Sep
30

Things to do in Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam

Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam, formerly known as Saigon is the business hub of Vietnam with high rise sparkling buildings.  Don’t be surprised to hear Saigon still used popularly by locals and tourists. This is in South Vietnam.

The city named after the most revered leader of Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh, the first President whom people lovingly call ‘Uncle Ho’.

Central Post Office

It is an iconic building and a working post office constructed in 1891 during French Indochina regime.

Ho Chi Minh central post office

As you enter the huge post office, you feel as if you have traveled back in time. Huge arched roof, iron pillars, old clocks showing times across the world. You notice a huge portrait of the President Ho Chi Minh up on the wall.

Ho Chi Minh post office arch

There are two huge paintings of the historic maps from the late 19th century and early 20th century of telegraphic lines in Saigon and Southern Vietnam and Cambodia region.

Saigon Central post office map

Mingling among the customers are tourists from across the world admiring the architecture and the interiors. These visitors with cameras trying to capture the bits of the era that reflect from every object of this post office.

There are phone booths on both sides that are a perfect photo opportunity.

We even got an opportunity to meet the octogenarian Duong Van Ngo, who was a former employee of the Post office since 1952.

Fluent in French, English, and Vietnamese he was a letter writer and still visits the post office regularly and helps people. He seemed to be a famous person, as he has been featured in foreign newspapers and many documentaries.

Saigon central post office octogenarian

There is a souvenir shop inside the premises.

Hours – 7 a.m. – 7 p.m. (Mon-Fri), 7 a.m. – 6 p.m. (Sat), 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. (Sun)

Next to the post office is the famous Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral.

Notre Dame Cathedral

Walking down the street past the beautiful roundabout, the eyes gaze at two spires shining on the red brick cathedral. Constructed by the French in 1880, all the material was imported from France including the red bricks.

Even though the cathedral was constructed long back in the 19th century, it was called the Saigon Church, until it was renamed Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica in 1962 after the installation of a statue of Peaceful Notre Dame.

Ho Chi Minh Notre dame cathedral

Next to the Saigon Central Post office, is this iconic building. But we couldn’t visit it from inside as it was closed for restoration work.

Note: The cathedral is closed for renovation and is planned till 2023.

Independence Palace or Reunification Palace

As you enter the black iron gates, you see a huge circular garden with a fountain in the middle, military tanks at one end. The eyes drift behind the fountain to a huge palace with patterned white façade.

Ho Chi Minh Reunification palace

This was the home and workplace of President of South Vietnam. The palace has witnessed the Vietnam war and even the war came to an end at this palace.

Following the reunification of North and South Vietnam, the palace was renamed as a tribute.

The building houses a bomb shelter and a network of tunnels at the basement that were used by the residents to escape the attack during the war.  The roof of the palace has a helipad with a helicopter on display.

Ho Chi Minh reunification palace helicopter

The different floors have multiple rooms, some for the personal use of the president and some for official. There are many beautiful Banquet halls and conference rooms to host the dignitaries.

Ho Chi Minh reunification conference room

Look out for the paintings that depict the story. There are a fancy media and dance room. There is a display of the many gifts received from the representatives of other countries.

Ho Chi Minh reunification meeting room

Hours – 7:30 am. – 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. – 4 p.m. (Closed for lunch from 11 – 1 p.m.)

Tickets – 40,000 VND

Tip: It would be great if you have a tour guide to walk you through about the history and details.

War Remnants Museum

As the name suggests, this is a museum with remnants of the cruel Vietnam war and invasions from France and America.

There are exhibits with objects and pictures that depict the horrifying saga of the Vietnam war and its impact on the people that still lingers on. The exhibits even include many US air force fighter jets and helicopters that were left of the war and are the most popular exhibits.

There are photographs by famous war correspondents showing the aftermaths of the terror that would send goosebumps. The mock prison with tiger cages and pictures tells the stories of torture the prisoners underwent.

There are souvenirs in the form of keyrings made from old bullets and others made from war materials available in the souvenir shop.

Timings: 7:30 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Tickets – 40,000 VND (Adults), 20,000 VND (kids 6-16 years)

Suggestion : Would not recommend taking small kids.

Cu Chi Tunnels Tour

Pronounced as koo-chee, this is the most sought after attraction.

A destination high on our list that was missed due to language barrier issue is a regret that we will always have. And unfortunately, we didn’t have a spare day to explore it.

The Cu Chi tunnels is 121 km wide network of tunnels lying under the city in the Cu Chi district of Ho Chi Minh city. It is said that these tunnels were even a part of the elaborate network of tunnels spread across the country.

These tunnels were used as the hiding spots for the Vietnamese soldiers to protect themselves during the aerial bombings during the war. Sometimes the soldiers used to stay underground for days.

