Best things to do in Ho Chi Minh and sightseeing in Ho Chi Minh
Ho Chi Minh City - Ho Chi Minh
The most populous and the largest city in Vietnam, Saigon or Ho Chi Minh City, exudes this insane energy that is extremely difficult to keep up with. Right from the blaring horns to the hollering hawkers, the shanties and the skyscrapers, the fancy restaurants and the makeshift roasted corn stalls, ornate pagodas and luxury malls, HCMC is replete with contrasts. Moreover, the French colonial elements dotting the city along with the many remainders of a devastating war, highlight the long rendezvous it has had with history.
Ho Chi Minh City or Saigon is the largest city in Vietnam. If you are visiting Vietnam you just cannot skip Saigon, for you get to see the harmony in the confusion. I encountered the high spirited living in District 1, the laid back lives and open spaces in District 7 and came face to face with Vietnamese culture in the District 5. Where to stay: I stayed in the Backpackers area in District 1, the place is chaotic and filled with tourists. The good part is that this is in the heart of the city so you can simply walk to the major places of interest. A dorm room would cost you around $ 7- $ 10 and a private room can cost anywhere between $ 10- $ 20. Pham Ngu Lao Street is a hub for hostels, with a new hostel coming up every month! It is the main street in the district, however the hostels are located in some extremely narrow alleys. Since all of these hostels promise same amenities and services you might have a hard time picking one out of the lot. My recommendation: Phan Anh Backpackers Hostel 373/6 Pham Ngu Lao, Ho Chi Minh City T: (08) 3920 9235 www.phananhbackpackershostel.com Things not to miss: 1. Visit the War remnant museum to get the insights of the war with both French and Americans. The museum displays exhibition rooms on history, statistics and the weaponry used during the war. You will be forced to think how in a short span of time this country has recovered from the horrors of the war. One can easily spend about 2 hours at the museum, is worth the entrance fee of 30000 d. 2. Gaze at the marvellous architectures of the Notre Dame Cathedral and Central Post Office. Built by Gustave Eiffel of the Eiffel tower fame, Saigon’s Central Post Office is one of the most acclaimed buildings of the country. Once you enter you are greeted by groups of other tourist praising the Gothic style architecture, French colonial maps and a portrait of Ho Chi Minh. Right across the post office stands the Notre Dame Cathedral basking the beauty of Romanesque architecture, apart from the usual tourist buses I was lucky enough to spot a number of newlyweds having a photo shoot outside the Cathedral. 3. A visit to the Mekong delta and the surrounding Islands is a must when in Saigon. There are a number of tour companies that take you to see places around Mekong Delta, you can take a day tour or a 1 night 2 days tour. The day tours range $ 10 - $ 15 and includes transport, English speaking guide and authentic Vietnamese meal. I recommend watching the floating market of Cai Be then taste some snake wine and visit the fruit market of Vin Long to indulge in the tropical treasure of the country. 4. Crawl through the Cu Chi tunnels, you can either book a tour or just take a city bus by yourself. It is located a bit on the outskirts of Saigon, these tunnels showcases the Viet Cong method of warfare and is very interesting to know how they survived during the American War. You can avoid the tour under the tunnels if you are claustrophobic. 5. Shopping can be a task in Saigon if you have not mastered the art of bargaining, chances are you will be a pro at it by the end of the shopping trip! There are a number of markets to choose- Ben Than being the most visited by the tourists, probably because of the close proximity from the backpackers area is a nice place to shop for souvenirs, eat Vietnamese street food and hone your haggling skills. If you want to escape the heat, you can visit the nigh market. Word of caution: Be careful with your belongings, the streets are filled with pickpockets. 6. Get carried away in the crazy Nightlife of Ho Chi Minh City, I would simply compare it to the Baga Beach area in Goa or the Khao San road of Bangkok. A number of Karaoke bars, uptown clubs or just bar the streets are filled with options. 7. Sip an Iced Coffee and watch the chaotic life of the city go by. This sure was one my favourite things to do during early evenings, the Vietnamese coffee took my heart away and was a sure way to battle the heat and humidity. More on the coffee culture of Vietnam will come in the next post. Those are just some of the things that I did during my 5 day stay in Saigon. There is so much one can see and explore in this high octane city and if not then just take book and sip some addictive Vietnamese Coffee.
Argentinian Steakhouse El Gaucho Restaurant - Ho Chi Minh
This is a steak lover’s haven, you can choose the type of steak you want, the serving size and the type of sauce you want. They have three types of breeds to choose from: USDA Prime, Back Angus and Certified Angus Beef. You can also choose your portion size – the Filet Steak and Rib Eye Steak are available in 250/350/500/1000 grams serving sizes; while the New York Striploin is available in 300/500 grams serving sizes. Steak is not the only thing on the menu – try a noteworthy salad like the Warm Goat Cheese on Toast served with grilled vegetables on top of mixed greens or a Nicoise salad. Or start your meal off with the El Gaucho Sampler Platter (Salchicha, Chorizo, Chicken, Mushroom) and Beef Empanadas. Best in show: USDA Prime Filet Steak with grilled Asparagus and Red Wine sauce with a glass of Merlot wine. If you think you still have room after the feast try out the Dulce de leche for dessert.
Quán Ụt Ụt | Quan Ut Ut - Ho Chi Minh
Quan Ut Ut opened only a few months ago and they are already making a name for themselves. It’s an American BBQ restaurant with a Vietnamese flair. They take bar food to a new level with their own craft beer and Premium Ale. Add a few beer munchies like the Just Bacon Plate, Shittake Bombs, or classic Buffalo wings and you just may have a party. You can try up some classic BBQ sides like green beans, southwest cornbread, corn on the cob, pink slaw, mac & cheese or seasoned fries to make a complete meal or enjoy American food with hot dogs and burgers that come loaded with fixings on a fresh baked bun with salad or French fries. Best in show: Start your meal off with the deep fried chicken skins. If going there in a group of 3 or 4, get the BBQ Sampler (rib tip, shoulder, smoked chicken, sausage, corn & okra). You can also choose the Full-rack of Cashew smoked Pork Ribs that are so good and the portion size should easily feed at least 3.
