A Guide to Thu Dau Mot and Binh Duong Province, Vietnam
Thủ Dầu Một (pronounced Too Yow Mot) is about 20 km north of Ho Chi Minh City — straight up the QL13. It’s the capital of Bình Dương province. In 1996, the Vietnam Singapore Industrial Park (VSIP) was officially launched in the province. A cooperation between the two countries, the industrial park is a 500 hectare (1235 acres) industrial area that is equipped to hold over 200 manufacturing plants. They offer ready-built, modern factories that are fully equipped for foreign investors. The project brought a lot of attention to Binh Duong province.
By 2005, Vietnamese officials decided to build a new city in Binh Duong province. Appropriately, they called it Binh Duong New City. With help from 3 foreign consulting companies: CPG (Singapore), Kume Sekkei – KDA (Japan), and the Cox Group (Australia), it’s currently on its way to becoming a modern, environmentally-friendly hub for politics, administration, and manufacturing in the province. In 2006, VSIP opened a second industrial park, VSIP II in New City. Businesses, apartments, and institutes popped up quickly in the next few years. By 2014, the Integrated Political-Administrative Center was opened.
Watch my video about Binh Duong New City
Thu Dau Mot, being the largest city amongst all of this growth, grew rapidly. In 2012, it was officially upgraded from a town to a city. Currently, it’s becoming more and more popular as a home for expats: Westerners teach at the various schools in the area — mainly Eastern International University and Singapore International School; many Chinese and Koreans run nearby factories at VSIP and VSIP II; and the Japanese population continues to grow as Japan invests in the province. Becamex is a state owned company that operates hotels, schools, highways, hospitals, and many factories in Binh Duong. They are a huge supporter of Binh Duong New City. In 2012, they partnered with Tokyu Corporation (a Japanese land developing company) to make Becamex-Tokyu. Since then, Japanese owned companies have sprouted up across Thu Dau Mot and Binh Duong province. Probably the most noticeable being the Aeon Mall, which opened in late 2014. Owned by Aeon Company, the largest retailer in Asia, the mall is by far the biggest in Binh Duong province. It has about 140 shops, including a department store, grocery store, cinema, bowling alley, and “the biggest food court in Vietnam”. It’s no coincidence that the mall is located right beside VSIP, which over the years has grown to have 216 tenants including big brands like Unilever and Siemens, and is responsible for nearly 100,000 jobs. There are plans to further expand the area into a luxury residential ward that caters to foreigners, including international schools, hotels, and business offices. For English-speaking expats, this means more opportunity for work in Vietnam.
Map – Thu Dau Mot
Living in Thu Dau Mot offers a bit of a small town feel. It’s not nearly as loud as Saigon, the traffic isn’t as crazy, overall it’s a lot less hectic than Ho Chi Minh City. Of course, you don’t have as many western perks at your fingertips, but Saigon is less than an hour away, and with hotels being so reasonably priced in Vietnam, a day trip to Saigon can inexpensively become a weekend.
There are currently 4 Western-owned restaurants in Thu Dau Mot (see map above). You can find pizza, steak, pastas, tacos, sushi, BBQ, Indian, Korean, Thai, Chinese, and of course lots of delicious Vietnamese food. It’s possible to get a meal for less than a dollar.
Some of my favourite restaurants in Thu Dau Mot
- JD’s Bar and Grill – They have a full bar and a good beer selection. This is really one of the only bars in the city, complete with a pool table, darts, and a TV often showing sports. The music is great — a far cry from most of the other establishments on my list.
- Huong Rung – Is tucked away on a side street. I actually went 1 year living in Thu Dau Mot before discovering it. It serves up BBQ and beer. Who would of thought that combo would work? The atmosphere is what makes this place: Vietnamese locals downing beers and smoke pouring from every table.
- Thu Nho – There are a bunch of these around the city. They specialize in seafood. Prices are very good. Popular amongst the locals. The fried squid (muc chien) is very tasty. There is an English menu, but it seems to have been translated by a local expat who’s included notes (a couple dishes include the comment “not very good”).
- Annz Sushi – The best sushi in town. The restaurant is nice and it fills up with Japanese expats. The private rooms in the back are great for large get-togethers.
- Hoàng Cung – serves up traditional Hue food in a gorgeous setting. It’s a bit of a hidden treasure. The restaurant is mostly outdoors and is really quite beautiful, while the food is delicious and reasonably priced.
