Ho Chi Minh City (aka Saigon) is a frightening vacation spot for first-time guests. Not solely is that this place large – it has an estimated inhabitants of 12-13 million – however it’s chaotic and frenetic. On prime of that, it’s not all the time straightforward to get details about what to truly do in this metropolis. Once I first visited HCMC as a backpacker, I ticked off all of the Lonely Planet’s main suggestions of issues to do in Ho Chi Minh City: the Struggle Remnants Museum, Reunification Palace, Bui Vien Strolling Road (aka backpacker road) and the Benh Than Market. However truthfully, I didn’t actually know what else to do. So I did what most vacationers do – I left after three days.
I can absolutely perceive why most vacationers choose to both spend a number of fleeting days in the town or select to skip Saigon altogether. However now that I’ve had the prospect to stay right here for the higher a part of a yr, I can truthfully say that this metropolis is properly value spending a piece of time in. There are numerous issues to do in Ho Chi Minh City. From hidden speakeasies and cafes to a few of the world’s greatest meals to incense-filled pagodas, there’s greater than sufficient actions and points of interest to maintain you entertained for days on finish. You simply have to know the place to look — and by chance I’m right here to assist!
My intention for this information is to give attention to areas that the majority vacationers don’t find out about. And whereas most of the issues I listing are common, they may not be recognized amongst complete newbies. These are the locations I like to recommend to my household and pals who go to. With that stated, I nonetheless advocate hitting up all the most important scorching spots I discussed above. I simply really feel like most guides solely give attention to these points of interest, so there’s no actual want for me to go into them right here.
Anyway, in the event you’re sure for HCMC and already feeling confused, right here’s my insider’s information on distinctive issues to do in Ho Chi Minh City.
- 1 1. Discover the Outlets in 14 Ton That Dam
- 2 2. Take Photographs of Tan Dinh Church (aka Pink Church)
- 3 three. Search Out Saigon’s Hidden Cocktail Bars
- 4 four. Get Misplaced in Cholon (Saigon’s Chinatown)
- 5 5. Go to Saigon’s Incense-Crammed Temples
- 6 6. Photograph and Discover The Cafe Condo
- 7 7. Sip on Craft Beer
- 8 eight. Eat Pho However Eat All of the Different Things Too
- 9 9. Take in the View from a Rooftop Bar
- 10 10. Stroll Alongside the Saigon River
- 11 11. Snap a Selfie at Mong Bridge (aka Rainbow Bridge)
- 12 12. Chow Down on the Benthanh Road Meals Market
- 13 13. Take a River Cruise
- 14 14. Marvel on the Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon
- 15 15. Ship a Postcard on the Saigon Central Submit Workplace
- 16 16. Go to E-book Road
- 17 17. Get a Caffeine Repair at a Saigon Cafe
1. Discover the Outlets in 14 Ton That Dam
I’ve a factor for previous, M.C. Escher-esque buildings. Fortunate for me, Saigon is filled with them. I discovered this child whereas exploring the nooks and crannies of the vacationer middle of District 1. It’s a bit hidden and it feels kinda awkward to stroll inside an space the place individuals truly stay, however it’s nicely value in search of out and exploring this superbly rundown condo complicated.
A colourful boutique in the center of an “abandoned” constructing.
When you get inside, it’s a bit mazelike however you can find all types of cool bars, boutiques and cafes hidden in what truthfully looks like an deserted constructing/good setting for a horror film. To get inside simply stroll up the darkish stairway to your proper. In any other case, you won’t work out how to attain the precise outlets.
2. Take Photographs of Tan Dinh Church (aka Pink Church)
This church is probably probably the most festive one I’ve ever laid eyes on. With its flamboyant pink paint job, it’s no marvel why this church is among the most Instagrammable locations in Ho Chi Minh City. Tan Dinh Church is situated in District three (which is a few 15-minute drive from District 1) however in the event you like quirky buildings, it’s nicely value journeying on the market. Be sure to take a peek contained in the church too as a result of it’s much more colourful than the surface! Enjoyable reality: The church was constructed in the 1870s however was refurbished and repainted in a vibrant shade of pink in 1957. Why? I’m not precisely positive.
three. Search Out Saigon’s Hidden Cocktail Bars
Would you ever assume to stroll up these stairs to go to a bar?
