Ho Chi Minh City (Old name was Saigon), Vietnam, is one of our “want-to-visit” cities during this Southeast Asia trip and last weekend we got the task done.
Here is our 3N4D itinerary in Ho Chi Minh City. Even we just have 3.5 days there, We are not the type of travelers that have to squeeze as many as possible activities in every second. Instead, we prefer to be relax and not to tire ourselves. Sometimes we may not be able to visit all so-called “Must-Go” places in the trip, but importantly we feel enjoyable and not stressful. We didn’t see every part of the HCMC, but the places we went to already good enough for us to experience the city vibe.
Let’s start our tour!
Airport- from Bangkok Don Mueang International Airport ( I have another post about how to take A1 bus to Don Mueang Airport in Bangkok) to Tân Sơn Nhất International Airport.
Our fligth arrived around 5:45pm in Ho Chi Minh City and the first thing we had to do was to apply the Landing Tourist Visa at the airport before the immigration.
The Visa counter is right next to the immigration counter. It is not a big area and there are not enough seats for the tourists to sit down while they are waiting. So you can see most of them are standing up in the picture. The whole application process for us was about 1.5 hours but I know it can take up to 3 to 4 hours.
**Reminder: You have to apply the Vietnam Visa Approval Letter online (This is the one I used: cheapvietnamvisa.net , the approval letter is about USD8 and the 1 month Single Entry Visa is USD25.) and print it out BEFORE you land at the airport and process the application of the Landing Visa in Vietnam.
Our Hotel location is nearby the Ben Thanh Market in District 1 which is the district that most tourists will choose to stay at as it is simply because most attractions and activities are happening in District 1.
Taxi is the most convenient way to go to the town but is also the most expensive way (around 150,000 to 170,000VND one way). If you want to pick a more economic way, there are few buses, for example Route 109, Route 49 and Route 152 (before 6pm) they all go directly to the town via Ben Thanh Market and Terminate at the Pham Ngu Lao Street and some operate till midnight. (5am to 1:30am) The fare of Route 109 and Route 49 is 20,000VND per person without extra charge for the luaggage and Route 152 is 6,000VND per person plus 4,000 to 14,000VND for your luggage, it depends on the size of your bag. The journey from the airport to Ben Thanh Market takes about 30 to 40 mins depends on the traffic. The buses are air conditioned, clean, spacious and have many stops in District 1, so I don’t see the reason why I have to spend 7 or 8 times more to take a taxi and bare the risk to be ripped-off.
First Night in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)
First thing for a foodie in Saigon of course are popular Vietnamese noodle, Phở and Saigon local beer!
Our Hotel is pretty close to the Pham Ngu Lao Street ( Backpacker Street) and Biu Vien Street ( full of bars and restaurants). After checked-in it was already 9pm, we were pretty hungry but also wanted to start our “sight-seeing”. So we decided to go to this Vietnamese Phở restaurant called Phở Hùng which has good reviews online. And as it is located at the end of Pham Ngu Lao Street/ Biu Vien Street ( they are parallel streets), on the way to the restaurant we walked along the Pham Ngu Lao Street, had a look of this Backpacker Street and grabbed a drink at Biu Vien after dinner.
I have prepared my own map by using My Maps before the trip. I have put the markers on all the attractions in District 1 and all points are in the walking distance from each other.
A: Our Hotel Location (Ruby River Hotel– Thumb up to the hotel!!)
B: Bitexco Financial Tower
C: Dong Khoi Street (Opera House)
D: Japan Town
E: Central Post Office
F: Notre Dame Cathedral
G: Turtle Lake
H: War Remnants Museum
I: Popular Vietnamese Banh Mi!
J: Ben Thanh Market
Bitexco Financial Tower
You can go up to the Observation Deck on the 49th floor of the Bitexco Financial Tower to see the whole Saigon view. (Entrance fee: 200,000VND per person)
Dong Khoi Street
Besides the Saigon Opera House, there are also many French Colonial Buildings along the Dong Khon Street. You can also find many up-scale brand stores here.
We spent some time to spot the Japan Town at the beginning. We passed by this big blue sign and we thought it is just the “Residential Area”, so we didn’t even bother to go inside and have a look. But the truth is you really have to turn into the alley then you will find it!
We had the lunch in this Japanese Ramen Restaurant called Danbo Ramen. When we got there it was empty but before we left, it was full of Japanese businessmen, so I don’t have to tell you how good of their ramen.
Central Post Office
The oldest post office in Ho Chi Minh City and it is still operating.
Notre Dame Cathedral
This is the back of the Notre Dame Cathedral. The red wall is a popular spot for photo-taking. Many local females come in a group of 3-4 with a professional photographer and they all dress up in the Vietnamese traditional dress with nice hair setting and sharp make-up.
Turtle Lake, there is not even one turtle in the park. But there is a feng shui legend I find on go-vietnam.com and it explains why this park was built at this location and named “Turtle Park”.
War Remnants Museum
WThe whole history about the American War in Vietnam from 1955 to 1975.
Popular Vietnamese Banh Mi
Banh Mi is the baguette but is the Vietnamese version. This popular Banh Mi place is called Bánh Mì Huỳnh Hoa, around 10 minutes walk from the Ben Thanh Market. You can see from the picture it has a lot of ingredients and they are fresh and delicious and the bread is so soft. The size of the Banh Mi is bigger than my hand!
Ben Thanh Market
It is a big bazaar which is basically selling everything, clothes, accessories, shoes, watches, food etc. One thing you have to prepare yourself before step in the Ben Thanh Market , which is your bargain skill.
After a long day walking around in town, we went back to the hotel, took a break, got change then headed out to the dinner.
Barbecue Garden, We found this restaurant on the way back to the hotel. Obviously from its name, it is a barbecue restaurant. It has a hot pan setting in the middle of each table. Besides barbecue dishes, they have variety of Vietnamese dishes on the menu with reasonable price. (Address)
Tomorrow we will join the tour to Mekong Delta Area which is in the southwest region of Vietnam, 2 hours driving distance from Ho Chi Minh City.
Let’s continue in the Part 2!!