Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam - Tips, Tricks and Things To Do

23 September 2018





So, other than a one-night layover in Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) was the first place we visited on our Southeast Asia Tour, and what a place to start. We flew in from Bangkok (1hr 35m), and took a taxi to the hostel. We arrived just in time for dinner, so dropped our bags and went straight for some food. We had a bit of a wander of the streets and spotted a skybar called 'The View' so had a few drinks there before jet lag got the better of us.

Speaking of the streets, I don't think either of us were prepared for the absolute carnage on the roads. Never in my life have I seen so many scooters in one place. Let alone scooters darting and diving through the traffic and scooters carrying entire families of four.

The following day we woke up fairly leisurely and headed towards the War Remnants Museum. I'm still not sure I fully understand the Vietnam War, even after a trip to the museum, and messaging my friend back home to teach me, so definitely do a load of reading up before you go. The museum is full of photos, maps, posters and outside there are tanks, helicopters etc - it's definitely worth going to if you're in HCMC. Our other touristy stops for the day were the Central Post Office, Notre-Dame and the Ben Thanh Market. All are worth seeing and very much doable in a day on foot.

What I wasn't expecting in HCMC was a strip, Magaluf style, full of bars with happy hours. We spent our second evening drinking 2 for 1 cocktails, planning our next few days. On the way back we stopped at one last bar and I spotted 'Vietnamese Banana Seed Shots' on the menu. They can't be too bad, right? Well, let me tell you, they were awful - waaaaay more potent than Glen's Vodka, and that stuff strips paint off walls.

We'd booked a trip to the Cu Chi Tunnels online (pssst don't do that, it works out a lot more expensive than the locally advertised tours) and woke up early the next morning ready to be picked up. It was a two-hour drive from the hostel, but we stopped halfway to look at some eggshell handicrafts. (From what I've read, all of the Cu Chi Tunnels trips stop here, regardless of who you booked with). Anyway, the tunnels themselves were fascinating. They're zig-zagged and on many levels, with booby traps every few meters. Lots of the tunnels had been widened and fitted with stairs for the tourists, but a couple you can visit are still as they were. Let's just say you couldn't eat a Toby Carvery and then squeeze in there. 

Our tunnel tour included lunch, so we had lunch at a hotel on the way back. After our day at the tunnels we both really fancied a shower, but unfortunately, we'd already checked out of our hostel as we were taking the night bus that evening. We were sweaty and covered in mud, so we came up with the idea of heading to a swimming pool. We googled pools and somehow ended up in a flashy 5 star hotel and soon came to the realisation that a swim there was a) expensive and that b) we stood out like a pair of sore thumbs. So, we had another google and ended up at the local swimming pool. We paid 50p to get in and headed straight to the showers, towel and shampoo in hand, flip-flops firmly on our feet. Now, we were incredibly grateful to have a shower, but, let me tell you, it wasn't a pretty sight. Mrs Hinch would not approve. 

We had dinner and then headed to the ticket office to wait for our first ever sleeper bus. Now, I wasn't entirely sure what to expect having heard some absolute horror stories but I was very pleasantly surprised. We used the company 'The Sinh Tourist' which was reasonably priced and very clean. You're given a blanket, and each person has their own bed-seat for the night. There's also a seatbelt, which let me tell you, I was very grateful for. It's fair to say the bus drivers like to swerve, which, when paired with being on a top bunk fast asleep isn't an ideal combination. Thank you, seatbelt. I actually slept fairly well on the buses, and for the price, they're definitely worth doing.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS
A big, busy city with more scooters than I've had hot dinners

THINGS TO DO 
- Cu Chi Tunnels
- War Remnants Museum
- Ben Thanh Market
- Central Post Office
- Notre-Dame

TIPS AND ADVICE 
- Don't book the tunnels trip online, head to a local tourist desk and ask there
- If you want to cross a road, just walk out slowly, people aren't going to hit you
- Some of the restaurants charge you for using a napkin ???

WHERE I STAYED & REVIEW
Aloho Saigon.

It's in an ideal location, right in the main backpacker street and very well priced. The beds, however, were the least comfortable of the 6-week trip, which is definitely saying something. There are also thin walls between the beds which rather than protect modesty just made it feel a bit like a prison. 

HOW LONG TO STAY?
2 days is plenty to see the main sights and get a good taste of the city

7 comments

  1. I loved this post Becca and I'm so excited to see more posts about other places you visited! Asia is a place thats never really crossed my mind when thinking about travelling but honestly, Vietnam does sound super interesting a very different to home!

    Lucy | Forever September

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  2. Pretty! This has been an extremely wonderful
    post. Many thanks for providing this information.

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  3. Exactly what I was searching for, thanks for putting up.

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  4. Wow the sleeper bus sounds like a cool/scary experience. The pictures are amazing, Vietnam is on my travel bucket list x

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  5. I enjoyed reading this so much and the pictures were gorgeous. If I ever travel Asia I would come to you first!

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  6. So cool! I never had this on my list to visit but I might just add it. :)

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  7. Vietnam is so high up on my Travel Bucket List! I've never heard that they charge you for napkins - that's crazy! The night bus sounds absolutely incredible, does it make me a bit of a dork that I think it sounds really fun?! I've always been intrigued by the tunnels, but I think I would find the history very harrowing! Great post and lovely pictures. Sounds like you had an amazing time!
    Kate x
    http://www.findingkate.co

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