Ho Chi Minh, situated in the southern part of Vietnam, is the largest city and former capital of Vietnam. Previously known as Saigon, it was renamed Ho Chi Minh after the Fall of Saigon in 1975. The wide Saigon River, which takes a huge turn from the east links the city with the sea. Back then, this beautiful city was referred as the Pearl of the Orient by the French.
There’s so much to see and do in Ho Chi Minh, and good food and drinks, fascinating bazaars and shops. Nightlife in the city is unbelievably diversify, so join the locals to party and drink, especially on weekends, and stay at one of the many good hotels or hostels in Ho Chi Minh has to offer.
There are many methods you can travel within the city, however it is best explored on foot or bicycles giving you access to the sidewalks and winding lanes in the old city. Here, you can observe and experience the life of the locals more intimately. The city is like a year round carnival of street markets, shops, pavement cafes, stands-on-wheels and vendors selling wares spread out on sidewalks or simply from their bicycles and you cannot help but be exhilarated by the energy from the vibrant atmosphere and enchanted by its old charms.
One thing you’ll discover in Ho Chi Minh is the many priceless moments you get to sit back and reflect. Amidst the hustle and bustle of a city, lies a calming yet serious appreciation of culture and the crafts.
You can see Ho Chi Minh’s top sights in a rush on an overnight stay, but you’ll need at least two days to do them justice, and three or four days to really get a sense of the city. In a week, you can get a good look at most of what Ho Chi Minh has to offer, do some shopping and enjoy day trip out to Cu Chi Tunnels and the Cai Dao Temple.
Take a look. Take a walk. You will be inspired.
Best Time To Go
The ideal period to visit Ho Chi Minh is from January to March as it is the driest months of the year. Temperatures range from 31 in the day to 22 at night thus making it a very pleasant weather for travelling.
From May to October the wet season follows and can be dampening to your travel plans. Do bear in mind that there are risks of typhoon storms attacking the coast during the period of July to November. Also, the climate can vary widely from the South to the North of Vietnam. One of the best way to see and sock in the Vietnamese culture is during the festive seasons, such as the Tet Festival.
My To Do List
– If you’re in Saigon on a Sunday night be sure to rent a two-wheeled vehicle and join the crowd for ‘di choi’. It’s basically a party on wheels with guaranteed loads of fun, where everyone just rides through the downtown streets until the wee hours.
– If the heat starts to get to you, there are several water parks where you can splash around to cool off. Close to the city centre in District 11 is Dam Sen Water Park, just north of the city in the Thu Duc District is Saigon Water Park, there is also the Water World in District 9, Ocean Water Park in District 7, and Dai The Gioi Water Park in District 5.
– Visiting hair salons is also a must do for tourists, as Vietnamese are famous for it. Hair wash, manicure and pedicure cost no more than $10. One nice place to go to is Vu Salon @ 210, Tran Quang Khai, District 1.
– Enjoy a traditional Vietnamese coffee at the many coffee joints in the city and watch the world go by. Sometimes it’s by not doing anything that we see more.
A trip to Vietnam will simply not be complete without a visit to Ho Chi Minh. Besides the rich historical background of the former capital, another drawing factor in visiting this city lies in the contrast between the old and the new Vietnam, the cultural and economic center of the country.
High-rise buildings, 5stars hotels and international companies act as a backdrop against well preserved broad elegant boulevards and historic colonial buildings drawing you back to the days of French dominance. War and History museum co-exist side by side with pagodas built since ancient times.
Why Not Go
It is almost impossible to not go to Ho Chi Minh when touring the country’s south. Like Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh is the transit hub of the South for many tourist going onwards to others destinations.
In recent years, however, it has become more and more commercialized and for the traveler looking for some peace and the ‘authentic’ side of Vietnam, this may not be the place for you. The difference is especially striking when you are coming down from the North and it can even feel a little claustrophobic.
Many visitors now just schedule a day or two as a resting stop, confirm their travelling plans or catch up on some shopping.
– For many tourists, their worst nightmare comes from the bad experience with the taxi/motorbike-taxi/cyclo’s drivers. Many of them don’t speak good English or pretend not to speak English. Sometimes they offer you one price but when you reach your destination it’s another price. It’s recommended to carry a note and a pen with you and write the prices down before hopping onto the vehicle.
Otherwise to avoid these troubles, use the metered taxis only. If possible have a sense of where you are heading to as sometimes the drivers bring you around in loops or out of the city. For long distances such as from the city to the airport, make it clear who’ll pay for the road tolls.
– When you go to local restaurants make sure that the menus have prices printed or ask for the prices. Otherwise, there is a high chance that you will be overcharged and end up having to pay a exorbitant bill.
– Most tours in and around Ho Chi Minh are at the same price. If you find one that is suspiciously cheaper in cafes or roadside agents be aware that often they save costs by cutting corners by going to less places of interest or using old buses with no AC or serving food of very bad quality. It’s better to book from the hotels or tour companies as they are accountable for the quality.
– Be careful when walking along the streets as there have been many reported incidents of drive-by snatchers.