- Huong Viet – Located across the street from the Becamex Hotel, it’s a convenient location and the food is quite good. I really love the tofu wrapped in tin foil with vegetables and seafood. Their ribs are also very good, but I can never find them on their English menu, so you might have to ask for them specifically (the owner speaks a bit of English). They now have a second location that’s literally within a stones throw of the first one.
- VitaBBQ – Located in the Becamex tower. The tables have built in grills where you cook your own food (or you can get the waitress to do it for you). This place is great if you have a fair-sized group. The bo pho mai (beef wrapped around cheese) is to die for. They also own a beer club just across the hall that offers great views, but usually loud music.
- Mimi’s – Across the road from the Becamex Hotel, this popular expat spot serves delicious Indian food.
- Billy’s – I don’t actually know the real name of this place, but the owner’s an American named Billy. They probably have the best steaks in town.
- An Tuong Cafe – this cafe/restaurant is owned by a European who offers hard to find dishes like goulash. They also have maybe the best pizza in town. The garden setting is relaxing and the prices are good. Maybe the best part, they’re open for breakfast and serve western options.
There are a ton of cafes in Thu Dau Mot. They range from stands with plastic stools, to quiet garden-settings, to indoor air-conditioned Starbucks-style venues that serve lattes and espresso. Vietnamese coffee is delicious and very addictive, but be careful, it’s spiked with sweetened condensed milk, so there are a lot of calories in it. Recently, Korean/Taiwanese-style tea cafes have become quite popular with the Vietnamese youth. They serve delicious cups of sweet fruity tea and milk tea that can be ordered a variety of different ways.
My favorite cafe is L3 Coffee, located on the north-side of Phu Loi street (see map). They serve espresso, mochas, lattes, and a cappuccino that would be too pretty to drink if it wasn’t also very tasty. The owners, a young married couple, will always greet you with a smile. I come here so often that they painted me on the wall.
The Vietnamese are big beer drinkers. It’s available at almost any restaurant. Don’t be surprised if you sit down in a restaurant and the waitress brings a whole case of beer to the table, pouring it into your glass faster than you can even drink it. Wine is available at only some restaurants. If you prefer mixed drinks, head to JDs Bar and Grill, Mimi’s, Billy’s, or one of the hotels.
Popular activities in the area include: shooting pool (there are pool halls everywhere), seeing a movie at one of the four cinemas, window shopping along Yersin street, singing karaoke, going to the gym or to a yoga class, playing tennis, going to a spa for a massage, getting manicure/pedicure, golfing, and going to one of the nearby water parks.
Thu Dau Mot is a relatively safe city. It’s also less likely that you’ll be taken advantage of when negotiating prices. In Ho Chi Minh City, westerners will often pay more at the market or at a bike mechanic. The people in Thu Dau Mot don’t have nearly as much exposure to westerners. They don’t see you as a way to make extra money, or even as a tourist. If you’re in Thu Dau Mot and you’re a westerner, it’s likely because you live there. You will probably get more smiles and waves from people as you walk down the street. Of course, don’t go down any dark alleys waving money around or anything. Use your common-sense and you should be fine. Be extra careful when you’re driving a moto-bike late at night. There is a lot of drinking and driving in Vietnam.
Thu Dau Mot is best traversed via scooter. At first, driving in the city will seem next to impossible. The rules of the road are difficult to figure out, but it’s not nearly as chaotic as it seems. Generally, you can go at your own pace, driving close to the curb, but leaving a bit of space for people coming towards you who are driving the opposite direction that they should be.
How To Drive in Vietnam
Alternatively, you can take taxis (they’re quite inexpensive), moto-taxis (you’ll have to negotiate), or use the public transit system (which might take a while to completely figure out). Buses going to Saigon can easily be caught along the highway. Bus #616 will take you to Ben Thanh Market (view the not very accurate 616 bus schedule here — it only shows the times that it leaves Dai Nam park, but from Dai Nam it usually takes a half hour to reach Thu Dau Mot). There are also more frequent, smaller buses that say “Saigon” on them. They stop at Mien Dong bus station, where you can easily get a bus to other parts of the city (bus #45 from Mien Dong will take you to Ben Thanh Market). Recently, the Becamex-Tokyu company has set up a bus that goes from Becamex tower to Eastern International University. It’s cheap, modern, and environmentally-friendly. They also have buses that go to and from the Aeon Mall, but only on Saturdays (schedule in Vietnamese only).
