Ho Chi Minh Bucket List: 16 Best Things to Do in Ho Chi Minh City

Mekong River Boat Excursion
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Things to Do and See in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam

The country of Vietnam is a beautiful Asean Neighbour. The land area is reportedly almost the same as Germany’s, and almost half of the country is covered in forests, while a considerable percentage of it is composed of hilly areas.

Fruit Vendor in Saigon
Fruit Vendor in Saigon

Vietnam’s capital city Ho Chi Minh is the most populous city in the country, and it wonderfully blends the concrete and the natural surroundings. The entire city looks like a giant garden dotted with skyscrapers, ancient buildings, and bustling streets.

How to go to Ho Chi Minh City from Manila

I was one of the fortunate travel bloggers/influencers who was invited to the recent three-day, two-night media familiarization tour of Ho Chi Minh City. Our adventure was courtesy of AirAsia, which has been making flights to Vietnam and other ASEAN countries more accessible and affordable.

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A direct flight from Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) to Tan Son Nhat International Airport (SGN) in Saigon takes just about three hours. AirAsia offers Ho Chi Minh City-bound flights three times weekly (Sundays, Tuesdays, and Fridays).

Flight Schedule for Manila, Philippines (MNL) –  Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam (SGN)

Flight Number From To Departure Arrival Frequency
Z2294 MNL SGN 10:25PM 1:05AM Tuesday, Friday, Sunday
Z2295 SGN MNL 1:35AM 4:10AM Monday, Wednesday, Saturday

Top Sights and Activities in Ho Chi Minh City

We had an amazing time exploring Vietnam’s Saigon. Here are the top things that you should include in your own Ho Chi Minh City itinerary soon:

Reunification Palace
Reunification Palace

Reunification Palace

The Reunification Palace, also called the Independence Palace, is a local landmark that symbolizes the country’s long history. The building was originally a palace constructed in the late 1850s to 1860s when the French invaded the country. Since then, the building has been renovated, reconstructed, and renamed, and has bravely stood through WWII and the Vietnamese War.

War Remnants Museum
War Remnants Museum

War Remnants Museum

Located somewhere in District 3 of the Capital City, this museum is run by the government. Just like what its name implies, the museum preserves the past with its exhibits showcasing remnants of the wars that the country fought. Some notable displays include attack bombers, “tiger cages”, a guillotine, and a collection of pictures by the photojournalist Bunyo Ishikawa.

Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon
Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon

Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon

Frequently shortened to the Notre-Dame Cathedral, this 19th century church had been originally constructed by French colonists. It is known most for its two bell towers and bright brown façade.

Saigon Central Post Office
Saigon Central Post Office

Saigon Central Post Office

Just a short walk away from the cathedral is the city’s post office. Like most of the buildings mentioned above, this one was constructed by the French. It was very nice to see how paper mails, and the building itself, continue to shine in this digital age.

Saigon Opera House
Saigon Opera House

Saigon Opera House

Built in 1898 by a French architect, this the magnificent Opera House, also called the Municipal Theater, boasts of a grandiose interior and exterior. Inside are at least two cascading balconies, and the outside is, I heard, magnificently lit at night.

Mekong River Boat Excursion
Mekong River Boat Excursion

Mekong River Boat Excursion

Mekong River is one of the longest rivers in Asia and in the entire world. You will miss a lot by not hopping on a cruise on it. There are many local tour operators that include cruises as part of the itinerary, and any one you choose would give you a beautiful view of the river silently flowing and its lush vegetation overlooking.

Vietnamese Noodles
Vietnamese Noodles

Bahn Mi
Bahn Mi

Vietnamese Cuisine Feast

Vietnamese dishes are known to have natural and fundamental tastes to it. The local culture, as well as the geographic location of the country, both contribute to the cuisine, which are usually cooked using lemongrass, ginger, mint, and aquaculture produce like fish sauce and shrimp paste. The most famous dishes include the spicy lemongrass and noodle soup Bun bo Hue, and the refreshing bowl of veggies Cha Ca La Vong. Feel free to binge eat as Vietnamese dishes have the reputation of being the healthiest food in the entire world!

Cu Chi Tunnels
Cu Chi Tunnels

Crawling and Getting Lost in the Cu Chi Tunnels

Historically, the Cu Chi Tunnels served majority of the military operations of the country during the Vietnamese War. In fact, the series of tunnels were previously the military base of the Viet Cong, or the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam. Today, the tunnel network serves as a fun, and labyrinthine tourist destination.

Ben Thanh Market
Ben Thanh Market

Shopping at Ben Thanh Market

This massive marketplace in District 1 of the capital is where you will find the best and the cheapest (haggling is a local culture) handicrafts, artworks, souvenirs, and food! The fun thing about Ben Thanh is that more shops open when the sun starts setting. Expect noodles, barbecued seafood, and lots of fried food.

Binh Tay Market
Binh Tay Market By Lerdsuwa – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=337634

More Shopping at Binh Tay Market

Nearby Ben Thanh is Binh Tay Market. This two-storey market is best known for its stalls that sell fresh fruits and vegetables, and both cooked and uncooked food. The handicrafts and textiles here are sold in bulk, and the more quantity you plan to buy, the lower the price gets. Gather your group of friends and find the best prices here in wholesale.

Vietnamese Coffee
Vietnamese Coffee Photo by Marko Mikkonen on Foter.com / CC BY

Vietnamese Coffee

Coffee production is one of the largest industries here in Vietnam. Needless to say, they have the best coffee beans. In the past, the coffee is served and brewed individually in cups and were sweetened with condensed milk rather than fresh milk because the former was more available. This practice continues today as tradition, so their coffee here has a very unique, smooth, and buttery feel. Yum!

Cao Dai Temple
Cao Dai Temple By Dhushara – Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12200243

Cao Dai Temple

The Cao Dai Temple in Ho Chi Minh City is one of the most visited temples in the entire country. It was first built in 1955. Unlike some of the temples I have seen in the other countries I have visited, this temple and its devotees are distinctly colorful.

Jade Emperor Pagoda
Jade Emperor Pagoda

Jade Emperor Pagoda

This Taoist shrine was built in the early 1900s. The pink exterior of the pagoda particularly caught my attention. Around the temple are gardens, the scent of incense, and the tranquility of the statues.

Mariamman Hindu Temple

The Mariamman Temple is known for its 12-meter height and the several colorful statues that compose and surround the main structure. A small percent of the local population follow the Hindu faith.

Thien Hau Temple
Thien Hau Temple By Christopher from Shanghai, China – Chinese Temple in Saigon, CC BY 2.0

Thien Hau Temple

Visiting the Buddhist Thien Hau Temple is something you should not skip when in Ho Chi Minh City. It is located in District 5 in Cho Lon Street, where the majority of the establishments and buildings are Chinese in style, and where red lanterns abound.

Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens
Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens

Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens

Lastly, feel free to explore the Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens. Getting here requires just a small entrance fee, and you will have a complete access to the zoo’s animals, which include crocodiles and elephants, and lots of local flora. Also located in the vicinity is the Museum of Vietnamese History.

This list is not exhaustive. There are many more things to see here in Ho Chi Minh City. If you have the time for it, stay in a coffee shop and sip some bittersweet and smooth Vietnamese coffee. Observe the locals in the streets. Hone your haggling skills.

Ho Chi Minh City is a mix of nature, people, concrete buildings, and old temples, and there is no way anyone could get enough of it. I will surely come back here again, soon!

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