As with any city of seven million souls, Saigon provides opportunities to get exercise and keep fit, although it wouldn’t win any awards for this aspect of the city. For most Vietnamese, keeping fit is a do-it-yourself thing, rather than something that requires a personal trainer and lots of advanced equipment as in a fitness centre.
Because of the tropical climate, the early morning and late evening are the best times to take exercise, as at other times the heat can make it unbearable. You’ll see locals jogging, practising t’ai chi or just taking the baby for a stroll at these times, so feel free to join them. But for something more organised, read on.
Fitness clubs in Saigon and swimming pools
If you’re a high roller who likes to keep in shape, then you should have no problem doing so at your hotel, as all five-star establishments these days have fitness clubs and swimming pools with state-of-the-art equipment.
Some of these hotels will permit non-residents to use their facilities, though a day pass costs in the region of US$20. Obviously this does not represent great value-for-money, and so a gym membership is better for long-term expats.
For those looking for a cheaper alternative, the Lan Anh Club on Cach Mang Thang Tam in District 10 has a decent gym with a day fee of around US$3 and around US$2 for use of the swimming pool. If you have children in tow, a good idea on a hot day is to head for Dam Sen Water Park on Hoa Binh to the west of the city centre with a theme park and fairground rides.
Golf in Saigon
Once unknown in the Vietnamese landscape, golf courses are now popping up everywhere in the country. The most convenient course for Saigon is the Vietnam Golf and Country Club, at Long Thanh My village, 15km east of the city centre. There’s a driving range, a 36-hole course and the chance of playing at night under floodlights.
Massage in Saigon and spas
Some may not consider laying down and being pampered by a masseuse or spa therapist as a fitness routine, but if the objective is to unwind, then these are certainly worth considering.
Massage is available all over Saigon, especially in hotels, though in some cases the term is used euphemistically (the outfits they wear should give you a clue). Spa culture has exploded here as across Asia and there are all kinds of treatments to de-stress and relax guests.
Generally the standard of spas in Ho Chi Minh City with a full compliment of wraps, scrubs and baths. A couple of recommended places that offer spa treatments are L’Apothiquaire on Truong Dinh, one of the city’s best, and Relax House on Bui Ven for the budget-minded.
Bowling in Saigon
It may not be terribly strenuous, but ten-pin bowling sure beats being a couch potato when it comes to getting exercise. After all, you have to pick up a heavy ball, take a few steps walk, and roll the ball down a lane, then do it all over again. It’s not especially Vietnamese either, though if you head for a game at the Diamond Superbowl in Diamond Plaza on Le Duan, you’ll find that it’s as popular here as anywhere.