04 Mar A Weekend in Ho Chi Minh
Welcome to Ho Chi Minh
Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon, is located in Southern Vietnam. It is an exciting, bustling city with the best humble street food, famous for its Pho (traditional Vietnamese noodle soup) and pork rolls. Also, a westernized and cosmopolitan town with glitzy shopping malls, fancy rooftop bars, and pulsating nightlife.
We travelled in September as a planned girl’s weekend trips from ho chi minh. It was sweltering, humid and rainy at the time, but we were prepared for that. Travelling as three girls, we did find it safe to travel, and we had so much fun.
How To Get There
Air: The Tan Son Nhat International Airport is the main airport in Ho Chi Minh City and serves both domestic and international flights. Many airlines operate flights to Ho Chi Minh City from major cities worldwide.
Train: Ho Chi Minh City is connected to several cities in Vietnam by rail. There are two main railway stations in Ho Chi Minh City – Saigon Railway Station and Bien Hoa Railway Station.
Bus: Several bus companies operate buses to Ho Chi Minh City from various cities in Vietnam. The main bus station in Ho Chi Minh City is Mien Dong Bus Station.
Car or Motorbike: Ho Chi Minh City can be accessed by road from other cities in Vietnam. However, driving in Ho Chi Minh City can be challenging due to heavy traffic and narrow streets.
Boat: Ho Chi Minh City is located on the Saigon River, and several companies offer river cruises to Ho Chi Minh City from other cities in Vietnam.
Getting Around Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City is quite a big city, but it is ok to walk around the centre. Buses are your cheapest option for getting around, but please do your research on the bus routes and when hailing a bus, ensure it stops for you!
Other options are taxis and motorbike taxis. As living in Vietnam is relatively low, taxis are inexpensive but use trusted companies like Uber or Grab.
Language & Helpful Phrases in Vietnamese
- Hello = Xin chào
- Thank you = Cám ơn
- Beer = bia
- Where is = ở đâu
- Bathroom = Phòng tắm
- How much? = Bao nhiêu?
- Too expensive = Quá đắt
- No = không
- Yes = Vâng
Where To Stay
Accommodation varies from person to person. We opted to stay at the Sofitel Hotel, Saigon Plaza, on our weekend trip as it was a matter of safety and comfort for us three girls travelling alone.
Where To Eat
Local food is cheap and delicious anywhere in Vietnam, mainly consisting of vegetables and noodle soups with seafood or meat and rice. Some of our favourites:
- Pho: Vietnamese noodle soup
- Goi Cuon / Nem Ran: Summer Rolls / Fried Spring Rolls
- Banh Bot Loc: Shrimp-stuffed tapioca dumplings
- Banh Xeo: Crepe Wrap
- Bánh mì baguette sandwich: Tasty street food
- Banh Mi: Baguettes
Ben Thanh Market: This bustling market in the heart of Saigon is a great place to sample a variety of Vietnamese street food, including banh mi, Pho, and fresh seafood.
Nha Hang Saigon Cafe: Located in the city centre of Ho Chi Minh City specialising in traditional Vietnamese dishes, such as pho and banh xeo. It has a cosy, vintage atmosphere.
Quan Ut Ut: A barbecue restaurant in Ho Chi Minh City District 1. It is a popular spot for casual dining, specialising in smoked meats and craft beers.
Secret Garden Restaurant: A hidden gem in a rooftop garden in Ho Chi Minh City’s District 1. Specialising in Vietnamese cuisine, it offers a tranquil escape from the city’s hustle and bustle.
Follow Our 3-Day Weekend Itinerary
Places Of Interest
~ Day 1 ~ Around the City
Start by visiting the Saigon Central Post Office. It is, in fact, a tourist attraction and one you must see during your Ho Chi Minh city holiday. This building was constructed when Vietnam was part of French Indochina in the late 19th century, and it serves as the oldest functional government building. It is hard to miss the giant clock with 1886-1891 inscribed at the entrance. The exterior is a bright and elegant colonial building decked out light yellow and green.
