HO CHI MINH VIETNAM | As one of the many countries to visit in South East Asia, Vietnam should definitely be on that list. After months of planning, booking tickets, and writing down the things to do, tourist attractions to visit in Vietnam, we finally completed a very comprehensive itinerary.
Located in the Southern part of Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City commonly known as Saigon (or simply HCMC) is considered as one of the most famous places for tourists to visit in Vietnam. In the Philippines, the word Saigon is famous because Lea Salonga played a role in the well-known musical “Miss Saigon“. In addition, nobody will forget that sad events of the Vietnam War.
Leaving the bad patch of their history behind, let us now look at the present and how the people work together and make their country one of the best places to visit not only in South East Asia, but even in the world!
Things to remember before arriving to Vietnam
1. Change your USD to VND at the airport
2. Download XE exchange for easy conversion
3. WIFI is fast and free almost everywhere
4. Utilize Google walk and maps. Very helpful!
5. Ask the hotel to look for a Grab Taxi on your behalf rather than calling regular taxis.[ Cheaper and Fixed price]
6.Organize your tours with the hotel rather than the online operators. It’s way cheaper!
7. Coffee from Vietnam is the best pasalubong!
8. Be patient and polite when dealing with locals because of the difficulty of understanding the English language.
9. Tipping is expected but not excessive.
10. Arrive in Vietnam without expecting you will be scammed or ripped off. That happens everywhere to the unwary traveler!
And for those who are concerned about scamming, and the many comments found on the internet about scamming in Vietnam, in the 9 days that we spent touring the country, we never once experienced anyone, from taxi drivers to hotel service people who in anyway attempted to scam us. In fact, we found that all those we came into contact with were helpful and honest. But as the basic rule, we are responsible for our own stuff and always do the necessary research before going to unfamiliar places.
Where is the best place to stay in Ho Chi Minh?
If you are going to ask me, the best place to stay is around District 1 because it is so centrally located to most of the tourist attractions in Saigon. We chose to stay at the …
AVANTI BOUTIQUE HOTEL
While searching we found a nice hotel centrally located to all the places we wanted to visit and that is the AVANTI BOUTIQUE HOTEL. Aside from it’s location, we had a nice comfortable bed, nice balcony with an awesome view of the city, really nice breakfast, and amazing staff. We really had a lovely time here!
1. War Remnant Museum (40k VND)
First thing to do is to immerse yourself with the culture and the history of the place. Aside from checking the other tourist spots in Ho Chi Minh, I felt like I must start our tour with learning the the history and what the people and the place went through specially during the Vietnam War.
I love history and the moment we entered the museum the full horror of the war hit me. Looking at the photos, reading the narratives, and just walking around really was a big learning experience for me and also a great reminder that our knowledge of history should mean that we never repeat the mistakes of the past.In war, whichever side may call itself the victor, there are no winners, but all are losers” – Neville Chamberlain
2. Notre Dame Cathedral
Coming from the War Memorial, it’s only a few meters away from one of the most beautiful church in Ho Chi Minh and that is the Notre Dame Cathedral which is also the Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception. During our visit, the church was undergoing renovation but visitors can have photo taken in front of the church because of its impressive architectural structure. The flowers were all in bloom during our visit and it looked so beautiful even at night.
3. Post Office Saigon
Located right next to Notre Dame Cathedral, you will find the Post Office which is a great reminder when Vietnam was still colonised by France. This was probably one of the most beautiful post offices I’ve seen and up to this day, a lot of locals even tourists used this post office up to this day. You will also find souvenir shops inside the post office where some buy a post card and send it straight to their love ones at home.
4. Propaganda Saigon – Lunch
En route to Independence Palace, we found out that the place was still closde and will resume at 1:00 pm. So walking around, we saw this restaurant that we found so intriguing because there are so many people and it was busy. Because we were curious, we decided to give it a try. It was packed when we entered. I like the uniqueness of the restaurant and the graffitti on the wall. The food was also amazing. We had fresh spring rolls and my first taste of their local Vietnamese bread called, Banh. You must also try their local draught beers which I am sure you are going to love.
5. Independence Palace – (65k VND)
It was past lunch time and people started queuing in front of the of what is also called the Reunification Palace. Now, what makes this palace so important and so significant was this also commemorates the end of the Vietnam War. When two tanks from the Northern Vietnamese ran into the main gates of the palace. Inside, you will find what it was like back during the war. The bunker was also quite an interesting place to visit.
6. Ben Thanh Market for Souvenirs
If you are wondering where the best place is to shop for souvenir items while in Ho Chi Minh, then Ben Thanh Market is the best place to go. You will find almost everything here. From food, shirts, and so much more. Ben Thanh is a huge market and really offers a lot to tourists. In addition, there is always a lot of activities going around Ben Than Market like restaurants, coffee shops, spas, and so much more. You will never ran out of things to do around here. We were just very lucky that Avanti Boutique Hotel is just few meters away from this market.
