Ho Chi Minh

Ho Chi Minh

Things to do - general

Ho Chi Minh City  (formerly named Saigon ) is second largest city in Vietnam after Hanoi. It was once known as Prey Nokor, an important Khmer sea port prior to annexation by the Vietnamese in the 17th century. Under the name Saigon, it was the capital of the French colony of Cochinchina and later of the independent republic of South Vietnam  from 1955–75. On 2 July 1976, Saigon merged with the surrounding Gia Dinh Province and was officially renamed Ho Chi Minh City after Ho Chi Minh (although the name Sài Gòn is still commonly used.

The metropolitan area, which consists of the Ho Chi Minh City metropolitan area, Thu Dau Mot, Di An, Bien Hoa and surrounding towns, is populated by more than 9,000,000 people, making it the most populous metropolitan area in Vietnam. The city’s population is expected to grow to 13.9 million in 2025.

Ho Chi Minh City is  remarkable for the harmonious blending of traditional values with northern and western cultural features. Skyscrapers dot the city and everywhere are the signs of growing status cars, mobile phones, upscale cafes, fine dining and trendy nightlife. And yet the city still retains a uniquely Vietnamese feel with the hustle and bustle of the local markets, incessant horns and local vendors on every street corner. . It has become the cosmopolitan commercial and financial hub of Vietnam in recent years and is the most popular tourist destination in the country. Ho Chi Minh city is an eclectic mix of old and new, featuring elegant colonial architecture together with contemporary modern Asian and international structures. Some of the older tree-lined streets are reminiscent of European urban areas, while the steel and glass multi-storey buildings and office blocks present the modern face of the city. The city also boasts many fine restaurants and numerous sidewalk cafes that are popular with both locals and visitors alike.

In addition to the busy modern business and shopping districts, 300 year old Ho Chi Minh city has many historical sites to explore such as Giac Lam Pagoda, which was built in 1744, and Giac Vien Pagoda that was founded two centuries ago. Victorian era Notre Dame Cathedral, the most famous French colonial church in and around Saigon, is located in heart of the city along with many fine examples of architecture from that period. Cholon, or China town, and the famous central Ben Thanh market are also highlights of any visit to the city. More recent history is evident in the Reunification Palace and the War Remnants Museum, as well as all the modern entertainments one expects to find in most big cities in the world. Today, Saigon is the big tourism center as well as the commerce and financial hub, attracting a large number of business and leisure travel to Vietnam.

1_ Spend full day city tour to visit Saigon including : Reunification Palace, the Norte-Dame Cathedral, and Central Post Office are the most popular tourism places that should not be missed.


Saigon has many pagodas and temples that worth your time. If you only have time to see one Vietnamese pagoda, make it the Jade Emperor Pagoda. Established in the 1900s by Taoists and Buddhists, this pagoda is simultaneously spiritual and awe-inspiring in scale and ambition.


Ho Chi Minh Ba Quan pagoda

Ho Chi Minh Ba Quan Pagoda

Ornate carved panels and intricate deities line the interior, flanked by lotus flower and fruit offerings and cloaked in a cloud of incense smoke. Head upstairs, and out onto the equally embellished roof terrace, where you'll find a statue of Quan Am (the goddess of mercy) which overlooks a sacred bodhi tree in the courtyard.

2. Visit Ho Chi Minh City Museum and War Remnants Museum to learn about the Vietnam War. At the City Museum, there are many informative exhibitions, artifacts, and photographs explaining the country's bloody past. The War Remnants Museum is a more grisly – but equally essential – reminder of local atrocities. From eerie bomb remnants and first-person accounts by war veterans to a bloodied guillotine and photographs of horrific napalm burns, this is a chilling reminder of life not-too-long ago.

War remnant museum

War remnant museum

3. Haggle for bargains and lose yourself in local markets for local food, fresh fruits, handicrafts, textiles, and more. The biggest markets in Saigon are Ben Thanh and Cho Lon. Cho Ben Thanh, located in District 1 across from the bus station, is probably the best known. It is especially popular in the evening and at night, when food vendors set up stalls and locals and tourists alike gather to eat and shop.

