Vietnam: Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) Guide


HIGHLIGHTS

01 WAR REMNANTS MUSEUM
02 BEN THANH MARKET

03 THE COFFEE HOUSE
04 NOTRE DAME CATHEDRAL

05 CENTRAL POST OFFICE
06 NGUYEN HUE STREET

07 SAIGON SKYDECK
08 THE WORLD OF HEINEKEN


Located in southern Vietnam is the bustling city of Ho Chi Minh (also known as Saigon depending on who you’re talking to). It is hot, humid, and fast-paced; some people either thrive on it’s energy or hate it. This city is also home to some of the most beautiful architecture, fascinating museums, and the best iced coffee. In this guide, I’ll be sharing my favorite things that I discovered in the roughly three days I spent in Ho Chi Minh City.


Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)

GETTING AROUND

The best and safest ways to get around the city are by walking or taking an Uber. Most of the places we wanted to see were within walking distance which worked out great during the morning when it wasn’t so hot. However by mid-day when the heat and humidity hits full force, it was nice to order an Uber to get around.

If you prefer taking a taxi, make sure to use companies like Vinasun since other companies will try to scam and overcharge you. I’ve also read that some companies will paint their own cars to look like Vinasun taxis which is another reason why we mostly used Uber.

Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) - View From Hotel

WHERE TO STAY

While I was doing research in preparation for this trip, I read that staying within the center of the city in District 1 was the best thing to do. Being centrally located means that you’re usually within walking distance to some of the major attractions the city has to offer. It also usually means that it will be more expensive. Luckily, there are a lot of different options when it comes to staying in Ho Chi Minh City. There are nicer, more upscale hotels to choose from but there are also a lot of decent, budget-friendly hotels. It all depends on what you’re looking for.

I was traveling with my boyfriend’s family at the time and one of their cousins happened to live near Ben Thanh Market. In order to stay within our budget and to be closer to their residence, we decided on Sen Viet Hotel. Our hotel room was decent enough and I was honestly just happy that we had air conditioning.


01 WAR REMNANTS MUSEUM

The War Remnants Museum is one of Ho Chi Minh City’s most popular attractions and a definite must-see. It is an important museum to visit because it allows visitors to see the Vietnam War through the eyes of its own people. Tip: bring a box of tissues with you.

Outside of the main building are old American tanks, aircraft, and bombs that you can walk up to and observe. Inside the building are several exhibition rooms, each dedicated to showing the horrors of the Vietnam War. Parents be warned: some of the photos on display are very graphic and may be unsuitable for younger children.

This museum was the saddest and most eye-opening experience during my entire trip to Vietnam. One of the things that will be forever stuck in my head is a photograph of a young women holding a horribly disfigured baby. The plaque read that when she was just 12 years old, she was exposed to the chemical Agent Orange. Years passed, the girl grew up and had a baby only to find out that Agent Orange had affected her child.

As an American and the daughter of a Southeast Asian refugee, I felt everything from embarrassment to empathy. There were times when I had to step outside the room to gather myself because it felt like my heart was going to explode. Even though it was hard to stomach, I’m glad I visited this museum because it shows just how horrible war is.

NOTE: The entry fee to this museum is VND 15,000 (about 70 cents US). Visiting hours are from 7:30 AM to 5 PM daily, however the ticketing office closes from 12 to 1:30 PM. Last admission to the museum is at 4:30 PM.

Ho Chi Minh City War Remnants Museum
Ho Chi Minh City War Remnants Museum

02 BEN THANH MARKET

Ben Thanh Market is a large marketplace located in the center of the city and is one of the best places to practice your bartering skills. Stalls upon stalls are jampacked inside this marketplace and sell anything from knock-off designer sunglasses to dried goods galore. I personally didn’t buy anything at this market since I’ve been told that prices are higher here since this is a popular city attraction. Nonetheless, it was still an experience wandering around and seeing what all the booths were selling.

