From the city's best-kept secret oasis to hidden gems, restaurants, museums, temples, and cocktails with a view. Here is my list of the best things to do in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) is the biggest city in Vietnam, also known as Saigon before the Vietnam War. It is a wonderfully chaotic and vibrant city with action-packed food markets, motorbike-filled boulevards, incense-infused temples, and sleek skyscrapers.
I was invited to the city for the International Travel Expo Ho Chi Minh City (ITEHCMC). It is the largest travel event in Vietnam with over 300 exhibiting companies and over 30 000 visitors. I had so much fun attending the event as a travel blogger. I gained a lot of new business contacts, got to know bloggers from all around the world and got inspired. Between networking and discovering new exciting destinations in Asia, I'm so glad I got the opportunity to explore some of the best things to do in both Ho Chi Minh City and the Phu Yen region.
Traveling to Ho Chi Minh City
After a 14-hour flight from Stockholm to Doha and Ho Chi Minh City, I got my first real taste of Asia (the closest I've been to Asia before is Turkey). Despite the long flight, I arrived feeling so awake and filled with energy. I guess flying in Qatar Airways business class had a lot to do with it (I've never slept or felt so good on a plane before). Also, I got a huge energy kick when meeting up with the talented Finnish blogger Veera Bianca at our transfer in Doha.
Last but not least, stepping out of the airport into the ocean of people and traffic cured any jet lag I might have had … (you will soon see why).
Read more: Carry-on Essentials for Long-Haul Flights
BEST THINGS TO DO IN HO CHI MINH CITY, VIETNAM
1. Cross the road (if you dare)
I've never seen so much traffic in my life. Nothing can prepare you for the first time you lay your eyes on the road in Ho Chi Minh City. It seems like pure chaos. Millions of motorbikes (literally) and mopeds are swerving around cars, obstacles, and people. You realize fast that just crossing the street can become a rather daring adventure or extreme sport in this city.
I absolutely loved it. What a contrast to the now very peaceful streets of Sweden (It seems silly to complain about the traffic at home).
I learned from the locals that the best way for crossing the road is just to take a deep breath, (say your prayers) and cross at a steady pace without even bothering looking left or right. Don't stop walking. Don't panic and don't look the drivers in the eyes. They will already have planned to swerve around you.
2. Go on a Canal Tour
Though it's true the Saigon River has serious pollution issues; it's so much fun to experience the city on a canal tour. Not even the rain could stop us from having a great time. We borrowed the traditional Asian rise hats (nón lá) to get in the mood, cruised the river in a traditional turtle boat while we sipped fresh coconut drinks and were entertained by magic tricks and songs. Before the tour ended, we also got to make a wish a send a little lantern along the river.
3. Explore Ho Chi Minh's Temples
Take a break from the busy streets and find your inner peace in a temple. There are so many beautiful temples in Ho Chi Minh City. We visited the Buddhist temple Ba Thien Hau Pagoda, Ong Bon Pagoda and accidentally stumbled upon Đền Thờ Vua Hùng/Hung Kings' Temple (while we visited the Vietnam History Museum). They are all well worth a stop.
4. Dine with panorama views at Eon 51
You all know how much I love to dine at places with a view. The best one in Ho Chi Minh is probably Eon51. It is the highest restaurant, bar, and café in the city with stunning panoramic views. Take the elevator up to the 51st floor at Bitexco Financial Tower, and you'll see what I mean.
Also, the food is terrific. We had an excellent three-course lunch at Eon51, but I would love to go back for sunset drinks or dinner.
5. Visit the Minh Phuong Lacquare-ware Gallery
If you are looking for some handmade local gifts to bring home, don't forget to visit Minh Phuong Lacquare-ware Gallery. Here you can find a lot of beautiful local pieces of art – from paintings, cups, and plates to home decor products and accessories. What's fascinating is that the artists are working just outside the gallery/shop, and you can see how the products are made.
I spotted an older gentleman working on a painting with duck eggshells just outside the entrance. I had to stop just to watch. Keep in mind that the prices are higher than in local markets. But the prices are very reasonable – as it's high quality and handmade artwork.
6. Visit Binh Quoi Village
One of my favorite places in Ho Chi Minh City (so far) is Binh Quoi Tourist Village. It is like an Instagrammer's paradise with so many stunning photo locations. I mean, just look at the picture above. Can you believe that it's taken in a forever busy city populated by more than 8 million people?
Binh Quoi is like a hidden gem and oasis, located about eight kilometers northeast of the city center (and it's free to visit). It's such a laidback and cute place with lotus ponds, thatched cottages, bamboo waterwheels, monkey bridge and lots of tropical plants. You can go here just to enjoy the village feels or go paddling in the lake, go fishing or enjoy the all you can eat buffet. We arrived just before sunset to eat dinner here. But I wished I would have had at least 1-2 hours more in the daylight just to take photos.
I haven't been to Mekong Delta, but I've heard that Binh Quoi Village will remind you of the traditional bamboo villages on the Mekong Delta – except that this is in the heart of HCMC.