Friday, January 17, 2020

Things to do in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

Vietnam has been one of the popular travel destinations for Filipinos. With food, accommodation and flights at pocket friendly prices, Vietnam is an ideal vacation spot for big groups and first time travelers. And for my first Vietnam trip, I explored Ho Chi Minh. 

Hello, Ho Chi Minh!
Many of my friends rave about Ho Chi Minh's food scene. With big and small restaurants and street vendors filling the city, one will definitely not get hungry. But my trip here was mostly to see its historical and cultural sites. We didn't have much time to go around outside our planned itinerary as our tour guide packed our days with activities. 

After checking in, we were picked up by the tour bus to bring us to Saigon Central Post Office.
This is probably the most iconic spot in Saigon with most tourists taking a photo or two of it or with it. 
Constructed between 1886 to 1891, the post office's design depicted a strong picture of French influence in Vietnam. As a colony of France from 1887 until 1954, there are still several remnants of the said period with the architecture of key establishments. 
Designed by French architect Alfred Foulhoux, the stylish post office influenced by Gothic, Renaissance and French architectural styles was nothing short of photogenic. To date, this is one of the most photographed spots in the city. 
There are also several stalls selling souvenirs. Make sure to haggle as vendors tend to charge foreigners quadruple the price. 
The Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral is just a few steps away from the Central Post Office.  
Constructed between 1863 and 1880, it was first called as Saigon Church and eventually called Notre Dame Cathedral since 1959. We weren't able to go in the church as it was closed and a portion of it was under construction. 
I found it amusing though that this spot exudes a Parisian vibe with the numerous pigeons hanging out in front of the church.
We then headed to the War Remnants Museum and know more about the historical Vietnam War. 
It costs 40,000 VND to gain access to the different halls of the museum. There are several areas with war memorabilia as well as photos from the war. There was also a very sad hall showing the devastating effects of Agent Orange (chemical defoliant).
The display outside was the most interesting for me. There were several planes and tanks in front of the museum. 
The prisons were quite eerie and I could not imagine the fear of those who had to spend time here. 
The equipment used to torture and kill those captured were also quite intense. 
For dinner, we went for a dinner cruise. There are several ships to choose from and we went with Indochina Queen. An average dinner cruise costs 840,000 VND. 
There were about 6 or 7 dishes served throughout the cruise with most highlighting seafood and fresh greens. 

There were also two cultural performances during dinner. 
After the dinner and show, we all headed to the view deck and enjoyed the night breeze and view. 
We headed out early the next day to go to Cu Chi Tunnel. Located 30 miles from Ho Chi Minh, it could be a bit of a drive from the city. But it's easy to get there via bus. Just take bus #13 from the park nearby Pham Ngu Lao to Cu Chi station then transfer to bus #79 to Ben Duoc. Fare would cost about 26,000 VND. Entrance fee to Cu Chi Tunnel is 90,000 VND.
Since we were with a tour guide and have a whole bus for ourselves, we stopped by an art shop managed by families of Agent Orange victims. 
Art made with egg shells were featured in this shop being sold at rather steep prices. One of our companions went for it though and spent almost a million VND for a small art piece. [We found an exact same product at Cu Chi Tunnel's souvenir area for a quarter of the cost and he turned pale.]
A trip to Cu Chi Tunnel is not complete without trying to get in the tunnel. 
The tunnels visitors can go into though were made to be bigger to accommodate other guests' bigger frame. We also tried walking, rather crawling, inside the tunnel and it was a workout! R and I gave up after a few meters!
If you're feeling extra adventurous with cash to spare, you could try firing a gun. We weren't up to pay the steep rate so some of us ended up just grabbing some buttered corn.  
Or kill time watching someone make thin wraps for Vietnamese rolls or a shoe maker who makes sandals with tracks that are made backwards to confuse American soldiers.
The Cu Chi Tunnel compound is massive. With some areas with little shade, a trip here would guarantee you tired and sweaty! Make sure to bring a spare shirt, small towel and water.
Famished from walking around, we had lunch at the restaurant within the complex.
We dropped by the Independence Palace before heading back to our hotel. 
Also known as the Reunification Palace or Dinh Thống Nhất in Vietnamese, this huge building was built on the land of the former Norodom Palace. It served as the workplace of the President of South Vietnam 
This was also the same site of the end of the Vietnam War on April 30, 1975 when a North Vietnamese army tank crashed against gates of the palace.
Visitors have to pay 40,000 VND to enter and gain access to different halls. Some areas though have been cordoned off.
But it was pretty much just multiple meeting rooms and I found it not worth one's money or time.
To cap our Vietnam trip, we all had a few drinks at a nearby night market. 
The local beers were good. But it was the fruit shakes that are worth the calories! 
I was a bit bummed that I wasn't able to try any of the yummy dishes my friends were telling me about. But I guess that would give me an excuse to visit again. I just hope that they'll ban motorcycles from entering the night market as the drivers have zero care if you're crossing or about to get hit. 
I would love to know your favorite Vietnamese spots! Send me a message at

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