I find the problem with Asia is that every country you visit is so beautiful it is hard to pick a favourite. Regardless, Vietnam is undoubtedly up there with one of the coolest countries in Asia. It is a country currently undergoing a massive rebuild. It is wonderful to visit and see it in its present state. You can feel how much it is going to change with years to come.
While it is easy to indulge in all the beautiful sights of Vietnam from the beaches to the rice fields, A trip to Ho Chi Minh City is not complete without a tour through some of this country’s rich history. You don’t need to be a history buff to appreciate all that Vietnam has gone through. Having only a vague memory of the Vietnam war that was taught in school it is unbelievable to go there and see the other side of the story.
As far as cities go, I am never a big fan. Tons of concrete, a bunch of buildings, really they all look the same. As the Thai say, “same same but different“. This city is very much an exception to my rule. Ho Chi Minh is a buzzing city that is so full of life and is surprisingly green with parks at every corner (and has AMAZING sushi. Seriously, make the stop!)
This is one place that you should let your inner nerd shine bright as you walk through a number of museums. Trust me, it’s worth it!
If you do nothing else while in Saigon you must go to the many museums. I am not typically a museum or a history buff but in order to fully appreciate all of Vietnam understanding their history is incredibly interesting and important.
My favourite (after visiting almost every single one) was the War Remnants Museum – quite possibly because this was the first one that I went to so all the information was new to me and it was absolutely shocking to read. Seriously, I stayed way too long.
It is worth while visiting at least one museum before heading to the tunnels so you can brush up on your history and have some background knowledge.
Cu Chi Tunnels
A popular day trip when in Ho Chi Minh City is a tour through the Cu Chi Tunnels. As the tunnels are out of the city you will have to organize a tour guide to take you for the tour. I typically shy away from organized tours as I like the independence of showing myself around this is definitely one of the exceptions.
This was one of the most interesting places as it is so interactive. The guide will show you both the ways they fought with some scary traps and how they hid in the tunnels. They have even “American sized” the tunnels so they are big enough for tourists to crawl through and see how they lived. It is wild to see the many layers to this and the tiny entries.
I would call this one of the most memorable places in the city, by far.
As a large amount of the population identifies as Buddhists a trip to one of the many Buddhist temples is a must. If you have traveled to different areas in Asia it is incredibly interesting to see how the temples change from country to country. Simply grab a sarong and jump into the local culture. You are bound to make some memories.
Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica
I know I sound like SUCH a tourist magazine with this list but I’m just being honest. If I was reading this I would not take my own advice of visiting here but trust me, it is BEAUTIFUL. Admittedly I stumbled upon this beautiful sight when roaming the streets, I am so glad I did. Originally built in 1880 the architecture is absolutely breathtaking.
As a bonus it is right beside another beautiful old building. The Saigon Central Post Office was built in 1891. It’s bright yellow colour is originally what drew my attention to this area.
I typically rush through cities not really finding them very special and not enjoying the claustrophobic feel of hundreds of people all around me but this one was different. I highly recommend spending at least a few days exploring this city before moving north within the country.
Have you traveled Saigon? Where was your favourite place in the city?