One of the most iconic attractions of the city, Cu Chi Tunnels were a part of the extensive underground network in Vietnam that was used by the Vietnamese Congress as a hideaway during the war. Visitors can now go through some of the safer parts of the tunnel, which have been widened and lighted up for ease.
Binh Tay Market in Cholon offers an eclectic mix of indigenous handicrafts and tid-bits as well as a taste of the local cuisine. Objects such as lacquerware and textiles are interspersed throughout the market that mainly serves locals with fresh produce and snacks. Pho noodles, com tam (broken rice) and banh bao buns filled with meat are some of the staples here.
For food-lovers visiting Ho Chi Minh, Ben Thanh Street Food Market is a must-visit. The stylish food hall features 20-25 vendors selling Vietnamese street food, while foodies savour the snacks at the benches while listening to the latest hits. Pop art murals decorate the walls, and and the food hall is both a visual as well as a gastronomical delight.
Disturbing reminders of Vietnam's gory past await you at the War Remnants museum in District 3 of Ho Chi Minh City. The museum displays exhibits from the Vietnam war, including the french guillotine, the 'tiger cages' where prisoners were kept and photographs of 'Agent Orange', a chemical spray that led to widespread genetic defects. There are also fighter planes and tanks on display.
Bitexco Financial Tower is the famous skyscraper of Ho Chi Minh City and the fourth tallest building in the country. The 262 metre structure is inspired by the shape of a lotus, and boasts of top-notch facilities such as entertainment, office, retail and fine dining. Saigon skydeck is an observation deck located on the 49th floor and offers a stunning 360-degree view of the city.
The most famous religious landmark in the city, the Notre Dame Cathedral was constructed by French colonists between 1863 and 1880. The cathedral features Romanesque architectural features, with a distinct red-brick aspect, stained glass windows and twin bell towers measuring 58 metres. A statue of Virgin Mary stands tall in front of the church.
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Jade Emperor Pagoda is a spectacular Taoist shrine in Ho Chi Minh City. Built in 1909 by a migrant Cantonese community, the primary deity here is the 'King of Heaven' Chua Ngoc Hoang who regulates the entry of souls in the afterlife. The grotesque fate that awaits sinners is intricately carved on the temple's walls, which is often remains shrouded behind incense smoke.
Possibly the grandest post office in the subcontinent, the Saigon Central Post Office is a spectacular remnant of history that attracts thousands of tourists every year. Built in late 19th century during French colonialism, the building has distinct Renaissance and Gothic architecture with its looping arches and elaborate marble flooring. Sending a postcard from the still-functional post office is an absolute must. This beautifully constructed building stands tall as a reminder of Vietnam's colonial past and rich cultural history. People throng it in large numbers, not just to send letters and post, but also to marvel at its architectural grandeur and design.
The perfect getaway from traffic noise, Tao Dan Park features 10 hectares of beautiful Sao Den trees and walkaways to revitalize you. The park is filled with locals exercising, and also houses a sporting club that draws children to it. A well-known bird cafe inside Tao Dan attracts numerous bird owners to relax with their pets.
Saigon Opera House is a gorgeous venue to enjoy some of the best creative performances in the country. Also known as Municipal theatre, the building is a great example of French Colonial architecture and looks especially alluring in the evenings when bathed in soft lights. Ballet, classical music, concerts and traditional plays are all performed here.
The Nguyen Hue Walkway is a broad promenade in District 1 makes walking a pleasurable activity in Ho Chi Minh City. Flanked by gorgeous colonial buildings such as the Rex Hotel, People's Committee Building and a luxury shopping mall. A tall statue of Uncle Ho Chi Minh stands in the centre, and in the evenings a fountain show takes place drawing kids and adults to splash and have some fun. Across the walkway is the Saigon river, which gives a cool breeze to pedestrians leisurely roaming around the district. This walkway is a must-do activity in the city, leaving you with a priceless memory.