The other, Cho Lon, is a huge Chinese market. You will not see as many tourists here, and the variety of goods is amazing. Both markets are a lot of fun, regardless of whether you're souvenir shopping or just browsing.


4. Try local food. You can see food stalls and vendors almost everywhere in Saigon. It is so easy and convenient to buy banh mi, grilled pork rice/ vermicelli, fresh fruit juice.... It’s cheap and you just have to point to what you want.  Pho and coffee are must-try food for you.


5. Take a cruise trip to Mekong Delta to experience the exciting daily life of local people. Sailing along the river, you can witness farmers planting rice in their paddies and enjoy the lush green scenery. You should visit floating markets to see the busy life there.

6. Discover Saigon on the back of a motorbike as it’s a great way to see the city and feel like a local. Vespa Tour is a popular choice for those who want to enjoy the unique vibe of Saigon on a motorbike.

7. Crawl through the Cu Chi tunnels to get a sense of how the Vietnamese soldiers used to hide out during the war. The network, parts of which were several storey’s deep, included countless trapdoors, constructed living areas, storage facilities, weapon factories, field hospitals, command centers and kitchens. It’s a little bit of adventurous but really interesting.


8. Watch A O show, a refreshing new show playing at Saigon's historic Opera House. It fuses dance, circus and musical forms in a vibrant and light-hearted series of sketches that track Vietnam's transition from rural life to urbanization.


9. Have fun with your friends at a Karaoke

Karaoke is a widely popular entertainment activity where you simply sing along to your favorite tunes. The fact is that almost every block of the city has its own karaoke place. The karaoke bars usually have their own list of tracks, whether it is American rock and roll, classic and contemporary music and beautiful Vietnamese songs. You can rent a room or a suite and enjoy the karaoke with your friends. One of the most famous karaoke in town is the Nice Karaoke franchise, which you can find on Nguyễn Thị Minh Khai Street in District 1 or Võ Thị Sáu Street in District 3.


10. Travel further afield

Ho Chi Minh City is the perfect starting point for exploring southern Vietnam, as well as further afield around South-East Asia. The graciousness of the people living in the 'countryside' is quite refreshing after being stuck in the city for long stretches of time.

Taking the express water taxi and checking out all of Vung Tau is an unmissable day trip. Can Tho, the Mekong Delta, Phu Quoc Island, Phan Thiet and Mui Ne are all nearby.

Interesting places & activities

Useful information


Generally, the climate in Saigon is hot and humid with an annual average temperature of 27 Degree Celcious. There are two distinctive seasons: the rainy season (May to November) and the dry season (December to April next year). The hottest month is April and coolest is December. It is possible to visit Vietnam and Saigon in winter for the best weather, avoiding the monsoon (May to October). But be prepared for humid conditions throughout the year, especially in the south. The best month is January.Vietnam has its fair share of pickpockets, especially in large cities like Saigon and Hanoi. Thus, always keep an eye on your valuables or better to leave them at hotel before going out. Sometimes while traveling, a desperate beggar or street vendor suddenly grabs your arm, then follow you to ask for money or sell their stuffs. Please do not offer money to them; instead donate to a local charity. For the traffic, when crossing the road, always keep looking to the

Food & Drinks

. Bánh mì (banh mi)

Banh mi, like Pho, is the most exported Vietnamese specialty. Banh mi means bread but actually it refers to baguette sandwich filled with a variety of different things. Banh mi is easily found on every street on Vietnam, yet banh mi Saigon has unique flavors that allure many food lovers.

There are many different varieties of banh mi but the basic sandwich starts with a crusty baguette that’s sliced in half and stuffed with layers of pork, luncheon meats, shredded cured pork skin, pâté, mayonnaise, Vietnamese radish and carrot pickles, a handful of sliced cucumbers, sprigs of coriander (cilantro), and last but not least, an optional, yet in my opinion necessary, scoop of fresh pounded chilies.



