Things to do in Ho Chi Minh City and Beyond
This travel hub is worth a few days of your time (if not more) because there are tons of fun things to do in Ho Chi Minh City for every type of traveler. Here are some of our favorites:
Explore Saigon’s Past, Present, and Future
Vietnam was once a French colony, part of Indochina together with Cambodia and Laos. Part of Saigon’s charm is walking along beautiful tree-lined boulevards, a remnant of French urban planning, and exploring hundred-year-old buildings like the Central Post Office (which is still operational and actually has a nice gift shop inside) and the Opera House (home to regular concerts and performances).
Chinatown is also a fun destination, originally settled by Chinese immigrants. Lots of shops still bear signs in Chinese, including traditional medicine shops and great dim sum restaurants.
War Remnants Museum
For a look into Saigon’s more recent history, the War Remnants Museum (previously known as the Museum of American War Crimes when it first opened in 1975) provides a sobering look at the cruel effects of war on the civilian population.
There are thought-provoking photographs on display as well as first-hand stories of war victims describing US military action. Military buffs will likely enjoy the tanks, bombs, and infantry weapons on exhibit as well as displays related to prisoners of war, including a French guillotine and the so-called “tiger cages” of the era.
However, if you’re particularly sensitive, you might want to skip the display showing how children were later affected by US bombing and Agent Orange.
Cu Chi Tunnels
For something a bit more active, travel 1.5 hours northwest of Ho Chi Minh City to the Cu Chi Tunnels. A network of underground tunnels used by the Viet Cong, the Cu Chi Tunnels linked North Vietnamese support bases between the outskirts of Ho Chi Minh City all the way to the border with Cambodia.
Today, a visit to the Cu Chi Tunnels involves crawling through short sections to view command centers, schools, and even hospitals and kitchens in the sprawling network. There’s also a firing range nearby where a few dollars will buy you a couple rounds of ammunition to fire from an AK-47.
However, for the vast majority of Vietnamese, war is but a distant memory. As one of the fastest-growing economies in Southeast Asia, the Vietnamese prefer to look ahead. One of the best ways to see how Vietnam’s largest city is evolving is by heading up to Bitexco Tower, the city’s second highest building.
There’s a café on the 50th floor where you can take in sweeping views of new and old Saigon with its skyscrapers and heritage buildings while sipping on a posh Italian coffee.
Head to the Mekong Delta
Starting just 1.5 hours south of Ho Chi Minh City is the Mekong Delta, a huge swath of farmland fed by the Mekong River and its nine tributaries. Its proximity makes it a great day trip, either by speedboat from Ho Chi Minh City, or by driving the two hours or so to Cai Be, My Tho or Ben Tre and then exploring the waterways of the Delta by boat.
While the Mekong Delta is developing, there are still lots of small villages where not much has changed in the last few decades. The majority of the population still earn a living by fishing and farming, living close to (or sometimes even on) the water.
River cruises are perfect for showcasing this slower, quieter countryside living, a nice contrast from Ho Chi Minh City’s frenetic pace. From the river, you’re able to see barges and boats carrying rice, fruits, vegetables, and other products from the Delta, a throwback to when travel by boat was cheaper and safer than road travel.
The floating markets of the Mekong Delta, including the one in Cai Be as well as the most famous one in Cai Rang (just outside of Can Tho) are colorful throwbacks to when every riverside home had its own small boat.
The Mekong Delta is also home to lots of arts, crafts, and home factories producing everything from kiln-baked bricks and thatched palm leaves for roofing to food and snacks like coconut candy and rice paper.
The cuisine of the Mekong Delta is also worth exploring, utilizing the fish and shrimp of the waterways as well as the flavor-packed fruit and vegetables this region is known for.
Victoria Voyages offers all of these destinations conveniently packed into the 6-day / 5-night Ultimate Southern Vietnam itinerary which includes some of the best things to do in Ho Chi Minh City and the nearby Mekong Delta.
The journey includes a private full-day city tour of Ho Chi Minh City by both private vehicle and vintage pedal-powered cyclo, speedboat excursion to the Cu Chi Tunnels, sampan cruise through the Mekong Delta including a gourmet lunch of Delta specialties in a gorgeous plantation house, and a breakfast cruise to visit the Cai Rang Floating Market.