Dana Filek-Gibson finds roller coasters and Vietnamese specialties along this narrow Truong Son street in District 10. Photos by Christian Berg.

Driving past, you get the impression that Truong Son is the effect of too many people in one place. At its beginning the street is an afterthought, swallowed up by the chaos of Cach Mang Thang Tam on one side and the gargantuan Le Thi Rieng Park on the other. Motorbikes cut across the asphalt clearing nearby, funneling onto the narrow road as if forced by the overflow of traffic. But get past the frenzied climate of District 10, where stores are sardine-packed onto every city block and the average volume of street life is stuck at deafening, and there is more to Truong Son than meets the eye. Beyond the street’s modest entrance, you’ll find a labyrinth of tiny alleys and worthy spots off the beaten path that make Truong Son a welcome refuge from the bustle and noise outside.

To get here, follow CMT8 from the roundabout near the New World Hotel for about three kilometres. Truong Son is on the left, right before Le Thi Rieng Park.

Street-Smart-Truong-Son-Saigon-4Le Thi Rieng Park
corner of Truong Son and Cach Mang Thang Tam
Approaching from any direction, the mammoth gates of Le Thi Rieng are hard to miss. Amidst the hectic action surrounding this area, the park’s grounds are quite literally a breath of fresh air. Instead of motorbikes and street vendors, you’ll find middle-aged locals practicing tai chi while students congregate on nearby benches. A large and relatively clean pond sits on the northern side of the grounds, providing an atmosphere rarely found in the city. There is also a cafe that overlooks the water and plenty of shaded, quiet space the farther you get from the park’s entrance.

Da Lat Pho coffee shop
4D Truong Son
Perched on the quiet corner of Truong Son and Huong Giang streets, the mellow garden coffee shop Da Lat Pho +6feels miles apart from the din of CMT8 just down the road. Stocked with an array of potted plants, a miniature waterfall, and an impressive collection of animal-related tchotchkes, this cafe offers your typical coffee, tea, and smoothie options with the added benefit of peace and quiet. For the best experience, sit outside where the sound of the waterfall masks the city noise and downplays the slow jams coming from inside the cafe. Make sure to also visit the interior for a look at the artfully displayed compilation of stuffed animals and “I love you” throw pillows. Beverages run around VND 40,000-50,000 apiece.

Truong Son District 10 HCMCDac San Phan Rang 2
CC 20 Truong Son
When it comes to Vietnamese specialties, there are few in Saigon that elude the average expat. But for those who have yet to try Phan Rang’s unique local cuisine a visit to this shop is recommended. The southern coastal city’s signature dishes include banh can, a miniature round egg-and-rice-flour cake with seafood or meat, and a smaller version of banh xeo featuring prawns and squid, all of which are enjoyed with the usual plate of greens. The real star of Phan Rang cuisine, however, is the peanut sauce, a light but refreshing topping that is best when mixed with fish sauce. Dishes range from VND 45,000-60,000.

White Rabbit Amusement Park
corner of Truong Son & Cach Mang Thang Tam
Located within the gates of Le Thi Rieng, White Rabbit Amusement Park is reminiscent of a travelling carnival. Merry-go-rounds and miniature roller coasters are among the featured attractions, along with an arcade, a playground, and a food court, all of which appear to have been painted by Willy Wonka. The park is open from 3-10pm on weekdays and 8am-10pm at the weekends and is suitable for all ages. A ticket for one round, approximately three or four rides, is VND 25,000.

Gardening supplies
Beside Le Thi Rieng Park on Truong Son
For anyone with a green thumb, the sidewalk lining the outer wall of Le Thi Rieng is populated with a collection of gardening shops, all of which sell items like potted and hanging plants and garden care equipment. A typical potted plant costs between VND 60,000 and VND 100,000, though there are more expensive ones as well, including flowering trees and other large items. This is an area that sees fewer foreigners, so it’s best to have an idea of what you’re looking for before you arrive, as the vendors are not particularly fluent in English, but the variety of plants and affordable prices make the spot worth a visit.