HCMC has so many cools bars and speakeasies, however they’re not all the time straightforward to discover. The one purpose I’ve visited most of them is as a result of my in-the-know Vietnamese associates take me to them. You’ll be able to anticipate all the normal cocktails, however from my expertise, many of those bars additionally serve actually distinctive drinks that incorporate untraditional components. Positive I’ve had martinis and Moscow mules, however I’ve additionally sipped cocktails that function peanut butter (kinda yum), spicy peppers (tremendous yum), dill and coconut water (by no means yum) and a lot extra. A few of them have been terrible however most have been shockingly superb and the environment of those locations is all the time actually cool. Right here’s a fantastic information to Saigon’s hidden bars.
four. Get Misplaced in Cholon (Saigon’s Chinatown)
Do you know that Ho Chi Minh City is residence to the world’s largest Chinatown? Earlier than I moved to HCMC I spent almost three years dwelling in Beijing, China, so I used to be tremendous excited once I came upon about it. I spent a whole day wandering round Cholon once I first acquired right here. And I need to say, being in Chinatown gave me all types of heat, fuzzy emotions. Purple lanterns, ornate temples, dim sum…it felt so acquainted! This place is large and there’s no approach to take all of it in throughout one go to. However it’s nicely value exploring when you have the time.
5. Go to Saigon’s Incense-Crammed Temples
Talking of Chinatown, Cholon can also be residence to a number of the metropolis’s most picturesque Buddhist temples. I like to recommend taking the 20-minute taxi journey from District 1 to Cholon (District 5) for the temples alone. I’ve been to Thien Hau Temple, Nghia An Hoi Quan Pagoda and Ong Bon Pagoda, which I extremely advocate. Nevertheless, there are such a lot of extra I’ve but to discover. Should you’re in going temple hopping in Cholon, right here is a superb information.
There are additionally beautiful temples in District 1.
And in the event you’re in delving into Saigon’s numerous spiritual websites — together with mosques, Caodaist temples and Hindu temples, Saigon Religions Tour by Motorcycle may be the right choice. And it’s on the again of a motorcycle, which all the time makes issues extra thrilling!! It not solely stops off in Cholon however takes you to a couple of different far-flung districts as properly.
6. Photograph and Discover The Cafe Condo
“The Cafe Apartment” (aka 42 Nguyen Hue) shouldn’t be actually a secret however I all the time advocate a go to to anybody who’s stopping off in the town. This decaying nine-story complicated as soon as housed American army officers through the Vietnam Struggle. Quick ahead 60 years and dozens of boutiques, cafes and eating places now occupy the previous house models. Exploring the halls and totally different outlets is tremendous enjoyable. And the views from the ninth flooring are fairly nice. Additionally, ensure to take a look at the outside from the Nguyen Hue Strolling Road, which is true throughout the road. There’s a great purpose this constructing is probably the most Instagrammable place in city.
7. Sip on Craft Beer
The craft beer scene in Ho Chi Minh City is booming. It looks like each month, there’s a brand new place serving up tremendous distinctive brews round city. I haven’t tried all of them however I’ve been to a handful of them. Certainly one of my favourite spots is the rooftop terrace of Pasteur Road Brewing Firm. Like so many craft breweries in HCMC, Pasteur incorporates components from totally different areas of Vietnam into their beers – assume pepper from Phu Quoc Island and Marou chocolate from Tien Giang. My all-time favourite beer right here in HCMC is their ultra-tart Passionfruit Wheat Ale (which can also be out there in a canned model in some handy shops round city!).
eight. Eat Pho However Eat All of the Different Things Too
OK, OK, I do know Vietnam is legendary for pho however there are such a lot of different noodle soups and dishes to attempt. Undoubtedly get some pho however don’t be afraid to pattern different meals too. Since I’m a vegetarian, issues are extra restricted for me. However carnivores, get on the market and eat as a result of this metropolis has some superb choices. For an excellent complete information to Saigon’s road meals take a look at this submit by Jodi at Authorized Nomads. In contrast to me, she eats meat and she or he is aware of what’s up when it comes to Vietnamese meals. In the event you’re a vegetarian, you’re in luck as a result of I wrote an entire information to Saigon’s greatest vegetarian eating places.
9. Take in the View from a Rooftop Bar
When most vacationers go to HCMC, they go to the statement deck on the 49th flooring of the Bitexco Monetary Tower (the second-highest constructing in HCMC). Truthfully, I nonetheless haven’t made it up there. I suppose the VND200,000 ($10) charge simply turned me off from it. However I do love an excellent view and by chance there are tons of nice rooftop bars in the town the place you possibly can take in the view with a fruity cocktail in hand. Chill Skybar is probably the most high-end rooftop bar in city, although do remember that there’s a gown code. Alternately Shri Bar gives panoramic views of the town and is far more mellow. There are a bunch of choices although. Right here is a superb information written by the superb Vietnam Coracle.
10. Stroll Alongside the Saigon River
I’ll be trustworthy. HCMC is loopy, chaotic and actually, actually loud. However there are hidden areas across the metropolis which might be kinda peaceable. It took me a number of months to discover the little pedestrian pathway that strains the Saigon River nevertheless it’s proper downtown and it’s tremendous handy for guests. The walkway is a superb place to go for a jog or a lazy stroll. There are additionally little train machines that many older Vietnamese individuals use in the course of the evenings when issues cool off. Plus, you get to glimpse life on the river.
