Unforgetable things to do in Part 2
In the last post, Sagomeko mentioned some things to do at the weekend when coming to Ho Chi Minh (aka Saigon). This time, we would like to introduce you to things you should not miss when you book or prepare for the trip by tour-guide’ advises. From popular destinations to places you might not have heard of, we want you to have the best, smartest and most comfortable experience when visiting such a dynamic city, as well as essential information about history and culture in the center of Ho Chi Minh City.
Let’s get started!
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Things to do: The city is nearly always crowded and bustling but there is still peaceful time to be found in it’s many pagodas & temples. At these places you can experience the religious beliefs of the local people.
Depending on the lunar calendar, we go to the temple and eat only vegetables and tofu, becoming pure vegetarians every month. You may wonder why people often burn votives, fake money; you may see this when you walk around Hanoi, Hoi An and Saigon … The simple answer is that it is a part of our culture when visiting a temple.
Learn the interesting facts about the 12 zodiac signs in Asian culture, which also plays a significant part in defining your character, and it can also tell you a bit about luck in your life, and whether someone is serious about a wedding, or good to do business with.
The following Do’s and Don’ts apply not just in pagodas and temples in Ho Chi Minh/Saigon, but across Vietnam.
DO: Always wear modest clothings, such a long pants, skirts and tops that cover arms, legs and chest when entering pagodas and temples. If you like sunbathing, carry a large light weight shawl to wrap around arms and shoulders and a pair of lightweight pants in your bag or rucksack. Spaghetti strap tops and dresses are considered disrespectful.
DO: Take off any hat before entering the pagoda or temple. This is a sign of respect for a holy place and shows your inner spirit is in harmony with the inside of the temple.
DO: Turn off the flash on your camera and turn your mobile phone off, or switch it to vibrate.
DON’T shout, talk loudly or play music. These are places of worship, where local people come to worship and pray.
Places we suggest you add to your travel list: Jade Emperor Pagoda (district1), Vinh Nghiem Pagoda (district 3), Quan Am Temple, Thien Hau Temple (district 5)
“This city has grown and changed quickly”, which is a saying that tourists who come back after 5, 10 years of travelling to Ho Chi Minh City will notice how much it is changing. In order to have a dynamic city today, many sacrifices were made by the Vietnamese people. At the museum you’ll find out the facts about the Vietnam War (or the American War as Vietnamese called it). These are exposed through photo galleries. You will see images and documentary videos retelling the different battles of the Vietnam war, Saigon and how it was affected, G.I’s, Vietcong, the massacres..
Things to do in Ho Chi Minh City: Research Vietnam War information from different sources in advance. Open your heart and absorb the conflicting information that flows from both sides in all those sources. If you have a guide, it’s easy for you to visit the museum logically. If not, follow the numbered sequence in the diagram to tour it in the best way and read all the notice boards for more information.
Don’t Miss: a display area with a special theme changed quarterly, and a simulated prison in Con Dao, as well as the book store selling many titles about the Vietnam War.
Things to visit in Ho Chi Minh City: This is a place not to be missed off your travel-list. Not only does it signify a meaningful moment in Vietnamese history, but it also boasts breathtaking architecture of the 1960s. Independence Palace is also known by many other names such as the Palace of Unification, Presidential Palace, .. The building was built on the foundation of Norrodom Palace, or Dragon Head Palace when it was destroyed in 1962. Architect Ngo Viet Thu harmonized three architectural styles: FengShui, Vietnamese, 1960s. So, when you go into each function room: banquet, cabinet, conference hall, President Reception room, you will see a variety of furnishings, and don’t miss the amazing huge lacquer painting in Ambassador Chamber, or the President’s apartment with a beautiful patio.
Don’t miss: The rooftop of the Palace is the most beautiful place to take panoramic photos. If you can get into tight spaces, don’t miss the basement of the President of the Republic of Vietnam, which was a place to hide and avoid bombs.
