Think you can’t do much in ‘Saigon’ with just 3 days on your hands? Think again!
Ho Chi Minh City (Photo by: Vietnam Tourism)
Ho Chi Minh City, or Saigon, as the locals prefer to call it, is fast shedding the vestiges of a colonial past and embracing the future with skyscrapers and modern shopping malls. Remnants of Chinese and French influences are still there if you know where to look. And the local coffee culture is still strong. Join us as we take you around the city in three days.
Start your day early by walking along Dong Khoi, hailed as the city’s best walking street. Start from the Cathedral of Notre Dame and head towards the Opera House. Along the way, admire some of the French colonial-style architectures including City Hall with the famous statue of Ho Chi Minh. If you’re feeling hot, you can hop into the new Takashimaya shopping mall or break for coffee at one of the L’Usine cafe outlets.
Ben Thanh Market, a city landmark, is worth a visit to check out the local souvenirs, textiles and coffee. You should also grab a bowl of noodles while you’re there. Be prepared to bargain hard as most items are priced at a premium.
By dusk, Bui Vien street comes alive with throngs of foreigners looking for cheap beer and dinner. Do try the bun cha (fish cake noodles), soupy heaven in a bowl. If Bui Vien is too touristy for you, go look for Ben Thanh Street Food Market near Ben Thanh market for some local food under one roof coupled with live entertainment.
Have breakfast like the locals at a trendy joint like Oasis Cafe. It may be 20 minutes outside the city, but you will be rewarded with great food, coffee and a tranquil environment with greenery and water features.
After breakfast, visit the Reunification Palace, seat of the South Vietnam government until 1975. Then, hop into the War Remnants Museum to learn more about the war from the Vietnamese perspective.
For lunch, get out of your comfort zone and rub shoulders with locals on a low stool under a tree at The Lunch Lady for the best noodles in town. The lady serves different noodles every day and you just eat what’s dished out. After lunch, you may have time for Jade Emperor Pagoda, a Taoist temple built in 1909.
By dusk, you can watch the sun set over the city at EON51. Located on the 50th floor of Bitexco Financial Tower, it is the highest cafe, bar and restaurant in the city.
Alternatively, you can take a 20-minute ride outside of town to the Phu Nhuan district for dinner at Tram Café.
Your last day in Ho Chi Minh City should be spent exploring the city outskirts, especially the Mekong Delta, known as the “rice bowl of Vietnam”. Home to lush green rice fields, tropical fruit and coconut plantations, it is best to explore the vast area by taking a boat tour where you can see how the locals work and live on the river. If you want comfort and luxury, go with Les Rives – they have a fleet of fast boats to save you time. Most Mekong Delta tours include a visit to the villages, a local market and lunch
For a more laidback experience, you can book a stay at Island Lodge, a resort beside the river which is just two hours’ drive southwest of the city. There you can sit back, watch the boats chugging lazily along the Mekong river, enjoy a French cuisine or go for a spa.
You can also dig into the famous Cu Chi Tunnels, a network of underground tunnels that took warfare to a different level and Vietnam to victory.
When you’re back in the city, indulge in local Vietnamese cuisines at Quan An Ngon 138. The restaurant might be touristy but it’s comfortable and located downtown.
If you prefer to go hardcore and eat like the locals, visit Oc Dao. Its location in a labyrinth of back alleys poses a challenge even for local taxi drivers but if you can find the restaurant, you will be rewarded by a staggering variety of snails and seafood complemented by baguettes and local specialty beverages.
Getting to Ho Chi Minh City is easy as there are direct flights via AirAsia, VietJet Air and Malaysia Airlines flying from KL International Airport, so plan your trip now!