Do you love boisterous, bustling, and chaotic coastal cities? If yes, you will adore the vibe and sensory treasures that the lively Ho Chi Minh city has to offer. Familiar to most by its ancient name, Saigon, Ho Chi Minh stands tall and proud as the legacy of its namesake, the communist leader Ho Chi Minch.
This nocity is home to a serenely breathtaking coastline, clogged intersections, busy marketplaces, and the scintillating aroma of Vietnamese spices. Every street corner will tempt you with piping hot bowls of spicy Pho, the elegance of French architecture, and exquisite showcases of Vietnamese handicrafts.
Ho Chi Minh has two sides: one with impressive skyscrapers and designer brands, while the other is drenched in a European colonial hangover with tree-lined streets and fishermen awaiting their prey at the Saigon River. Which side are you planning to explore?
Keep reading to explore the best tours and attractions to enjoy in Ho Chi Minh City.
Giac Lam Pagoda
All Southeast Asian countries are well-endowed with the splendors of Buddhist architecture and glorious temples, and Vietnam is certainly not an exception to this endowment. The country is home to some of the most magnificent and sacred Buddhist temples and sites, and the Giac Lam Pagoda is the oldest temple in the city.
Constructed back in 1744, the Giac Lam Pagoda is a vibrant feast of colors and a spectacular ode to traditional Buddhist architecture. The flair of the structure is similar to Buddhist monasteries and temples found in Nepal, Bhutan and Tibet, but the distinct Vietnamese appeal is hard to miss. This temple has a fascinating history that originates from its garden.
The literal meaning of Giac Lam Pagoda is “Feel the Woods Temple,” and the significance of this title is best understood by visiting the beautiful garden that nestles the pagoda. At the entrance, you will be greeted by an elegant Bodhi tree that holds sacred symbolism in Buddhism.
Ben Thanh Market & Saigon Square
The spirit of Ho Chi Minh as the largest commercial hub of Vietnam comes to life in its marketplaces, especially the Ben Thanh market. The Ben Thanh Market and the Saigon Square are nearby, so you can easily cover both places in one day.
If you can’t brave the heat, we advise you to steer clear of this chaotic market. But if you thrive in chaos and have mastered the art of wriggling your body through the narrowest of spaces, visiting Ben Thanh is an obligation. The market is home to some of the best street food joints in the city, alongside clothing, jewelry, shoes, accessories, and much more. Ben Thanh is retail heaven, and if you’re an expert haggler, you can buy a fortune in clothes, bags, and jewelry without breaking the bank.
It’s natural to feel guilty about splurging too much on souvenirs, retail therapy, and food, especially when traveling on a tight budget. But we always advise travelers to make the most of their travel pursuits and cut corners elsewhere, such as airfare. Advanced bookings can help you find affordable rates, and you can explore multiple airlines offering flights to Ho Chi Minh City. For instance, Cathay Pacific provides competitive rates, and you can explore their schedule to find the best rate.
Saigon Square is tucked at a three-five minute distance from the market, and it offers a calmer retail experience with air-conditioned shops. Here you will find local boutiques, jewelry shops, and scrumptious Vietnamese delicacies.
Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theater
Vietnam has a poignant indigenous culture, and traditional entertainment is all the rage across the cities and rural villages. Puppetry is a powerful art form in Vietnamese culture, and the Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theater is an unforgettable spectacle to behold. If you travel for the love of cultural discoveries, this experience will enrich you beyond belief.
A little history: water puppetry originated in Vietnam over a thousand years ago, taking root in rural farmlands along the Red River Delta. The Golden Dragon theater offers a captivating 50-minute show to immerse yourself in this rare, spell-binding art form. You may not understand the language, but the performance is deeply moving.
The experience is brought to life by the live music played alongside the performance. The ensemble includes gifted musicians playing traditional Vietnamese instruments, such as the two-string violin and bamboo flutes.
Cu Chi Tunnels
This one is for the history buffs: head over to the Cu Chi Tunnels to explore the military base held by the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War. These cramped tunnels are a treasure trove of historical trivia and remnants of the war efforts. Located about 40 miles outside of the city, the tunnels welcome you to explore an intricate and cramped network of tunnels spanning over 155 miles in total.
The Viet Cong soldiers used these tunnels as supply routes, military quarters, communication strongholds, hospitals, and hiding places. Exploring the entire network demands a passionate love of history and robust stamina. But even if you don’t venture too far, these tunnels will leave you awestruck by the resilience and perseverance of the Vietnamese soldiers.
Explore the Mekong Delta
Are you tempted to take the road less traveled and venture into the unknown along the Mekong Delta? You can plan a one-day trip from Ho Chi Minh, traveling by bus or a rental car, to explore some worth-visiting destinations. We strongly advise visiting Cần Thơ, the bustling city that is home to the world-famous Cái Răng floating market.
Nothing is more enjoyable than haggling with fruit sellers while floating through the scenic expanse of the Mekong Delta. The city is a hub of culture and traditions, and you can explore the verdant farmlands before heading back to Ho Chi Minh. You can find several decent accommodations in Cần Thơ, and the local nightlife is vibrant enough to keep you awake past midnight.
Ho Chi Minh is a city of many splendors and action-packed adventures. You can spend your days lounging on the sandy beaches located approximately 30 miles outside of the city, dining at traditional Vietnamese establishments, and exploring the wonderful architecture that can be found on just about every corner of the city. Ho Chi Minh has an active nightlife scene, and you can certainly find a party if you’re looking for one. Just be vigilant of the pickpockets while enjoying the scintillating Ruou, Vietnam’s most famous rice wine.