We had planned our Vietnam-Cambodia trip for a year and got a great tour package deal from Transpipol Travel and Tours. For the second time, this travel agency did not fail to arrange a packed itinerary that touched all the right bases. Our two-day visit in Vietnam provided the rich opportunity for us to expand our historical and cultural knowledge of the country.

with our English-speaking Vietnamese tour guide, Ben

We faced up to the past, tried local Vietnamese food, haggled for bargains in the markets, and traveled further afield. In this post, let me share with you the top 10 tourist attractions we visited in Ho Chi Minh, a city that’s always full of action. 🙂

Travel Guide: Top 10 Tourist Attractions We Visited in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

1. Cu Chi Tunnels

Admittedly, I was clueless about the US-Vietnam war prior to our trip. Maybe I was one of those students in History class who didn’t pay close attention to the topic. Hihihi. 😛 Anyway, visiting the Cu Chi tunnels was an eye-opener for me as the actual site gave a clear picture on the strength and hardships of the Vietnamese people against their foreign enemies in the last century.

how Vietnamese soldiers hid underground (in camouflage)

The 200-km long Cu Chi Tunnels feature meeting rooms, living quarters, kitchens, clinics, and hiding grounds which were used by Viet Cong-era soldiers and their families. Glorifying the guerilla warfare, the connecting tunnels were built only with simple tools like shovel, mattock, etc. in over two decades. Nasty and lethal boot traps were also assembled and strategically placed everywhere in camouflaged “spider hole” dugouts.

nail spike traps as primitive weapons

Now a point of interest and landmark for tourists, the Cu Chi Tunnels are presented basically as a huge war museum offering visitors a sneak peak at the dark past of Vietnam. This is a living tribute to the human will and Vietnamese peasants’ wartime ingenuity.

The tunnels were dug so deep so that American tanks would pass overhead without causing any damage. Several levels were designed to have effective air filtration systems (e.g. ventilation holes disguised as termite mounds) to help people breathe underground. Oil lamps were used as light.

We were game to do the tunnel crawl but could not get beyond 40 meters when sweat kept pouring down our faces. My 6′-tall boyfriend struggled with the “duck walk.” His knees almost got bruised while I managed to crawl out without stress. It’s one of those times when I’m grateful for being petite. Haha! It was a wonderful experience nevertheless. We almost felt the real vibe of being in war, hearing simultaneous gun shots in the background. Apparently, there’s a shooting range available for tourists to try out a number of guns.

2. Vietnam Handicapped Handicrafts

One of our quick stopovers included a site called Vietnam Handicapped Handicrafts. It’s a shop featuring the creativity and the fine art of lacquer painting. What’s surprising was that those assembling the pieces were mostly victims of the war who did not have the capacity to work anymore in corporate offices but were given the chance to still earn a living the decent way.

We learned that lacquer painting is practiced as an ancient Vietnamese art whereby a resinous substance from trees is utilized as varnish or glossy coating on the painting. The artists make the paintings for days and even months, depending on the materials used (usually egg shells and mother of pearls) and the size of the canvas. Finished products such as personal and home accessories are brought and displayed in the selling area. Unfortunately, taking of pictures inside is not allowed.

Address: Xo Viet Nghe Tinh, Phuong 17, Q. Binh Thanh, Tp.HCMC, Vietnam

3. Reunification Palace

After lunch at Ngon 138 (food review on a separate post), we had a walking city tour which started from the Reunification Palace (also called the Independence Palace). Preserved almost exactly as it was in 1966, this government building is well developed with grandiose interior design and fixtures with text explanations in every room. It’s the former home of the president of South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. We spent about half an hour viewing the rooms and lounges that are fit for royalty.

Address: 135 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia | District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Open hours: 7:30 am – 11 am and 1 pm – 4 pm daily
Entrance fee: 30,000 VND per person

4. War Remnants Museum

Just walking distance away from the Reunification Palace, the War Remnants Museum welcomes visitors to rediscover the atrocities of the war with research materials, photos, artifacts on the evidences and consequences that the invasion force had caused Vietnam.

Many people feel emotional and disturbed upon seeing the cruelty of foreign soldiers and horrific torture techniques that show the severity of the war. I was one of them, and there were times when I felt almost about to cry. The reality was harrowing indeed. The War Remnants Museum exhibits are very insightful and I recommend them to everyone who does not mind a bit of gore and saddening experience.