Bonus Tip!!: Buy an extra tram ticket running around the Palace for only VND 10,000 save your feet and admire the building from the tram.
Top things to do in Ho Chi Minh City: you should buy some cereal grain for the pigeons, that’s quite interesting. Take extra care when crossing the road from there. It’s busy! In front of the statue of Mary, is the ideal position to capture the panoramic view of both buildings. Then move on to Saigon Post Office. At first, you will think it is a train station, as you progress into it’s unique architecture, French architecture and Indochina architecture intertwined. This building is the epitome of colonial.
Things to do in Ho Chi Minh City: Walking from the Continental Hotel Saigon, dubbed the “Vietnam’s oldest hotel.” This is where English writer Graham Greene was once welcomed, the regular guest in room 214 and author of “Quiet American” . This hotel also has many key scenes in the movie “Indochina” the film that won two Oscars and the Golden Globe. Continental Hotel Saigon was also once called “Catinat Radio Station” because it was a familiar meeting place for journalists, news reporters, politicians and businessmen gathered, gossiping about politics, business and time.
Opposite, this is the Saigon Opera House, an impressive construction built under the supervision of architects Ernest Guichard and Eugène Ferret in 1900. Its architectural style is very much the flamboyant style of the French Third Republic. The capacity of the opera house is 500 seats. Do not hesitate to buy tickets to enjoy some typical shows if you have time in the evening such as: AO show, Teh Dar, The Village, .. The number of seats is limited and always sells out in peak season, so be sure to book in advance with your local guide or travel agency.
In parallel with Dong Khoi Street is Nguyen Hue Street, which is located off City Hall with French standard architecture and The Rex Hotel with it’s 5th floor rooftop Bar. It is wonderful to walk in the sunset here and visit a cafe or restaurant in the old apartment 42-Nguyen Hue. The price here is more affordable than in the 5-star hotels.
Bonus tip!!: What’s even better …. if you fancy drinking a beer or cocktail and watching the sunset and the city and the Saigon River, then as your local guide to book you a table in advance at Bitexco Financial Tower. Kick back, relax and watch the sun go down and the world go by. It’s well worth it.
Bui Vien Backpack Street – thing to pay attention: This tourist area is certainly famous among young self-sufficient tourists and was dubbed the “Party Street”. Therefore, this is also a quite complicated place. When coming here you need to be very careful with money, phones, personal belongings. Absolutely do not carry your passport, credit card, or bring too much money.
Ben Thanh Market – a popular place to shopping in city: It is flawed to not spend something or buy souvenirs for friends at Ben Thanh Market, as it is over 100 years old. Be serious about bargaining on items here though, even if they display Fixed Price signs. In the center of the market is a whole world of food stalls with quite affordable prices. Celebrate your shopping success with a nice cold drink and local dish for lunch.
Saigon River: Enjoy the river by waterbus or speedboat. The whole dynamic and thriving city can be seen so clearly when viewed from the middle of the river. This is my tourists’ farvourite thing to do in Ho Chi Minh city.
Tao Dan Park – my favorite thing to do in city: Let’s experience exercise with locals like jogging, Tai chi, sword dance, fan dance, … There are also outdoor gym machines, the everyone from children to the elderly can enjoy using.
Whether you are self-sufficient tourists or travelling on a tailor-made holiday, the above points are a list of many activities and you will need more than a whole day to explore this bustling city.
Pay close attention to transportation in the city; if taking a taxi must have a tablet showing the map and price and ignore cyclo drivers with cheap offers (it’s a tourist trap). Sagomeko wants you to enjoy a safe journey, whoever you are. As an inbound tour guide, you must have a practicing card. If you book a city tour, with city tour companes and guides this will ensure you receive accurate information on all the sites as well as ensuring travel safety for your family. All genuine city tour guides have to pass yearly examinations that ensure their information is up to date and that they adhere to codes of practice. Registered tour guides always wear a lanyard displaying their registration and ID card.
See you in the next article about thing s to do in Ho Chi Minh City.