One day trip in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Following my cruise adventure with Royal Caribbean, we only had one day in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) and I am going to list out the places we visit during this day trip!
Saigon Notre-Dame Cathedral & Saigon Central Post Office
Being one of the most prominent attractions in HCMC, how could we miss out on this popular historic building? The Catholic cathedral, which is named after the Virgin Mary, makes a very picturesque corner in the downtown of HCMC. Apart from being a popular tourist attraction, this cathedral serves as a religious institution for the locals as well. In front of the cathedral stands a Virgin Mary statue, which is said to have shed tears in 2005, causing thousands of visitors flock to this status in hopes of witnessing a miracle. Entrance to the cathedral is free.
Just across the road is another famous landmark in HCMC – the Saigon Central Post Office.
This building is so popular because of its beautifully preserved remnant of French colonial times and perhaps the grandest post office in all of Southeast Asia. A step inside the post office may make visitors feel that they’re brought back to 20th century railway station in Europe, rather than a post office in an Asian country, how cool is that?!
The colonial period design was retained from its ornate furnishings, gorgeous-pattern-tiled floor to its massively high ceilings, even the phone booths! You can also find souvenirs and gifts in the building, and of course not forgetting postal services!
Chua Phuoc Hai Temple / Jade Emperor Pagoda
After some French colonial buildings, we went to visit one of the top choice and one of the most spectacularly atmospheric Taoist temples in HCMC. The facades of the temple / pagoda are bricks painted in pink and designed with a strong sense of Chinese legacy.
Inside the main building are stuffed with statues of phantasmal divinities and grotesque heroes in different rooms other than the main hall. We only took a brief photo of the statues and not anymore of the interior as we thought it was a gesture of respect.
At the outside patio, on the right bank of the entrance to the temple, there is a pond of turtles, which is Asian culture represent longevity and are also considered in Vietnam as a symbol of fortune and good luck.
Lunch @ Viet Village Restaurant
Our driver brought us to Viet Village for lunch and this restaurant seems to work with many tour agents as I keep seeing groups of tourist entering the restaurant during my meal.
First off all, this restaurant is clean and bright (not so for the restrooms), and offers a comfortable dining environment.
However, if you are looking for an authentic Vietnamese cuisine, look elsewhere. We have eaten Vietnamese food before and we know how an authentic Vietnamese food is like. For example, traditional Vietnamese beef pho should consist of innards and tendon; here they only serve a few slices of beef with a small portion of raw vegetables.
We were somewhat disappointed with our meal as we were looking forward to an authentic Vietnamese meal. Despite that, the food does not taste bad at all. I think the restaurant tries to compromise with foreigners’ taste bud by giving it a twist of fusion flavor. We somehow reckon it is more towards Chinese-style cooking instead of Vietnamese-style (just our 2 cents). The price is rather on the high side as well.
Ben Thanh Market
I guess one won’t leave HCMC without visiting the famous, bustling Ben Thanh Market. This market is known by all taxi drivers and is located in District 1 in the heart of HCMC, behind a big, beautiful roundabout.
This is the place where you find real Vietnamese food and local goods from clothing, shoes, bags, jewelry to kitchen ware, grocery, sweets and great Vietnamese coffee! Besides goods for daily use, tourists can find a variety of eye-catching local handicrafts and souvenirs as well. However, don’t forget to bargain vigorously as the price here is usually inflated up to 2 or 3 times than the initial. Bargain tips: Don’t appear to be desperate over the items and fix a max price that you are willing to pay for the item. If the seller is not willing to compromise, just walk away nicely. Most of the times they will call you back. You will be surprised how cheap you can bargain the items down to. Most importantly, do it with grace and humour, consider bargaining as a game or an entertaining activity and enjoy it! There are however some stalls (mostly at the outer ring of the market) with ‘Fixed Price’ signs and I usually try my luck to bargain regardless. Ben Thanh Market opens very early in the morning and close late afternoon.
Suggested places to visit should you have more time in HCMC:
Chu Chi Tunnel
Chu Chi Tunnels are part of a massive war museum that offers a sneak-peek at the underground life of Vietnamese soldiers back in 1948. If you are into history, you probably will spend at least half a day exploring this historical site. Today, Chu Chi Tunnel is one of Ho Chi Minh's most iconic attractions where visitors can enjoy various activities such as following the claustrophobia-inducing routes of the underground army, firing an M16 assault rifle, etc. There you not only learn about Vietnam's history during the American War but also get to experience what it would have been like during the war, and how Chu Chi Tunnels helped Vietnamese soldiers survived. However, the crawl through the underground tunnels may not be suitable for visitors with respiratory difficulties. A half-day or full-day excursion can be easily arranged with local tour operators.
Mekong Delta Tour
Visit no where else than Mekong Delta if you want to find the peaceful atmosphere and experience the simple local life in the countryside. A visit to Mekong Delta is so memorable because of its attractive landscapes, various and unique culture. The highlight for many would be getting on small row boats where you wear their traditional hat and enjoy the beautiful scenery and serenity. Various Mekong Delta Tours are available depending on your interest and how much time you want to spend there. Travel down the canals and backwaters of the main Mekong Channel to visit catfish farm and Cham Tribal Village by motorboat or visit traditional handicraft villages, tropical fruits gardens and enjoy the typical folk music. The choice is yours!
Planning to visit HCMC already?! Check out your best hotel rates here!
Till next time~
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