2. Ốp la (op la)


A beautiful alternative to the banh mi sandwich is a Vietnamese dish called op la, or eggs cooked in a littler personal pan, often supplemented by slices of meat like ham, onions, and served with those wonderful crusty Vietnamese baguettes.

Banh mi op la makes a favorite breakfast for many locals in Saigon, and it most definitely hits the spot before a long day exploring the city.


3. Phở (pho)

Pho, of course, is a must. Pho is the combination of soft rice noodles in a soup broth, normally prepared with either bo (beef) or ga (chicken). However, the flavor of soup broth is different with the soup in the North Vietnam. The soup broth is cooked with more type of herbs and a bit sweet.

Pho in Saigon is also served with a plate of fresh herbs, typically including bean sprout, mint, and Vietnamese coriander.


4. Bun - Rice vermicelli soup


There are many types of bun, bun rieu, bun mam, bun bo Nam Bo... Bun, rice vermicelli, is combined with different things to make different dishes. Bun rieu is a Vietnamese crab based soup noodle dish.

The soup calls for crab paste made from paddy crabs, which give the broth its main flavor, along with stewed tomatoes, that contribute a slightly tart and natural sweetness to the dish.

The complex mixture of ingredients and flavors in the broth, paired with rice vermicelli noodles, pieces of meat and crab paste, a beautiful selection of condiments like shrimp paste, chilies, and limes, and finally a pile of both blanched and raw vegetables, is what makes the dish so delicious.

Bun mam is typically a southern Vietnamese dish. The base of any bowl of bun mam (bún mắm) is a dark colored broth prepared with fermented fish sauce. The fermented fish sauce gives the soup broth a well rounded, balanced flavor, and it’s honestly not nearly as fishy as it might sound or smell.

Along with the broth, bun, or rice vermicelli noodles, are loaded into the bottom of the bowl, before the entire assortment of meats like squid, prawns, and pork are all scattered on top of the noodles.

Finally, a slice or two of eggplant, which soaks up all the broth, is another essential component of a bowl of southern Vietnamese bun mam.

In addition to the glorious fish flavor, the broth of a bowl of bun mam is usually sweetened with tamarind juice and sugar.


5. Hủ tiếu Nam Vang (Hu tieu Nam Vang)

Hu tieu (pronounced "hoo tee-u") signals a Chinese-Southeast Asian style noodle soup made with a pork bone broth and no fish sauce. But that's where simplicity ends. The noodles in a bowl of hu tieu can be chewy clear tapioca noodles, opaque white rice noodles like you'd use for pho noodle soup, or thin Chinese egg noodles (mi). The toppings cover a wide territory, and may include boneless pork, pork ribs, pork offal, shrimp, squid, wonton dumplings, fried garlic, fried shallot, and/or scallion. As usual, you pick and choose whatever you want.



6. Bún thịt nướng (bun thit nuong)


The dish normally begins with a handful of chopped up herbs and lettuce at the bottom of a bowl, then in goes fresh rice vermicelli noodles then a few skewers of grilled pork are layered on that, and finally a sweet and salty fish sauce, and a scoop of oily chives and green onions, and pickles are all added on top.

If you get the bun thit nuong cha gio, in addition to everything already mentioned, you’ll also get a fried spring or two chopped up on top, which bumps the delicious-meter up another notch.

The noodles are soft and silky, the pork is tender, salty, and sweet, and the egg rolls (cha gio) add a beautiful crunch to everything.

Bun thit nuong is a dish you should for sure not miss when you’re eating in Saigon.


7. Bánh xèo (banh xeo)

Sort of like a crepe, a Vietnamese banh xeo is a crispy savory snack that’s a favorite for many.

A thin layer of batter is fried in a lot of oil, then combined with your choice of ingredients, often including slices of pork belly, shrimp, and onions, then folded over with a handful of lightly cooked bean sprouts in the middle.

You can really eat banh xeo however you want, but the common method is to take a few leaves of lettuce or mustard leaves, load in a piece of the golden crispy crepe, top it with some more herbs like sweet basil and perilla leaves, add some chili (or a lot of it), roll it up like a green spring roll, and then dip the entire treat into the sweet Vietnamese fish sauce dressing.


