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Top Attractions Saigon Vietnam

There are plenty Ho Chi Minh City attractions to keep you busy for at least a couple of days. Most are centrally located so you can travel between them on foot although the cyclo drivers will be keenly waiting at every corner to offer their services.
 
If you’re in the Pham Ngu Lao area where most of the backpackers hostels are found you’re near the Ben Thanh market but probably a 20-30 minute walk to the Hotel de Ville which is our recommended starting point for a sightseeing tour.
 
Cheap Transport in Ho Chi Minh City is readily available by cyclo, on the back of a motorbike (not recommended for safety reasons) or by metred taxi.
 
Below are the main Ho Chi Minh City sights with a brief explanation and opening times.
 

Hotel de Ville

This French colonial building is now home to the local Ho Chi Minh People’s Committee. It is closed to the public but is a good place from where to begin your HCMC sightseeing tour.
 

Museum of Ho Chi Minh City - Bao Tang Thanh Pho Ho Chi Minh

(Opening Hours: Daily 8am-4pm)
Just a few minutes walk from the starting point at the Hotel de Ville is this city museum which has displays depicting the communist power struggle in Vietnam throughout history.
 

War Remnants Museum

28 Vo Van Tan St
(Opening Hours: Daily 7: 30-11: 45 & 1: 30-5: 15)
This museum was formerly known as the Museum of Chinese and American War Crimes. It tells the story of the Vietnam/American war through hundreds photographs, some of them quite horrific. Not recommended for children.
 

Reunification Palace

Good Tour Packages

106 Ð Nguyen Du District 1
(Opening Hours: 7: 30am-11: 00am & 1: 00pm-4: 00pm)
Probably the most important building in HCMC in terms of recent history the Reunification Palace was the HQ of the South Vietnamese during the War. The two tanks to your right as you look directly at the Palace were the very ones that knocked down the gates you look through which marked the Fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975 and the official handover of power. You can go inside and have an interesting tour of the premises with a guide who will take you into the Presidential rooms and will show you the rooms in the basement from where the War was run by the Americans and South Vietnamese.
 

Saigon Post Office & Notre Dame Cathedral

D.Han Thuyen
The Post Office is a French colonial building dating back to the 1890s with Uncle Ho looking down on you as you buy your stamps. Just opposite the entrance is the Notre Dame Cathedral with its 40m high towers, two sharp reminders of the French influence on this city. There is a mass at 9.30am on Sundays which is the best one for tourists to attend.
 

History Museum & Zoo

2 Nguyen Binh Khiem
(Opening Hours: Mon.-Sat. 8-11: 30 and 1: 30-4: 30)
The city’s most educational museum devoid of propaganda which shows 4000 years of Vietnamese history in which the War plays just a small part. It is housed in a magnificent Sino-French style building and lies just inside the gate to the city zoo. and botanical gardens.
 

Jade Emperor Pagoda

73 Mai Thi Luu St
(Opening Hours: Daily 7-6)
This is the finest pagoda in HCMC. Getting there is a bit of a hike along busy roads so you might want to take transport there. On the other hand if you’re planning on visiting Cholon you could give this one a miss and go to some of the extraordinary living pagodas in the Chinese quarter.
 

Chinese District of Cholon - District 5

Cholon is HCMC’s Chinatown which lies some 5km west of the central tourist area so you’ll need some transport to get there.

The roads are packed with motorbikes and the pavements with street sellers offering everything imaginable. You need to allow a few hours to wander these streets and end at Binh Tay Market before taking transport back to the central area.
 

Ben Thanh Market

(Opening Hours: Daily 7am-7pm)
If you only go to one market in HCMC make sure it’s this one which is the most centrally located. This huge indoor market sells everything you can imagine. Of most interest to many visitors is the selection of quality branded goods and the food area which is well worth a few photos even if you’re not buying anything. Who knows what some of those fruits are! If you’re there at lunchtime go for noodles at Pho 2000 which is famous as the place where Bill Clinton ate noodles on his visit to HCMC in 2000 when he was the first US President to visit Vietnam.
 

Cu Chi Tunnels

The Cu Chi Tunnels are the most popular day or half day excursion from Ho Chi Minh City. Full day tours begin in the early morning and head first of all to the Cao Dai Temple at Tay Ninh on the Cambodian Border. After lunch the tour proceeds to the tunnels returning to Ho Chi Minh City by late afternoon or early evening depending on the traffic entering the city.

The Cu Chi Tunnels are a network of around 250km tunnels built by the Viet Cong over a twenty year period which allowed them to move unchallenged underneath enemy held territory including the US military base at Dong Du. At one time they allowed access to the outskirts of Saigon from as far away as the Cambodian border.

Originally the tunnels had been built in the 1940s in the fight against the French as they allowed underground communication between villages. In the 1960s the VC repaired and expanded them in their fight against the Americans and the South Vietnamese using them not only for communication but also for surprise attacks on the enemy. US ground operations in search of the tunnels lead to the loss of many American lives so a huge bombing campaign against Cu Chi including chemical destruction of the vegetation took place but the VC weren’t found (to this day crop yields are poor as chemicals remain in the soil and water).

American “tunnel rats” were the next solution the Americans came up with as they sent men into the tunnels to seek out the enemy causing terrible casualties. Eventually Cu Chi became a ‘free strike zone’ meaning that little (if any) permission was required to carry out any form of attack on the area. Eventually in the late 1960s American B-52s destroyed most of the tunnels and the surrounding area but the tunnels had already served their purpose.
 

Cu Chi Tunnels Visit

The visit begins in a classroom where a guide shows wall charts of the tunnels and explains how they were constructed. A black and white propaganda video shows a young girl having the time of her life as she almost single handedly defeated the Americans.

You then walk into the humid jungle to see a selection of fatal traps (above right) that were used to devastating effect during the conflict and a M-41 tank next to a bomb crater. The entrance to one of the tunnels is nothing more than a tiny covered square in the ground which somehow the guide was able to squeeze into (see pictures above).

The tunnel that we tourists are invited to enter has been especially adapted for visitors… a “5-Star tunnel” according to the guide. It’s 100m long, 1.2m high, pitch black and bends slightly. There are exit points after 30m and 60m.

See also

Halong Travel Information
Hoi An Travel Guide
Saigon Travel Guide
Hanoi Travel Guide
Top Attractions Hanoi Vietnam

Vietnam Cambodia Tours

Mekong Tours Vietnam Cambodia

Vietnam Tours

Cambodia Tours


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