Vietnam’s various bays offer plenty of things to see and do for visitors, and are usually every traveller’s first choice. But did you know there’s also much charm and unique experiences in Vietnam’s urban cities? Ho Chi Minh City is Vietnam’s busiest city. A chaotic whirlwind breathes life and movement into all who settle here, and visitors cannot help but be hauled along for the ride. It is an amazing place to visit however, there are so many sites to see that it can be hard to prioritise. If you’re looking for a longer trip here is the perfect 2-week Vietnam itinerary. Listed below are the 10 absolute best ways to experience Ho Chi Minh City, also known as Saigon. These places offer travellers of all ages the inside scoop on what makes HCMC the gem it is.
Are you ready to experience Ho Chi Minh City?
Take a day trip to the Mekong Delta & visit the various islands
About 4 hours from the main city, the Mekong Delta is a densely packed area of rice fields that is a sight to behold. The best way to visit is to organise a boat tour and let the friendly locals give you all the inside stories. Sights such as floating markets, local candy factories and endless views of the Mekong Delta will leave your heart cruising.
Eat Pho at Phở Quận 5
When visiting any new country what could be better than immersing yourself in the local food culture. Eating Pho for breakfast, lunch and dinner is to truly experience Ho Chi Minh City because it’s just so good! We couldn’t get enough. I strongly recommend eating your heart out with bowls full of Pho (traditional Vietnamese noodle soup). Vietnam is famous for its Pho and pork rolls which are delicious and soup-alicious. Best bet is Pho Quan 5, can’t beat them for more authentic eats. Don’t forget to explore the nearby backpackers street of Ho Chi Minh City,
Admire the skyline
If partying is your scene then you absolutely must visit Pham Ngu Lao street, party and backpacker central. If you are after a more laid back, yet still authentic, experience then you can visit the Sky Bar or the Air 360 Sky Lounge. Views stretch across the busy markets below accompanied with lively music and stiff cocktails, it’s paradise!
Grab a helmet and join a scooter tour
If you really want to experience the hustle, bustle and gritty streets of Ho Chi Minh City then you absolutely must take a scooter ride around the city. There are numerous companies that offer scooters and/or drivers (depending on your confidence level). Trust me, with 5 million occupants in the city, cruising the roads by scooter is one experience you will not forget.
Crawl through the Cu Chi Tunnels:
About 30 kilometres from HCMC lies the Cu Chi Tunnel complex, a rat warren of tight, dark spaces that will have your heart racing! Used by the Viet Cong as operational headquarters during the Vietnam war, they played a key role in defeating the American forces. This was the least fun experience Ho Chi Minh City had to offer because I’m claustrophobic, but if clambering in the tunnels isn’t your thing, you can have a go at firing an AK-47 to get more bang for your buck!
Try some local Marou Chocolate:
After all the exercise crawling around in the dark, you deserve a calming drink of lovely hot chocolate. However, the best hot chocolate has a twist! How about a chilli, liquorice or tobacco flavoured twist! Head to Marou to discover a chocolate heaven that will melt your taste buds and keep you asking for more. I recommend their 90% and 72% dark chocolate.
A street full of books
There is just something about a hot chocolate and a good book that just says you’re on holiday. Well if you are a bibliophile you really need to head to what is known affectionately as Book Street. Nguyen Van Binh, as it’s officially known, has loads of quirky bookstores and cafes spread down over a single lane. Every genre is covered and despite very few titles printed in English, they are all still well worth the read! Look out for some great deals on hardcovers and comics.
Ben Thanh Night Market
After a relaxing day filled with chocolates and books, it’s time to explore the night markets for fresh food & culture. The best market is the Ben Thanh Market, in fact, it is probably the most iconic night Market in HCMC. Everything from food to clothing, trinkets and hand made gifts can be bought here. Just remember, haggle to 1/3 of the price offered to ensure you get the best buys around!
Drink some Vietnamese Coffee
After all the fun nights out, soups and scooter rides you have had, you will need a good coffee. The Vietnamese love their coffee and, since its introduction to the country, they have created their own unique style. Our favourite was ca phe sua da, a local iced coffee served with sweet condensed milk. It was delicious and welcoming on hot and sunny days.
Soak in the French Architecture
Being a former chocolate trade colony is not all that HCMC has to offer. A lot of the larger buildings such as the Central Post Office, Saigon Cathedral and the Opera House ooze French Architectural principles. And well worth a day trip. All that architecture can make you hungry and a great place to take a break is Propaganda. It is just around the corner from the Notre Dame. Great fresh spring rolls!!
Ho Chi Minh City is sure to be an adventure like none other, so go and enjoy all its splendours! From the swankiest of hotels to the cheapest of guesthouses, the classiest of restaurants to the tastiest of street stalls, the choicest of cafes to the scrum of the markets, HCMC is a city of energy and discovery.
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