Ho Chi Minh City Holidays
Formerly known as Saigon, vibrant Ho Chi Minh City is one of Asia's most compelling cities and definitely not to be missed. This fast-paced, thriving metropolis is a city of contrasts as soaring skyscrapers, chic shopping malls, fine restaurants and glitzy bars rub shoulders with delightful districts full of colonial charm, classic French architecture, incense-infused temples and bustling markets.
Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) is divided into 24 districts, although tourists rarely travel beyond districts One, Three and Five. The city's central area, District One, is where most of the main shops, hotels, restaurants, bars and tourist attractions are located along with the original French Quarter. The more sedate District Three offers more colonial architecture, parks and wide boulevards interspersed with a few restaurants and shops while District Five incorporates Chinatown with its markets, pagodas, temples and authentic Chinese restaurants.
Highlights include ostentatious reminders of French rule such as Notre Dame Cathedral or the huge Central Post Office designed by Gustav Eiffel; the Reunification Palace, formerly the Presidential Palace; the Jade Emperor Pagoda and the 18th century Thien Hau Temple. A cyclo tour is a wonderful way to take in the sights whilst absorbing the flurry of activity around you, or take a seat at a roadside café and watch as conical-hatted vendors ply their goods or bicycles piled high with furniture and livestock pass by. Alternatively, those with a hunger for adventure can hop on the back of a Vespa for an unforgettable tour of the Saigon streets, joining the organised chaos through the different districts and mingling with the locals before stopping to sample some local cuisine.
No visit to Ho Chi Minh City is complete without a visit to the extraordinary Cu Chi Tunnels located just an hour's drive northwest of the city. This labyrinth of narrow tunnels, all dug using only hand tools, stretch for over 120 miles and were used as hideouts during the war by the Vietnamese army. Our highly recommended half day excursion to the tunnels includes original film footage from the war and also gives you the chance to explore enlarged sections of this extensive underground city from the not-to-distant-past which contained hospitals, kitchens and sleeping quarters.
Ho Chi Minh City is also the gateway to the Mekong Delta, a lush, tropical delta dominated by the mighty Mekong, one of the most scenic rivers in Asia. Take a cruise through this fascinating region to see the vibrant floating markets, bustling villages with houses built on stilts and countless temples. The Delta is also one of the most agriculturally productive areas in Southeast Asia, with fruit orchards, rice paddies, fish and flower farms jostling for space. We highly recommend our one night Mekong Delta cruise aboard a traditional wooden boat in the style of a converted rice barge (Bassac boat).
Shopping opportunities also abound in HCMC. Haggle for bargains of clothing and souvenirs at Ben Thanh Market or visit rambling Binh Tay Market in Chinatown where you'll find stalls crammed with exotic foodstuffs. Alternatively, browse the small, traditional shops within the main shopping areas, such as Dong Khoi, Hai Ba Trung and Le Thanh Ton, or the luxurious shopping malls with international fashion brands and designer boutiques springing up in the city including Diamond Plaza on Le Duan and Parkson Saigon Tourist Plaza on Le Thanh Ton.
There is a rich selection of restaurants in HCMC, ranging from bargain street side stalls to haute cuisine and everything in between. Cuisines you'll come across include French, Chinese and of course, local Vietnamese delights such as Banh mi (sandwiches), noodle soup (pho), seafood and crepes. Western food is also widely available for those who just can't survive without chips! Nightlife is equally varied, depending on where you are in the city. District One has rooftop bars, casinos and jazz or rock bands while in District Three you'll find local cafes with Vietnamese music and cheap eats.
- Fascinating culture
- Classic French architecture
- Ornate temples
- Nearby Cu Chi Tunnels
- Wonderful shopping
- Mekong Delta side trips
- Fantastic restaurants