A tour in Saigon / Ho Chi Minh City – Vietnam
Writen by: Orad Eldar Bar
Vietnam, or by its
official name: The Social republic of Vietnam, bordering
with China, Laos and Cambodia. It is a cheap country for
the Western tourist with real touristic hidden
treasures. Despite its image, Vietnam is not only
designed for backpackers – it is friendly also for
independent tourists, who are looking to get to know the
country with the rich history, impressive nature and
abundance of beaches and bays.
The weather in Vietnam is tropical, but have a different between the north and the south. In the south, the dry season is between November and March and the wet season is between May and October. In the north, the dry season is cool, while the rest of the months are very hot and humid.
Saigon is the largest city in Vietnam and in the past, it served as the capital. This is a comfortable point to start your tour in Vietnam – this is a vibrant and energetic city where the airport in it is busy and is the largest in the country.
Saigon from the watchtower:
Saigon is the economic center of Vietnam where there are most of the commercial centers, shopping and entertainment. There are over 8 million residents in the city, and at first glance it seems like most of them ride motorcycles. The roads in the city are in a weird combination of chaos and order: thousands of rickshaws, cars and motorcycles honking at each other and driving fast, while the many pedestrians are wondering amongst them.
A street in Saigon
In all of this, there is a feeling of order and everybody knows exactly where and how to drive, in order to not bump into others. Scary – but no less, an experience. It is recommended, in your tour, to combine a rickshaw ride in between the bustling streets and lively markets.
A Rickshaw Tour
When you travel today through the busy streets of the city, it is hard to imagine the bloody history and hard days experienced by Saigon – or currently called, Ho Chi Minh City – only 40 years ago. During the Vietnam war, the city served as an American headquarters and the military offices were here. In 1975, when the northern forces captured the city, the name of the city was changed from Saigon to Ho Chi Minh City, after the Communist revolutionary leader in India -China and the leader of the occupying northern Vietnam. However, many of the local residents still use the old name and refuse to get used to the change.
Recommended hotels in Saigon
5-star hotels located in the center:
A modern hotel with 306 rooms, with an observation deck on the 31st floor and a swimming pool on the 6th floor. There is a restaurant on the top floor. It has free internet. The hotel includes a gym, a spa and a family room.
A luxurious hotel with 288 rooms filled with sports and recreation families in the center of the city: a swimming pool, a gym, a spa and a casino. There is a restaurant on the top floor. and free internet.
A luxury and central apartment hotel with 165 rooms and apartments, including apartments with two and three bedrooms designed comfortably for 5-6 people. The hotel includes a swimming pool, a playground, a gym, free internet and parking.
4 starts hotels:
A suite hotel with 71 family rooms and suites, central location, 4-star hotel. The hotel includes a spa, a gym, free internet and a local international restaurant.
A hotel with 71 double rooms, central location, a 4-star hotel. The hotel includes a gym, a swimming pool, a spa, restaurants and free internet.
The fascinating and bloody history is intertwined in every step of the city. You should start your tour at the Reunification Palace that served as the official residence for the President of South Vietnam before the conquest of the city in 1975.
The Reunification Palace
At the front of the building there are two tanks that broke through the palace gate. In a guided tour of the palace (held in English daily) you could see the original furniture and the belongings, that were left in the palace and in the bunker since the war. More about the war you can learn at the fascinating War Remnants Museum, located close to the palace. In the museum, there is a collection of exhibits and photographs from the war, such as cages where the prisoners and weapons were held.
There are more than just historical buildings in the city, but also religious buildings. The main cathedral in the city is the Notre Dame Cathedral built in 1880. The church serves the Christian minority and also many couples that come on their wedding day to be photographed on the background of the impressive church…
Notre Dame Cathedral
Next to the church there is the main Saigon Central Post Office built in 1886. The impressive building was designed by Gustave Eiffel, a French engineer and architect known mainly thanks to the Eiffel tower in Paris.
Saigon Central Post Office
A unique view of the city emerges from up high on the 49th floor on the tallest building in the city, the Bitexco Financial Tower. The building, 262 meters tall, is located in the business district of the city.
Bitexco Financial Tower
The view from the Skydeck reveals the contrasts in the city: impressive colonial buildings and modern office buildings which alongside there are old neighborhoods and crumbling houses.
Saigon City Hall
Vietnam, as mentioned, is considered a very cheap destination, even in comparison to its neighbors. Whoever is looking for worthwhile shopping, will certainly enjoy the colorful Ben Thanh Market. It is a famous and crowded market where you can find clothes, souvenirs, handbags, wallets, suitcases, ornaments and a variety of delicacies and juices. Also if the starting price sounds high to you, you can practice here on your bargaining capacity…
Ben Thanh Market
For the market enthusiasts, it is recommended to visit also the colorful flower market.
A completely shopping experience you can find on the Dong Khoi street, which is the most exclusive street in the city. Here you will find all the Western brands and known designers such as Versace and Louis Vuitton. All the stores are located in an impressive ancient colonial building.
Recommended Guided Tours
To enjoy the best of Saigon and be impressed by the fascinating history, it is recommended to join a guided tour. The experienced guides will be happy to make your stay in the city a successful one. The Hynos Travel Company offers a variety of popular tours in the city, including half a day tour amongst the major sites in the city, food tours, markets tours etc. You must pre book on:
A Street Food Cart
Another recommended company is: My Way Travel, which offers tours also outside of Saigon. The company has English speaking guides and a variety of tours to introduce the best the city has to offer, it must be coordinated in advance via their site or via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
A Tour Outside of the City
If you come to the city for more
than two or three days, it is recommended to go on tours
outside of Saigon. A fascinating site is located 35 kms
from Saigon: a visit at the Cu Chi Tunnels. The tunnels,
250 km long, were excavated by the Vietcong fighters,
the North Vietnamese. The tunnels served as underground
rooms, bedrooms, a kitchen, meeting rooms and weapon
storage. From here the fighters went out to on
aggressive attacks. During the tour, you could crawl on
your own in the narrow tunnel and imagine the life and
routine that was here, in the 60’s.
If the impressive sites created a desire in you, you can get to Saigon, through its Tan Son Nhat airport, and you should go to Vietnam for at least two weeks, during which you should dedicate about three days the fascinating Saigon region.
A tour of Saigon Combined with a Cruise
It is recommended to combine a tour of Saigon with a cruise in Asia which will give you a luxurious taste of other exotic countries in Asia with the best tour conditions possible.