Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City, sometimes referred to as Saigon, is a bustling city in the South of Vietnam.
It is a chaotic and colourful place, where traffic whizzes by at almost every hour and age old traditions contrasts modern day living.
It is very cheap and easy to get to Ho Chi Minh city from pretty much anywhere in Asia, with lots of direct flights available everyday.
It is also very simple to travel within Vietnam to Ho Chi Minh city via bus or plane.
We were travelling from Hue and were able to book a cheap flight down from central Vietnam with Jet Star airways.
The airport isn’t far from the central city area of Ho Chi Minh, however the traffic is very slow. It takes between 40-60 minutes to reach the main area, though it is reasonably cheap via taxi, especially uber.
Accommodation- why so many?
We ended up staying in 3 different hostels/ hotels in the city.
If you read my last blog on Hue you will know we came to the south of Vietnam to escape the terrible weather and flooding caused by the worst typhoon to hit the area in other 15 years.
Our plan had been to travel from north to south stopping at various locations along the way. But when the typhoon hit central Vietnam our plans changed and we went south in search of better weather.
We were hopeful that the weather would improve, meaning we could return to Hoi An so we were taking each day as it came.
Only booking a day at a time has its perks but it also means you may end up having to move around quite a bit.
This is a party hostel in the centre of the nightlife area.
Every night there is a bar crawl that moves to various bars offering 2 4 1 cocktails and other drink deals.
It was a good laugh, but we noticed the route is the same every night which can get a bit boring.
The hostel itself is well located, clean and well equipped. However the social area is lacking, it’s very small and a bit dingy.
We did see some renovation work being done so maybe improvements are to follow.
All in all it was a perfectly good hostel but the vibe here was very much about getting drunk or high.
Honey House hotel
This hotel was slightly further out than hideout but still walkable to all the main attractions.
The rooms were really clean and modern and the showers powerful and warm.
What made Honey House special was hostess. She was so tentative, friendly and helpful.
She really couldn’t do enough for you, great customer service for cheap prices is hard to come by in South East Asia but this place had it all.
Ailen garden hotel
Very centrally located, clean, spacious rooms and warm showers. It even had some fancy lights in the bedroom that changed colour.
Service was good with a welcome drink provided, though be warned there’s no lift and a lot of stairs!
Eating in Ho Chi Minh
Obviously in a city there is so much choice meaning the standard of food is usually better.
Here are some of my favourites.
The hungry pig
In no way a local eatery, this place is as western as it comes. But it was so dam good!
It’s essentially a sandwich shop centred around bacon…There were so many types and flavours of bacon, you could choose from on a variety of breads, and every type of salad. Literally something for everyone (except veggies or vegans).
I loved the little miss piggy option, but also liked the DIY choice with maple bacon, lettuce, tomato, red onion, brie and avocado (damm I’m hungry thinking about it!).
Middle eastern restaurant
This is a great place to go as a group, you can order lots of dishes put them in the middle and everyone tucks in.
It means you get to try all the yummy dishes. The service was really good here too.
This is a must see, it is essentially a street full of bars/pubs with little plastic chairs set up on the street.
It gets very busy at night, and strangely they do not close off the road to vehicles so it can get pretty hectic. But it’s the perfect place to people watch and enjoy a beer and food.
The view roof top bar
This is a really pretty rooftop bar lite up with lanterns and views over the city.
The prices are fairly high but there are buy 2 get 1 free deals till 11pm and it’s a lot more peaceful and civilised than beer street below.
Note: I am aware I look like a cross eyed hunch back here.
On almost every street in Ho Chi Minh there are stalls selling food. Whether that be from a cart pulled by a motorbike or more penetrant structure, you honestly can’t walk the length of a street without seeing street food!
Unfortunately most of the street food places do not have names (or at least not names in English). So your best bet is to look out for where the locals eat, and busy places. This is usually the sign of yummy food!
Exploring the city
Ho Chi Minh city isn’t known in travelling circles as location with lots of pretty tourist spots but there is still plenty to do here and it shouldn’t be missed.
Even if museums aren’t you thing you have to go to the war museum. The tragic past of Vietnam is still visible and in order to appreciate how far it has come you need to understand the history.
The museum is not to structured and you can spend as long or as little time as you want in each room.
The museum paints the story of the war from start to finish and explains the impacts that are still being felt by the country and it’s people even today.
As part of the Mekong delta boat tour (more on that later) you are able to shoot 10 bullets for 500,000 dong. Expensive I know!
We found a range only a couple of miles from hide out that was 20,000 dong for 10 bullets!
It was a good way to spend an hour, even if I did only hit the target once!
Get a suit tailored
I hadn’t intended on getting anything tailored while in Vietnam, mainly because I didn’t want to carry it around in my backpack.
But when we visited a few tailors with our friend Blair I got sucked in… I ended up buying a tailored dress and jacket.
It was great, you were able to choose the material, lining, style and colour.
You have an initial measuring session, they mock up the items and you return for a first fitting. At this point you have the chance to make any major changes in terms of style and fit. Changes noted, the tailor amends the garments and you come back for a second fitting. If you are still not happy they make any last minute alternations and you are on your way!
This whole process only takes 1–2 days!
Other things to do:
Mekong delta boat tour
Various options in terms of class and length available. We didn’t go, but close friends of ours said 1 day was plenty. Also be prepared to be taken to lots of shops along the way…
Chi chi tunnels
Chi chi tunnel is a tunnel system used during the Vietnam war for fighting and defending the line. It’s approximately a 2 hour drive from Ho Chi Minh city.
Again we didn’t do this tour as we did the tunnels in Hue, but if you haven’t experienced Hue, definitely do chi chi.
Ho Chi Minh is a bustling busy city, with many restaurants, bars and things to see.
Hide out hostel is a party hostel but it currently lacks a good social area.
Honey House hotel is a great hotel with amazing service.
The hungry pig is a must go if your missing western food.
The war museum is very interesting and the shooting range a good laugh.