Other notable buses
- Bus #4 – goes from Thu Dau Mot bus station to Mien Dong bus station in Ho Chi Minh City and vice versa.
- Bus #618 – Starts at Dai Nam Park and goes through Thu Dau Mot along the main highway. It will take you to Mien Tay bus station in the western part of Ho Chi Minh City. This is convenient if you are looking to catch a bus to the Mekong Delta.
Both traditional grocery stores and markets can be found in Thu Dau Mot.
- MegaMarket – Probably the largest in size, decent meat (they sell Australian beef) and vegetable selection, free parking.
- Big C – Thai owned grocery and general merchandise store, they may have the best selection of general items but their meat department isn’t great.
- Co.op Mart – Vietnamese owned grocery and general merchandise, not many foreign items, meat counter and bakery section are small
- Citimart – Vietnamese grocery store but partially owned (49%) by the Japanese company Aeon, the smallest on the list
- Vinatexmart – owned by the Vietnam National Textile and Garment Group, also pretty small, location isn’t really ideal
- Aeon – Japanese owned, the newest and most modern, a bit more expensive I think, can find some international ingredients that you can’t get anywhere else, a bit far down the highway though.
For fruits and vegetables, the markets usually offer the best choices. There are a few big ones around the city, but I find popping in to a local stand daily is quicker and the quality is just as good. Everything is very fresh, but if it’s not in season, it’s unlikely that the market will have it. Buying meat at the market is also possible. Beef, chicken, pork, fish and seafood is always available and usually fresh. You can also sometimes find duck, dog, sparrow, and other less common meats. If meat is on your shopping list, I suggest going to the market in the morning. There’s no refrigeration, so the sooner you get home to refrigerate it, the less likely you’ll be to get sick. I’ve never gotten sick off of meat bought at the market, but some expats avoid it.
Yersin street is the shopping street in Thu Dau Mot. Clothing stores line about a 1 kilometer stretch. They’re reasonably priced, but, depending how big you are, it may be hard to find your size. There are also a few stores that sell western brands, in western sizes, for ridiculously cheap. These are not knock-off items but items that may have a slight flaw. Often it’s totally unnoticeable, or something as silly as the wrong tag sewn into a shirt. I’ve bought quality Levi shorts for $6. The only thing wrong with them was the button holes weren’t cut (a 2 minute job with a razor blade and pair of scissors).
When it comes to finding a hotel, there are a variety of options at a variety of prices. I spent a day checking out some options. Here’s a list of ones that I would recommend:
- The Mira Hotel – Thu Dau Mot’s classiest hotel, nice rooms, great views, rooftop pool, very close to Big C supermarket, possible to get a room for about $50/night.
- Becamex Hotel – The newest hotel, really nice rooms, closer to an apartment than a hotel, great view from upper floors, huge breakfast included, pool and small gym, great location, approx. $60/night.
- Hotel Long Bao Chau – nicely decorated if not a little too ornate, clean, very accommodating staff, in a great neighbourhood for restaurants, some rooms don’t have windows, about $20/night.
- Lavender Hotel – good neighbourhood, nice rooms with great bathrooms, about $20/night.
- Thien Ha Hotel – nice rooms, the staff is very friendly, great location, about $20/night.
- Kim Bang Hotel – stayed here for about a week, really nice staff, rooms were simple but nice and clean, the best budget hotel that I could find in Thu Dau Mot, about $15/night.
- Finding a house to rent in Vietnam
- Binh Duong Rent – has apartment listings
- Buying a bike in Vietnam
- Guide to Vietnamese Food
- Buy beef in Vietnam (sounds easy, but the cuts are all strange and the beef kind of sucks)
- Our constantly expanding guide to traveling Vietnam on the cheap
- More living in Vietnam
February 2, 2016 @ 1:00 am
Hello may I know that whether you have any statistic regarding amount of expat living and working in Binh Duong ? Thanks alot.
February 2, 2016 @ 1:21 am
I don’t. If you manage to find an estimate, please let me know. I can tell you that last night there was at least 30 expats at JD’s Bar. I think the majority of western expats work at Singapore International School, American English Academy, and Eastern International University, but there are also a lot of westerners that own or manage factories in the area.
July 20, 2016 @ 6:51 am
In Becamex tower, there is a chamber of commerce of USA and South Korea. In the Mira hotel a chamber of commerce from Taiwan. The European community will soon have an office in the Becamex tower. Those offices not only helps investors, but often are a meeting platform for foreigners in Binh Duong. Statistic information on foreigners should be asked at police station. As last year they did a huge inventarisation. I doubt if they will give this info for free. I’ll ask the marketing dept. of Becamex if they have numbers.
