Home Travel Tips Travel Guide 24 Hours in Saigon: The Paris of the Orient

24 Hours in Saigon: The Paris of the Orient

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Saigon river at night
Saigon river at night

Saigon: The Paris of the Orient

When I think of Vietnam, the first thing that comes to mind is the Vietnam War, the best guerilla campaign the world has ever seen. Don’t judge, I actually didn’t sleep through Asian history. I also remember Lea Salonga personifying the role of Miss Saigon, a love story between a Vietnamese girl and an American soldier which gained international acclaim.

Arriving at Ho Chi Minh past midnight
Arriving at Ho Chi Minh past midnight

One thing’s for certain now that my flight has landed at Ho Chi Minh City; nothing can stop me from experiencing anything this place has to offer. Well, actually, that’s not entirely true unless I’m a billionaire. However, you’re still welcome to tag along my modest trip to the capital of French Indochina.

Blue Diamond Hotel at Ben Thanh Ward
Blue Diamond Hotel at Ben Thanh Ward

Arriving past midnight, we went straight to Blue Diamond Hotel (hotel info). About 20 minutes from the airport, this European-themed hotel is strategically located just a mere walking distance to the busy business district. After a hassle-free check-in, we were surprised at how spacious, clean and well-equipped our room was, at a very reasonable price. But before hitting the sheets, we decided to grab a bite. Thankfully, a 24-hour convenience store was nearby and with 50,000 dong, we were able to satisfy our midnight cravings.


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Breakfast buffet at Blue Diamond Hotel
Breakfast buffet at Blue Diamond Hotel

Since we only had a day to go around the city, we had to wake up early. The stay at the hotel came with buffet breakfast consisting mostly of Vietnamese and some American and Italian cuisine. A popular breakfast item among the locals is Ban Mi which looks like a spirally-molded cream bread available daily.

The iconic Notre Dame Cathedral
The iconic Notre Dame Cathedral
Typical day in Saigon
Typical day in Saigon

With a full stomach, we then visited the oldest French-inspired structures in Saigon that survived the test of time, the iconic Notre Dame Cathedral and the still-operational Buu Dien post office designed by Gustav Eiffel himself. We also got to meet a retired French-literate postman who is a living witness to the city’s colorful past.

Military display at War Remnants Museum
Military display at War Remnants Museum

Meanwhile, the visit at the War Remnants Museum left us in quite a mixed state of delight and sorrow. You’ll instantly turn into a kid once you see the tanks, helicopters and fighter planes but once you step inside you’ll witness the horrible experiences of the Vietnamese victims brought about by torture, biological weapons and mass murders.

Sad realities during the Vietnam War
Sad realities during the Vietnam War

The last stop before lunch was at the Museum of History to watch the Water Puppet Show. Using submerged wooden sticks connected to the puppets, it was for me a creative and comedic portrayal of local folklore.

Water puppet show at the Museum of History
Water puppet show at the Museum of History
Author at Buu Dien Post Office
Author at Buu Dien Post Office
Buffet Ganh at Bong Sen Hotel
Buffet Ganh at Bong Sen Hotel

Sadly, the lunch experience at Buffet Ganh at Bong Sen Hotel (hotel info) was rather chaotic. Apparently, all tour groups eat there. Brace yourselves or better yet arrive early. Quite extensive the buffet may seem, the space was not enough to handle the influx of hungry customers.

Grabbing some midnight snacks
Grabbing some midnight snacks

Before going back to the hotel to rest our tired legs, we decided to check out Ben Thanh market. Inside were stalls full of souvenirs, dried goods, apparel and eateries. Ironic as it may seem, most food stalls were occupied by foreigners.

Interacting with the locals at Ben Thanh Market
Interacting with the locals at Ben Thanh Market

If you plan to buy anything here, buy from the inaccessible stalls as they are way cheaper and don’t forget to haggle. While you’re at it, buy a glass of iced coffee. You won’t regret it. And before you empty your pockets, wait for sun down as these stalls tend to fill the streets. Maybe you can get a better deal or two like these paintings or pop-up cards perhaps?

Live entertainment at Tau Saigon
Live entertainment at Tau Saigon
Souvenir shops at the Night Market
Souvenir shops at the Night Market
Set dinner at Tau Saigon Floating Restaurant
Set dinner at Tau Saigon Floating Restaurant
Saigon river at night
Saigon river at night

If I would choose a highlight of our trip, it would be the floating dinner at Tau Saigon. Good food, better entertainment and without doubt the best view along Saigon River, a happy memory I would cherish until the rest of my days.

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