Ho Chi Minh City, or popularly, Saigon, is the biggest metropolitan city and the financial centre of Vietnam. It was the capital of the erstwhile South Vietnam and was renamed after the unification with North Vietnam. Though things have changed over the last few decades, you can still see how the vastly different political ideologies have shaped the cultures of Vietnam as you move from North to South. We flew in from Da Nang for what would be the third and last part of our Vietnam trip.
Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) is like most other metropolitan cities and the area of interest for visitors is District 1 (this district is still referred to as Saigon). We had booked an Airbnb studio apartment in the same district (tips on booking places to stay and local travel) for proximity.
Here are some things you can do in HCMC:
The Notre Dame Cathedral of Saigon: It is one of the most impressive structures left behind from the French colonial times. They actually imported bricks all the way from Marseille in the late 1800’s!
Saigon Central Post Office: This post office is situated right next to the cathedral and is also from the colonial period. It is an impressive building – what’s most amazing is that it is still a functioning post office!
Ben Thanh Market: Right in the middle of the city, in District 1, is the famous Ben Thanh market. You can find almost anything in here from fruits & vegetables to meat, souvenirs, clothes, dry fruits, handbags, ceramics, street food and much more! Once again, the key is to bargain, bargain, bargain. But we found the shopkeepers to be quite rude to window-shoppers – we were happy we finished all our shopping in Hanoi.
Ho Chi Minh Square: On the walking street of Nguyen Hue Boulevard is the Ho Chi Minh Square. It begins at the City Hall and stretches all the way to the Saigon river. This was our favourite place in HCMC!
We spent a lot of time here walking around and sitting next to the fountains – it was fun watching kids running around in the water. It is a perfect place to observe local life. It wasn’t on our plan initially – our guide from the day-trip to Cu Chi tunnels told us about the football match which was being aired there at night – so, we decided to give it a shot. What we saw was a huge screen right in the middle of the street with over a thousand people sitting on the road watching.
We moved forward to realise that there were 4 more screens which were equally crowded one after another! It seemed like the whole city was here for the match (it was Vietnam vs UAE in the 2022 World Cup Qualifiers) – it felt like we were in a gigantic stadium which erupted every time Vietnam hit a shot at goal (Vietnam won 1-0)! We also found a really nice rooftop restaurant here which we ended up visiting twice!
Museums: HCMC has the War Remnants Museum which you can visit to learn more about the Vietnam war. You can also visit other museums and the Reunification Palace to learn about the culture and history of the land. We had it on our plan initially but decided to give it a skip and instead spend time walking around the city and doing what the locals did.
Another thing we must mention about HCMC is the scooter! The streets are flooded with two-wheelers – make sure you check multiple times before crossing a street if you don’t want to get hit. Despite being from India (where people don’t pay much heed to traffic rules), it took us some time to adjust – Vietnam is different animal altogether!
There are a lot of good places to eat in HCMC and you can read more about the places we recommend here.
We would also recommend not to spend too much time in the city as you only get to do more “city-stuff” which you could find in most other big cities in the world. The above-mentioned places can easily be covered in a day. We planned it in such a way that HCMC was our base location for a couple of day-trips. Over two days we went to Cu Chi Tunnels, Cao Dai temple and Mekong Delta and relaxed in the evenings in the city.
Hope this helps you plan your trip better – do let us know in the comments below. If you like our blog, do share it on your social pages – the more the merrier! Follow us on Instagram for more pictures, videos and our latest travels at @fridgemagnet.tales