These dark and cramped tunnels were full of insects and spiders making them inhumane. Henceforth most of the soldiers did have diseases like malaria and other infections.

It was tough to imagine how could they survive in those dark and cramped tunnels where food and other things would be scarce.

The Cu Chi tunnels tour is one of the most popular tourist destinations and people get a chance to go down through the small openings into the claustrophobic tunnels and experience the life of the soldiers.

Mekong Delta

To the south of Vietnam lies the Mekong delta region spanning over 15,000 sq miles with tributaries of Mekong river spread wide before it flows into the South China Sea. Mekong delta is a network of rivers, canals, islands with villages around these with lush greenery and mangrove trees.

With millions of coconut trees lining the canals, green paddy fields, markets floating on these waters, make it a relief from the hustle bustle of the big city of Ho Chi Minh.

The Mekong delta tours are popular, cruising through the narrow canals on canoes.

Since this region is so vast, one can even choose to spend days exploring this countryside. Some people prefer exploring at own speed and will.

But if you are short on time, we would recommend taking a tour to get most of the place and also saves from the language barrier.

Cai Be Floating Market

Floating markets are very popular and part of Vietnam from a hundred of years. It is fascinating how humans adapt according to the environment and make the most of it.

South Vietnam has an extensive network of rivers and canals and hence locals had started using them not only as a mean of transportation but of even selling commodities like fruits, vegetables, meat, etc.

One can even spot mini restaurant on these canoes cooking and selling food. Have you tried from them?

Boat selling fruits at floating market

Out of the many floating markets, Cai Be is very famous also because of proximity from Ho Chi Minh city.

We did a day trip to the floating market but were very disappointed. There were very few boats around selling stuff and the river was very filthy. From dead plants to rotten food and plastic, everything was polluting this so called lifeline.

The tour did include a trip to a local factory making coconut candies, rice rolls sheets and even snake wine.

Making Vietnamese rice roll sheets

Yes, you read it right, SNAKE WINE. There were bottles lined up with snakes, scorpions infused in wines.

It is sending me chills down my spine even writing it. I didn’t have the courage even to taste it. But of course, you can give it a shot. I did ask a fellow traveler who tasted it, and she said that it was strong and had a kick.

Snake wine at Ho chi Minh
Snake wine

I personally didn’t feel it was worth spending a whole day sitting in the boat for 4 hours to get a glimpse of a few boats selling fruits.

If you still are eager to experience the floating market, I would recommend going early morning at the wee hours.

Do you need a visa for Vietnam? If yes, how to get a visa for Vietnam? Read Our Ultimate Guide to Vietnam Visa that answers all your questions.

Ho Chi Minh Districts Map

At the first time, understanding Ho Chi Minh City seems like a puzzle hearing the words district and wards. Ho Chi Minh City is divided into 24 districts which are further divided into wards.

District 1 is the city center, major hub for business, hotels, shopping, food, and attractions.

We stayed in District 1 and most of the places were walkable.

Source – Codiemaps

Watching the video gives the best idea about the main districts of Ho Chi Minh.

Getting Around Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh is a busy city and it is better to use taxi apps like Grab and Uber. Grab is the most popular and economical. Beware of the fake taxi services that cheat and overcharge.

How to Plan the Ho Chi Minh Itinerary?

Day 1 – walking tour to Post Office, Notre Dame Cathedral and Reunification palace in half day. Another half can be spent at War Remnant museum

Day 2 – half day tour to Cu Chi tunnels (This can be done on the way to Mekong Delta as well)

Day 3 – Mekong Delta. Mekong Delta is a vast area of rivers and canals. To explore the natural beauty, one can even choose to spend more than a day.

Ho Chi Minh City Weather

This city to the South of Vietnam has mainly hot weather with two seasons – rainy and dry. The drier weather lasts from November to April and are the best to visit.

Where to Stay in Ho Chi Minh

Le Meridian Saigon – Great and a popular hotel facing the river. Great views. We stayed in the Presidential suite and what an experience it was. Loved every bit of the hospitality.

Park Hyatt Saigon

The Reverie Saigon

Renaissance Riverside Hotel Saigon

Have you been to Ho Chi Minh City? How’s your experience? Do share it with us. Do you think we missed something? Let us know, we’ll be happy to update.

Looking for other options to explore in Vietnam. We can help you.

A detailed guide to plan vacation in Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam with attractions, tips and hotels in Saigon. Things to do in Ho Chi Minh City | Vietnam attractions | Saigon travel guide #saigon #hochiminh #hochiminhcity
A detailed guide to plan vacation in Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam with attractions, tips and hotels in Saigon. Things to do in Ho Chi Minh City | Vietnam attractions | Saigon travel guide #saigon #hochiminh #hochiminhcity

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