Saigon: Local Sights and Weekend Getaways
The beating heart of modern Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City is a riot of speeding mopeds, dirt cheap street food, bustling markets and fancy rooftop bars.
Perhaps more evocative to Westerners as Saigon, HCMC has a bit of everything. Most tourists duck in and duck out, but with more time there is a lot to discover.
Saigon has a number of great markets. In District 1 there’s the tourist dominated market at Ben Thanh, full of t-shirts, shoes, and mementos. Also in District 1, you can find the antique market in Binh Thanh, also known as Cho Do Co Cuoi Tuan, where you can pick up vintage watches, jewelry, or even war relics. If you fancy a more local experience you can check out An Đông market in District 5, for everything from fabrics to dried foods.
There’s a great variety of museums and galleries in Saigon. If you’re feeling brave you can head to the War Remnants Museum and confront the horrors of the Vietnam war, or for a more relaxed afternoon you can visit the Independence Palace and wander the rooms that have remained untouched since the end of the conflict.
Saigon’s skyline has shot up over the last decade, making finding a good spot to sip a beer and watch the sun go down easier than ever. Perhaps the most famous spot in the city is the Sky Deck at the Bitexco Tower, but if you want to branch out you can try The View on Bui Vien street or head over to the Chill Sky Bar in the AB Tower on Lê Lai.
Get out of the city on one of the many cheap buses and visit Can Tho in the Mekong Delta. Visitors can experience a bit of life on the waterways, be it cruising through protected wetlands or visiting the floating markets. Ticket prices hover around 150,000vnd and can be purchased from a variety of agents along Phạm Ngũ Lão street in District 1 or at the Western bus station.
One of the nearest beach getaways from Saigon, Vũng Tàu is a great spot to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. There’s a variety of water-sports and a long stretch of sandy coastline to explore. Most visitors arrive using the hydrofoil ferry service, tickets cost approximately 250,000vnd and can be bought from Bến Nhà Rồng Port.
Just 50km from the city center, Cần Giờ is a small island set inside a UNESCO reserve, famed for its surrounding mangrove forest. Visitors head down from the city for a chance to see an array of tropical wildlife, with gibbons, crocodiles, and monkeys all fairly common. It’s an easy drive to Cần Giờ if you have your own motorbike, alternatively, you can catch local bus number 20 down to Bình Khánh ferry, before switching to bus 90 to complete your journey to the island.