Ho Chi Minh City (formerly known as Saigon) has become hugely popular due to its fascinating culture, classic French architecture and sleek skyscrapers, as well as ornate temples and pagodas. The city is also filled with rooftop bars that overlook Saigon and beyond, while fantastic restaurants offer a combination of French, Chinese, and, of course, local Vietnamese cuisine. As the Go To Guides continue, we take you on a quick city tour to discover food, culture, crash spots and more. Happy reading fellow travel junkies x
What To Do
Vespa Adventures – No vehicle encapsulates life in Ho Chi Minh City like the trusty Vespa. Therefore it’s fitting that some of the most thrilling tours of Vietnam’s southern hub are conducted on the famous Italian scooters. From a base at Zoom Cafe in the backpacker epicenter of Pham Ngu Lao, Vietnam Vespa Adventures takes guests on various voyages of discovery around the city. Itineraries vary and encompass everything from foodie themes to insider journeys to some of HCMC’s lesser-known sights. Between stops, guests get the chance to experience the pulsing energy of the city from a unique vantage point on the back of a vintage scooter.We didn’t make the tunnels as we planned badly, as we didn’t book it the day before and they take more or less a whole day.
Ben Thanh Market – This is a great place to buy cheapish souvenirs/classic Vietnamese tat! The daddy of HCMC’s many markets, Ben Thanh is by far the most popular tourist shopping spot in the city. From buckets of jumping frogs in the wet market to clothes, fabrics and souvenirs in the teeming narrow alleys, this place puts the “Ai!” into buying. Prices are somewhat higher than at markets elsewhere and only the toughest of bargainers are rewarded with anything approaching a good deal. Nevertheless, it’s a lively experience and several great food stalls at the back of the market make it a fine place to take a crash course in Vietnamese street cuisine.
The walking tour of Saigon – If you are staying central, there are plenty of things to see that are right on your door step. Check out the war museum (a must) – the Agent Orange rooms are intense, but definitely worth seeing! Walk up to see the Ho Chi Minh statue, by city hall and the rex hotel and take a trip to the Unification Palace – it’s remained (relatively) untouched inside since the end of the war. There are also the two spectacular towers of Notre Dame Cathedral plus the French colonial post office (by the cathedral) which is definitely interesting to see.
The Cu Chi Tunnels – The Cu Chi Tunnels, which highlight the dedication and ingenuity of Viet Cong soldiers during the Vietnam War, are a must-see destination in Southern Vietnam. On your Cu Chi Tunnels half-day tour, you’ll spend the morning wandering the vast underground complex that was once buzzing with thousands of soldiers. The site is a startling contrast to today’s Vietnam, a fast-developing country where the legacy of war is almost forgotten.
Ba Thien Hau Temple – This gorgeous 19th-century temple is dedicated to the Goddess Thien Hau and always attracts a mix of worshippers and visitors who mingle beneath the large coils of incense suspended overhead. It is believed that Thien Hau can travel over the oceans on a mat and ride the clouds to save people in trouble on the high seas. Its free to enter so well worth a visit if you have time to venture slightly further afield.
Speedboat tour of the Mekong Delta – Enjoy a scenic speedboat trip through the Mekong Delta with Les Rives Experiences. Departing by boat from HCMC, you will explore areas of the Mekong Delta including the old-world river life, the Cao Dai Temple, a riverside market and a pagoda; as well as evocative farmlands and local pottery workshops. Enjoy countless photo opportunities of the idyllic scenery and local people as you cruise past buffaloes ploughing fields, fruit orchards and rice paddies. Visit a family homestead, where you’ll be invited to enjoy fresh coconuts and fiery Mekong whisky. Your Les Rives chef will prepare a traditional Mekong Delta lunch including fried elephant ear fish – a delicious speciality of the region!