2 days in Ho Chi Minh City
Day 1 – Land in Ho Chi Minh City. Independence Palace, Notre Dame Cathedral and Ben Thanh Market
- We arrived from Cambodia in the morning. After the visa stamping, we hailed an Uber and reached our hotel in District 1.
- We headed to Ben Thanh Street Food Market right across the street. This is a covered area with clean tables. There are multiple stalls selling a variety of food including Vietnamese, Indian, Thai, Mexican, Middle East, etc. SS Tip: Try the flavored sugarcane juice
- We then walked to Independence Palace – please note google maps shows the wrong side of the building as entrance. This was the place used by the previous South Vietnamese government. Apart from the decorated conference and party rooms, the imposing building has bunkers, residential quarters and American tanks. Do check out the views from the balconies overlooking the garden. Nothing exceptional but for entrance fee of 40,000 VND, its worth checking out!
- To beat the heat, we went back to the hotel for enjoying the afternoon tea! Advantage of staying so close to the tourist spots !
- We next walked over to Notre Dame Basilica. The cathedral is large and has few nice stained glass windows inside. Entry is free so do consider stepping inside for a quick look…
- Right next to the Basilica is the Post Office. The spacious French building reminds you of an era gone by. Peep in and check out the ceiling and phone booths!
- Walked back to the hotel and headed straight for the rooftop pool. The small pool was a great way to relax and see the changing colors of the sky…
- For dinner, we headed over to the backpackers area called ‘Pham Ngu Lao Street’. There are lots of restaurants and pubs on this street. We had some Mexican food at a place called La Casa. Cool ambience and great music – but food was very ok.
- After dinner, while walking back to the Hotel, we strolled through the night market and picked up some souvenirs like Vietnamese hat, magnets, coasters… You need to haggle a lot at this place and everything is in Dong – I had a hard time converting every time they quoted an absurd price. We finally headed to our hotel at midnight…
Day 2 – War Remnants Museum, Cu Chi Tunnel and Dong Khai Street
- We started the day with War Remnants Museum. The museum details the Vietnam War and the impact on the people. SS Tip – Read up lil bit on what led to the war before you visit. The museum is effectively split into 3 parts – the aircraft/ tanks on the lawns, the prison section in the left and rest of the things in main building (across floors). The prison section is the goriest with description of tortures done on prisoners. The main building has lot of pictures and remains from the war including details of chemical attack and land mines hidden across the country. It is a really sad visit but a must-see if you visit this country…
- We walked over to a vegetarian food chain Hum close to the museum for lunch. Great food and amazing amount of options to choose from (70+ pages of veg menu!).
- We headed back to hotel for the afternoon tour of Cu Chi Tunnels – we booked this on Viator in advance for USD 22 pp. Local people had hid for years underground and fought back from these tunnels during the war. The bus came to pick us up from the hotel at 2 pm. After picking up some more people we headed over to the tunnels. The bus was comfortable and group size was around 20. We stopped on the way at government run handicraft centre where people impacted by the land mines were channeling their creativity in making items from shells. Lovely stuff and a great initiative.
- Once we reached the tunnels, we were glad to see that there weren’t many tourists and we could walk at leisurely pace exploring the area. There is a set route taking you through the jungle where you can spot the old tunnels (even crawl through them), traps used to capture enemies and living quarters. At the end of the tour, you can try your hand at shooting rifles/ machine guns. Cost 500,000 VND for 10 bullets (can be shared).
- After returning back to city and cleaning up, we headed towards Dong Khai Street. Walked along the large pedestrian zone towards the river. The place was brightly lit, with a young crowd. Quite a few kids jumping around the fountains !
- We then headed to an Indian restaurant, ‘Tandoor’ for dinner. After the heavy and delicious meal we walked back to the hotel and called it a night! SS Tip: Don’t miss the City Hall and HCM statue close to Dong Khai…
- Next day, we headed over to the capital, Hanoi…
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