Ho Chi Minh City is a maze of condensed madness – a cement metropolis of unimaginable scope and vitality. But it’s also too much for many people, so let’s have a look at the best day trips for you to escape Saigon.
This dead volcano, also known as Black Virgin Mountain, has some of the best views in all of southern Vietnam. The mountain carries significant religious meaning to the people in the area, even starring in a myth about a girl who killed herself here. The drive takes approximately two hours from Ho Chi Minh City. You can hike the mountain if you wish, but many people opt for the cable cars instead.
The Cần Giờ (cun yuh) Mangrove Forest is a UNESCO biosphere reserve 40 kms (25 miles) south of Ho Chi Minh City that features a unique wetlands ecosystem and a number of rare plant and animal species, including saltwater crocodiles and many kinds of migratory birds. It’s possible to get to this area on your own, but we recommend you go with a trusted tour company to get the most out of your excursion.
These tunnels played a vital role during Vietnam’s long fight for independence – first from the French, then from the American-backed government in Saigon. At Củ Chi, you really get a sense of just how difficult these years were for the guerilla fighters that lived there. Keep in mind, though, that if you have even minor claustrophobia, then you’ll probably want to avoid this day trip. There are some very tight spaces.
Vũng Tầu is likely the most popular day trip destination for locals in Ho Chi Minh City. It’s only two hours away by bus or shuttle, so it makes for an easy escape from the heat and pollution of Saigon. The beach itself isn’t as spectacular as others in Vietnam, but you’ll love the laid-back vibe of this sleepy little town. We highly recommend you try some fresh seafood along the beach or at one of the many restaurants in town.
Though not as large as Cái Răng floating market, Cái Bè is much less touristy and also an hour closer to Ho Chi Minh City. The action starts early, with the first vendors arriving at 3am – but don’t worry, they’re still around at more reasonable hours as well. At this market you’ll see wholesalers selling fruits, flowers and seafood. It’s more of an experience to observe rather than a place for you to actually shop.
If you’re really looking to get into nature, then Cat Tien National Park is for you. The park has various types of old growth forests and some fascinating wildlife – things like gibbons, sambar deer, wild boars, black-shanked doucs and even crocodiles. However, the drive does take approximately four hours, so you might want to consider making this into a two-day journey. It’s doable in one, but eight hours on the road really detracts from the experience.
Most tour companies highlight tours to Mỹ Tho, but those are pre-packaged excursions where giant tour buses bring hundreds of tourists to the same spots day after day. It’s cookie-cutter travel. Bến Tre, on the other hand, is less developed and more authentic. The town is famous for their coconut candy, and you can visit the factories where they make this treat – also the farms where they collect the coconuts. And it’s easy to arrange for a sampan ride through lush river canopies just like you see on every travel brochure about the Mekong.
This temple is the home of the Cao Đài religion – also known as Caodaism – which is a fusion of beliefs from Taoism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Christianity and Islam. Started in 1926, the approximately 4.4 million adherents of this belief system denounce materialism and practice the Karmic law of rebirth. The main draw at this temple are the daily masses, which feature bright colors and fascinating rituals.