Everyone who’s ever been to Ho Chi Minh City or Vietnam in general will most likely agree on one thing; the trafic in the cities is crazy. Absolutely crazy. Yet Ho Chi Minh City is a city that is best discovered by foot. If you manage to cross the street of course!
Most of the points of interest are within walking distance and even if they’re a bit futher apart, it’s always lovely to just walk through the streets and see the locals go about their day.
But one of my favorite memories of this city are the amazing rooftop bars. You just can’t go to Ho Chi Minh City without at least trying one skybar. If not for the cocktails, you have to go just for the extraordinary view!
We started our backpack trip through Vietnam in the bustling city of Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known and still refered to by locals as Saigon. This city in the south of the country is the largest and most populated in the country.
Since we arrived late in the evening, we went straight to our hostel – Eco Backpackers Hostel – to check in and drop our luggage. Even though we were exhausted from the long flight, we still set out to find something to eat in the area. Luckily our hostel was right in the backpackers district so the atmosphere there was full of ambiance and many little restaurants. We found ourselves a typical street food restaurant – with the tiny plastic chairs and tables – and tasted our first Vietnamese spring rolls. A positive first impression; check!
The next day, we ventured out into the city to see some of the sights. It took a while to get used to the busy trafic and especially trying to cross the street in said trafic, but I quickly got the hang of it.
We first headed for the Mariamman Hindu Temple. It’s a beautiful building with amazing decorations, but you don’t need more than a few minutes to check it all out. From there we walked to the Ben Thanh Market. This indoor market is the symbol of Ho Chi Minh City and the place to be for handicraft, souvenirs, food,… You can easily spend an hour walking through the different stalls.
Little over half a kilometer away from Ben Thanh Market, you can find the Ho Chi Minh statue and the City Hall. It’s quite a lovely part of the city. If they’d add some benches along the square, it’d be a perfect place to just sit down for a while and enjoy the atmosphere.
We wandered futher and ended up at the square that houses the Central Post Office and Notre Dame Basilica. Both are more a tourist attraction than anything else. It’s also perfect place for wedding pictures if we could go by the many brides that were wandering around the place.
Walking through the nearby park, we arrived at the Independence Palace or Reunification Palace. Since we were limited in time, we didn’t go inside it, but the outside doesn’t really invite you in. It’s quite a dull, gray building.
Our last stop of the morning, before we had to be at Sinh Tourist office for our afternoon tour to Cu Chi Tunnels (more on that in another post), was the Xa Loi Pagoda. A simple, but beautiful place of worship.
In the evening, after dinner, we headed to what would soon become my favorite place in Ho Chi Minh City; the Chill Skybar in the AB Tower. While it says that evening wear is required, we were allowed in wearing just shorts and tops. You are escorted to the elevator upstairs and to the bar where you have to order something to drink (You can’t just go up to check out the view). Of course the prices are slightly higher than in other bars, but with the view that comes with it, I would have been willing to pay even more. The atmosphere is also pretty laid-back and it’s just a great place to end your day.
After three weeks of backpacking through the country we were back in Ho Chi Minh City as our flight to Brussels was departing from there. Before leaving, we still had a few more hours to discover the parts of the city that we weren’t able to do our first morning.
While my friends were soaking in their tubs at our five-star appartment at Sherwood Residence, I took a motorbike taxi to go to the War Remnants Museum. For three weeks I had been in doubt whether or not I was going to risk my life getting on a motorbike in this trafic, but finally on the last day I realised that I just didn’t want to miss out on the experience. And it was the best decision ever. It was just so much fun! And I didn’t feel unsafe at all. These people really know how to drive a motorcycle so I can only recommend it.
The War Remnants museum is definitly a must when you’re in Ho Chi Minh City. For only 15.000 dong (= less than a dollar) you get to learn a bit about the Vietnam War and what consequences it still has today. It does display some very visual and horrible images, but it’s always with respect. Careful, the museum’s opening hours are from 7:30am until 12am and 1:30pm until 5pm.
After the museum, my friends and I met up again to go see the Tan Dinh Church, also known as the Pink Church, which is basically a pink church. It’s more a curiosity than something else.
The last point of interest that was left of Saigon was the Jade Emperor Pagoda. It’s a bit out of the center, but it’s worth the walk up there. Not only the pagoda itself is really nice, the garden around it is also quite lovely.
Ho Chi Minh City is mostly a city that you have to experience. Walk through the streets during the day to see some sights, then head to the backpackers area in the evening for some great street food and ambiance, and then end your day with a refreshing cocktail at the Chill Skybar. The perfect recipe for a perfect day in Saigon.