June 2, 2016 @ 3:36 pm
We will be moving to Thu Dau Mot this summer.
Do you know any websites where we can look for an apartment for rent?
Thanks in advance,
June 4, 2016 @ 1:59 am
You can try this one: http://binhduongrent.com/
but it’s not updated all that much.
This one is in Vietnamese, and you’ll probably struggle to find anything, but worth a look: https://www.chotot.com/dong-nam-bo/binh-duong/thue-nha-dat#
The newest apartment building is called Waterfall Residence. I shot a video for them that you can see here:
A link to their website is in the description section.
Other than that, you’re better off driving around and looking for signs. There are currently a few apartments in nice areas that are for rent. I have no idea how much they are or what they look like, but they are newly renovated and look nice from the outside.
If you’re interested in living in a house. I am actually moving out of mine in August. Send me an email and I can give you all the details. email@example.com
June 20, 2016 @ 10:16 am
Very informative site. May I know any church in Thu Dau Mot besides Catholics church ? Thanks
June 20, 2016 @ 11:06 pm
There’s one on Cách Mạng Tháng Tám. If you are coming from Thích Quảng Đức, turn left onto Cách Mạng Tháng Tám, the church is on the right. It’s yellow. The sermon is in Vietnamese, but there are people who translate it into English. Thanks for reading!
July 20, 2016 @ 7:12 am
I would like to give a small comment on the restaurants is TDM. JD’s bar > the food drinks are ok, however the food is not ok. I once went and never again. The cook; if he can call himself a cook doesn’t know anything about cooking at all. Warming up a supermarket-pizza is not what I call cooking. The veggies are tasteless (English style, sorry England no offend). So I guess the expats only go for drinking. A suggestion > Billy’s. Now that is quality. An other suggestion is the many hidden Taiwanese and Chinese restaurants. You need to have some Taiwanese friends to know where they are. But that food just melt in you mouth. Not far from the Japanese restaurant mentioned above there is also a dam good Korean one. (Spicy). Mimi’s have a good chef cook, how ever rather small portions. But good if you like Indian food.
July 20, 2016 @ 7:42 am
If you like a good Vietnamese restaurant, then you can go to “Hoàng Cung Quán” ; an imperial-style restaurant. Vietnamese traditional food you can’t find in the normal restaurants. The environment is Traditional Vietnamese Architecture. It’s close to “Wind and Water” the famous coffee shop. Warning > it’s not cheap.
However the best of Vietnam’s food can be found on the country side. I hardly attempt a Vietnamese wedding party; as the food is always predictable. One exception, and that is a wedding party on countryside. Try to get invited onto the pre-wedding parties, which come a few days before the official one.
Than you might have the chance of drinking snake wine.
A snake is putted a clam on the mouth, so it can not bite, while it’s struggling for it’s life. Then the trought is cut over. The blood is catched up into a glass. The glass is extra filled with species. And every thing is mixed. Then the snake is stripped alive. The beating heart is taken out and while still beating putted into the glass. Then the glass is further filled up with rice-wodka. The glass is handed over to the guest, who should drink it up at once. The rest of the snake is then BBC’ed.
Make sure they don’t use home made rice wodka. Every year hundreds of people get blind by this poisonous drink. Also never drink bat-wine. Instead of snake they use a big bat (flying dog). The blood of the bat usually contains a lot of infections.
One advice. Vietnamese love to bring their guests drunk, especially by forming a drinking team against you, and you have to cheer with them separately. (Rice wodka). A trick to escape is to tell them that your religion does not allow you to drink a certain amount, but only a small amount. Although Vietnamese are communist, they generally do respect religion of some one.
July 20, 2016 @ 7:54 am
Be aware that when you go out with supper enthusiastic Vietnamese (who are already in a state of being drunk) in usually goes worse for you. They speak so load your ears feel pain. If in group, oh sure sure they will try to lure you (not negative, but rather as a practice joke) to let you eat dog meat.
July 20, 2016 @ 12:27 pm
I’m not sure when you went to JDs, but there’s a new owner. Their pizzas are the best in town, in my opinion. They have 2 pizza ovens, so I doubt they’ve ever cooked a pizza in a microwave.
