On the first weekend of November, a day after my birthday, I made a short trip to the capital of Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City with my family (of 7 pax). Click HERE to read my flight review on Vietnam Airlines (SIN – SGN)!
Shall start off this blog post with some history. Ho Chi Minh City is located in the South-Eastern region of Vietnam and was originally known as Saigon.When and why did they change their name? (According to Wikipedia) It happened immediately after the communist took over South Vietnam in 1975, where the provisional government renamed the city after Hồ Chí Minh (a late North Vietnamese leader).
Ho Chi Minh City is pretty much similar to Bangkok but with the huge amount of motorbikes zooming around in a havoc way. Ho Chi Minh City uses Vietnamese Dong (VND). Conversion rate is around SGD$1 = VND$16,877. The weather is quite similar to Singapore, with the Dry Season happening from December to April, while the Wet Rainy Season happens from May to November.
Upon arrival at Ho Chi Minh City’s only airport – Tan Son Nhat International Airport, you will realize that the airport isn’t as crowded (or as busy) as compared to Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport or Kuala Lumpur’s KLIA, which is a good thing! Clearing customs and baggage collection can be done smoothly, quickly!
Leaving the Arrival Hall, you will see tons of different counters trying to sell you SIM cards and airport transfers. We managed to get unlimited-data SIM card for VND$150,000 (~SGD$8), and also booked their airport transfer to our hotel for VND$230,000 (~SGD$13) per 7-seater vehicle. However, I highly recommend booking airport-transfer to your hotel through GRAB!
We stayed in a Japanese-brand 5-star hotel situated in the outskirt of District 1 – Hotel Nikko Saigon. My hotel review can be found HERE.
This trip to HCMC is supposed to be a relaxed sightseeing family trip (away from the bustle and hectic Singapore). Thus, I did not book any trips out of the city (e.g. day trips to Cu Chi Tunnels or Mekong Delta) which is highly recommended if you wanna get the most out of your HCMC trip and have more days spent in the city.
1. BEN THANH MARKET
Ben Thanh Market is a huge marketplace in the heart of HCMC, that’s listed as number one virtually on every travel guides and is definitely the first recommendation you will get from anyone. And true enough, Ben Thanh Market is a great place to interact with locals, bargaining to get your best price.
Ben Thanh Market has 4 main entrances and 12 gates. Within this huge market, you can find local handicrafts, branded goods, Vietnamese art, souvenirs, fresh fruits, and vegetables, jewellery, electronics, and even cooked-food!
2. WAR REMNANTS MUSEUM
The most-visited museum in HCMC is the best place to understand and know about the history of The Vietnam War. Half a million visitors visited this three-floors museum every year, to understand the pain and horror of war, the tortures being experienced during the war and to learn from the past.
The entire walkthrough of the museum will take about 2 hours if you visit every single exhibit. Some images are quite disturbing, but that’s what war is, horrible and torturous. The museum also features the infamous “tiger cages”, special cells built by U.S Army in Con Dao Jail. Each “tiger cage” measures only 2.7m x 1.5m x 3m but were used to imprison up to 14 people!
A ticket cost VND$40,000/person, and the museum opens from 7:30am to 6pm daily.
3. INDEPENDENCE PALACE
10 minutes walk from the War Remnants Museum will bring you to the Reunification Palace (also known as Independence Palace). It’s one of the most important places in HCMC. This exact location marks the end of the Vietnam War when the Viet Cong tanks breached into the palace’s gates.
We didn’t go in as it was closed for an event on the day. But I’m sure from reviews around the web, it’s definitely worth a visit!
4. SAIGON CENTRAL POST OFFICE + NOTRE DAME CATHEDRAL OF SAIGON
Both of the building is just the opposite of one another, and you will know this a must-visit destination once you arrived. You could see tons of tourist flocking this area, snapping photos with the unique French architecture and the stunning interior!
You could write a letter and send a letter from the post office! However, the cathedral was closed when I was there, and the exterior was partly covered up for renovation.
Both buildings were walking distance from the Independence Palace, Ben Thanh Market and shopping area… So it’s very convenient!
5. SHOPPING TIME IN HO CHI MINH CITY
There may not be as much shopping opportunities as compared to Singapore or Bangkok, but there still exists several opportunities for you to spend your Vietnam Dong! First up, it’s Ben Thanh Market which I’ve talked about earlier. For air-conditioned places, you could visit the Saigon Centre, where you will find Takashimaya and several other branded stores! A short walk away could bring you to Vincom Center and PARKSON Department Store! And let the shopping begins!
6. SAIGON SKYDECK @ BITEXCO FINANCIAL TOWER
One of Ho Chi Minh City’s visible landmark upon arrival at the airport would definitely be the Bitexco Financial Tower, where it housed Ho Chi Minh City’s first Skydeck – Saigon Skydeck! Saigon Skydeck is located on the 49th floor, where you can enjoy a 360 degrees view of Ho Chi Minh City.
There’s also a The World of Heineken Experience located on the 58th – 60th floor! It features a 4D VR ride and a hands-on training session by Heineken-certified draught master!
So after a day of sightseeing and shopping, this is a great place to relax and see HCMC from the top!
The above-mentioned places were where I’ve gone during my trip to HCMC! I definitely will return to HCMC, to experience the friendliness, the culture and I’m so in love with Vietnam, this untouched gem in South East Asia! Hope you guys did get some knowledge about where to head to when you’re in HCMC!