What to do (and avoid) in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

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Ho Chi Minh City was formerly named Saigon, until the communist North Vietnamese  invaded it on the 30th April 1975, winning the war against the capitalist South. Now it’s the largest city in Vietnam, with over 9 million people living there. Now imagine: one every two has a motorbike. Yes, the roads are a mess.

So, what’s there to see and do??
Here’s how I spent my three days in this city, along with my personal judgment of what I enjoyed and what I wish I avoided…
War Remnants Museum meh…
15,000 Dong.
Of course also in Vietnam the recent war is a fundamental slice of their history. However, this museum portrays the conflict like the Hollywood movies of the 70’s portraied American heroism… If you know what I mean.
They have replicas of jails and torture rooms with even manikins, as if the photographs weren’t enough. I found the genocide museums of Phnom Penh much better set up and thought-provoking that this one.
Reunification Palace ok
30,000 Dong.
The residence of the President of South Vietnam until in April 1975, it has become a symbol of the fall of Saigon and unification of Vietnam. It is an interesting historical site, where you can see from the president’s rooms to the bunkers underground with the war room and radio station between others (the most interesting part to me). Unfortunately however, the most sensational part of this palace is the horrific taste in interior design…
Water Puppet Show (at the Golden Dragon Theatre) yesss
150,000 Dong.
From a strict western eye used to high class entartainment, this may seem like a waste of time. But if you get into the right mindset, you will enjoy a magical show! The music is played live on the sides of the stage, while water puppets perform dances to the rythm of folklore Vietnamese music. Still haven’t found out how the puppets are controlled!!
Tip: get your tickets early and check your seats – best ones are in front as everyone takes photos and you may get to see only lots of screens from the back :/
Cu Chi Tunnel (half day) joke!
$5 plus 90,000 Dong entrance fee.
Again, this place is a joke. They took a former web of underground tunnels that were used by the Vietcongs to trap and kill the Americans and turned it into a Western tourists’ fun park… The tunnels were enlarged (although still too small for my claustrophobia), there are fake traps everywhere and drawings to show how they were used to kill the enemies, and finally you get to shoot some guns. Finally, you are shown an hideous documentary.
Note: For $7 you can do the Cu Chi Tunnel Full Day Trip, which includes a visit to the Great Cao Dai Holy See.
Mekong Delta Day Cruise yesss
$10 including lunch and LOTS of fruits.
From Ho Chi Minh, most of the travel agencies offer either one, two or three days cruises in the Mekong Delta. We did the one day one and it did it perfectly to us, even though it meant that we had to skip the floating market.
In the one day cruise you are taken to various islands where you can see (and taste!) some traditional products being made right in front of you – from bee honey to coconut candies. Of course in each and every stop you can also buy all these products, but I think that on this occasion it works bothways very well.
You also get a ride on a paddle boat, listen some traditional music, and lunch and tropical fruits are included in the price 🙂
Chua Ngoc Hoang (Emperor Jade Pagoda) ok
This is truly a hidden gem, but I think it’s worth it only if you’re already around the area.
Right at the heart of the city, this pagoda is a place of worship for the locals, whom you’ll find lighting up incenses and praying to the gods. The atmosphere is pictoresque in its dark and smokey rooms with plenty of figurines to admire.
Take a strall around town yesss
What’s the best way to see a new place? Walking around it of course! Don’t be shy and get lost in the Vietnamese culture – just be careful of motorbikes!
And don’t forget to try the delicious rice pancake!
By the way… We booked all of our tours and buses from the best travel guy in town. We checked many travel agencies and Canary Travel Company had the best rate (and best service!) of all. You can find it at 303 A Pham Ngu Lao Street.



2 Responses

  1. […] a fairly good value for money – a double is $15 with AC and free wifi. Day 2, 3 & 4 Explore everything that Ho Chi Minh has to offer. Leave on day 4 for Mui Ne after the Tunnels, a 4 hours bus ride for $6 (leaves at 3pm). Day 5  […]

  2. Gregory Smith
    | Reply

    I love your blog

    I have read this article and enjoyed it

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