Address: 28 Vo Van Tan St, District 3, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Open hours: 7:30 am–12:00 pm and 1:30 pm – 5:00 pm daily
Entrance fee: 60,000 VND per person

5. Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral

This cathedral is one of the most beautiful landmarks in Vietnam. We didn’t step inside but were pretty satisfied seeing the French exterior design from the opposite street. It was interesting to learn that this Catholic structure was built piece by piece from France as it was meant to be an exact replica of Notre Dame in Paris. The Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral serves as a good reminder of religious servitude in a communist country.

Address: Ben Nghe Ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

6. Central Post Office

A few steps from the cathedral, the Central Post Office also counts with Gothic, Renaissance, and French influences. A three-minute stay outside to take photographs was enough for us. This is the place to go if you want to send letters and parcels, change or withdraw money from international ATMs, buy souvenirs like stamps and books, and view a range of collector coins and stamp sets. Also, if yellow buildings float your boat, the Central Post Office is a must-see! 😛

7. Opera House (Nha Hat Lon)

We spent some time in Vincom Shopping Mall and by the time we came out, it was already as dark as night but time was only around 5:40PM. We wandered around the area, found fancy shops and cafes and the Hanoi Opera House, which was built with magnificent neoclassical French-style architectural design. The Opera House is a hosting place where important meetings and conferences are being held for both national and international performing art groups. Lots of people were going in wearing formal attire to catch the scheduled shows in the theater. One could not get inside unless attending an opera or show.

Address: 1 Trang Tien St, Hanoi, Vietnam

8. Cho Ben Thanh Market

We had dinner at Saigon Steak 123 and proceeded right away to the night market about 20 minutes away from our hotel. Cho Ben Thanh Market was filled of cheap finds and most of them were copy materials or fake designer goods. From clothing, bags, paintings/art works, and souvenirs to food, you can’t go wrong with this place if you love to shop, but be prepared to meet pushy vendors. When something catches your attention, don’t forget to bargain hard. Start as low as 50% of the price offered and haggle until the vendor agrees on the lowest possible price. 😉

Address: Intersection of Le Loi, Ham Nghi, Tran Hung Dao Avenues and Le Lai Street, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

9. The Laughing Buddha Temple (Vĩnh Tràng Pagoda)

On the second day of our Vietnam tour, we reached Vĩnh Tràng Pagoda near the fruit and vegetables market early in the morning. Now a major provincial destination for tourists and pilgrims, Vinh Trang Pagoda was built in 1849, but it did not look quite so old since it had been restored several times. The main highlight here must be the huge laughing Buddha. It was my first time to see a large seated Buddha with a happy face. 🙂 Gardens packed with flowers and shrubs, lotus pools, and tombs of the monks at the sides also looked well-arranged.

Address: 123 Nguyen Dinh Chieu Street, Ward 6, District 3

10. Mỹ Tho (Mekong Delta)

Ben led us to travel along the Mekong River, the world’s 12th longest river through Asia, for sight-seeing. We rode a motor boat and saw locals fishing with nets and small shacks with big fishing boats. This trip to Mỹ Tho enlightened us as well on how the villagers in Vietnam lived their daily lives in the Mekong Delta. Ben said that most of these rural people were left as orphans of parents who died during the war.

The Tortoise Island (Unicorn Island) was where we tasted different kinds of seasonal fruits, listened to a live Southern traditional music, and learned how coconut candies were was made from fresh coconuts in a local coconut candy farm. Next, we went to Thoi Son Island which is a bee farm where honey is abundant. We got to taste fresh honey from the bees, honey tea, royal jelly, sweet snacks, and some nuts.

On the other side of Thoi Son, long-tail boats on Tan Thach natural canal in Bến Tre transported us through the shadows of water coconut trees. An elderly man and his wife steered the boat with paddles gliding almost silently through the chocolate-brown water. In Bung Tat Village, we spent a wonderful lunch with fellow travelers in Vietnam who came from Singapore, Yvonne and her son, Justin. We enjoyed the assortment of Vietnamese food served. 🙂

Wrap Up

Before traveling to Vietnam, I was worried about not liking the places we would be visiting because I didn’t know anything about them unlike the more familiar Asian countries to me like China, Taiwan, Singapore, and Malaysia. It was a country that shrouded an air of mystery and danger. In addition, only a small population of Vietnamese know how to speak in English. Language barrier, I assumed, would be a problem.