8. Gỏi cuốn & chả giò

Goi cuon, summer rolls, are made with rice paper, known as banh trang, that’s slightly moistened, then filled with, typically a mixture of rice vermicelli noodles, pieces of pork, shrimp, and then stuffed with leaves and herbs like basil and lettuce before being wrapped.

Finally, Vietnamese summer rolls are often served with a nutty hoisin dipping sauce and accompanied by freshly ground chili.

Cha gio, are completely different taste-wise than their goi cuon counterparts, and they share few characteristics other than their egg roll shape and the fact that they’re often sold side by side at many restaurants and street food stalls.

Cha gio are Vietnamese deep fried spring rolls, a combination of mung bean noodles, minced pork, and sometimes crab if you can find them, mixed with a subtle blend of salty spices, wrapped in rice paper, and then deep fried to a crisp.


9. Cơm tấm sườn nướng (com tam suon)

Cơm tấm sườn nướng is the broken rice and a thin grilled pork chop, served on a plate and accompanied by fish sauce dressing, cucumber pickles, green onion oil, and chilies to garnish.

Com tam suon nuong is available all over in Saigon, especially at small street food stalls and markets throughout the city.


10. Ốc (snail)

Ốc (oc), as they are known in Vietnamese, can basically refer to any type of snails, usually saltwater, and they are so popular, they could be considered a major part of the Vietnamese culture of Saigon.

When you go to a quan oc, or a snail restaurant, there are typically dozens of different snails to choose from, as well as other shells like blood cockles, clams, and often shrimp and crab as well.

The seafood selection of the day is normally proudly displayed at the front of the food stall or restaurant, and you proceed to choose whatever looks good to you.

After you choose the type of raw snails you’d like to eat, then choose a method for it to be cooked – like grilled, sautéed, coated in salt and chili, steamed, curried, and so on – I think there are often about 5 – 6 different cooking methods.

Ordering can get a little confusing, but just keep in mind that even though you might not have a clue what you’re about to get on your dinner table, that’s part of the fun.

Shells are usually prepared on small plates, a bunch of different types of snail are all ordered, each cooked in a different method. Eating oc with family, friends, or co-workers, and enjoying a couple beers, is a favorite Saigon way to socialize.


11. Coffee Trung Nguyen


Trung Nguyen is the largest coffee chain in Vietnam, with over 1,000 cafes in the country. When in HCMC, you can’t go too long without stumbling across a branch. Despite being a chain, their coffee is excellent, with a variety of beans produced by sustainable methods, with full descriptions and differing flavour profiles available.

The cafes are very modern and nicely fit out, and free WiFi is available (I was surprised at the extent to which free WiFi is available in cafes in HCMC). Menus are in English and most of the staff speak basic English.

There are a variety of options available, but I always went for the traditional Vietnamese coffee.

When your coffee arrives, it has just begun the process of filtering. The ground beans are in the bottom compartment of the silver filter, with filter holes above, for the hot water to drip through, and filter holes below, for the coffee to drip into the cup.

A few minutes later, the filtration process is complete.  If you asked for your coffee with condensed milk, it is put into the coffee cup at the start.

Next, you pour the coffee into your cup of ice, then stir and enjoy.

Traditional Vietnamese coffee is a very tasty, refreshing way of drinking coffee and I was hooked on it during my time in Vietnam.  You can choose whether you want condensed milk or not, and whether you want it hot or cold.

Culture and history info

Ho Chi Minh City (formerly named Saigon ) is second largest city in Vietnam after Hanoi. It was once known as Prey Nokor, an important Khmer sea port prior to annexation by the Vietnamese in the 17th century. Under the name Saigon, it was the capital of the French colony of Cochinchina and later of the independent republic of South Vietnam from 1955–75. On 2 July 1976, Saigon merged with the surrounding Gia Dinh Province and was officially renamed Ho Chi Minh City after Ho Chi Minh (although the name Sài Gòn is still commonly used.

Unfortunately there are no accommodations at this location at the moment.

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