Ho Chi Minh City
Rich in culture and historical landmarks, Ho Chi Minh City, formerly named Saigon, is Vietnam’s most populous metropolis and tourist destination. Under French colonial rule, the city was the capital of the French colony Cochin china. From 1955-1975, it was the capital of the independent republic of South Vietnam and a critical location of the Vietnam War until July 2nd, 1976 when it united with the Gia Dinh Province and became Ho Chi Minh City. Since then, the population has continued to grow and is expected to reach 20 million by 2020. To many in Vietnam, the more urban parts of the city are still known as Saigon. The current official name celebrates the first leader of North Vietnam and the meaning of his name as “bringer of light.”
Located in the Southeastern portion of Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City has a tropical climate with a rainy season that extends from May to October. The city’s average temperature throughout the year is 28 °C (82°F), making it a tourist destination all year round. The city’s residents are mostly Vietnamese, though the Chinese (Hoa) residents make up nearly 6% of the population. Additionally, the most prominent religions in the region are Taoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism, which often share the same places of worship. The city is a hub for the mining industry, seafood processing, agriculture, finance, and tourism.
But what draws visitors to this historical city? With the revitalization of the urban areas, including the construction work on the Waterfront, Sky Garden, Riverside and Phu Gia 99, more people are flocking to the city for opportunity. For both residents and visitors, the city also offers many interesting sights and tours.
Among these are the Mekong Delta tours, which offer breathtaking views of the Mekong River; the Cu Chi tunnel tours, which provide an exploration of the intricate passageways constructed by the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War; the Saigon food tours, which offer opportunities to sample some of Vietnam’s most delicious foods; the Saigon River tours, which give you a glimpse of the modern city and the rural neighborhoods that lay just outside; and tours of Saigon that take you “off the beaten path,” which reveal lesser known facts about the city’s history and culture. These tours are a must for anyone seeking an exciting, comprehensive tourism experience in Ho Chi Minh City. With a little bit of planning, you can easily incorporate these fun activities into your trip and have an unforgettable experience in Vietnam!
Mekong Delta Tours
The Mekong Delta is located in the south-western region of Vietnam, and is comprised of a series of distributaries attached to the Mekong River that empty into the East Sea. The area is home to over 1,000 species of animal, and tropical plants line the banks. It lies directly west of Ho Chi Minh City making it a perfect destination for visitors seeking a natural escape from the urban landscape.
What truly entices explorers to this river and its distributaries is the life that has thrived along its waters and banks. The main, and sometimes only, mode of transportation around the Delta is by boat as many of the communities are only accessible by canals. The people who live in these communities have made use of the geography by creating booming agriculture and aquaculture industries. When you travel through the region’s swamps, rivers, and islands, you’ll be greeted by floating food markets, Khmer pagodas, and rice paddies. Depending on how long you have to explore the Delta, you can select a tour that suits your desired level of sightseeing.
Group day trips are available. These tours often include visiting Cai Be, the floating market, and other known destinations such as My Tho, Ben Tre, and Vinh Long. While floating along the network of distributaries and rivers, you can visit with the locals and try local foods like coconut candy, rice cake, and honey tea. It’s a great tourist destination for anyone seeking a mix of tropical landscape and cultural experience.
Although the day trips provide tourists with a lovely sampling of the food and culture in the Mekong Delta, overnight trips are highly recommended for a more comprehensive experience of the region. In addition to seeing My Tho, Ben Tre, and Vinh Long, on the overnight trips tourists will Chau Doc, Can Tho, Phu Quoc, and Phnom Penh. This tour will involve further discovery of local culture. Additionally, a trip to Unicorn Island will allow visitors to rest under shady fruit trees and explore the island on bike or boat. Local folk musicians play music along the tourist routes and are a pleasant addition to the tour experience. At night you will either stay in a centrally-located hotel or comfortable, countryside-homestay. For a tropical, memorable experience while visiting Ho Chi Minh City, be sure to go on a boat tour of the Mekong Delta. You will cherish this cultural experience.
Cu Chi Tunnel Tours
As one of the more historical sites in Ho Chi Minh City, the Cu Chi Tunnels provide visitors with a glimpse of the past. Built during the Vietnam War by the Viet Cong to infiltrate the city, the intricate 75 mile long system of tunnels is still around today for anyone who wants to revisit this dark period of Saigon history. Today, the government of Vietnam has transformed the site into a Vietnam War memorial with two viewing areas: Ben Dinh and Ben Duoc. The tunnels were used by the Viet Cong for hiding spots and for military campaigns. In fact, the tunnels were the central meeting point for the Tet Offensive in 1968.
