How To Tour Ho Chi Minh City In 3 Days
Here goes my first trip to Vietnam.
For someone staying in Singapore, Ho Chi Minh City, the economic center and a huge metropolitan city at the South of Vietnam, was not only near (1.5 hours away by flight), but it is also an ideal place for a first visit to Vietnam. With many expats living there you can expect to see a good mix of traditional and modern shops and restaurants.
Here’s my list of where to go and where not to go for first timers:
1. Skip the Notre Dame church and go to Tan Dinh church that is near District 1 of Ho Chi Minh. Notre is famous but also very touristy and crowded. Besides being really dim, you might not even be able go all the way inside the church. Tan Dinh church, the second biggest Catholic church in the city after Notre, is stunning. Entirely pink inside and out, it was peaceful and quiet on our weekend visit and we get to tour the entire church by ourselves. It also helped that Tan Dinh church was not really listed on a lot of Ho Chi Minh city tour guides
Tan Dinh Church, 289 Hai Bà Trưng, phường 8, District 3
2. Markets are a huge thing in Southeast Asia, Ben thanh market is the most centralized and also most touristy markets of all in Ho Chi Minh. Which means it’s not really worth spending too much time inside or wasting time bargaining with the stall vendors. It’s worth a visit though, you can take about 15 minutes to walk through the market to experience the atmosphere but definitely not a place to do serious shopping.
3. The few historic places that are recommended to go: the Independence Palace, Saigon Central Post office and the War Remnants Museum. The Independence Palace is where real historical moments actually happened inside the building, it felt kind of surreal that many important war decisions were made right where you stand. It is huge, with several basement levels, which will take you about 2 hours to complete. The post office is interesting because it is actually a functioning post office where the locals do go there to deliver their items, but it is also incredibly majestic and has that “Grand Central Terminal” vibe. The post office workers are pretty annoyed by the tourists though. War Remnants Museum is best for the last day or last few hours in the city because you are more likely going to leave with a heavy heart. If you want to head inside the agent orange room, stay to the left side. The museum displays really graphic images that are definitely not for the faint hearted.
4. In Ho Chi Minh City, the best way to experience local cuisine is to find unassuming restaurants that have menus with no English or any other languages. If the waiters don’t even know how to speak English, even better. Most of the time you find these type of restaurants to be the most authentic and they can be found in almost every street corner. Besides the usual Pho, Bánh mì and Gỏi cuốn (cold spring rolls) that you will normally eat when in Vietnam, Bánh xèo, Bún Bò Huế and Bánh bèo are all equally delicious. Bánh xèo is basically Vietnamese Crepe, a wok fried pancake made of rice flour, water, turmeric powder and stuffed with pork, shrimp, diced green onion and bean sprouts. Bún Bò Huế is one of those Vietnamese noodle dishes with a complex soup base which sends an explosion of flavours in your mouth. Bánh bèo are steamed rice cakes that are usually small and best eaten with dried shrimp floss on top.
Roadside Bánh mì along Pasteur Street
5. The few places you can get a get view over the entire city are probably the bars on top of Bitexco Tower and Pullman Saigon hotel, depends on how and which direction you wish to see the view from. I personally prefer Colbalt bar at the top of Pullman (148 Tran Hung Dao Boulevard, District 1) which gives you a great view from the south-er side of the city where you can see the rivers and part of the city where the taller buildings gather together.
If you have spare time, just walk around! Every street seems different from one another and you never know what you will stumble across next. The houses in Ho Chi Minh are such a visual treat – colourful, compact and cosy. One last thing to note, despite having 436268972 motorbikes swirling around you 24/7 on the road, traffic is actually pretty smooth in the city unlike, ahem, Bangkok or Jakarta.