Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) is on the southern tip of Vietnam near the Cambodian border. It’s the country’s largest city by population and has a hustle-and-bustle which often overwhelms the unprepared traveller. Here’s our Just the Tips to best enjoy this historically significant, bustling metropolis.
If you’re a historicist, head to The War Remnants Museum in District 3 (28 Đường Võ Văn Tần, 6, District 3, +84 8 3930 5587). On prominent display are photographs and documentation of the injustices during The Vietnam War including photos from the notorious My Lai Massacre. Also of great note here is the corner dedicated to the infamous French and South Vietnamese prisons on Phu Quoc and Con Son Islands. The display includes such haunting artefacts as guillotines and ‘tiger cages’.
To best appreciate the city’s culture and Taoist religion, we recommend heading to the Emperor Jade Pagoda (73 Mai Thi Luu St., Dakao Ward, District 1, +84 8 3820 3102). Built in 1909 in honour of the supreme Taoist god Ngoc Hoang, this stunning temple is decorated with statues of divinities and demons from both Buddhist and Tao lore. The air is heavy with incense as you breath in the culture. Stop by the turtle pond just outside and look for the inscriptions on their shells.
Ho Chi Minh City found its way into our hearts via our stomachs. Personally, we like to eat the majority of our meals street side for a few thousand dong (the local currency). If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the options available, try the open-air restaurants surrounding Ben Thanh Market (30 Phan Bội Châu, Bến Thành, District 1, +84 8 3829 9274). Of special note is Chè – sweet Vietnamese dessert soup. Technically, chè is an umbrella term for a vast variety of styles so be sure to try a few kinds.
For a light breakfast and a chance to enjoy Vietnam’s famous iced coffee known as cà phê đá, try out The Morning Café (36 Lê Lợi, 2nd Floor, District 1, +84 93 838 33 30). It’s a bit tricky to find, but honestly what isn’t in Ho Chi Minh? Alternatively, The Workshop (27 Ngô Đức Kế, 2nd Floor, District 1, +84 8 3824 6801) seems to get A LOT of attention, though we’ve never personally been so try at your own risk.
For an upscale dinner, we love Temple Club (29-31 Tôn Thất Thiệp, Bến Nghé, District 1, +84 8 3829 9244). The restaurant gained fame after a visit from, wait for it… wait for it… Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt! The interior design is European but the menu offers upscale renditions of regional Vietnamese. We enjoy sipping our night cap in Temple Club’s beautiful back lounge after dinner.
Everyone at Out Adventures agrees, Liberty Central Saigon Riverside Hotel (17 Tôn Đức Thắng, Bến Nghé, District 1) is your best bet in the city. It is well located, modern and clean. The staff have always been accommodating and polite.
Kick off the new year aboard a gay Mekong River cruise. You can find full details such as departure dates, itinerary and price here.