Thanks for mentioning the Chinese restaurants. I’ve discovered them since I wrote this article. Some of the best food in the city. I’ll have to add them to the page. Also, that Korean one that you mentioned is very good. On a Friday night, it’s lively and a lot of fun.
July 21, 2016 @ 12:04 am
I went there a few years ago, after the bad experience, never retuned again. OK I’ll give them a second try as you suggest the best pizza’s in town. 🙂
July 20, 2016 @ 8:12 am
Some advice on drinking water in Binh Duong. Never ever drink well water. 10 years ago Thu Dau Mot was ranked number as the area with the highest percentage of schizophrenia in the Eastern hemisphere. > Reason, the soil water has high percentages of acid; natural as well as unnatural. Plus one has to keep in mind that the former airstrip was a loading point for Agent Orange during the war. A visit towards the local orphanage might open your eyes. Still children are born with the Agent Orange decease. You should visit and make a donation. So always by distillated water. I myself even boil the distillated water again. In Vietnam it’s common to put ice in the beer. Well I never put ice in the beer, as I don’t know from which kind of water the ice is made of.
July 20, 2016 @ 8:45 am
Some advice on police-control.
As a foreigner in Vietnam, you want to go around on own motorbike. What to do if Vietnamese police stops you. Probably you don’t have a Vietnamese driving licence. Don’t panic. Set up a cheerful face. And from on the first second you suddenly don’t understand English. Speak French, Spanish, even penguin will do. But stay gentle. (Russian want help). Hold up your shoulders on every question, and answer “Nono cappito”, or “Je ne comprend pas”. Please stay calm and put the most innocent grim on your face. Act as normal.
When finally the police got a bit irritated, as they cannot urn money on you, they will say; “ Go, go, go”. Now that is the crucial moment they trick you. If would you do so; you admit you understand English. So stay and say in chabber
talk; “Go, go > no no cappito”. Finally they will get frustrated and go by them self. As You are a foreigner, and your current situation with the police will attract a lot of local interest. That is what the police doesn’t like. At least that is my experience.
July 20, 2016 @ 10:56 pm
Temples in TDM
TDM hides a lot of hidden cultural treasures. Note able are some Taoist related temples. This is not surprising as since centuries TDM is a trade centre run by Chinese-Vietnamese. When you meet a Vietnamese with a name as Long, you can be sure he has Chinese ancestors.
If ever you have the chance being invited to a Chii Cong. Temple performance, I advice you should do. Chi Cong is a very popular deity. Know as the crazy monk; he stands very close to the common people, as he does the bad things people also do. He drinks a lot of alcohol even eats dog meat. That is why the common people like him as being one of them. During a temple performance the priest gets in trance (with a little bit of the help of Rice-wine) via a medium the priest unseal predictions. So one rather does leave the temple walking on hand and feet due to the large amounts of wine, which has been served. I love to go, I fine excuse to my wife. I say no no no I don’t go to the beer bar, I just go to the temple. Haha.
Once a year there is a Chi Cong festival at Dai Dang industry park (Taiwanese industry park). On that occasion Chi Cong priest from around the world come over; as Chi Cong is also popular in Taiwan, China, Korea, Japan and even in the US.
An other notable temple is the Matsu temple in the centre of TDM. This is the most important (and the oldest) one in Vietnam. Queen Matsu has become in the last century a society symbol for Chinese who are spreaded over the world. She acts as a kind of unification symbol of Chinese desperados. The Ba Thien Hau festival is held on the fifteen of Lunar new year. Again this God ha its roots in China, It’s the biggest festival in Binh Duong. Thousands of people attempt. Well worth to visit. It’s a mix of Taoism and Buddhism.
The most curious temple in TDM is for sure Ong Bon. It is a very small Taoist temple, somehow a chapel. In the temple there are two thrones made of sharp steel bladed swords (a bit similar to the Iron Throne from the series Game of Thrones). Twice a year people gather, getting in trance and start cutting them selves. Brrr, but fascinating. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lZgfrEoZmHA
The temple of the sleeping Buddha (Next to Hoi Khanh Pagoda) is actually related to Tibetan / Mongol Buddhism. Once a year the second most important Lama (after the Daila Lama) visit the temple. Something China doesn’t like as they see them as separatists. However well worth to visit the festival and be witness of Tibetan singed mantras.
Further more there a lot of interesting small family temples spread around the countryside.
TDM might look as an average modern town; it still has its band with past roots.