More known by its former name Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City or HCMC is located nearly 2000 kilometers south from country’s capital, Hanoi, and is the biggest city in Vietnam. With a population of almost 8 million people whose main mode of transportation are motorbikes, the city can be a bit overwhelming to first-time travelers who do not know what to expect. Here are five things you can or you must do while visiting this lovely Asian city.
1. Sightsee by foot
That includes: War Remnants Museum, Reunification Palace, Notre Dame Cathedral, Post Office, Saigon Opera House and Ho Chi Minh City Hall. Most of Ho Chi MInh City’s attractions are not situated far from each other, thus sightseeing by foot is relatively easy. Start with the War Remnants Museum on Vo Van Tan Street, then head towards Nam Ky Khoi Nghia and visit the Reunification Palace. From the palace, take a 5-minute walk down to Notre Dame Cathedral and the Post Office. Head down the tree-lined streets of Dong Khoi towards the Saigon Opera House, then make your way towards the Ho Chi Minh City Hall.
2. Eat a bowl of pho
Pho is a local Vietnamese dish made of white rice noodles, thin slices of beef, clear broth, and garnishes like onion and mint leaves. You can get a bowl of pho almost anywhere in HCMC, from the street-side carts to commercial Vietnamese restaurants. Some offer variations to the dish by changing beef slices to chicken or seafood.
3. Shop for beautiful lacquerware and embroidered linen
Vietnam is known for its exquisite handicrafts, namely a vast array of lacquerware and hand-embroidered linen. Most gift shops offer a variety of these items, but if you’re looking for a great bargain, head on down to one of the city’s popular shopping center, Ben Thanh Market.
4. Hop on a Xe Om
Xe Om, or motorbikes, are the best way to see the city. For a small price, Vietnamese motorbike drivers will offer to take you around the city aboard their motorbikes. Not to worry—motorists are required to travel with a helmet, and you can tell your driver to slow down if he is going too fast. This is a great way to experience first-hand the crazy motorbike traffic that is distinctly Vietnamese.
5. Go to Cu Chi Tunnels
Located two hours outside of Ho Chi Minh City, the Cu Chi Tunnels is a historical site for military operations during the war. A guided tour will take you through the military base camp made up of cleverly constructed underground tunnels and brief you on its important history.
If you are still eager to explore and experience Ho Chi Minh City, there are other fun things that you can do. Head to the local Tourist Information Center located at the city center where the friendly staff can help you with your itinerary or provide you with a free map. If you prefer the non-touristy route, head to the backpackers area in Pham Ngu Lao where you can rub elbows with fellow adventurers and exchange tips or travel stories. Have fun!