The Adventures of Cupcake and the Queen: 11 Things to Do in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
The Cupcake and I just got back from another adventure (which is also the reason why I haven’t updated the blog), and while I’m still on a high from our trip to Vietnam and Cambodia, I think I ought to write our experiences down to preserve the exceptional memories. Besides, before leaving for our trip, I promised myself I’d write about our adventures as soon as I got back.
If you’ve been following our travels, we’ve already crossed off Bohol and Kuala Lumpur from our bucket list. (To check out more of our travels, visit Instagram and use the hashtag #TeamCatch13). And because I love writing about the many different things you can see, hear, smell, taste, and feel from these extraordinary places we’ve explored, here are 11 things to do in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam.
1. Buy a non la (or leaf hat, the infamous Vietnamese hat that mimics a salakot).
For only 60,000 dong (approximately $3.50 or Php 160) you can get a non la just about anywhere. I bought one to further immerse myself in their culture. It makes a good prop for pictures, too!
2. Go inside the Cu Chi Tunnels.
The Cu Chi Tunnels are proof of how sly and sneaky the Vietnamese were during the Vietnam War against the United States. You’ll see the numerous booby traps they crafted, their daily lives during the war, and all the little but effective things they did to outsmart the Americans.
Our group experienced going through the Cu Chi Tunnels, which went as deep as three stories. Every 30 meters, there was an exit—and though I tried my best to finish it until the end, my lungs unfortunately gave up on me. People who are claustrophobic or asthmatic are advised to take precaution should they choose to go inside. To give you an idea of how cramped the space is, you have to bend on all fours if you’re a good 5’10. Since I’m only 5’3, I managed to stay upright but my back was bent to a 90 degree angle the whole time.
On our way to the Cu Chi Tunnels, we stopped by for a few minutes at the Handicapped Handicrafts. Most of the handicapped here are a result of the Agent Orange chemical used by the United States against Vietnam, or were victims of land mines.
3. Ride a boat along Mekong River, and enjoy the sights.
Our Mekong Delta tour was incredibly exciting (I’ll admit—I enjoyed it more than the Cu Chi Tunnels). From the city, it takes about two hours to get to Mekong Delta—where you’ll be riding a motorboat to stop over various places—such as a plantation, a rice paper and coconut candy workshop, a bee farm, and souvenir gift shops. The highlight was riding a smaller boat along the narrow trails of Mekong River. You’ll instantly feel like you’re on a set of National Geographic or Discovery Channel!
There was a part of the tour where we got down the big boat and rode a horse carriage.
4. Drink snake wine.
Though I didn’t try this, the Cupcake explained that the snake wine is so strong, it could give you palpitations if you’re not used to it!
5. Eat pho at Pho 2000.
It’s Vietnam after all, and your trip wouldn’t be complete without tasting one of their most popular dishes. Pho 2000, right beside Ben Thanh Market (although I’m not sure if they have other branches), is a recognized pho restaurant because former U.S. president, Bill Clinton, actually dined here.
6. Shop at Ben Thanh Market.
After filling yourself with yummy pho, you now have enough energy to snake through Ben Thanh Market, the perfect place to shop for yourself and buy pasalubong for family and friends. If you’re from the Philippines or have visited the Philippines, Ben Thanh Market is the equivalent of Divisoria.
7. Shop at Saigon Square.
Shopping doesn’t end at Ben Thanh Market, because just a few blocks away is Saigon Square, this time the equivalent of Greenhills Tiangge. Here we were able to buy North Face bags and jackets for a really good price.
8. Drink all the iced coffee that you can.
Vietnamese coffee is awfully addicting, and they serve this everywhere—which is great for coffee addicts like me and the Cupcake.
9. Exercise in their public parks.
Gained a few pounds from all the coffee and pho? Just walk to their parks—they have exercise contraptions available for the general public. In District 1 where we stayed, the 23/9 park was large enough to accommodate residents playing badminton, doing yoga, and kids running around.
10. Visit the museums.
In District 1, the same district where you will find Ben Thanh Market and Saigon Square, are a number of museums you can visit like the Historical Museum, War Remnants Museum, Ho Chi Minh Fine Arts Museum, The Independence Palace, and the Saigon Opera House. Since we were pressed for time, we weren’t able to check these out anymore.
11. Rent a motorcycle for a day.
Vietnam has about 6 million motorcycles. Every street you cross, everywhere you look, there are hundreds of motorcyclists going about with their daily lives. This makes it really difficult to cross streets that only have pedestrian signs and lanes but have no stoplights. A word of caution when crossing the street, as told by our tour guide: don’t hesitate. Just keep walking. The motorcyclists will be the ones to avoid you or adjust for you.
Do you guys remember that scene in Mulan where her grandma bought the lucky cricket, and decided to cover her eyes and cross the street? I had to channel her fearlessness each time we crossed main roads and streets!
If you don’t feel like walking, you can just rent a motorcycle for the entire day—this service is available everywhere.
Most of what I wrote in this article only involve District 1, but this is because District 1 has everything. The hotels are affordable and near tourist spots. There are a lot of local restaurants. Everything is walk-able. If you decide to take a taxi within the area, it will probably cost you 21,000 dong ($1 or Php 45) at most. There are so many clubs, too. If you’re looking for a fun night of dancing and drinking (something we didn’t do anymore), just head on over to De Tham Street!
We stayed in Ho Chi Minh for four nights and three days, before riding a bus to Siem Reap, Cambodia. You can check out my articles on 12 things to do in Siem Reap and how to plan a Vietnam-Cambodia trip with Php 20,000.
Got any questions? I’d love to answer them! Just leave your questions in the comment box below.
11 Things to Do in Ho Chi Minh
PHOTO SOURCES: Ben Thanh Market Photos Grabbed from Wikipedia. Saigon Square Photo Grabbed from Ingredients of Happiness. Vietnamese Iced Coffee Photo Grabbed from Bon Appetit. Motorcycle Photo Grabbed from The City Fix. All Other Photos by Cayo Fragada.