Weekend in Ho Chi Minh /Saigon (Vietnam)
When living in South East Asia, Weekend Getaways in various exotic destinations seem to be inevitable.
So we decided to spend a nice long weekend in Ho Chi Minh – or Saigon – also known as that. After this visit, Vietnam has made itself up in my personal destination ranking. Clean, nice food, good infrastructure, nice people, not too dangerous…. good choice.
Vietnam has its own unique history which will leave you with a laughing and a crying eye: the will of those people to fight their US invaders including the mark it has left on Vietnam soil will be present during your whole visit. But you can also see that the country is within change and up for something new and better, we have met many Vietnamese who take the chance of change, leaving the past behind.
We spent our weekend in one of the top hotels right within the city center of Saigon: InterContinental Asiana, Ho Chi Minh City
Well known and well maintained hotel right in the center of the town. Maybe already past its peaks of being in the luxury ***** section but still in good shape. One thing I really want to point out is the friendliness of the staff. I have never been asked in such a genuine and honest way about how I like Vietnam, the hotel, where I am from etc. After several conversations I always asked myself why this people are so tremendously friendly.
Arriving late in the evening on day 0, we had nothing better to do than go into a classic roof top clubs – Chill Sky Bar. Unspoilt views over Saigon, quality drinks and quite OK music will make you dance the night away. Anyone who has ever been to a Bar in Asia will be happy with the guests – nice mix of Local Richies, Bar Girls, Expats and Tourists all in one spot.
There are several other rooftop bars in Saigon so make sure you don’t miss it.
Day 1: Explore the City
First Day we decided to explore the City and surroundings by having a walk through the city center.
We started our journey by taking a stroll down to the waterfront – check out the little stores and the vibe of the city. As the city center is not really big you can explore all of this by foot.
Make sure you give a visit to the best sights in town: Central Post Office & “Notre Dame of Saigon”.
Stroll down Nguyen Hue and City Hall of Ho Chi Minh City. Soon you will arrive at one the most popular markets in the city: Central Market – Ben Thanh Market
Please don’t expect to buy the best quality goods & fakes at the most touristic place in Vietnam. I quite liked this market because it had a good mix of items including the usual copies, tableware, food stalls and fresh food. I love it when the corridors are so narrow you need to hold your breath to squeeze through. There is still no air-con there and merchants will try to persuade you to buy something.
I love the vibe and balance of tourist rip off and locals coming in and out for having their food at their favourite stall or to buy their fresh groceries.
As for me, I would not buy from there though, that doesn’t mean that I have never done that in the past but at one point of time you get a bit tired of badly made copies and other things you actually don’t need.
Time for Lunch while making your way to the War Remnants Museum:
We enjoyed fresh spring rolls and a cuppa coffee at Propaganda Cafe
Last but not least, an absolute must in each itinerary is the visit of the War Remnants Museum. It will give you a deep dive of the Vietnam war including the shocking pictures of the aftermath on usage of Agent Orange poison by the US. It will be most likely the saddest part on your journey but from my personal view, it is mandatory to know about what has moved this country in the past.
We finished the afternoon with a good and thorough massage. As in any Asian country make sure you are using the right services – but with Temple Leaf Spa & Sauna there is nothing to worry about. Nice, clean and professional massages for a good value to money ratio.
After relaxing for a while we had Dinner at one of the most stunning locations we had been in a while: The Deck Restaurant, right at the Mekong River has a very romantic setting. It is ideal for a special night with Asian fusion food. It even allows to come there via Boat (which we haven’t done).
Day 2: Chu Chi Tunnels
On the next day we decided to get up early to take the Mekong River Boat to the famous Chu Chi Tunnels. The tunnels have been built by the Vietnamese to hide from US soldiers during the war. It also gives an impressive overview about the simple traps Vietnamese used to defend themselves.
There are several operators who offer the tour to Chu Chi Tunnels via boat and we really enjoyed the ride because it gives you also a nice view of the city suburbs and maybe a glimpse about what the real Vietnam is all about.
You should calculate almost a whole day for this trip, but it is really worthwhile as we got lots of interesting information and important insights into Vietnamese history.
After our little escape we had another round of massage at Temple Leaf Sauna & Spa.
We finished our evening in a real tourist trap. Hyped by several tourist guides and by our restaurants we were recommended to go Ngon Restaurant. There were majority wise only tourists there – the food which was supposed to be hawker/street food style was served just as in any restaurant. Taste was bland and service was catastrophic. We actually cancelled our order after we had the first round of Pho Soup. We then decided to go back and have some snacks street side – make sure you eat the Vietnamese Classic Pho Bo soup. We took a stroll around Ho Chi Minh at night which is beautiful.
Some SAFETY pre-cautions:
- Use only taxis with taxi-meters. Ask the hotel to arrange a taxi for you in case in doubt. Taxis have a different colour depending on what company they work for. Some of them are not trustworthy
- Don’t wear flashy stuff like expensive watches or bags
- Always wear your bag over your shoulders so it cant be ripped away – if possible don’t wear a bag at all
- Don’t wear your bag street side
- Be careful of the motorcyclists in general – some of them are no good
I am not kidding you – handbags are an easy steal for locals.