Last week, I took a quick last minute trip to Ho Chi Minh City with my wife because I felt like it. Thanks to all the budget airlines available, traveling to nearby countries is now much more affordable. Since my trip was last minute, I still had to pay a bit more than booking in advance, but it's still not too bad. I paid a total of SGD $474.84 to Jetstar for two person's return flight.
I didn't do much travel planning too. I just Googled and starred some places to visit on Google Maps and that's it.
Here's my 5D4N itinerary:
- Sat: Flight to HCMC. Visited Skydeck - Bitexco Financial Tower
- Sun: War Remnants Museum, Opera House, City Hall, Post Office
- Mon: Cu Chi Tunnel Tour
- Tues: Independence Palace, Ben Thanh Market
- Wed: Flight back to Singapore
Our hotel is at Silverland Yen Hotel which is very near all the main tourists attractions, namely Ben Thanh Market and the Independence Palance (aka Reunification Palace). It was a really nice hotel with a Jacuzzi pool at the roof -- we didn't use it though.
There are lots of hotels from ranging from the very affordable to the high end. Even if you're a budget traveler, I'm very sure you'll be able to find a really comfortable hotel at an affordable price. I recommend staying near Ben Thanh Market.
These are the views from the Skydeck at Bitexco Financial Tower (map). It's quite pricey at 200,000 Vietnamese Dong per person. But definitely not as pricey compared to skyscrapers of other countries.
There's a restaurant at the top should you want to have your meals there. Not sure if the food is good or not.
The best time to visit this place if you want beautiful photos is in the evening while the sun is setting. Or during the hot afternoon as the place is air-conditioned and some other tourists attractions are closed during lunch time.
Then we took a walk down Saigon's Walking Street (map) which is just nearby. The weather now is hot and humid but it's not the rainy season. Thankfully, we're from Singapore so we're used the hot and humid weather.
It was weekend and there was some large scale performance going on. Those men balancing on the metallic traffic barriers got the best view.
That's the beautiful City Hall (map) at night.
On the next day, we visited the War Remnants Museum (map).
This place has lots of military vehicles and planes on display. They are supposedly used in the Vietnam War by the USA.
The War Remnants Museum is a place that you must visit to understand more about Vietnam. I don't think any visit to Ho Chi Minh City will be complete without a visit to this museum. It shows the how cruel humans and the war can be. How the Americans actually used Agent Orange to kill others, and as a result people in later generations were also affected and developed health problems. It's said the effects of Agent Orange can still be seen in 4th generation Vietnamese. In fact, I passed by a kid with a head 4-5 times larger than normal one night. The mum was carrying the kid asking for donations. When I was in the museum, all I could think of was why would people want to kill one another. It's just so stupid.
We had our lunch at the Ben Thanh Street Food Market. This is probably the best place to have your meals. There is so much variety and the price is very affordable. The big plate of roasted chicken rice shown above is only 80,000 VD (~SGD $5).
By the way, everything in Ho Chi Minh City is quite affordable. I traveled everywhere by Uber. From the airport to the hotel was around SGD$5 to $6. I traveled by Uber everywhere. I heard that the reputable taxis around are Vinasun and Mai Linh, usually in green and white. Taxis by the way are easy to grab.
After lunch, we traveled to Bưu điện Trung tâm Sài Gòn which is the central post office (map).
They do provide postal services inside. It's a popular tourist spot so there are many stalls selling souvenirs as well.
The Notre Dame Cathedral (map) is just beside the Central Post Office. The best time to go to these two places are in the morning when the sun hits the front of the Notre Dame.
Here's the City Hall again. It's not too far from the Notre Dame and Central Post Office.
Right in front of the City Hall is a garden with a statute of Ho Chi Minh.
On the third day, we went for the Cu Chi Tunnel tour. We booked our tour at some tour agency on the street. There are lots of tour agencies on the streets. It was 250,000 VD for each person and it's definitely worth the money. The half day tour that includes the bus ride there and back, ticket into the place but no meals are provided. It's a half day tour. They will stop at a place for lunch, where you have to pay for your own lunch, before moving back to Ben Thanh Market area. It ends around 2-3pm.
For the last day, I had wanted to book a tour to visit Mekong River but after reading my friend's blog post about it, I decided against it. It doesn't sound or look very impressive although I'm sure it's a decent sight seeing tour.
On the second last day, we visited the Independence Palace (map). It was the site of the end of the Vietnam War during the Fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975, when a North Vietnamese Army tank crashed through its gates.
That's probably the replicate of the tank that crashed through the gate.
The exhibits are the different rooms in the palace.
The last place we visited is Ben Thanh Market. The best time to visit this place is in the morning when the place is alive with activity and lots of people doing their groceries. This wet market sells fresh produce, food, souvenirs, clothes and shoes.
At night, from 7pm, a makeshift night market sets up on the east side of the building. You might want to go before 7pm to see how the Vietnamese people set up this market. People ride motorbikes and pull their stalls on the road to their allocated spot. It's quite impressive the speed at which they set up the market.
So that's it from our trip at Ho Chi Minh City. It was quite relaxing.
I actually intended to sketch but decided to spend more time with my wife. I took lots of photos so I'm just going to sketch from reference photos. Nothing beats the mood of spontaneity of sketching on location though.
Now that I've been to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, I've got to say that I prefer Hanoi. I think I like the chaotic nature of Hanoi. I love how the houses are stacked on top of one another without any planning. Everything looks and feels so organic, and very Asian, in Hanoi.