Unlike Hanoi and Hoi An, Ho Chi Minh had Mr. Sun on full blast early February. And unlike what most people think, Ho Chi Minh is not the capital of Vietnam (it is Hanoi guys!). But since it has a more Westernized culture, and more tourist-friendly, it is usually the go-to city in Vietnam.
We arrived at Ho Chi Minh via train from Hoi An on a warm Wednesday night. It was a day after the Chinese New Year (they call it Tet), so the city was more lively than ever. Flowers and banners were everywhere. Locals were more friendly, with incenses and offerings outside their houses, part of the new year tradition. Parks were filled with concerts and shows, with locals motor-biking and flocking everywhere with their whole families.
Ho Chi Minh has a lot to offer, especially for history-buff travelers, who will surely be satisfied by the colorful yet horrific war history of Vietnam.
Vietnam, generally, is an inexpensive country. Entrances, food, and drinks are all cheaper compared to other Asian countries like Malaysia and Singapore. And I tell you, Vietnamese cuisine are AMAZING. Never hesitate spending on food!
We stayed at Vinh Chung Hotel, at the middle of the most famous tourist hub Pham Ngu Lao. Don’t worry, finding for a place to stay, especially for travelers on a budget, will be very easy. There are a lot of hotel choices around the Pham Ngu Lao and Bui Vien area, from budget hotels to mid-range, restaurants, bars, tourist agencies, money exchangers, and souvenir shops. This area is also walking distance to many attraction like Saigon Square, Ben Thanh Market, Bitexco Financial tower, People’s Committee Building, and many more.
I have enumerated below the must-see destinations in Ho Chi Minh:
People’s Committee Building – Ho Chi Minh City
This place was crowded when we went there, since there flower exhibits. The statue of Ho Chi Minh can be recognized from a far.
Location is at Nguyen Hue Boulevard, 10-minutes walk from Pham Ngu Lao. Entrance is free.
War Remnants Museum
Want to learn and experience Vietnam War? This is the perfect place. Exhibits inside perfectly explained and made us felt what it was like during the Vietnam War. It’ll for sure leave a heavy heart and unforgettable experience to every visitor.
Just tell the cab driver to bring you to War Remnants Museum, around 5-minute ride from Pham Ngu Lao. Opends daily from 7:30am-12:00nn and 1:30pm-5:00pm. Entrance is 15,000 VND each (worth every dong!)
Before the fall of Saigon in 1975, this is the home of the South Vietnam Presidents.
Walking distance from War Remnants Museum. Opens daily from 7:30-11:00am and 1:00-4:00pm. Entrance fee is 30,000 VND each.
Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica
A walking distance from Reunification Palace, this cathedral is magnificent due to its picturesque architecture.
Central Post Office
Just opposite the Notre-Dame Cathedral, the post office is said to be the busiest post office in the whole Vietnam. The neo-classical style of the post office is a must-see.
Unfortunately, we weren’t able to take some photos so here’s a picture of me with some pigeons along the streets of French Quarter. Haha
Cu Chi Tunnels
Cu Chi tunnels were the tunnel systems of the Viet Cong during the war in resistance to the American forces.
We took a Cu Chi tour from our hotel. At 110,000 VND each, a bus fetched us from our hotel to Cu Chi and back. The entrance fee for the complex is already included.
We enjoyed our tour so much, primarily because of Billy the tour guide, who was a Vietnamese war veteran. His stories were very entertaining and insightful, especially during his struggles after the war, how he joined other Vietnamese refugees to the Philippines, and then tried his luck in America.
The tour took all of our afternoon. We departed from our hotel at 1PM, and arrived back around 5:30PM.
Nightlife at Bui Vien St.
Bui Vien St. is adjacent to Pham Ngu Lao St., and is also a famous tourist hub. Bars and restaurants lining uo along the street, as well as tourists tired from a day of touring. It is an excellent place to have a drink and enjoy a beautiful yet crowded Saigon evening.
Ben Thanh Market
Of course, souvenir shopping! Ben Thanh is the perfect place to buy souvenirs, which is just a walking distance from Pham Ngu Lao. We were able to buy bags of Vietnamese coffee, shirts, and keychains. Be ready to haggle! And haggle nicely!
Saigon Square is just beside the Ben Thanh Market, you could also check it out for more choices.
Other destinations you can visit:
- Thien Hau Temple
- Opera House
- The Golden Dragon Water Puppetry Theatre
- Bitexco Financial Tower (Saigon Skydeck)
Below were the activities and actual expenses for our whole stay in Ho Chi Minh:
Ho Chi Minh is indeed a very beautiful place, and is a must-visit for tourists who wants to discover Asia. Just be sure to watch out for your things, learn new stuff, and enjoy every bit of the city!
Check out the rest of our Vietnam trip!
- 1 Day in Hanoi
- 2D/1N Cruising at Halong Bay
- Traveling in Vietnam via Saigon Express
- 24 Hours in Hoi An
- Crossing the Vietnam-Cambodia boarder by Bus
- 11 Days Vietnam-Cambodia Itinerary and Summary