The tours of the tunnels explore their history and the harsh conditions in which the soldiers lived while fighting the South Vietnamese government and United States military. See the small, dark tunnels in which the Viet Cong worked and dealt with malaria, scarce food, and a lack of fresh air and light. Although the tunnels see incredibly claustrophobic today, they have been modified to accommodate tourists. Visitors can visit restored conference rooms and living quarters, watch a documentary, enjoy a meal once eaten by the Viet Cong, and see various booby traps in the low-lighting of the passageways. Above the intricate tunnels, you can find a number of vendors and activities that will keep you busy all afternoon.
Join a tour of the Cu Chi Tunnels and travel back in time to explore the life of the Viet Cong guerilla soldiers.
Saigon Food Tours
Vietnam offers some of the tastiest foods in the world. The cuisine alone attracts many tourists to various parts of the country—especially the city of Saigon. If you’re looking to have a delicious time while touring the city, hop on a motorbike and follow an experienced guide to the best food stalls and restaurants. Motorbike food tours offer visitors a convenient way to navigate the busy streets of Ho Chi Minh City and provide a guide who is familiar with the culture and cuisine.
Throughout most tours, you will be able to sample many Vietnamese noodles including pho, gumbo noodles, and slow-cooked beef noodles. Hot pot, a traditional, well-known stew made of goat, goby fish, gumbo, crab, and beef are available for your tasting. Savor the rich, smoky flavors of Vietnamese barbecued pork breast, goby fish, prawn, squid, octopus, clam, or spare rib. Have you ever had snail? Now’s your chance! Try tasty seasoned snails on your trip through the city. There are plenty of places to stop for an herbal tea, sugar cane juice, or coconut juice along your route in the tropical heat.
There are various food tours that happen throughout Saigon. Don’t miss the chance to step out of your comfort zone and satisfy your taste buds in this delicious city!
Saigon River Tours
The Saigon River is a 140 mile long waterway that extends from southeastern Cambodia to southern Vietnam. The river is vital to Ho Chi Minh City and the rural communities that surround the metropolitan area. In fact, most of the tours of the river are near Ho Chi Minh City and travel south through more rural areas.
It’s recommended that visitors tour the Saigon River in a Vietnamese junk boat where they’ll sometimes receive lunch and dinner during their experience. During the morning tours, a light breakfast is served to riders. The river itself is very scenic, but you can also use it as a method of transportation to the Cu Chi Tunnels.
For some of the Saigon sunset cruises, tourists embark on a two-hour boat tour of Ho Chi Minh City where you float past Thanh Da Island and see the city’s modern development and wealthy neighborhoods juxtaposed with more rural areas. Many of these tours will provide you with snacks and alcohol while you take in the beautiful sunset and breathtaking skyline. Sites included in some of these tours are Dragon Wharf, the Majestic Hotel, the Customs House, and Rainbow Bridge.
Go on a Saigon River tour and learn about the past, present, and future of Ho Chi Minh City from an experienced, knowledgeable tour guide. View the contrast between the rural areas filled with rice paddies and the upcoming city developments and experience a lovely meal or sunset.
Saigon Off the Beaten Path Tours
In order to have a rich, unique experience in Ho Chi Minh City, you must venture off the beaten path and explore sites that the rest of the world knows little about. There are plenty of tours that can take you on such adventures, and many of the locals can give you advice about their favorite places.
One such place recommended by locals is Thanh Da, a beautifully forested island that provides an escape from the hustle and bustle of the urban area. Thanh Da is full of beautiful rice paddies and countryside huts. Mangrove swamps attract people who wish to see a vision of peaceful nature. Farm animals roam the island while residents take to a relaxed way of life with plenty of fishing and tea drinking. This blissful landscape is attractive to any visitors seeking some peace in nature.
Heritage House is another recommended tourist destination off the beaten path. Surrounded by modern architecture, Heritage House maintains its historical style as the world changes around it. This preserved house still has its antique furniture and a Buddhist Temple that has been around for generations of followers. Visitors can often be found burning incense and asking for good fortune. Tourists should be especially mindful of cultural practices in this setting.
Phu An Bamboo Village is also recommended as a lovely destination for visitors. Like its name suggests, Phu An Bamboo Village is a man-made reserve of over 150 species of bamboo. Relax in nature and explore the tall stalks with the greenery overhead. Wild flowers dot the forest’s landscape. On the Discovery Path, you can explore the local community that relies heavily on the bamboo for their livelihood. They create baskets, furniture, and other materials to sustain themselves and make use of the surrounding bamboo resources. In short, a trip to the Phu An Bamboo Village will provide you with tranquil scenery and an opportunity to learn about a local culture.
A trip to Ho Chi Minh City has the potential to be an incredibly exciting and meaningful adventure for everyone! Go on the Mekong Delta tours, explore the intricate Cu Chi Tunnels, eat delicious Vietnamese cuisine, tour the Saigon River, and visit some lesser known sites to have a more comprehensive experience in Vietnam. Each of these activities provide avid tourists with the opportunity to have some fun and learn about a culture different from their own. What are you waiting for? Plan and book your trip to one of the most interesting, historical metropolitan areas in the world, Ho Chi Minh city!