After a month traveling through Vietnam during our round-the-world trip, Ho Chi Minh was our last stop in the country. Much more modern than its competitor Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City (the former Saigon) is today a shiny modern city, with wide avenues, clean streets, bright monuments and… surprise: sidewalks that can be used! Do you want to know why Ho Chi Minh City left us a good taste to finish our trip through Vietnam? Keep reading and discover the most attractive places in Ho Chi Minh City!
Saigon and Ho Chi Minh City… who is who?
Two names for a city? Alert: short history summary! Back in 1959, Saigon became the capital of the Republic of Vietnam (that is, the south, since the north was the communist zone). It was not until the end of the Vietnam War in the 1970s that Saigon was conquered by Northern forces and renamed Ho Chi Minh City in honor of the Communist leader. That is why you will see that the bus and train lines show HCMC and Saigon as destinations in a confusing way! And to make things more complicated, the famous District 1 (central and tourist area) is also called Saigon neighborhood!
How to get to Ho Chi Minh City from Mui Ne
We asked our Mui Ne guesthouse to book bus tickets to Ho Chi Minh City for us. It was a bus-bed (of course!) from the company Tam Hanh and it cost us 120,000VND (5 €) per person. The journey of only 200 kilometers lasted more than 4 hours and a half! But the bus is quite comfortable and they gave us free bottles of water.
Where to stay in Ho Chi Minh City
We stayed in the Hoai Pho hotel, very well located in the well-known “Backpacker Area” of the city. It is an area full of restaurants, bars and hotels, where the vast majority of travelers are concentrated. We liked it, and for 400,000 dong per night (€ 16) we had a spacious room with air conditioning and private bathroom. And also the first morning they gave us a very tasty free breakfast!
11 beautiful places to visit in Ho Chi Minh City in one day
The truth is that Ho Chi Minh City does not have a lot of things to visit, but it is interesting to spend a couple of days there, especially to get used to civilization again after a month touring Vietnam! Here we present the places we visited during our stay.
23rd September Park
This long park was formerly the train station of the city (hence its form!). Today it is a quiet place for rest where you will see local people practising sport and sometimes badminton schools! A short walk through the park took us to our second point of interest: Marianman temple.
A small Hindu temple that surprised us with its colors and the quiet atmosphere (what a contrast to the street opposite!). A short break through this covered temple is interesting!
Ben Thanh Market
Ben Thanh is Ho Chi Minh’s large covered market. Here you will find everything: food stands, vegetables, rice, meat (displayed on tables or hanging, local style, not suitable for sensitive souls), and many souvenir shops! Among the colorful silks, precious decorations made with bamboo and coconut, the comforting smells of coffee and the original plastic souvenirs, you will easily find some souvenirs to take back home!
The People’s Committee Building (City Hall) and statue of Ho Chi Minh
Surely you have already seen it in photos and travel guides, this building is almost the symbol of the city, and the statue of the communist leader reinforces it! The old town hall building was built at the beginning of the last century, and is perfectly preserved! Unfortunately it is not possible to visit the inside but we would have loved to!
Notre Dame Cathedral
We were surprised to find this beautiful church, an obvious sign of the European historical legacy in the area! You can visit the inside between 9 and 11 in the morning, but we preferred to continue our way and visit more characteristic things of the country.
Central Post Office
Right next to the cathedral, the Post Office is a large European-style building, and inside you will find two types of people: on the one hand, Vietnamese who send letters and packages (as in any post office in the world, we assume) and tourists looking for some shade! In addition, the office also sells tickets for shows and souvenirs.
Jade Emperor’s Pagoda
About 20 minutes from there (and 20 minutes under the heat of Ho Chi Minh City can be just too hot) we visited the Jade Emperor’s Pagoda, a beautiful temple that we loved for its quiet and somewhat mystical atmosphere! Among the twisted trees, the pigeons, the smell of incense and visitors who use their benches in the shade to rest, its often said that this place is one of the most magical in the whole city! Next to the temple we also saw a small pond full of turtles!
Walking along the river
From the Pagoda of the Jade Emperor, we returned slowly to the center walking along the river. Although it is an area with trees, we admit that it is not as beautiful as we thought!
Opera house (or Grand Theater)
The Opera House is now surrounded by works (the city is building a subway line!). The building itself is beautiful but nothing extraordinary if you have already visited other European cities. However, the neighborhood in which it is located is very cool! We liked to walk along Dong Khoi Avenue with its shops and art galleries.
The pier and Hotel Majestic
The pier next to the river is a quiet area, with lots of people and benches in the shade, where we could rest for a while and breathe to recover from the heat! Here is also the famous Majestic Hotel, which has the honor of being the first Vietnamese-run hotel to have received the 5 stars category!
Bitexco Financial Tower
The most modern building in Ho Chi Minh is undoubtedly the Bitexco, a great skyscraper of a quite surprising shape! Its platform on the 48th floor is both a lookout (200,000 dongs ~ 8 €) and a heliport. If you have some time, a cocktail in its Alto Heli Bar could put a nice end to your stay in Ho Chi Minh City!
As we had said at the beginning, Ho Chi Minh does not offer a thousand things to visit, but it is a city that we foundmuch nicer than Hanoi. Here at least there are sidewalks and they can be used! If you have more time, you can also visit the botanical gardens and the zoo, the Chinese quarter of Cholon, the famous Cu Chi tunnels (used during the Vietnam War) and make an excursion through the Mekong Delta.
Ho Chi Minh City was the final point of our trip through Vietnam, and we assure you that we felt a little sad to leave this beautiful country! Not only for its amazing landscapes and the energy of its cities, but above all for the welcome and warmth of its people! We will be talking about this topic soon when we post our conclusion of our stay in Vietnam, but everything we had read on other blogs and travel guides about scams, hoaxes and transportation problems was far from what we experienced! We met some smiling, friendly, willing-to-help Vietnamese people who were very friendly to us!
And you, do you know Ho Chi Minh City? Have you ever been surprised to discover a different country from what you expected? How much do prejudices influence you when choosing a destination?