Ho Chi Minh City Must-Sees

By Phil Anderson on July 25th, 2016
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As all visitors quickly become aware, Ho Chi Minh City is a town of sharp contrasts and conflicts. It’s historically charming yet developing rapidly; graceful but garish; a city where friendliness abounds but you can be easily fooled.

It’s a fascinating metropolis of many different flavors – all of which must be experienced. One of the high points is that in the town itself, most attractions are within walking distance to each other.

Must-sees in Ho Chi Minh City

Town Hall from French Colonial Era

Chow in Cholon Cholon is the most hectic part of Saigon. Also known as Chinatown, Cholon is the economic heartbeat of the city where opium dens, prostitutes and gambling once converged (although these days, Saigon’s Fifth District is a deeper shade of red). It’s a place to sup on soups in the street and soak up the lively atmosphere.

The absolute must-see in Cholon is Benh Thanh Market , a bazaar that can be as bizarre as it is exciting to the foreign eye. Watch locals haggle over the price of live chickens and rice, while you consider buying a funnel-shaped rice hat (don’t be such a cliché) and postcards.

 The Cu Chi Tunnel Complex – it isn’t exactly in town, but it’s only a two-hour drive from the city and well worth the trip. The tunnels comprise an elaborate underground maze created by the Viet Cong during the war.

Here, soldiers worked, ate, planned, and lived their lives entirely in a space barely a meter high and no more than 80 centimeters wide. Visitors can crawl into the tunnels to get a taste of what it would’ve been like to exist in this surreal subterranean labyrinth.

Tours through and around the tunnel sections are open to the public and are guided – necessary because of the booby traps – gruesome-looking contraptions with long metal spikes. Tourists also have the opportunity to fire an AK-47 rifle; a rather authentic experience, if an unsettling one. Friendly guides on site are very willing to answer questions – all guides are connected to the tunnel complex in some way, many were actually born in there. Above-ground, the shady woodlands provide a nice reprieve from the city’s hustle and bustle.

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The War Remnants Museum –  previously known as the Museum of Chinese and American War Crimes. While the former name is straight to the point, it (unsurprisingly) turned off tourists and was revised. Even so, priceless signage like “Some Pictures of US Imperialist Aggressive War Crimes in Vietnam,” can still be found inside.

Reunification Palace, Ho Chi Minh Vietnam

Reunification Palace. Ever since Communist tanks burst through the gates of the Presidential Palace on April 30, 1975, the building has become a symbol for the South Vietnamese government. Renowned for its striking retro design by Parisian trained Vgo Viet Thu, it has a war room, basement tunnels and quick-escape helipad on the back terrace.

Vung Tau – once the premier beach retreat in Vietnam, Vung Tau is a long-standing port that still attracts many visitors with its sandy shores and tranquil waters – even if they’re not as pristine as the old days.

Only 75 miles from Saigon, the peninsula of Vung Tau offers five beaches, each with unique qualities. Bai Trouc is well-developed and has an array of restaurants, shops and hotels, while Vong Nguyen is popular among surfers.

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Bai Dua is the quietest beach and located only a mile from the city center while the nearby Bai Dau at Lon Mountain is also less crowded. The longest stretch of beach can be found at Bai Sau.

Giac Lam Pagoda located near Dam Sen Park has architecture dating back from the 19th century Nguyen Dynasty. It’s the oldest Pagoda standing in the country. There are over 150 statues inside the compound. At the entrance, decorous, austere tombs sit next to the looming Goddess of Mercy, Quan Thew Am Bo Tat.

Catholic Cathedral Ho Chi Minh

Notre Dame Cathedral‘s towers once dominated Ho Chi Minh City‘s skyline. For those who worship a different kind of god (fashion), the cathedral is in close proximity to Saigon’s premiere shopping district, Dong Khoi Street, the Vietnamese equivalent of New York‘s 5th Avenue. It’s located in one of the best parts of Ho Chi Minh.

Have you been to Ho Chi Minh City? Do you have any must-sees to add to the list?

To read more about Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam and round-the world-travel, check out the following articles:

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Photo credits: shutterstock.com,  Claudiovidri / shutterstock.com, Bule Sky Studio / shutterstock.com, John Bill / shutterstock.com, O lympus