However, all my worries were gone as soon as we started exploring the city. Visiting Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam was like a time travel back to the old world. It surely made us more aware about its tumultuous history, colonial charm, and inspiring scenery. 🙂

We departed to Phnom Penh via a bus at 6AM on the third day. Watch out for my next blog entries for hotel reviews, restaurant reviews, and more travel experiences in Vietnam and Cambodia. 🙂

About 

Digital marketing strategist. Health and technology freak. Food and lifestyle blogger with a large appetite for food and travel.

Related Posts

78 Responses

    • Rochkirstin Santos

      Yup, I thought it was a nice idea to explore both Vietnam and Cambodia combined in one trip. With the adventure, you can somehow connect the dots and traces with their histories.

      Reply
  1. Terry C

    What really interest me about this article is the Cu Chi Tunnels. I would like to go and see them in person. Also Those spike traps look really painful. I feel for who those these traps were used on. Also that boat ride looks like a lot of fun.

    Reply
    • Rochkirstin Santos

      Of course they’re painful. I admire the creativity and strategy of Viet Cong soldiers to fight against their enemies. Even if they did not have military tank and guns as the Americans had, they still won though many also died. The boat ride gave us a relaxing time. The air was so fresh. 🙂

      Reply
  2. Jaime Nicole

    I have never been to Vietnam, or anywhere in Asia, but I would love to visit one day. I grew up down the street from the sweetest lady who was from Vietnam. She used to tell the most interesting (and sometimes sad) stories about her homeland. It’s definitely on my bucket list!

    Reply
    • Rochkirstin Santos

      Oh wow, it’s great to hear the story straight from a true Vietnamese. Sharing personal accounts is always relieving. I’m sure you will learn far more things when you visit the country than watch videos or view photos about it. 🙂

      Reply
    • Rochkirstin Santos

      When you ask me before where is the best place to travel in Asia, definitely Vietnam was not even on the top of my list. However, my boyfriend suggested to take on an adventure with Vietnam and Cambodia and I was almost forced to book us a flight. In the end, I have no regrets. 🙂

      Reply
  3. mr_jeng

    Interesting places, I woullllld love to visit Vietnam.. Believe it or not, I haven’t been there but I heard its like a history trip.. Lots of places to see…

    Im just wondering tho, hows the food situation!!!??

    Reply
    • Rochkirstin Santos

      We have been to a number of Vietnamese restaurants and have only ordered their local food. My verdict is that our food and delicacies here are far better when it comes to taste, but Vietnamese cuisine is also not so bad. 🙂 I’ll post the food/restaurants reviews very soon!

      Reply
  4. Robin Rue (@massholemommy)

    That sounds like such an amazing place to visit. I would love the chance to get over there someday and see these places for myself.

    Reply
    • Rochkirstin Santos

      Yeah, their buildings are mostly European-inspired and some are US-inspired. So at one place you will get to see French architecture side by side the tall buildings constructed by the Americans. It’s very interesting.

      Reply
  5. Jeanette

    Traveling is a passion of my mine. I love when I can check out another culture. I hope one day I will make it there. It looks very interesting.

    Reply
  6. Summer

    I don’t know the past of Vietnam though your tour is pretty amazing. I find the dugouts scary and it makes me wonder if we (here in the Philippines) have that kind of traps back on WW2. The tunnel looks familiar, I think I’ve seen something similar here.

    Reply
    • Rochkirstin Santos

      Those traps were made more than a decade so they’re really brilliant. I don’t think we have the same here. The designs of the tunnels were well thought out of.

      Reply
  7. Sarh S

    What a beautiful place to visit, I would love to tour Vietnam one day. I doubt I’d be able to go into one of those tunnels though…

    Reply
    • Rochkirstin Santos

      Going into the tunnel is just optional. We took the shortest route (40 meters) and we were both hoping to finally reach the end to catch some air. 🙂 I realized how lucky we are now that we don’t live in that age. Tough times indeed.

      Reply
    • Rochkirstin Santos

      It will be good to bring your kids so they can form clear pictures on their minds and it will be easier for them to understand history to interact with their classmates more in school.

      Reply
  8. Jenn

    What a beautiful trip!! The history and culture you learned is amazing! I hope to travel there one day!

    Reply
    • Rochkirstin Santos

      I recommend traveling to Vietnam on a weekend so you can get back to “normal routine” come Monday. A short two-day tour in Ho Chi Minh city will get you places.

      Reply
  9. Michele D

    Looks like you had a lovely visit in Vietnam. Loved viewing your pictures and the places you visited.

