"Ho Chi Minh - Saigon Fly Through" Ho Chi Minh City by thedouglas

Ho Chi Minh City Travel Guide: 3,131 reviews and 7,263 photos

Just a few days - what to do?

Our family holiday over Xmas holidays 2004 only included a small glimpse of Vietnam. We had just 3 days in this country, all spent in Ho Chi Minh - and didn't do much research before we arrived. However, I won't make this mistake again - we loved Ho Chi Minh and what we saw of Vietnam and the wonderful people in general.

So, we saw the big must-do things - Reunification Palace, War Atrocities Museum, Museum of Ho Chi Minh, Notre Dame, took the kids to the zoo (not recommended), wandered along the Mekong, which was near our hotel, expored the shopping district and streetscape near our central hotel, The Grand, and mooched around the markets. We love the walk, and find out of the way things - and weren't disappointed. The Irish pub was a great find - and the street barber........

The only daytrip :(

We managed to find a trip that encompassed Cu Chi Tunnels and Mekong Delta - spefically Unicorn Island - one of the many islands along the mighty Mekong. A very long, but thoroughly enjoyable day. This really whetted my appetite to come back - specially as the camera battery went flat, and left me stranded for most of the island. Lunch was along the Mekong, feasting on elephant ear fish - which are so expensive at home in Australia - and other fresh seafood and fruit.

Cu Chi Tunnels is a must see for anyone who has ever watched any of the many Western produced Vietnam war movies - and, I think, really demonstrates the ingenuity, toughness and tenacity of these slight, personable and very polite people - who have such a national pride. Our dimensions inside the already enlarged tunnels were highlighted! - as was the slight claustrophobia and physical aches and pains which prevent the body from being doubled and contained for more than the briefest time, before hyperventillation starts! Well set up "museum", with maintained tunnels, kitchens, meeting houses, demonstration of the very basic materials used for weaponry and uniforms, the torturous traps and remnants of the war - bomb scars on the land and a wrecked US tank.

Mekong Delta part of the day was wonderful - as was the guide. Our Cu Chi and Mekong guides were probably our best for the holiday - fond memories of both, and the quality of service they provided was excellent.

We visited Unicorn Island - and, as foodies, were not disappointed - alcohol tasting and purchasing, medicinal honey brew! - the most beautiful caramel candies, all of which were sampled and carried away - and finally, fresh fruit and live entertainment from local girls and musicians. We were then returned to our boat via some very strong and polite raft pilots! Very small population, and so productive.

A wonderful day - and a firm decision to come back for a leisurely look at this country.

The hour+ trip to Cu Chi was much enhanced by our guide's willingness to actually talk to us the whole way - and point things out - explanatations and patient answers - and a quiz or two! I had never seen rubber plantations, and the beautiful country outside the dingy city.

The people and the food

The beautiful traditional au dai's that the Vietnamese girls wear are hard to best in any fashion for style, charm and feminism - too see hundreds of school girls riding their bicycles home from school for lunch - or just wandering around the city and the way these traditional dresses are used for work uniforms - was a highlight for me. Realised I didn't have a single photograph of them - so have to go back!

We saw a number of weddings - the sort that I call fairy floss weddings - lots of froth and frills! The girls and husbands were both very well dressed, and weddings are apparently a very significant social statement and face making ritual in Vietnam.

Beauty and physical appearance seems important to Vietnamese - and the female street workers were generally covered from top to bottom - faces, arms,hands and legs all covered to minimise sun exposure and getting dark. The number of tanning products in Australia is only matched by the number of whitening products in most Asian cities I have been to! However, these girls were the only ones I saw so consciously covered up.

The French influence is very evident in the foods available - with enticing looking baguettes available in street stalls as well as in the most modern bakery. French cream cakes were abundant, which was unexpected. And, like other Asian countries, the most colourful and expansive ranges of fresh fruit and vegetables were arranged in street stalls and sidewalk shops all around Ho Chi Minh!

We found the people of Saigon charming and friendly, and the hotel (Grand) lived up to its name - the food was wonderful and varied - the shopping we saw was awesome, and the traffic was manageable! Never seen so many motorbikes in my life!

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Quote from a well known Aussie movie "....Just the vibe of it all really..."
  • Cons:We enjoyed all of it
  • In a nutshell:Seems a mix of East and West - while maintaining the traditional ways and values
  • Last visit to Ho Chi Minh City: Jan 2005
  • Intro Updated Aug 25, 2006
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Reviews (7)

Comments (22)

  • scottishvisitor's Profile Photo
    Feb 25, 2009 at 1:56 PM

    Zoos can be pretty dismal places or educational = I do like to visit forward thinking ones Nice & interesting tips here & yes boys can be easily bored!

  • dancinbudgie's Profile Photo
    Jan 22, 2008 at 6:00 PM

    Hi Therese, Your pages are great! Glad to see so much can be fit in to a short time..we will only be in Ho Chi Minh for 4 days. Can now safely save time by missing the zoo! Love "The Castle" reference!

  • Mikebb's Profile Photo
    Nov 13, 2007 at 1:25 PM

    Hi Therese, Thanks for the Birthday Wishes, had a nice day. We are researching our Feb'08 trip to Bangkok and Vietnam (HCMC) with the orchid society. First time to Vietnam for 8 days.Enjoyed your page.

  • littlesam1's Profile Photo
    Jan 10, 2007 at 11:07 AM

    Fascinating page. I really hated reading about the zoo. How tragic, but a great warning tip.

  • aussirose's Profile Photo
    Nov 19, 2006 at 12:42 AM

    What a lovely trip down memory lane Therese! We are definately going back someday! And just to think I wondered what I was going to do here when I was first looking!! Can you believe that?! Enjoyed your pages mate!! Hugs, Ann :o)

  • tremendopunto's Profile Photo
    Nov 9, 2006 at 11:06 AM

    Great informative page - your hotel choice keeps the flair of Graham Greene´s or Jean Hougron´s novels alive - hope to get there too, someday!

  • Cathy&Gary's Profile Photo
    Aug 20, 2006 at 2:12 AM

    Another country we have on our list, great tips, the zoo sounds likea definate no-no, same as the one in Phuket.

  • acemj's Profile Photo
    Jul 5, 2006 at 5:30 PM

    What a great experience for you and your kids! Sad about the zoo, but overall, it looks like a great place!

  • muddybok's Profile Photo
    Jun 30, 2006 at 8:42 PM

    You have great tips and insights on Cu Chi tunnel too. Most importantly your family enjoyed it.

  • nicolaitan's Profile Photo
    Jun 27, 2006 at 5:55 PM

    great introduction to what must be a fascinating city (I won't get to). Sad about the zoo.

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