As a foodie, the first thing that comes out of your mind when you hear Vietnam is Pho, Banh Mi, fresh spring rolls and of course, their famous, cà phê đá or cafe da. Well, I’m not here to talk only about those but also of how beautiful and mesmerizing Vietnam is with my recent travel in their capital, Ho Chi Minh City.
Ho Chi Minh which is named under their revolutionary leader Hồ Chí Minh. The city is formerly and widely known as Saigon. (Brace yourselves for some history lesson here…) The reason why the capital is called both Ho Chi Minh and Saigon was due to a feud between the North and South Vietnam. And when the former won, they changed the city’s name from Saigon to Ho Chi Minh to honor their prime minister.
Going back to my topic, Vietnamese cuisine is one of my favorites alongside Thai and Japanese food. Hence, going to the capital, Ho Chi Minh became our next trip.
Don’t want to drive a motorbike in the chaotic and bustling street of HCMC? The transportation is not an issue here, they have Grab motorcycle everywhere, you just need to download the app and have internet to use it around Saigon. And the fare won’t put a hole your wallet even if you travel alone!
Other options include cabs, buses and Xe Om or Motorcycle Taxis that can be found on the sidewalks and are not hard to spot. If you see a guy lying on his bike, there’s a big chance it’s a motorcycle Taxi. All of our rides for 2 people ranges from 20,000 to 50,000 VND (USD$0.88 – $2.19 / 29 – 73 baht).
Here’s my 5-day trip summed up in this long post and the other shenanigans that I did during those days.
We arrived Saigon around 5 pm already and got to our hotel an hour later due to rush hour. One thing I noticed as soon as you get out of the airport is how much motorcycles they have. I thought Cambodia had a lot but nope, Saigon had more. You’ll see drivers with their kids strapped around them or even fit a family of four.
We decided to stay in a hostel for our first night to explore the city centre ourselves. The hostel we stayed at is around Phạm Ngũ Lão Street, which is also known as the Backpacker Street. This is like their own version of Khao Sarn Road.
We stayed at Saigon Marvel Hostel which is near to a lot of convenient stores and bars. The hostel costed us US$14.00/per night (460 Baht) for 2 people. Luckily, the place that we were staying at is in the centre itself so walking around was a breeze.
As soon as the sun sets, the street turned into a place filled with unsynchronized beats, bright colorful lights and street food. One thing you’ll notice when you get there is that they all have chairs outside the shop facing the street where you’ll see locals drinking teas or coffees while chatting with their friends.
My personal favorite beverage during my stay in the city was Saigon Beer (Red) and costed 40,000 VND (US$1.75 / 58 baht) in the club. The price in the convenience store or a mom and pop’s store would be half of this amount.
After a day in the hostel, our next stay will be in a serviced apartment in District 7, which is known as the Korean and Japanese town. The place might not be in centre itself but if you want to immerse yourself with the locals, then this is a perfect place.
The apartment we stayed at has a cafe on their rooftop and has a really nice and serene view overlooking District 7.
This was also the other reason why we kept going to the cafe, this adorable puppy named Man.
We started our own tour in BenThanh Market. This large marketplace is situated in the middle of District 1. I was told that its cheaper to buy things here than the night market that pops up after dawn. So if shopping is what you came for, go to Ben Thanh Market and use your bargaining skills. We bought a 500 gram Vietnamese coffee for 300,000 VND (USD$13.13 / 432 baht) and this was the best of our bargaining skills.
Entrance to Ben Thanh Market
Feeling hungry? Choose a dish and have it prepared for you while you sit and wait
Next up, the City Hall building. We actually just walked pass by it and saw the statue of Ho Chi Minh, former prime minister, standing tall in front of the City Hall.
Walking around this area seemed like you were in Europe
Then, we passed by Saigon Opera House, which is a perfect example of the French Colonial architecture in Vietnam.
If you fancy watching a show, you can book a ticket ahead in their website
I was looking forward to seeing Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica. Living in Thailand for almost 5 years, I have always seen temples but rarely a church. I was excited to go in but found out that the church is closed for renovation, so we just took photos.
This church reminded me of being in the Philippines
A stone’s thrown away, you’ll see the Saigon Central Post Office and I sent some postcards back home. The postcard that I have sent costed 18,000 VND for the stamp and 5,000 VND for the card which in total is 23,000 VND (US$1.02 / 34 baht).
A panoramic view of Saigon Post Office that was based on the design of Gustave Eiffel
What you see when you get inside
The last destination for the day, War Remnants Museum. The entrance fee is 15,000 VND (US$0.70 / 23 baht). I suggest you to have an open mind when you visit this museum. The museum exhibits the after effects of the decades of War in Vietnam. A must go if you want to see the other perspective about Vietnam War.
We stopped by some parks in the middle of our tour for a little breather after all the walking. It was like a little oasis in the middle of a chaotic city.
Trying to compose myself after hours of walking
Oh you know…just casually walking
This day was spent resting after a tiring tour the day before. But for dinner, we went to a rooftop restaurant called Mountain Retreat. There were no elevators and it was located on the 5th floor. Good thing the food was good because all the climbing was worth it.
There were 8 of us in the table and the table was filled with food. We all had to pay almost 190,000 VND (USD$8.31 / 274 baht) each person for all of these dishes.
We were so hungry that this the food on the table vanished afterwards
We bought a 1 day Mekong Delta tour to go to My Tho and Ben Tre. The tour costed US$10 (330 baht) and we bought this around Phạm Ngũ Lão Street while we were walking around. The tour consisted of riding a longtail-boat and you get to row the boat as well. We tasted fruits, coconut candy and this bee pollen that I have not tried ever in my life.
Here are some pics to give you a glimpse of what I did in Mekong Delta.
Smiling but scared as hell inside
These are the water coconuts that grow along Mekong Delta
Tea with honey and bee pollen that were given out to everyone on the tour
Kids on their school trip to catch a catfish the traditional way
Trying to row along these muddy waters
We wanted our last day to be great. We found out the night before that Saigon had something similar to the Heineken Experience in Netherlands and this was situated in the 60th floor of Saigon Skydeck. It’s called the “World of Heineken”. The entrance costs 250,000 VND (US$10.96 / 360 baht) and includes an access to the observatory deck on the 59th floor. The entrance fee consists of 3 beers, 1 water and a personalized bottle with your name printed on it.
Since I’m acrophobic myself, I was quite scared but with a view like this while drinking a fresh cold beer and overlooking Saigon with the sunset, was a perfect way to end our trip in Saigon.
Enjoying the free beers with a freakin’ awesome view
Poured a perfect pint after this shot!
This could only work if you have your own bar, so I suggest to just buy a bottle and chug it down
A bird’s eye view of Saigon (guessing it’s foggy because of pollution)
We also stopped by Cafe Apartment to get some Vietnamese coffee but ended up getting red wine. This is an 8-story building which gave you options such as taking the stairs or getting on the elevator for a fee. I opted for the latter to have a better chance to look at each floor.
Such a good concept and space-saver idea!
I had to force her to pose for this picture
That sums up my 5-day trip to Saigon. Will I come back? Definitely, I loved Saigon and there still so many provinces that I have to see. I can guarantee that this will not be the last of it.
The city itself might be chaotic but if you truly immense yourself with the culture and understand how the locals live, you get to see a different perspective of Vietnam that can only be seen if you come and visit the city yourself.
Just a quick tip! If you can go explore Mekong Delta yourself, I suggest you to do it so you can see the authentic life of the locals around there. But if you don’t have time to do it, you can go book a tour just like we did.