Despite being the largest city in Vietnam; Ho Chi Minh City is simple to navigate. Most tourist attractions are found within walking distance of each other and are centred in the commercial hub of ‘District 1’ (Google Map). As with Vietnam expect the stereotypes. Old ladies in pyjamas. Triangle hats. Blurs of motorbikes. Cyclos. Peddle bikes. Baguettes. This is our independent guide to Ho Chi Minh City centre. For basic info (VISA, Arrival, Money etc.) for Vietnam and Ho Chi Minh check here.
Ben Thanh Market (District 1)
A good starting point to tour Ho Chi Minh City Centre. The Ben Thanh Market (Cho Ben Thanh) is a popular tourist spot. During the day indoor markets peddle typical mass produced tourist trinkets. At night Ben Thanh Night Market sets up on adjacent streets (5pm onwards) with outdoor eating and again more tourist trinkets. Ben Thanh Market is found opposite the central bus station in Ho Chi Minh City centre and has a sprawling roundabout on its doorstep. The roundabout ”Tuong Tran Nguyen Han’ is easily recognised with a central statue of Tran Nguyen Han on horseback. Hotels near Ben Thanh Market.
Reunification Palace (District 1)
Aka Independence Palace. Reunification Palace is the site where the Vietnam War ended when a tank smashed through the front gates (Fall of Saigon). Big building lots of rooms; President’s office, war rooms, banquets halls, cinema etc. An attraction for people with interest in history and of the Vietnam War. A bit boring to myself. Reunification Palace is found in the French Quarter of Ho Chi Minh City centre. Hotels near Reunification Palace.
The French Quarter (District 1)
The French colonial area of Ho Chi Minh City centre. Wide boulevards and historic French colonial buildings, architecture. Attractions in the area include the Central Post Office, Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica, the Opera House, City Hall (Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee) and landscaped gardens. All pictured below in above order. Hotels near the French Quarter.
Saigon Riverside (District 1)
Saigon River is found by following Dong Khoi Street from the French Quarter (towards the shiny skyscrapers). Here you find a more relaxed and local life on the riverside with street food and river cruises. Hotels in the Riverside area are mostly luxury and expensive with impressive views of the Saigon River. Hotels near Saigon Riverside
War Remnants Museum (District 3)
Found outside of District 1 but still within easy walking distance. The War Remnants Museum exhibits US war crimes during the Vietnam War. Interesting but disturbing. Torture, genocide, agent orange. Not for the squeamish. Less disturbing images posted below from the artillery and armour collection. Hotels near the War Remnants Museum
One of the healthiest cuisines in the world. Here are three popular Vietnamese dishes to get you started:
1. Pho (pronounced “fu” as in Furby). A tasty noodle soup topped with meat, veg and optional garnish. Pho is possibly Vietnam’s most common dish and can often be found as street food.
2. Bahn Xeo, with obvious French influences, is a savoury crepe stuffed with cooked meats and fresh herbs. Roll in lettuce or mustard leaves then stuff into face. The best place to find Banh Xeo is Banh Xeo An La Ghien in Ho Chi Minh City centre.
3. Goi Cuon (Summer Rolls). Healthy Spring Rolls. Herbs, vermicelli, veg and meats (often fresh prawns) wrapped in Vietnamese rice paper and served fresh (not deep fried) with a tasty chilli or hoisin sauce.