Phan Lan 2 Hotel - Ho Chi Minh
Phan Lan Hotel makes a traveler-friendly hostel located in the heart of the backpacker's area in Ho Chi Minh. It's a few minutes walk to Ben Thanh market, some convenience stores, banks and parks, thus making it an ideal place to stay at for budget-conscious travelers.
Saigon Skydeck - Ho Chi Minh
Ben Thanh Market - Ho Chi Minh
If you are a Harry Potter fan, you will thoroughly understand me when I compare Ben Thanh Market with the Room of Requirement inside the Hogwarts Castle. Right from spices, desserts, alcohol, medicines, fruits and vegetables to clothing, bags, shoes, watches, perfumes, cheap cosmetics and jewellery, you only have to think of something in order to find it in this central market. The shopkeepers are the most excited bunch I have ever seen and love bargaining while playfully pulling your leg for no reason at all. For those who find shopping boring, visit the confusing and crowded lanes and bylanes of Ben Thanh in order to see how it can be a whole lot of fun. Getting there: Taking a metered taxi from a reputed company is a good idea with 'Mai Linh' being the most popular and you could be charged around 15,000 VND for the first kilometre. Flagging taxis is easy because Ben Thanh is extremely popular but you could also ask your hotel staff to call you one.
Cyclo Resto - Ho Chi Minh
If you don’t want to spend a lot of money and looking for the traditional Vietnamese meal for a low price, Cyclo Resto is the place to visit. The food is always fresh and Chef Vu also offers a cooking class where you can learn how to prepare some of their top notch Vietnamese dishes. You will enjoy a 5 course meal for $6. Your five course meal will consist of Spring Rolls, Shrimp Soup with Winter Melon, Beef with Fried Vegetables, Stewed Snakehead fish in a clay pot, Fried Chicken in Lemongrass, Steamed Rice, and . They are open for lunch and dinner.
Đồng Khởi - Ho Chi Minh
The Long at Times Square – 57-69F Dong Khoi Street, District 1 This restaurant gets its name from its very long design. Their inspiration comes from the sidewalk cafes fond in France and Italy. Best in Show: The Bubble Promotion – Buy a bottle of sparkling wine and get four bar snacks for free. Bar snacks to try include: Classic Tomato Bruschetta and Pandan Chicken. Then order yourself a freshly made Margarita Pizza and finish off the feast with one of their gelato. You might have a problem to choose which gelato, as their collection is huge.
War Remnants Museum - Ho Chi Minh
Very few museums document the brutality of war with wonderful precision and the War Remnants Museum in HCMC is one of them. One can witness US bombs, weapons and vehicles right outside the complex while the photographs inside illustrate the atrocities committed on innocent people, particularly women and children by virtue of napalming and bombing. A plethora of posters from all around the world that supported the movement against the war are exhibited on the ground floor and are worth looking at. The overall experience can be horrifying and a prior knowledge of the course of the Vietnam War is essential. There are also fragments of the first Indochina war for one to see. One of the most iconic photographs on this planet, 'The Napalm Girl' is housed here. It is interesting to note how many people believe that the exhibits inside are typically 'one-sided' and are replete with Anti-American sentiments. However, this museum is worth your time and money, irrespective of your opinion on the war. Getting there: Taking a metered taxi from a reputed company is a good idea with 'Mai Linh' being the most popular and you could be charged around 15,000 VND for the first kilometre. Flagging taxis is easy but you could also ask your hotel staff to call you one. Remember to show your driver the name and address of the museum if in case you are hailing a taxi as they are often confused. The admission to the museum is 15,000 VND per person and guided tours are not necessary because everything is labelled in both English and Vietnamese. The museum shuts by 5 in the evening.
Saffron - Ho Chi Minh
Enjoy Mediterranean food at its finest at Saffron where they greet you with a glass of sparkling wine and they won’t charge you for it! Saffron takes its cooking inspiration from Middle Eastern, Northern Africa, Greek, Italian, French and Spanish cuisine. What you will notice first off is the amazing decor – make sure to look up at the ceiling as soon as you enter inside. This Mediterranean Bistro offers signature dishes whose portions are huge size for a single person. If you like the classics try their cheese plate or crostinis to start, Escargot with mushrooms for your main meal and Chocolate bread pudding for dessert. Best in Show: Twice Cooked Lamb – the lamb is braised and pressed with mashed potato puree. For dessert enjoy the walnut and honey baklava served with pistachio ice cream.
Hoa Tuc Restaurant - Ho Chi Minh
Get ready for a romantic night out at Hoa Tuc. This contemporary Vietnamese cuisine restaurant is located at Hai Ba Trung which houses several other restaurants. The good thing about this restaurant is they offer some great vegetarian choices also. They have a cooking class as well. Best in show: Hoa Tuc Starter Platter (fresh spring rolls, fried spring rolls, fish cakes, and Hoa Tuc Salad). The fish cakes are out of this world! Make your main dish the Seafood fried rice with grilled eggplant on the side. For desert order the sticky rice fritters stuffed with black sesame seeds, red bean paste and coconut cream.
Saigon Post Office - Ho Chi Minh
Notre Dame Cathedral - Ho Chi Minh
Hotels in Ho Chi Minh
People who've been to Ho Chi Minh