated to prepare you for our last stop: the Korean sauna.


  • Rustic cơm nhà-style Korean dishes
  • Free after-meal cinnamon punch
  • Every banchan everywhere all at once

Cost: Approximately VND200,000 per dish
Tips: The restaurant requires at least one dish per pax, so order sparingly. On numerous occasions, I’m already half-full on side dishes even before my order arrives.

5. Golden Lotus Healing Spa

Address: 139 Tôn Dật Tiên, D7

Golden Lotus is open from 7am to 12am.

Picture this: In an enclosed space awash in cedar wood accents, a working-class K-drama protagonist lounges around with her gaggle of auntie friends to talk shit about their neighbors. They all wear quirky-looking pajamas and carry around a bath towel to sometimes whack the heroine on the head should she fail to follow their romantic advice. This is probably a typical vista familiar to anyone who grew up with Korean soap operas in Vietnam, but few might ever get to experience this uniquely Korean activity in person, Saigoneer included — until now, that is.

A visit to any jjim jil bang would be incomplete without cute towel hats and selfies.

This distinctive-looking sauna is known as jjim jil bang in the Korean language. How do I even begin to explain jjim jil bang in this limited article space without sounding like I was paid handsomely to shill their business? I will shill anyway because I enjoyed myself that much, just know that we paid for this ourselves.

A typical dosirak.

First, there are a few components to the spa experience at Golden Lotus: many options of massages, which we didn’t try due to time constraints; a wet bath house on the first floor where participants are all naked, though there are separate male and female sections; a upper-floor dry section with a smorgasbord of different spa rooms to try, and ample space to lounge around shooting the breeze while snacking.

Dinner at Mr. BBQ features typical Korean dishes like soups and banchans.

Speaking of food, the spa compound has a restaurant attached to the first floor called Mr. BBQ, where we had our dinner while waiting for the spa happy hours to kick in. The food, comprising mostly common Korean dishes, is serviceable, though it’s quite exciting to try out dosirak (Korean lunch boxes) for the first time. The dry section has a snack counter selling the iconic jjim jil bang eggs and sikhye (rice punch), amongst other simple munchies like cup noodles. The snacks are on the pricey side (VND45,000 per small Shin ramyeon cup), but the eggs and rice juice are must-tries.

Jjim jil bang eggs are brown and have a nutty, toasty hint to their taste.

For temperature-control spa enthusiasts, there are numerous novelty rooms to try out. There’s a chilly room (like sitting in a freezer), a hot kiln (steamy but a little uncomfortable), an oxygen room (very cozy vibes but I can’t verify the oxygen concentration claims), a few infrared capsules (claustrophobic), a ticklish but nonetheless delightful fish spa, amongst other amenities like kids’ room and exercise machines. While I’ll be the first to question any health claims presented here, I’m still amazed to learn that there are so many different ways to sit in a room, which makes jjim jil bang a great experience for me, because there’s nothing I enjoy more than sitting around doing nothing.


  • Various ways to sit, lounge, and lie around
  • Gainful employment for fish
  • Comfortable pajamas
  • New way to eat eggs


  • The entrance fee per person is around VND315,000 generally, but after 7:30pm, it drops to VND150,000.
  • Before our visit, I was astounded by the sheer volume of good reviews of the place on Google Maps, but it turns out the spa offers a special rate (VND170,000) for any guest willing to give a five-star review on the spot. The service mostly deserves the good reviews, but beware of the artificially inflated high ratings.


  • Learn how to fold the provided towels into cute headwear before visiting.
  • The fish massage tank is outside the dry mainroom, up a short flight of stairs past the exercise machines.

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