NOTE: This is a high theft area. The walkways in the market are very tight so make sure to keep your valuables close to you.

Ho Chi Minh City Ben Thanh Market
Ho Chi Minh City Ben Thanh Market

03 THE COFFEE HOUSE

The Coffee House is a perfect place to grab a Vietnamese iced coffee and cool down. I actually stumbled upon this cafe on my way to the War Remnants Museum and I’m so glad I did. I was instantly drawn to it’s modern interior and relaxing vibe. I was also drenched in sweat from the heat and needed to take a break. I ordered a ca phe sua da (iced coffee sweetened with condensed milk) and it was the perfect combo of a rich, dark roast and sweet, velvety cream.

Ho Chi Minh City The Coffee House
Ho Chi Minh City The Coffee House

04 NOTRE DAME CATHEDRAL

Located downtown is the Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon. This brick, neo-Romanesque church was built by French colonists in the late 19th century. If you’re like me and love architecture then this church is a must-see. The best time to see this red brick beauty is early in the daytime before the mid afternoon heat strikes.

NOTE: Construction was happening during the time that we visited (November 2017) and is planned to continue until 2019.

Ho Chi Minh City Notre Dame Cathedral
Ho Chi Minh City Notre Dame Cathedral

05 CENTRAL POST OFFICE

Right across the street from the Notre Dame Cathedral is the Central Post Office. This big, yellow post office is influenced by French, Gothic, and Renaissance architecture. Not only is it stunning on the outside but inside you’ll find hand painted maps on the walls, vaulted ceilings, and beautifully tiled floors.

Aside from marveling at the architecture and decor, this is the perfect place to buy stamps and send a post card to loved ones back home. There are also two gift shops that you can check out for souvenirs.

Ho Chi Minh City The Central Post Office
Ho Chi Minh City The Central Post Office
Ho Chi Minh City The Central Post Office

06 NGUYEN HUE STREET

Nguyen Hue Street is a large promenade in the middle of the District 1 city center. There are benches scattered throughout this area making it the perfect place to sit down, take a break, and people watch. Walking to the very end of the promenade will lead you to the Saigon River. One of my favorite things was walking around this area. There are a lot of neat restaurant, bars, and shops on either side that I definitely want to go back and check out.

Ho Chi Minh City Nguyen Hue Street
Ho Chi Minh City Nguyen Hue Street
Ho Chi Minh City Nguyen Hue Street

07 SAIGON SKYDECK

Located on the 49th floor of the Bitexco Financial Tower is the Saigon Skydeck. This glass-enclosed observation deck is the best place to view Ho Chi Minh City from above. We visited towards the end of the day and had the opportunity to see how stunning the city is at night when it is all lit up.

NOTE: Tickets are VND 200,000 (roughly $8.78) per person. They are open 7 days a week from 9:30 AM to 9:30 PM.

Ho Chi Minh City Saigon Skydeck

08 THE WORLD OF HEINEKEN

When you purchase a ticket to go up to the Saigon Skydeck, you also have the option to purchase a ticket to The World of Heineken. During the time that we went, there was a special promo going on for a combo ticket to do both the Skydeck and the tour for VND 235,000 (roughly $10.32) per person. We decided to check it out and had a lot of fun learning more about the famous beer.

Our tour began with a brief history of Heineken and then lead to a VR experience, games, and learning how to pour the perfect glass of beer. At the end of the tour they lead us to a lounge area and gave us tickets for two complimentary beers per person. Also, as part of the experience we were able to customize our own Heineken bottle to take home with us as a souvenir.

Ho Chi Minh City The World of Heineken
Ho Chi Minh City The World of Heineken
Ho Chi Minh City The World of Heineken
Ho Chi Minh City The World of Heineken
Ho Chi Minh City The World of Heineken

Thanks for reading and I hope this helps you plan your trip to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). For those of you who have been to this city before, what were some of your favorite things to do? Let me know in the comment section below!

 

XO,

Tina