With its layered architecture influenced by diverse international styles, Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) has a way of taking locals and tourists back to the most significant events in its history.
Being the largest city and the business capital of Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh also includes modern skyscrapers and fun-filled attractions that perfectly combine the new with the old.
Cao Dai Temple is an ornate and colorful temple built in 1955 when the Cao Dai Army was formed after the Japanese occupation of Indochina.
The Caodaists believe that all religions are the same and they strive to promote world peace and harmony. You’ll find that Buddha, Jesus Christ, Muhammad, Confucius, Joan of Arc, and Julius Cesar are all honored here.
One of the highlights of visiting this temple is during worship when Caodaists pray in flowing robes in different colors, which depend on their roles. Visiting this temple will surely become an unforgettable part of your trip.
Known as the “rice bowl” of Vietnam, the Mekong Delta is the longest river in Southeast Asia which runs from southeastern China all the way to the South China Sea south of Ho Chi Minh City.
There are countless things you can see here: floating markets, rice paddies, Unicorn Island, An Binh Island, Vinh Sang Farm, bee and crocodile farms, raft village, Cham Tribal Village, and more. A must-visit when in Ho Chi Minh City.
Also located in southern Vietnam is the Saigon River, which flows from southeastern Cambodia and empties into the East Sea northeast of the Mekong Delta.
Although Saigon River is not filled with boats and floating markets like the Mekong, it gives you the best view of the beautiful lights and majestic skyscrapers of the city.
The best way to fully enjoy the Skyline is to join a Dinner Cruise along this iconic river.
Ben Nghe is a historical area in Vietnam that is now considered a ward of District 1. Developed in the 17th century when the French Empire arrived in Saigon, Ben Nghe was once a community of 40 villages situated along the Ben Nghe River.
Today, many notable structures can be found in this ward, including the oldest and best known of the twelve mosques in Ho Chi Minh City, the “1935 Jamia Al Muslimin Mosque”, also known as the Saigon Central Mosque.
Built in 1897 by French architect Eugene Ferret, the Saigon Opera House is a well-restored French colonial structure surrounded by a wide, tree-lined boulevard reminiscent of European architecture.
To fully experience this iconic monument, catch a performance by the Ho Chi Minh Ballet Symphony Orchestra and Opera or the AO Show, a mix of Cirque du Soleil and traditional Vietnamese performance art.
Editorial credit: David Bokuchava / Shutterstock.com
You don’t have to go to many different places around Ho Chi Minh to buy souvenirs. Just go straight to Bến Thành Market in District 1, where you’ll find local handcrafts, branded goods, Vietnamese art, food, and textiles, and more.
This area is one of the oldest landmarks in the city and can be difficult to navigate for tourists, but it’s well worth the visit.
At night, food stalls would come alive in the streets, where you can try wok-fried noodles and grilled seafood and meats.
Formerly known as the Musée Blanchard de la Brosse, the Museum of Vietnamese History was built in 1926 and received its current name in 1979.
This museum initially presented ancient art collections from different parts of Asia, and progressed to exhibiting almost 30,000 artifacts from all the different periods of Vietnamese history.
Visiting this museum will give you a better understanding of what the country went through from as early as 2879-179 BC up to 1945. For some pop culture reference, this museum was also a pit stop in the second leg of “The Amazing Race Asia 3”.
Ho Chi Minh Museum was designed by French architect Foulhoux and built between 1885 to 1890.
Since its establishment, this museum fulfilled several roles, a palace for the Cochinchina governor and then the Japanese governor, a private residence for the King’s special envoy of the Cochinchina, and so on.
This building has been passed on to so many foreign occupants that its walls can be considered historical artifacts themselves. It only became a fully operational museum in 1975, and now houses exhibitions that are as interesting as the museum’s own past.
This building served as the base of Vietnamese General Ngo Dinh Diem until he passed in 1963.
In 1975, it became world news when a North Vietnamese Army tank crashed into its main gate, which successfully ended the Vietnam War. To this day, two of the original tanks used in capturing the palace are still parked on its grounds.
In the palace, you’ll find secret rooms, basement tunnels, a war room and a telecommunications center, a card playing room, a casino, a heliport, a command bunker, and a lush garden outside.
The Reunification Palace is so well-restored that important events are still being hosted in it, including the APEC Summits.
Image credit: @drinkvietnam via Facebook
Hidden in a small alley in Cach Mang Thang Tam Street next to a 24-hour convenience store is Drink Vietnam (The Little Museum of Nguyen Shack), where you’ll get to discover over 200 infused spirits and herbal teas and all their possible combinations imaginable.
It’s exciting to learn about the different herbs, roots, flowers, fruits, and barks that have been used in traditional medicine for more than 5,000 years, and how you can create your own concoction based on your taste and needs.
It has a restaurant and hotel, too, in case you feel like staying to master your herb and spirit mixing during your trip!
Go start chasing those waterfalls!