Travelled in late 2013
Ho Chi Minh (“Ho Chi”) is an interesting city. It has all signs of an upcoming metropolis although the economists can debate how long that would take and whether it has what it takes. Nevertheless, there are ample number of new buildings coming up like many cities in India and draw the parallels of an emerging city in a fast growing country.
That said, the city does have its old world charm as well especially with some marquee buildings still preserving the old world architecture. Our idea for the trip to Ho Chi was to do more of a walking tour and not really see many “places of attractions” etc and we are very glad we did it this way.
That said, the city does have its old world charm as well especially with some marquee buildings still preserving the old world architecture.
Our idea for the trip to Ho Chi was to do more of a walking tour and not really see many “places of attractions” etc and we are very glad we did it this way. The city has a different feel to it and hence exploring it on foot is indeed an enriching experience. And with friendly people all around (note though if you are doing transactions of any type, haggling and negotiations are common but smooth as well), walking around is not at all tough.
Many streets and localities have a different feel to it and if you see it at face value, there is nothing new in them, just usual streets with people doing about their work; and if you think about it, there is a lot to see, soak in and ponder about.
Flower shops at walking distance from Central Post Office
One of the vegetable and meat “wet markets” in the city
There are also some very beautiful buildings such as the Saigon post office that our hotel told was a good place to see and have a feel of. It is one of the oldest and very well preserved colonial style buildings with modern-era hustle-bustle feel to it if you go during peak working hours.
The office closes relatively early for a tourist’s evening (6pm) so keep that in mind. We went at 530pm though felt we had enough time to see it. Interestingly, there is also a market place inside the building with many small shops selling trinkets and souvenirs. For those who like doing such shopping, that is a decent place and interestingly as well, one of the few places that had fixed price shops. While we didn’t find the place too overpriced, there was a certain premium pricing we felt went to it. Nevertheless, for the experience, well worth it.
You’d also notice that bikes as a mode of travel is quite common… in fact really common. Well, the picture below says it all… need I add anything more.
In terms of places of attractions, there is the War Remnants Museum that we went to. It is basically dedicated to the 20-year Vietnam War that went from 1955-1975. Well, to a large extent the museum talks about the pain caused to their people as a result of the war.
In the end though, my take-away is it reminds you the one thing I feel is so true –
“If you support war because you think it the the only alternative to resolve issues, you’ve not experienced war yet”.
Nevertheless, it was an interesting 3-4 hours spent there.
Tour of the Saigon River
Given that the idea was to do a walking tour of Ho Chi Minh city, we were quite done roaming around for two days and thought we could do something different in the third day. This is when the idea to go out for a river cruise came in mind. And we were sooooo glad we did that. It was a truly worth it day tour.
So we did some research on the spot and finalized Private Mango Day Cruise tour from the BestPrice Vietnam. While this was not the cheapest option available, they offered much more luxury and custom-made experience and generally seemed best to talk to and deal with. After all, experience is also about being comfortable that we are in best hands when out for the tour (not in terms of safety but also in terms of being accommodative to our needs/wants).
The price for the two of us was US$272 inclusive of everything including lunch but excluding tips.
We were picked up at 730am from our hotel (Majestic Saigon) by a 10-12 seater shuttle bus (though only we two were in it but presumably they use it for group tours also) and arrived at the ferry pier point in 45min from where the lovely boat tour to another village and back commenced. HIGHLY Recommended, both the tour and this company. (Disclosure – I am NOT affiliated to them or get paid for reviewing them).
The private diesel-powered boat we had for the 1.2-2 hour tour in morning
A small boat that we had also rode on while traversing between two villages
Fresh catch from the village that was later served in lunch
Cycling through the villages, an amazing and unique experience especially since we love cycling so much! By the way, the lady wearing a hat is our guide !
At the park where we had a wonderful and delicious open-air lunch
Somewhere in the market; the ducklings were later bred in ponds but presumably some of the mother duck’s eggs were sold in the market
Majestic Saigon Hotel
A quick word about the hotel – the location was decent, it is near the Saigon River which has a decent river bank to walk on and is quite popular place to be in evenings. The facilities were basic but the hotel is very clean. Also, staff was helpful and food served was decent including their breakfast buffet. Overall, we felt it was a good value for money and would recommend it.