Ho Chi Minh City, also known as Saigon, is the largest city in Vietnam, and its most important business and industrial center. While being quintessentially Vietnamese, the place where one can find all sorts of traditional products, souvenirs and customs, it also has a prominent influence of the West. Known as the ‘Pearl of the East’, this city has a rich history, which visitors can witness through the numerous historic attractions and magnificent landmarks. When you first get here, you will be thrilled with the never-ending myriad of motorbikes, taxis, street vendors, massage parlours, hotels, bars and restaurants – HCMC is indeed a city that is always in motion. While a couple of days are simply not enough to experience everything that this magical place has to offer, here are some of the top things to do if you happen to be here.
One of the first things that you should do in HCMC is to explore its impressive tourist attractions. Good thing is that most of them are located in the center, otherwise known as District 1, and so you can arrive there by a cab and explore the city by foot. Start with the War Remnants Museum and work your way down towards the Ben Thanh market through the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Post Office and the Reunification Palace. This way you will reach the Saigon Opera House, which should be more than enough to explore in a day.
When in HCMC, don’t miss the chance to try your bargaining skills at the infamous Ben Thanh market – this is the mecca of all the vendors – here you can find from fresh produce, to replica jeans and other apparel, souvenirs, traditional straw hats and flip-fops, Vietnamese vodka and much more hand-made arts and crafts. Don’t purchase anything at the initial price that you hear, rather start from somewhere under 50% of that number and slowly work your way up.
A great thing about a cosmopolitan city like Saigon is that you can find anything you want, at any time you want it – the number and the variety of restaurants, bars and cafes here will impress even the most savvy traveller. From the rustic food stands that offer Ca Phe, to authentic Japanese sushi restaurants, Italian bistros offering fresh pasta and oven-baked pizza, Spanish tapas bars, Argentinian steakhouses, American BBQ and Vietnamese food with a modern twist alongside fresh fruit cocktails – you name it, and you can find it here!
A great thing to experience in HCMC is to take a motorbike ride – whether it is a Vespa city tour at night or just a motorbike ride downtown, the city seems to have more 2-wheeled steel beasts than people walking around. While taxis are pretty affordable, the price for a motorbike ride that you will be offered when walking down the street, can be bargained down to a penny’s worth.
Once you are done with sight-seeing, exploring the city by day and get tired of shopping, head out to get pampered from head to tow! Here you can find numerous Spas and beauty parlours offering massage, body and face treatments, manicure and pedicure, foot massage and aromatherapy for a fraction of the price found in the West. Find a Spa near your accommodation, check the reviews on blogs and forums and head out to be relaxed and rejuvenated in the hands of professional masseurs.
Ho Chi Minh City offers its visitors wonderful parks, a welcoming atmosphere, a huge variety of restaurants and cafes, noisy markets, designer boutiques alongside modern skyscrapers and business centers. In such a vibrant city there are things to do at any point in time, be it a hearty bowl of traditional Pho soup in the morning, a quick stroll window-shopping on Dong Khoi, or a couple of delicious cocktails at a roof top bar offering a mesmerising view of the city!