11. Snap a Selfie at Mong Bridge (aka Rainbow Bridge)
Gustave Eiffel (sure, the person behind the Eiffel Tower) constructed this bridge in Saigon in 1882. Although it was as soon as used for automobiles, it’s now a pedestrian-only bridge that spans the river and hyperlinks District 1 with District four. In recent times it’s turn out to be an excellent fashionable spot to snap wedding ceremony pictures and selfies. It’s situated proper downtown, simply down the road from Bitexco Tower. It’s additionally an awesome beginning off level to the Saigon River pedestrian pathway (see above).
12. Chow Down on the Benthanh Road Meals Market
The Ben Thanh Market is among the extra well-known vacationer points of interest in HCMC and I’ve been there a bunch of occasions. However what I didn’t understand is that the Benthanh Road Meals Market is situated a block away. Significantly, it took me months of dwelling right here earlier than I stumbled throughout this place. The Benthanh Road Meals Market is an ultra-hip eating corridor that consists of dozens of stylish eateries cooking up all the things from Vietnamese to Mexican to Vegan southern consolation meals (they’ve fried “chicken”!!). There’s no scarcity of meals choices in HCMC, however in case you’re visiting the Ben Thanh Market and on the lookout for a singular place to stuff your face, this place is certainly value a go to.
13. Take a River Cruise
For many who don’t know, HCMC is situated on a bunch of rivers. Due to how industrial the world is I didn’t actually have excessive hopes for a river tour, however it was truly actually cool. Not solely was I in a position to lastly escape the bubble that’s the vacationer middle of District 1, however I used to be in a position to glimpse all types of various areas of the town – from the undeveloped District 9 to the extra posh District 2. The tour was tremendous instructional and actually opened my thoughts up to how massive and diversified this metropolis is and simply how quickly it’s creating. Plus, I’ve a factor for boats and there was limitless free beer and regionally grown cashews. I extremely advocate the river tour I did — the Saigon Sundown Cruise Expertise.
14. Marvel on the Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon
Ho Chi Minh City has a shocking variety of church buildings and they’re actually fairly! Though the Pink Church (see above) is probably the most colourful of the bunch, the Notre-Dame Cathedral is probably the most iconic. It was accomplished in 1880 by French colonists. Enjoyable reality: Rumor has it that the statue of the Virgin Mary (situated in entrance of the church) shed tears in 2005, inflicting individuals to flock to the cathedral. Anyway, that is simply one of many many superb buildings to see when visiting HCMC.
15. Ship a Postcard on the Saigon Central Submit Workplace
Just like the Notre-Dame Cathedral, the Saigon Central Submit Workplace is yet one more ultra-touristy factor to do. It’s actually proper throughout from the Notre-Dame Cathedral, so it’s undoubtedly value dropping in. It may be a vacationer attraction however the Publish Workplace is absolutely useful. It’s truly type of humorous to watch all of the vacationers taking photographs whereas the workers assist individuals mail and ship their letters and items. I’ve heard it’s truly a really environment friendly place to ship trinkets again house from. My pal shipped a propaganda poster again to California. It took some time, however was tremendous low cost and did get there! One other pal suggests sending postcards from the Submit Workplace, which is a enjoyable method to let household and pals again residence sustain together with your travels.
16. Go to E-book Road
Simply down the road for the Notre-Dame Cathedral and Publish Workplace is what has been dubbed “Book Street.” Should you’re in the world it’s undoubtedly value taking a stroll down the lovable, quiet and pedestrian-friendly road. Situated on Nguyen Van Binh, the alley is principally lined with bookshops and distributors promoting cute trinkets and, in fact, books. There are additionally a couple of cafes in case you need to take a break from sightseeing and perform a little studying…or espresso consuming.
17. Get a Caffeine Repair at a Saigon Cafe
Vietnam is legendary for its espresso so it’s not likely a shocker that HCMC would have a kickass cafe tradition. However critically, the cafes listed here are off-the-charts superior. As a contract author and somebody who works remotely, it’s very nice to have so many choices when it comes to totally different locations to work from. Plus, I really like espresso and tea, so it’s a win-win for me.
I wrote an entire article devoted to the place to discover the perfect chilly brews in HCMC. However the article additionally highlights a few of the hippest espresso outlets in the town, from Vietnam Espresso Republic to The Workshop to [a] Espresso Store. There are additionally loads of espresso outlets hidden in previous house buildings. You truthfully can by no means predict whenever you’re going to stumble throughout a hip cafe in this city, however relaxation assured will probably be typically.
So what do you say: Does Ho Chi Minh City look like the kind of metropolis you’d like to go to?