The inner decor perfectly matches the exterior architecture. You are instantly drawn to the dome roof and a significant portrait of President Ho Chi Minh in the centre as you walk in. The whole feel takes you into a time warp back to the turn of the 20th century, even showcasing wooden phone booths.
Nhà thờ Đức Bà Sài Gòn, Basilica of Saigon, is officially known as the Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of The Immaculate Conception. It was built between 1863 and 1880 by French colonists and is the most impressive cathedral located in Vietnam. This cathedral is the central religious centre for Vietnam’s catholic community. Book tickets here.
Formerly known as the Independence Palace, this was the residence and office of the President of South Vietnam during the war. Historically, this was when the Vietnam War ended on April 30, 1975, when tanks crashed through the palace gates, symbolizing the fall of Saigon. Now a museum with the interior left intact from the 1960s. You can head down into the basement tunnels to experience a bomb shelter and war room. Book tour here.
If you love shopping, Ben Thanh Market is one of the top attractions in Ho Chi Minh. Local produce, food, souvenirs, handbags, and clothes are sold in over 3,000 stalls across the marketplace and it’s here where you can practice your haggling skills! Ben Thanh Market is also a famous night market that opens until midnight. You are sure to find many bargains!
~ Day 2 ~ History & Culture
One of the most nostalgic shrines in Ho Chi Minh is the Tortoise Pagoda, a place of worship for both Taoists and Buddhists. Built-in 1909 in honour of the Jade Emperor (King of Heaven), it is unique and free to enter. There are many statues and an intense smell of incense with beautiful paintings & carvings throughout. Book tour here.
In 1876, Tân Định Church, a Roman Catholic church formerly named the Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, was built in 1876, comprising a mix of Gothic and Renaissance features painted in bright pink. You can’t miss it.
Located approximately 20 minutes away from Ben Thanh market, this is the first pagoda in Vietnam to be built in Vietnamese traditional architecture style but with concrete. Construction work of this pagoda commenced in 1964 and finished in 1971. The pagoda is divided into three main sections: the Shanman gate (three-archway gate), the Grand Hall, and the surrounding towers. A beautiful serene place to visit.
Dating back to 1744, Giac Lam Pagoda is the oldest temple in the city. Its seven-story stupa is set inside wonderfully peaceful gardens, making it unique. While it is a Buddhist shrine, it also incorporates elements of Taoism. Book tour here.
Bui Vien Street is one long street lined with bars, eateries, pubs, go-go bars, hostels and souvenir shops. At night it comes alive. With cheap drinks and meals, you can go, have a drink on a plastic chair and watch the street buzz to life as the night goes on. Great vibe!
If you are still feeling energetic after shopping, head to one of the many rooftop bars for some fantastic views of Ho Chi Minh’s skyline.
~ Day 3 ~ Beyond the City
Curious about the Vietnam War?
We made a day trip to the famed Cu Chi Tunnels located to the city’s north. It gave us a good insight into the Vietnam War how people survived and used the tunnels to fight against the better equipped Americans!
The Viet Cong soldiers built these tunnels to help fight the US forces. It was very much a maze of narrow tunnels, and not only for combat but also as living spaces and supply routes.
Today the Cu Chi Tunnels is an open-air museum, where you can learn about their use during the war. Displays show you how the Viet Cong soldiers made the network of tunnels and the types of traps they used on unsuspecting soldiers. Book tickets here.
If you are game, you can experience going down into a tunnel and walking through it, like I did!
On our way to Mekong Delta, we stopped at Vinh Tràng Chúa, also known as Vinh Tràng Temple, a beautiful, exquisite temple featuring three enormous Buddha statues. A truly blissful place. Book tickets here.
Standing Buddha represents Amitabha Buddha, symbolizing bliss and compassion.
Laughing Buddha symbolizes happiness and good luck for good fortune around the world.
Sleeping Buddha represents Gautama Buddha before entering Parinirvana, not death, but perfect rest.
Enjoy a local river cruise, a vast network of rivers and islands that awaits the Mekong Delta in the South of Saigon. Experience the rural atmosphere and local culture while appreciating the natural surroundings. Relaxing along the Mekong River is the perfect way to end a three day weekend in Ho Chi Minh. Book tickets here.
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