Pham Ngu Lao street, commonly known as the backpacker's district of Vietnam, is one place you cannot skip out on. It is, as you would have guessed by now, where most backpackers stay during their visit, loaded with a galore of cheap and free ways to enjoy Ho Chi Minh City. Hotels, motels, guesthouses and mini-hotels line the streets, with a number of restaurants, coffee shops, and souvenir shops interspersed in between. You'll also find internet cafes, pharmacies and a number of tourism companies here to help you out with unforeseen problems. The district's laidback, casual vibe attracts travellers from across the city to spend an evening exploring here.
A great way to know about a city is by interacting with the locals. There is a local network called Saigon Free Walking Tour where you can get firsthand experience of the city from the local tour guides. These tour guides are usually volunteers who are tour leaders or students. They will not only tell you about the culture of the city but also take you to cheap restaurants where you can have authentic Vietnamese dishes. It is advisable to get a young tour guide to avoid communication barriers as the youth of the country are better versed in English than their older counterparts.
Also known as Mong's bridge or Rainbow bridge, this steel bridge connects District 1 to District 4 over the Ben Nghe River. It was built in the 1890s by French construction company Levallois Perret, which was headed by Gustave Eiffel and gave the bridge its popular name. Stop and look down on the mesmerising view as you walk across the river, a priceless experience in Ho Chi Minh City. Since it's a footbridge, you can easily take some photographs to take back the memory with you or simply take in your surroundings as you make your way to the other side.
Apart from the Notre-Dame Cathedral, there is another church in Hai Ba Trung that stands out for its bright pink facade. The Tan Dinh church, also called the pink church, was built in 1876 and attracts hordes of tourists and locals for both its religious importance and eye-catching exterior, a beauty you can appreciate for free in Ho Chi Minh City. Make sure to get a few photographs and capture the scenic beauty and striking pink of the Church, while keeping in mind religious sentiments.
San Art is a non-profit contemporary arts organization in Ho Chi Minh city. Comprising of a gallery and an open-source reading room, it aims to provide a platform to exhibit art and spread awareness about it. Workshops, Lectures and Residency Programs are also held for budding artists, and there is a range of textual material on contemporary art available for reading. A must-visit for art lovers.
The Ho Chi Minh Museum is documents Ho Chi Minh's life through mementos, photographs, and official letters, providing a glimpse into the fascinating life of the founder of modern Vietnam.
The Factory is a contemporary art space located in District 2 of Ho Chi Minh. The arts center exhibits upcoming local artists while providing them with visibility and support. A trendy cafe and bar accompany the gallery, and the centre is one of the best places to get a taste of the Vietnamese art scene.
The Botanical Gardens in Ho Chi Minh is one of the finest gardens in Asia, and is ideal for a leisurely stroll under the Tung and So Khi Trees. In addition to the plethora of plants and ferns,the picturesque area features over 20 types of orchids and 34 species of bonsai.
Located right in the middle of District 1, Ho Chi Minh square is a scenic attraction ideal for unwinding after a long day. A statue of the namesake president sits at the centre, surrounded by greenery and a couple of pretty benches. In the evenings, the place comes alive with soft lights and musicians.
The Golden Dragon Water Puppet theatre is one of the best places to witness the magic of Vietnamese water puppetry.The shows offer a fascinating insight into Vietnamese culture and tradition. Puppets perform local folktales on a 'stage' of water, with live musicians play traditional instruments on the side. Dragons, fairies and all kinds of mystical characters grace the stage.
Dam Sen Water Park in District 11 offers a refreshing and fun break from scorching summers of Vietnam. The waterpark features over 30 rides and equipments that cater to everyone, from the romantic couple to the thrill seekers to children; Kamikaze, Tornado, Twister, Love storm, giant slide, and Boomerang to name a few. International safety standards and professional lifeguards ensure that your safety isn't compromised.
Picked out a spot yet? Don't wait. Visit one, visit two, visit them all! Being spoilt for choice with so many things to do in Ho Chi Minh City, how could any day possibly go wrong?
This post was published by Joysurjya Hagjer
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