The Ben Thanh market is buzzing in the morning, packed with stalls selling crafts, homewares and clothing. Pick up breakfast while you're here: a serve of pho or banh xeo, a rice-flour pancake (about $2.50 a plate). Take a stroll past the elegant French colonial buildings of Saigon's historic District 1, including the central post office and the old Saigon Opera House. For lunch, stop at one of the many Wrap & Roll outlets, which have more than a dozen types of rolls (wrap-roll.com, $2.50). Explore the country's past at the Museum of Vietnamese History (75¢) - be sure to check out the Vietnamese mummy - before dinner at Quan an Ngon restaurant (about $4.50), where street food is prepared by specialist chefs. Rest at the Spring Hotel (springhotelvietnam.com, standard single, $43), with clean rooms and friendly staff.
EASY DOES IT
The excellent coffee and pastries at Cafe L'Opera ($6) will perk you up before you explore local flavours in the Saigon Cooking Class (saigoncookingclass.com, $45.50). After exploring ingredients at the market, you'll cook up a three-course feast. After lunch, head to the War Remnants Museum (warremnantsmuseum.com, 75¢), to get a Vietnamese perspective on the war with the US. The collection, which covers everything from tanks to a guillotine, is fascinating. Grab a cab (about $5) to the Boat House restaurant in District 2 for dinner (boathouse.com.vn, $8). The peaceful riverside location makes a welcome change from the bustle. Cab it back to town ($5) for a post-dinner treat: a pedicure at My Spa (myspa.com.vn, $5.80). Turn in for the night in one of the large, comfortable rooms at the Norfolk Hotel (norfolkhotel.com.vn, $150).
Enjoy breakfast at the Print Room ($5) before seeing the city from the back of a Vespa. Vietnam Vespa Adventures' half-day city tour (vietnamvespaadventures.com, $59) shows you the big sights plus a few local secrets: a flower market, a Chinese medicine shop, a pagoda with 10,000 Buddhas. Get your guide to drop you near Temple Club, (templeclub.com.vn, $13), a renovated Chinese temple, for lunch. Then check out art spaces and private collections with Sophie's Art Tour (sophiesarttour.com, $100 a person for a private tour for two). Explore the city on a sunset cruise for two, including a light dinner (saigonriverexpress.com, $191 a person). Before retiring to the Caravelle Hotel (caravellehotel.com, $461 for a Signature room), savour the colonial vibe in the hotel's rooftop bar, Saigon Saigon ($10).