Recognized locally as Saigon while officially known as Ho Chi Minh City, is Vietnam’s most flourishing city, a place where the action never stops. It can be an overwhelming place. It is not just because of the traffic although that plays a part, there is simply so much do here; whether you are a lover of history, cuisine, culture or nightlife. In this two-part article, I am going to go over the things which I think are the top things you can do or see when you are in Ho Chi Minh City in three days. Get ready to dodge motorcycles, navigate through small and crowded alleys, inhale some exhaust fumes, and sit on low plastic chairs along the sidewalk while slurping down refreshing cups of fruit smoothies.
Uncle Ho Waving on Nguyen Hue Walking Street © Bvi4092 / Flickr
There are quite a few places of interest for tourists that are well-known such as Ben Thanh market, Reunification Palace (also known as Independence Palace), Notre Dame Cathedral, and Central Post Office. As you can find information about these places easily on many popular travel sites and are covered rather extensively there, I shall just touch on these attractions briefly.
Ben Thanh Market
The most popular market in Ho Chi Minh City among tourists and it is located in the heart of District 1. You can find a plethora of different items on sale there, almost everything ever produced in Vietnam ranging from footwear, clothes, backpacks, coffee, tea, souvenirs, and dried food. Just be careful not to knock anything over since the walkways can be pretty narrow (at least for me) and remember to bargain even if you are fine with the price quoted. It is part of the fun!
Ben Thanh Market | © Lim Ashley / Flickr
Reunification Palace, Notre Dame Cathedral and Central Post Office
These three places are located within a seven minutes’ walk from each other in District 1. All of them epitomize the rich history and culture of Vietnam and are places worth paying a visit. Fun facts for each of them; a tank crashed through the Reunification Palace gates in 1975 to end the Vietnam War, the Notre Dame Cathedral was built in 1880 with all building materials imported from France while the Central Post Office opened in 1891 and is still operational up till today.
Independence Palace in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam © Dennis Jarvis / Flickr
Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica © Diego Delso/WikiCommons
Central Post Office in Ho Chi Minh © alex.ch / Flickr
Let’s move on to the more exciting part now. What is traveling without food? For me, food is one of the major reasons why traveling is so much fun, museums and everything else are secondary. Ho Chi Minh City is almost like utopia for food lovers with its immense variety of delectable flavors and combinations. In my opinion, Vietnamese street food plays a massive role in the Vietnamese culture; you will see lots of locals sitting with friends at street food stalls alongside roads enjoying each other’s company and the atmosphere of the city. The street food is delightful and affordable and to reel off some examples, pho and banh mi(sandwich) are the popular mainstream ones, there are also bun thit nuong (noodles with grilled pork), xoi (glutinous rice), bun rieu (crab noodles) and my personal favorites are bun cha and com tam suon (grilled pork rice). It is perfect when you add an op la (fried egg) to the grilled pork rice. Alright, I have to stop myself here. To cover several local specialties, I will recommend you to join a street food tour. Whether in the street or at a trendy restaurant, the choice of food in Ho Chi Minh City is incredible. There are so many amazing restaurants and you can find one of the best dining experiences in District 2 where you dine along the river.