7. Saigon Skydeck – Bitexco Financial Tower – 200K VND
One of the many highlights during our trip in Ho Chi Minh was to go all the way up the 49th floor Observation Deck offering a spectacular view of the city. We arrived late afternoon and stayed there for over an hour. There is a restaurant on the Observation Deck which is also a nice place to have a taste of a Vietnamese Coffee while watching the sun set. It was also beautiful to see the city at night with all the city lights. So in the end, we felt that we arrived at the right time seeing the city both at day and night. It was worth it!
8. Saigon Center Shopping
Right after your visit to Saigon Skydeck, you can have a stroll around or have a quick snack at the Saigon Center Shopping center. It’s actually a very nice mall with so many shops and discounts too. They also have a lot of restaurants offering Asian to European cuisine.
9. Tan Lap Restaurant – Dinner
If you are walking around Ben Thanh Market in District 1, I am sure you will pass by the Tan lap Restaurant. Located on the corner street, they have a coffee shop where tables are placed outside just like how Vietnamese drink and enjoy their coffee. And aside from that, they also have a restaurant serving local and other Asian cuisine. Its a nice restaurant and prices were quiet reasonable too!
10. Ho Chi Minh City Hall and Park Square
Built in the early 1900s, this French colonial style building formerly known as Hotel De Ville De Saigon is now used as the City Hall. From our hotel (District 1), it was only a few minutes walk to the City Hall and Park Square. It was so easy to get to this place and the City Hall is beautiful. No wonder this is one of the most visited attractions in Ho Chi Minh.
Since we were there early morning, the place was not too busy still. And right across the City Hall, you have the Park Square. A famous place for locals to hang out and relax, they also use this park as one a backdrops for their graduation photos. It seems to be a local tradition here in Vietnam. This park gives a great view of the City Hall and also a great place to get to know the people and learn their culture.
11. Opera House
Another famous tourist destination to visit in Ho Chi Minh that is considered as being within walking distance of other tourist spots is the Opera House. This place is also few meters away from City Hall and Park Square. This is another example of a beautiful French colonial style architecture found in the city. Similar with Park Square, a lot of students visit this place and use this monumental structure as backdrop for their class photos.
12. Lobster Pho – Dao Place – Vietnamese Cuisine [500K VND]
Now that you’ve seen most of the interesting places to visit around Ho Chi Minh City, now it’s time to check on the best food that city can offer. First place to visit is the DAO PLACE to try the Lobster Pho. Also located in the District 1, a few steps away from Avanti Boutique Hotel and the Ben Than Market, people visit the Dao Place to try this massive bowl of Lobstor Pho. The serving was good enough for two and I must admit that it was delicious and you will remember this place every time you think of the best food you’ve tried in Ho Chi Minh.
13 Dinner at Pizza 4P’s
If you are craving for some really good pizza, this is the place that is right for you. It’s Pizza 4P’s! Oh my goodness, we just found this place by accident because we arrived late from an event and were dying for something western then we saw this very interesting looking place. We decided to give it a try and oh my word, one of the best pizza we’ve tasted! Not just in Ho Chi Minh, but we also found one during our visit in Da Nang and also in Ha Noi.
14. Thrung Nguyen Coffee
Upon arriving, I never thought how good Vietnamese coffee really is. One place to have a real good coffee experience is the Thrung Nguyen Coffee. They are also found all over Vietnam and their coffee really tastes really good specially the drip coffees. If you are also looking for coffee to bring home as gifts or souvenirs, this brand is well trusted by many!
15. Beef Pho at Pho 2000. Phan Chu Trinh Street [85k VND]
Aside from the Vietnamese coffee, if there is one Vietnamese food that you must try before leaving, that is their Pho noodles! One place to try that is also located next to Ben Than Market in District 1 called the Pho 2000. A famous restaurant for travel and tours, you will normally find people queuing up here just to get a taste of their best tasting phos. This also became famous when President Clinton had a bowl of pho here during his visit to Vietnam.
Our Ho Chi Minh Itinerary
✔Day 0 – Arrived early morning at Ho Chi Minh from Manila
Php 100 = 45 000 VND
✔DAY 1 – Ho Chi Minh
🏨Checked in at Avanti Boutique Hotel [60USD/night]
Everything is done on foot from our hotel using Google Walk.
📍Warm Remnant Museum P(40k VND)
📍Notre Dame Cathedral
📍Post Office Saigon
📍Propaganda Saigon – Lunch
📍Independence Palace – (65k VND) Close at lunch time
📍Ben Tham Market for Souvenirs
📍Saigon Skydeck – Bitexco Financial Tower – 200K VND
📍Saigon Central Shopping
📍Tan Lap Restaurant – Dinner
✔DAY 2 – Ho Chi Minh
📍Ho Chi Minh City Hall
📍Lobster Pho – Dao Place – Vietnamese Cuisine [500K VND]
📍Ben Tham Market – Souvenirs
📍Dinner at Pizza 4P’s
✔DAY 3 – Ho Chi Minh to Hue via VietJet – 8 USD one way.
📍Ben Tham Market
📍Thrung Nguyen Coffee
📍Beef Pho at Pho 2000. Phan Chu Trinh Street [85k VND]
Arrived at Hue at night due to delays.
Checked in at Nam Phuong Riverside Villa [270k VND/night]
Still looking for more things to do in Saigon? Check out this video from Mark Wiens