I travelled to Ho Chi Minh City a few years back as part of my honeymoon. We combined Ho Chi Minh City with Bangkok, Siem Reap and Koh Sumai. Ho Chi Minh is also known as Saigon which it was previously known as. I have to admit Ho Chi Minh wasn’t my favourite out of all the places we visited on this trip, however I definitely want to go and explore more of Vietnam and it’s culture.
When we arrived in Ho Chi Minh the streets and roads were busy and there are motorbikes and scooters EVERYWHERE! There is approximately 7 million in this city! So you have to be careful when crossing the road, as it literally is a near death experience. All the drivers just drive everywhere, but I did like this as it definitely added to the cities character. The city also has a French colonial charm to it, its got a variety of buildings from small street food shacks, to high rise office blocks and intricate colonial buildings.
On our first day in Ho Chi Minh we decided to go and visit the Cu Chi tunnels. The Cu Chi tunnels are a network of tunnels spread across the region of Cu Chi, and also throughout Vietnam. The tunnels were made and used by the Viet Cong soldiers in the Vietnam war. Seeing the tunnels and the traps in the middle of the jungle is quite sad to see, as the war would have been horrific for both sides.
The Cu Chi tunnels are really a must see though when visiting Ho Chi Minh, as they are a massive part of Vietnams history. There was a worker at the site which showed us the holes in the ground where soldiers would hide, they were just small holes in the jungle floor with a small wooden lid, and leaves would be put over the top to cover it, you would never have known they were there. The small hiding holes and tunnels were so small as Vietnamese people tend to be smaller than westerners, so they could fit in a little easier, although it was still quite a squeeze. My husband Sean could barely fit in it. We also had a look around the tunnels, unfortunately I suffer from claustrophobia and didn’t feel comfortable going into the tunnels, as some of them get so small you have to crawl on your hands and knees.
I hate feeling trapped and I’m not a fan of being enclosed when I can’t get out, I tried to go down into one tunnel and let the flow of people behind me go first, and just as I was about to go into the tunnel a load more people come up behind me. The idea of being stuck in the tunnel with people in front and behind me freaked me out, so I just had a look but didn’t go in. Sean did go in though, and said just as well I hadn’t as he was crawling on his hands and knees to fit through.
At the Cu Chi tunnels you can also see the booby traps that were made by the Vietnamese soldiers, to trap and injure American soldiers and even kill them. The traps are horrifying and I can’t think of anything worse falling into one of those in the middle of the jungle. There’s also a good museum and exhibition area at the Cu Chi which showcase weapons, photos and other reminders from the Vietnam war.
That night we were both pretty tired from the visit to Cu Chi tunnels so headed out for some street food and found some small night markets, we wondered round the streets to get a feel for the city. We also went to have a look at Saigon Central post office which is an old French colonial building and is lit up at night, it’s stunning at night, it’s definitely a must see when in the city.
On our second day in Ho Chi Minh we decided to go exploring the city, and Sean wanted to visit the War Remnants Museum. We visited the museum and it’s a real eye opener into how bad the Vietnam war was, it’s really upsetting. They have tons of photos and stories in there about families and the people that died. There is also a ton of information on the chemical attacks of agent orange which the Americans used against the Vietnamese. Take a pack of tissues to the museum with you, as their is some really upsetting facts and information in there.
On our last day in Ho Chi Minh, I decided I wanted to get out of the city and go on a Mekong Delta tour, the previous day we had done a ton of walking around the city, and I had always wanted to see the Mekong. We booked onto a tour through the hotel we were staying at.
We got picked up early morning and headed out for the day, the tour company drove us about two hours drive to My Tho which is a bustling port for the Mekong Delta. The Mekong Delta provides half of Vietnams agricultural output as the land in and around the Mekong is extremely fertile. It is also known as the rice bowl of Vietnam. I highly recommend visiting the Mekong Delta while your in Ho Chi Minh, it is a great way to see traditional Vietnamese customs and the local way of life.
Once we arrived at the port, we were taken on a boat along the Mekong Delta, and then stopped at some of the rivers islands. There are four main islands to visit while visiting Mekong Delta these are Dragon, Unicorn, Phoenix and Turtle islands, they also have Vietnamese names but most tourists and some locals call them by their English names.
We stopped at Unicorn island first, where we had a look around some of the local villages, then our guide took us to the honey farm. Where we sampled some honey tea, and Sean got to hold a hive of bees. We also got some time to explore the island and to get some lunch. We were also taken to see some live performances of some traditional Vietnamese folk music with musicians and singers. While we watched they bought out some fresh fruit and some chilli powder for us to snack on for the show.
After the music show we got onto a small traditional wooden long tail boat and went along the waterways. It was lovely it felt really authentic, going through all the coconut trees and bushes in the water on a small boat. They even gave us some Asian conical hats to wear also know as Asian rice hats, as it’s what a lot of the rice field workers wear.
The boat took us to Phoenix island which has a small coconut candy factory on, the workers make these treats by hand and give you a demonstration on how they are made. You can also sample the candy which is delicious, we did buy some to take home. It’s similar to toffee or fudge I thought. At the factory you could also taste snake wine which is a local delicacy, I didn’t fancy it as it didn’t look very appetising to me, it was a dead snake in a glass of what looked like dirty water.
Next the tour took us on a horse and cart along the main road on Phoenix island to see more local villages, small shops and the countryside etc. After the horse and cart ride we were taken back to the hotel.
That night Sean and I decided to go to the Golden Dragon water puppet show. Water puppet shows are still a huge culture draw for tourists and locals. The water puppet shows originate from northern Vietnam rice fields, and play out folklores, while the puppets are on water and they have live music. I really enjoyed the show as it was nothing like I had ever seen before, water puppet shows are unique to Vietnam, and the musicians and singers at the side of the stage were great. I had no idea what they were singing but it sounded amazing. After the water puppet show we headed back to the hotel for an early night as we flew to Siem Reap early the next day.
Overall I would recommend Ho Chi Minh City to anyone who hasn’t been, but personally I wouldn’t go back as I felt like I done everything I wanted to do there, and although I really enjoyed my time there and I loved learning about the Vietnamese customs and traditions, I didn’t fall in love with Ho Chi Minh, however I am desperate to travel to more places in Vietnam such as Hanoi and Halong Bay in the future.
Need to Knows;
Currency: Vietnamese Dong
Visa Requirement: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/vietnam/entry-requirements
Safety & Security: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/vietnam/safety-and-security