I have a little secret.
Before traveling to Vietnam last month, Asia had never been anywhere near the top of my travel bucket list. It’s not like I ever disliked the idea of traveling Asia, it just never really crossed my mind and I had not done much research about the area. That all changed once I had the opportunity to travel Vietnam and Hong Kong with my travel companion, Tiffany. Ever since I have visited, I cannot think of anywhere else I would love to return to first!
Since I spent most of May in the fabulous city of Ho Chi Minh, I have laid out the perfect guide for having the most fantastic day in this wonderful city, and definitely within budget!
Get Breakfast from a street vendor
The glorious thing about Vietnam is that you can find food at almost every street corner with an unlimited amount of authentic Vietnamese culinary options. You can sit in at a cafe or eat from one of the many street vendors in Saigon. I recommend eating from the street vendors as the food tastes more authentic and is more affordable!
Visit Bến Thành Market
You can get your shop on at Bến Thành Market and spend hours browsing the various stalls where you can buy food, jewelry, custom clothing, beauty products, and the list goes on and on. Bến Thành is one of the must-see places in Saigon that you cannot really miss. It is right in the city center so it is not difficult to get to at all!
Just make sure to keep your belongings in a safe spot as pick-pocketing is prevalent in Saigon, especially in condensed places such as Bến Thành. Another note before heading to the market is that it is perfectly okay, if not, expected to bargain prices at Bến Thành. Stick to your guns when bargaining with the locals as they are going to try to get the maximum profit from you. It’s okay to walk away if they won’t meet your price, but they are very persistent so don’t be caught off guard if they try to follow you. They may actually agree to your price when you decide to walk.
Take a stroll down walking street
One of the newest attractions to make its way into the tourist-scene of Saigon is Nguyen Hue, or better known as walking street! During the day the street is pretty vacated which makes for wonderful pictures of The People’s Committee building on one end, with various flags and the river on the other end. This street is lined with plenty of shops and restaurants and is sometimes referred to as “the Times Square of Saigon.” This place is definitely another must-see.
COOL OFF WITH SOME BOO COFFEE
Vietnamese iced coffee is super tasty, and if you are a coffee lover, Boo Coffee is the stop for you. It’s on walking street and only a 13 cent elevator ride will take you up to the ninth floor where you can sip on some coffee and overlook beautiful views of the city. Tiffany and I probably stopped back here too many more times to count!
soar above saigon at the saigon sky deck
If you really want to experience the highest views of Saigon, you must stop by The Bitexco Financial Tower which is just a short walk from Walking Street! Once you’re there it is a small price to pay to get to the observation deck that overlooks all of Ho Chi Minh city. The coolest part about the geography surrounding Saigon is the winding rivers that lead out towards the Mekong River Delta and the ocean!
explore THE PARKS
While Saigon is extremely hot and humid on most days in Saigon, you will find pleasure in escaping the busy streets to the solitude of Saigon’s many city parks. Each park has something different to offer. This one specifically was my favorite because of this monument that sat over the pond with koi fish below. Absolutely beautiful!
visit the war remnants museum
One of the most emotional experiences I had while in Southeast Asia was visiting the war remnants museum where I learned about many of the truths that took place during the Vietnam War. While the war was over forty years ago, the photos that are displayed will tear at your heart strings and you will find out about how the nation is still suffering from the destruction brought to the land during the course of this long and brutal war.
Grab an afternoon treat at abc bakery
I had a wonderful time visiting ABC Bakery throughout my stay to load up on carbs and treat myself to some sweets throughout my stay in Vietnam. This local chain has a complete array of affordable baked goods to satisfy any taste. I got this beaut’ on my birthday, which I was lucky to celebrate while I was away!
Cruise around town on a motorbike!
One of the coolest things I did while I was staying in Vietnam was riding along on the motorbikes across town. You have the option to rent your own motorbike for the day(If you’re feeling brave) or get the attention of the various locals stationed around the city who are willing to take you around for a small price, which usually is cheaper than taking a taxi!
Do mind though, traffic laws are much looser in Vietnam than other parts of the world and motor-vehicle deaths are at a high rate in the country. At high time of rush-hour, the roads are a free-for-all and you will find yourself in for a surprise if you do not do your research before entering the motorized zoo.
Go for a pub crawl on the bui vien
The late night party scene in Saigon is pretty radical. Many of the big cities in Southeast Asia are known for their pub-crawls. It is not hard to find a group to register to be apart of and get a taste of all of the bars in the city. If you’re not feeling like traveling in a group, you can take a walk along the Bui Vien which is a popular destination for backpackers and tourists alike. You can meet some locals and some travelers and meet some new friends; you can tell I did! Just remember, drink responsibly!
finish off with some late night entertainment
If you want more of an authentic club experience while in Vietnam, look no further than Acoustic Bar in District 3 of Ho Chi Minh. This bar has live entertainment every night with some of the best talent that Saigon has to offer. Acoustic has actually ranked as the best performance bar on many travel sites in Saigon. I got to know many of the singers that perform there and the locals go absolutely nuts over the shows every night! It’s the perfect way to end your night.
Things to note
- Pick-pocketing is very prominent in Vietnamese urban settings. I never felt that my belongings were particularly unsafe, but I have heard multiple horror stories from others who have visited. Always keep an eye on your things and your valuables close to your body.
- When taking a taxi, keep your business refined to Vinasun and Mai Linh taxis. Other taxi services are known to program their meters to double in price at random times. Other taxi services are known to take very round-about ways to getting to your location to up the cost. You should on average not pay more than $2-5 USD for a taxi ride in the city.
- The currency in Vietnam is inflated and noted in thousands. Keep an eye on your money when paying for things as it is easy to get 10,000 VND confused with 100,000 VND. I almost paid $5 for a baked roll instead of fifty cents. I was lucky enough to have the street vendor correct me. Others might not be so lucky.
- The heat in Southern Vietnam is incredibly humid and warm. Make sure to always carry around a water bottle and stay hydrated when walking around under the Sun. I almost passed out during my first week by letting myself go to long without eating or drinking.
- Speaking of water, it is best to stay away from tap water and crushed ice as the tap water is considered unsafe to drink in Vietnam. Thankfully, bottled water is incredibly cheap due to this and the high demand of bottled water. You can buy a large water for no more than thirty cents.
Vietnam has come to be one of my favorite places that I have ever traveled to. I had no expectations or ideas of what the climate or culture would be like, but I left completely in love with what I saw. I recommend anyone who is looking to travel somewhere far away to take a look at Southeast Asia as there is something for everyone and is not to disappoint.
Question: Where is your favorite place that you’ve traveled? What were your expectations before going there? Did they meet your expectations, or even exceed them? Let me know in the comments!
Have a great week, readers!
You can check out my other travel guides here!