What do you do when you have 3 days in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam?
My suggestion would be to visit the tourist sites, get some mani/pedi/massage, and then chill in one of the many cafes there for their signature Vietnamese coffee. In this blog entry, I am going to recommend the different tourist attractions that I have personally been to.
1. History Museum of Ho Chi Minh City
Address: 02 Nguyen Binh Khiem St., District 1, HCMC
Phone: 8298146 – 8290268
Opening hours: 8am – 4pm
Getting there: I would advise taking a cab because I took a cab everywhere I went in Vietnam. As long as you are within District 1, the cab fare will be fairly inexpensive, definitely lesser than S$10.
Also known as the Museum of Vietnamese History, this tourist attraction exhibits many ancient art collections from neighbouring Asian countries. It is not extremely big but you would need at least 1 to 2 hrs before you finish touring the place. Be sure to go earlier if you don’t want to be chased out of the museum towards its closing time. (That was what happened to me as I did not know that the museum closes at four!)
Looks a little like a local primary school from the outside.
A look at some of the artefacts. I did not know that we could not take photos inside until the curator stopped me. So these are the few photos I have. Do go there and take a look on your own, its pretty interesting!
I am a museum person, so I usually would visit at least one museum in any country that I go to. I would personally recommend this museum because they house many many artefacts which take you back in time into ancient history. Worth a visit!
2) Reunification Palace:
106 Nguyen Du District 1
Opening hours: 7:30-11:00, 13:00-16:00 daily
Admission: 15000 dong (S$1)
Getting there: If your hotel/hostel is near, you can walk there with the help of a map printed beforehand. If you do not have a map, get one from your hotel/hostel. The one I stayed in had maps, so I walked there as it was quite nearby. If not, just grab a cab, it will probably be less than S$4.
3) Notre Dame Cathedral
Address: Han Thuyen, Dong Khoi Area
Getting there: It is just a five to ten mins walk away from the Reunification Palace. With a map in hand, you can walk there and you will not lose your way. It is not hard to spot at all.
It reminds me of the one I saw in Paris. Really beautiful and stunning architecture. and romantic as well :)
4) Benh Thanh Market – a must go
Address: Le Loi, Ham Nghi and Tran Hung Dao Avenue, located at the intersection of Le Loi, Ham Nghi and Tran Hung Dao Avenue, District 1
Opening hours: 6am to 630 pm daily. O would recommend going on a Monday or Sunday. Do not go on Saturdays as it will be very packed.
Ben Thanh Market reminds me of Chatuchak market in Bangkok, except that the things are much more expensive in Ben Thanh. The market sells clothes, bags, a lot of souvenirs such as small purses, cutleries and candle holders. It is also famous for selling its signature coffee powder, which is what many tourists go there to buy. It’s not cheap though, I think I paid about 20usd for a few small packets of coffee powder. However, it is pretty fun to come home and make your own coffee with the small cute ‘coffee-maker’.
Advice: Seeing that you are a tourist, the prices quoted are much much higher than what you should be paying. Bargaining is allowed, except that they would not slash the prices by a lot.
If you don’t feel like you NEED the item, then don’t buy it. I was ‘conned’ into buying an extremely ugly pair of shorts for US$20! (aargh). The woman refused to let go of my hand after I stopped to take a look and I ended up having to buy it. Thinking back, I still feel cheated.
The market is not very big, you could finish your touring and/or shopping in about an hour or so. If you are feeling hungry, there are plenty of food choices at the market as well. And the food is YUMMY and CHEAP. When you go to Vietnam, you must eat the pho, vietnamese spring rolls, and also drink their famous fragrant coffee.
Extremely yummy pho.
and delicious Viet spring roll. Drools.
For the food options, I recommend buying a little of everything from the different stalls available there which is what my friend and I did. In that way, you can taste various food items all in one day and also feel full at the end of the market trip! :)
Saving the best for the last…
5) Cu Chi tunnel – the highlight of my trip
Getting there: The best way to get there is book a day trip with a local tour (plenty of tour agencies in District 1) and let them bring you there. It is an hour’s trip away and the MOST you should be paying is S$30 per pax for the round trip transport.
Advice: My friend and I made the mistake of not booking any tours or rent any driven vehicle. We took a cab there on our own and back, and ended up paying S$50 per pax. SO EXPENSIVE. So, pls pls remember to book a day trip, I cannot emphasize this enough.
Cu Chi tunnels is a huge network of underground tunnels that the Vietnamese dug and used during the Vietnam War to prevent the Americans from finding them. It was really sad to know that they had to live in such cramped, hot, stuffy and bad conditions but at the same time, I couldn’t help but feel impressed that the Vietnamese could dig such a complicated and immense network underground!
A model depicting the underground network.
The entrance to the tunnel. SO SMALL. Imagine the Vietnamese in hiding had to squeeze into such a small entrance to go into their underground tunnel, which is also where they stayed for a long time. I am afraid of small spaces, so thinking of staying in such conditions really make me shudder.
The simple food that they make during the war.
The many scary traps that the Vietnamese planted on the ground to capture the enemies.
A real bomb crater! It is very big in real life. In the second picture, you can see a dent on the ground.
A real bullet on the battleship. (to the right of the picture)
Part of a bomb crater embedded into the ground after so many years…
and the slippers made from the enemies’ battleships’ tyres…
Also, when you enter Cu Chi Tunnel, you would automatically get a personal tour guide who would bring you around the place. He would also ask you if you want to enter one of the tunnels. The tunnels that you are allowed to enter is not an authentic one. The entrance is slightly bigger than the one you see above in the post, but it is still rather small.
My friend and I decided to go for it but it was one of the scariest experience in my life. It is extremely hot inside, and because it is a tunnel, you have to squat down and duck walk, or you can crawl on all fours (which I would not recommend cus it is very dirty and dusty). It is also very very dark, there are no lights at all, and most importantly, it is VERY SMALL and very cramped.
When we were inside, we felt that we couldn’t breathe and we just wanted to get out of there! You can choose the 100m or 200m trail, thankfully we chose the 100m one. I am still glad I did it though, but I just need to warn you first.
If you have free time after going to all these tourist attractions in HCMC, then you shd find some nice cafes (quite a number of them there) to chill in. In my next post, I will recommend the different places to eat/club/mani/pedi/go for a massage in HCMC. Do rem that you can use both Viet Dong and/or US Dollars there. So, anyone wants to go to Vietnam already? ;)