Ho Chi Minh City, where do I even start?
Let’s just say 5 days wasn’t enough for me to say that I’ve gotten enough of the city. There was so much to see, but we had so little time. My first glimpse of the of classic French architectures, side by side with intricately constructed ancient temples, surrounded by bustling streets and markets, got me easily intrigued of the rich cultural experience Ho Chi Minh has to offer. Fascinating colonial landmarks at every corner, coffee shops left and right, street food everywhere — oh boy, a trip to this city is nothing but an exciting journey!
So without further ado, here a list of my 7 recommended activities for everyone who’s planning to go on a trip to Ho Chi Minh.
1. GO ON A CITY TOUR
Visit Ho Chi Minh‘s famous landmarks and learn about their history. Cliche it is, but I believe that city touring is still the best way to get to know about one’s culture.
You can always join a group tour, but if you want to spend less, you’re always free to DIY for a cheaper option. You may choose to rent a van for a specified duration, or if you’re feeling more adventurous, you may ride a cab to take you to your points of interest. Landmarks are not too far away from each other anyway.
- Always bring a city map.
- When taking the cab, we were advised to ride the Vinasun taxis or Uber for safer journeys.
- Install Waze on your phone and use it when riding a cab. It’s just a lot more safer this way.
2. CRAWL THROUGH THE TUNNELS OF CU CHI
Cu Chi Tunnels is a network of underground tunnels located at Cu Chi District. These tunnels were used by the Viet Cong as their base during the Vietnam War. Experience a proud moment once you are able to crawl through the narrow tunnels (No kidding, these tunnels are narrow!). There is also a firing range where you can buy sets of bullets and try rifle shooting.
We booked the Cu Chi Tunnels tour from the hotel where we stayed at.
3. TAKE A SLOW BOAT DOWN THE MEKONG RIVER
Take a day trip from Ho Chi Minh to Mekong River. Stop by a bee farm to drink tea with local honey, spoil yourself with fresh fruits while being serenaded by traditional Vietnamese music, and take a row boat by the river as if you’re a true local. Sounds pretty amazing, right?
We booked the Mekong Delta tour from STA Travel Service located at Khoa Huan St. We were referred by a Filipino friend we met from the Cu Chi Tunnels tour. It was cheaper from what our hotel was offering (Even cheaper compared to how much our friend paid for! Haha!).
4. HAGGLE AT BEN THANH MARKET
At Ben Thanh Market, you’ll see all sorts of shopping items like clothes, food, spices, coffee, local handicrafts, and the list goes on. Just make sure to check out several stores for price comparison before you decide to buy. Also, nothing beats the joy of buying stuff at a good deal, so prepare yourself to haggle!
Regular market closes at 6pm. Photos above were taken from the night market.
5. FOOD TRIP
When traveling, you can never go wrong (and bored) with a little food trip. There are a lot of food options at Ben Thanh Market. But if you want to experience eating like a local, I suggest you try eating on the streets—on small plastic chairs with your freshly cooked, hot Pho, on metallic tables.
6. GO CAFE HOPPING
When in Vietnam, drink coffee. Try to squeeze in a little coffee time in your itinerary, like before or after touring. I guarantee you, Vietnamese coffee is the best!
Trung Nguyen, with its number of branches, is famous in Vietnam. They also sell coffee beans, which is a good idea for souvenir.
If you want a chill place where you can hang out with your travel buddies, ID Cafe is the place to be. This hole in the wall coffee shop is located at Khoa Huan St.
My favorite coffee shop in Ho Chi Minh is The Workshop Cafe. Be fascinated as the baristas work their magic right before your eyes. Definitely a must try! It is located at Ngo Duc Ke St.
I wrote a more specific guide on this. You may read it here: Cafe Hopping Guide for Ho Chi Minh
7. WATCH A PLAY AT SAIGON OPERA HOUSE
If you have a little more money to spend, you may choose to dress up and watch a play at Saigon Opera House. And since you’re already dolled up yourself, stroll a little bit outside and have a mini photoshoot at Lam Son Square.
WHERE TO STAY IN HO CHI MINH:
We stayed at Platinum Hotel located at Le Thanh Ton St. The rooms were spacious, the staff were very accommodating, and the breakfast buffet was good. Platinum Hotel is conveniently situated a few blocks away from Ben Thanh Market.