Out of all the Asian countries I’ve been to, Vietnam is my favourite so far. I would love to go back and explore other regions, as I found it to be a wonderful place. The people were incredibly friendly, there were endless things to do and the food was amazing! Here are some of the highlights…
- Ben Thanh Market – I absolutely loved this place. Yes, it’s busy and chaotic but that is what’s fun about it. There’s so much to take in, it’s hard to know where to look. They sell everything you can imagine and haggling is a must.
2. Jade Emperor Pagoda – Built by the Chinese community in 1909, this Pagoda is tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the busy streets. It is very peaceful and serene. Many locals stop here to pray, making it a very special place.
3. Bonsai River Cruise – Absolutely loved this two hour cruise along the Saigon River. The food, staff and entertainment were wonderful. There was a traditional Vietnamese show, a delicious buffet and stunning views of the city at night. There was even a magician who took my camera without me noticing (he took his life in his hands doing this to an Italian woman) but he put on a great show 🙂 Excellent choice if you’re looking for something that’s unique and a lot of fun.
4. Mekong River Delta Tour – This was incredible. We decided to hire a driver and tour guide for the day (seriously cheap!) to take us on a private tour of the area. I will never forget our driver Tong and our tour guide Thu – they were absolutely phenomenal. One of the many reasons I love Vietnam is that their customer service is outstanding.
Our first stop was to a beautiful Buddhist temple located in the Mekong Delta region. There are three large Buddhas that stand for the past, present and future. This temple is well worth a visit, as it is very inspiring and the architecture and gardens are gorgeous.
Next, we took a boat tour of the Mekong River and stopped at Coconut Island. We learned how they make coconut candy, listened to traditional Vietnamese music and shopped at their market. We were also able to taste local fruits and teas. It was very interesting to be able to visit this beautiful little island and interact with the locals.
After visiting Coconut Island, we set off on a rowboat ride down a small river off the Mekong. I could not believe how incredibly peaceful this was. It’s something I will never forget, that’s for sure.
This wonderful day concluded with a traditional seafood lunch which was exquisite. We dined on elephant ear fish, shrimp & pork spring rolls, sticky rice balls and tropical fruits. The sticky rice balls were, hands down, my favourite.
5. Tour of the Cu Chi Tunnels – The following day, we went on a tour of the Cu Chi Tunnels. This was a fascinating experience – our guide was incredibly knowledgeable. We were able to explore the tunnels, learn about strategies used during the war and see some of the booby traps that were used. I could not believe how small the tunnels actually were (even after being made bigger for tourists) when we were inside. This was a very interesting and hands on experience that I would highly recommend to anyone visiting Ho Chi Minh City.
6. Independence Palace (Reunification Palace) – Independence Palace AKA Reunification Palace was home to the President of South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. This landmark contains the President’s office, the Vice President’s office, a conference hall as well as a telecommunications room. The grounds are beautiful and there are signs in English in each room. I would, however, recommend using a guide as they are wonderful at explaining the information in greater detail. Visiting this landmark really does make you feel as though you’ve stepped back in time.
7. The War Remnants Museum – This was pretty intense. You really have to be in the right frame of mind to visit this museum. It’s not for the faint of heart and is pretty confronting at times. It was incredibly heartbreaking, fascinating and moving – well worth a visit if you are interested in seeing another side to the Vietnam War.
8. Chinatown – Visited the Thien Hau Pagoda that is dedicated to the Lady of the Sea – a deity in the Chinese religion. There are dozens of incense coils near the altar that burn for a couple of weeks. We were able to attach our names to one of the coils and have it hung on the ceiling. This ritual is associated with good luck, happiness and health.
9. Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theatre – On our final night in Ho Chi Minh City, we wanted to do something unique. We decided to check out a show at the Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theatre. This was incredibly different from anything I have ever seen. This Vietnamese tradition dates back to the 11th Century and is performed in a waist deep pool. A large rod is used by the puppeteers to support the puppets under the water, giving the appearance that the puppets are moving over the water. When the rice fields used to flood, the villagers would entertain themselves using this form of puppet play. The show is entirely in Vietnamese but you can still understand the story being told. What a great way to end an absolutely wonderful stay in Ho Chi Minh City. I will most definitely be back to visit other areas of Vietnam in the future!