Another country ticked off my bucket list when I visited Vietnam recently. My family and I spent our last week of 2018 in Vietnam. Our first stop was Ho Chi Minh City or formerly known as Saigon.
We traveled by direct Emirates flight from Dubai to Ho Chi Minh City. It took us 6 hours 50 minutes. There are daily direct flights from Dubai to Ho Chi Minh City and the capital Hanoi.
Indians can apply for Vietnam Visa on Arrival(VOA) and for that we have to apply online on their website to obtain the approval letter to pick up visa at the airports in Vietnam.
About Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City is in South Vietnam and it is the most populous city in Vietnam. Under the French rule, it was the capital of French Indochina. Now it is the financial and business hub of Vietnam.
Ho Chi Minh City has a long history and fascinating culture. It is a destination where the old meets the new; with French architecture, tall skyscrapers as well as temples and exquisite pagodas.
What is the best time to visit this city?
Anytime of the year is good to visit, but the drier months of December till April is the best time to visit Ho Chi Minh City.
Where to stay?
Ho Chi Minh City offers all kinds of accommodation from luxury hotels to medium-range and low-budget hotels, hostels, hotel apartments, home stays etc.
We stayed in the historic luxury 5 star hotel overlooking the Saigon River – The Hotel Majestic that was built in 1925. It is a great location and is situated in the corner of famous Dong Khoi Street.
Getting around the city
Ho Chi Minh city is notorious for its traffic. They’ve motorbike taxis, bicycles, metered taxis, buses and metro. Transportation is cheap and affordable.
Things to see and do in Ho Chi Minh City
We stayed in the city for 4 days and 3 nights. For 2 days, we had booked tours with tourist agency and the other 2 days we explored on our own.
The scars left behind by the Vietnam War is felt in many places in the city. Ho Chi Minh City is home to historic monuments, Buddhist temples, museums, art galleries, botanical garden, eateries etc.
Must-visit places in the city:
- Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral
- War Remnants Museum
- Cu Chi Tunnels
- Binh Tay Market and Ben Thanh Market
- Cao Dai Temple
- Jade Emperor Pagoda
- Réunification Palace
- Ho Chi Minh Central Post Office
- Mariamman Hindu Temple
- Thien Hau Temple
- Bitexco Financial Tower
- Opera House
- Dong Khoi Street
- Saigon Zoo and the Botanical Gardens
- Fine Arts Museum
- Vietnamese Street Food Tour
- Try Vietnamese Coffee and delectable Vietnamese Cuisine
Except Cu Chi Tunnels which is in the outskirts of the city, everything else we explored on our own. We did a half day tour of Cu Chi Tunnels with a local tourist agency. While visiting Ho Chi Minh, Cu Chi Tunnels must be first on your itinerary list and you cannot miss it.
Another must-do trip from Ho Chi Minh City is a day-trip to Mekong Delta. We were picked up from our hotel from the tourist agency in a mini van and were taken on a scenic route from the city through rice paddies and small villages to My Tho. It took us one and a half hours from the city.
Our first stop was at Vinh Trang Pagoda, one of the iconic landmarks of the region. After that we enjoyed a 3-hour boating trip at Mekong Delta. It was amazing exploring the Mekong river canals by rowing sampan.
We had a Vietnamese lunch at a garden restaurant on riverbank. After our lunch we visited the beautiful Unicorn Island. And there we discovered how to make coconut candies and also tried some. We also tried local fruits, sweets and wines. It was a day filled with fun and adventure.
The vibrant Ho Chi Minh City is the biggest city in Vietnam. It is a lively, noisy and dynamic city. The best way to explore Vietnam is by starting with Ho Chi Minh City.