Ho Chi Minh City may be full of traffic, crowded and hot. But there’s much more to it than these generalisations. Being patient with the Vietnamese city will lead you to temples, French colonial architecture and serene neighbourhoods, far from the chaos. Here are 20 must-visit attractions in Ho Chi Minh City.
The Saigon River, with its constantly running ferries, river taxis, and motor-canoes, offers one of the most tempting invitations to the city’s sunset charms. And there is no better place than a seat at The Deck for a sunset cocktail.
You can get a glimpse of what the local art scene looks like and what local artists are up to at HCMC Museum of Fine Arts. This dauntingly huge complex with an appealing mix of French and Chinese architectural styles was owned by a Chinese-born businessman who was known as one of the city’s richest men at the time it was constructed.
Follow the groups of tourists marching toward the Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica, an inevitable spot on the HCMC itinerary. It embodies the architectural sentiments of the French colonial period with the Romanesque in its red-brick facade and the Gothic inferior.
There is no dearth of inspiration in this scenic area for those with historical sensibilities as the building itself offers an interesting insight into many political events that shaped the history of this city.
A functional post office and also one of the most striking landmarks of the French colonial period, Saigon Central Post Office features a truly elegant tiled floor, wrought iron beams, and columns and interesting historical maps on the walls.
To remind yourself that this is indeed Vietnam, not France, head to the first private traditional Vietnamese medical museum. The six-storey building features traditional architecture and a tremendous collection of Vietnamese potions and remedies dating back to the Stone Age.
It would be a shame to get to know Vietnamese history without acknowledging the role of the Vietnamese woman. So make sure you visit the Southern Vietnam Women Museum, a lesser-known museum which is dedicated to their contribution to the war and post-war developments.
The cafe-apartments at No.42 Nguyen Hue St or No. 14 Ton That Dam St are a fine example of the antithesis of planned and efficient architecture. Originally serving as a residence of high-ranking government officials, they are now home to retro-style coffee shops, co-working offices, fashion boutiques and tattoo studios.
You can’t leave Ho Chi Minh City without visiting the Cu Chi Tunnels, the extensive networks of underground tunnels which housed communication bases, equipment and food storage and a field hospital during the Vietnam War.
Nothing makes your visit to Saigon Opera House more worthwhile than enjoying a one-hour performance of A O Show Saigon. It offers an intriguing mix of experiences combining the French architectural gem and a spectacular fusion of temporary dance, circus and Vietnamese music which features a typical element of Vietnamese rural life: bamboo.
The proximity to China explains why Vietnamese culture has deep-rooted ties to the country, and to get an idea of its influence, make your way to Cholon – Saigon’s Chinatown. You might need roughly half a day to tour around the area, from Binh Tay market, Cha Tam Church to the popular Thien Hau Pagoda and Quan Am Pagoda.
Have a relaxing day out by taking a trip to Can Gio, a coastal suburban district which boasts mangrove forests and various wild animals. It’s a chilled-out hideaway for relaxing and escaping from the chaos in the city.
Another wonderfully peaceful alternative on the weekend for both tourists and locals is the Binh Quoi Village. Replicating the Vietnam’s Mekong Delta region of yesteryear, the green village offers visitors the chance to immerse themselves in green grasslands, and enjoy small cottages and fish ponds shaded by coconut trees.