    Reply
    • Rochkirstin Santos

      Thanks, Ricci. 🙂 I was glad that we have covered all these places in one go. It was an all-encompassing exploration of HCM since we also had some free time to discover the city with our feet as travel guide at night.

      Reply
    • Rochkirstin Santos

      I wasn’t interested about history initially. In fact, I hated hearing about those lessons because they’re too boring as compared to technology news, you know. 😛 My mindset was changed when we were there.

      Reply
  10. rika

    Thanks for sharing! I’ve never been to Vietnam but love their cuisine! I probably order Pho once a week 😉 so addicted

    Reply
  11. Adriana

    Wow this looks like an awesome trip and like you had an amazing time! Your pictures are beautiful! Vietnam is on my travel bucket list!

    Reply
  12. Melissa

    This looks like a great place to add to the bucket list of places to travel. This list is getting longer everyday thanks to all of the traveling I see bloggers doing. Keep it coming, I love to see it and live vicariously through you.

    Reply
  13. Rebecca Swenor

    These all look like indeed great tourist attraction to see. I would love to see the tunnels. It would be amazing to visit there some day.

    Reply
    • Rochkirstin Santos

      Before going into the tunnels, you will be watching a short documentary film and you can choose the language (English, French, or Chinese). This is for all the visitors to have more ideas on what to expect and how the tunnels were made.

      Reply
  14. Crystal Lopez

    Thank you so much for sharing. It is always interesting to see life up close in other cultures around the world. These are certainly hotspots for visiting.

    Reply
    • Rochkirstin Santos

      Living in foreign country, or even just visiting, can be a life-changing experience. No one returns to their home country the same person as when they left. We were happy to see the best and the worst of Ho Chi Minh City in our short trip. 🙂

      Reply
  15. Bonnie @wemake7

    This is a really great travel guide. It looks like you all had a great experience. Thanks for sharing it.

    Reply
    • Rochkirstin Santos

      Thanks, Hillesha! When you’re ready to really get away from all the fancy stuff, a tour of a city with rich history, nature and art is within reach in HCM. 🙂

      Reply
  16. Lynndee

    I would love to visit Vietnam someday and I bet my husband would love to visit Vietnam too once he sees your photos of the tunnel. He so love history so I know he’d find that so interesting.

    Reply
    • Rochkirstin Santos

      It will be fun if you can also try crawling into those tunnels to have a feel of what it’s like to be a Vietnamese soldier in those days during the war. The experience was so awesome. 🙂

      Reply
  17. Ann Bacciaglia

    This looks like beautiful places to visit. I love the photos. I have always wanted to go to Vietnam.

    Reply
  18. Dawn

    I have always thought Vietnam was a pretty beautiful place. Those tunnels look like such a fun adventure to see.

    Reply
    • Rochkirstin Santos

      In a place as historic as Vietnam or Ho Chi Minh City to be exact, you don’t have to look too far to find amazing art and architecture. There are many buildings that are inspired by the French and the Americans and it won’t look like you’re somewhere in Asia. 🙂

      Reply
  19. Kathy

    Wow, that looks amazing! All your photos are so beautiful. I’ve never been to Vietnam before. This makes me want to go check out all these wonderful places.

    Reply
  20. Astrid

    Very interesting, particularly the war remnants museum and the tunnel. I am not clueless about the Vietnam war but of course in school we mostly learned about the U.S. side of things. I mean, we did learn about the protests against the war by U.S. people, but hardly learned about the effects this war had on the Vietnamese and the way they defended themselves.

    Reply
    • Rochkirstin Santos

      Oh it’s great that you have insights about the US-Vietnam war and it will be cool to learn about the other side as well. Two countries tell a different story and perhaps, you will better appreciate all these when you visit the War Remnants Museum and the historic sites in the flesh. 🙂

      Reply
  21. Alison

    It sounds like this was a very intersting and enlightening trip. There are may places I would like to travel, but I’d honestly never thought about Vietnam, although there is so much history there.

    Reply
    • Rochkirstin Santos

      Vietnam is a great place to travel, but Ho Chi Minh city is not too easy to navigate because there are no trains and not a lot of buses to bring you to places. You can rather walk, take a taxicab, or hire a tuktuk driver.

      Reply
  22. Gabriel

    Interesting to see perspective of the “other side” as far as the Vietnam War goes. It always amused me that the US, which won it’s revolution largely on the strength of guerrilla tactics, was so totally unprepared to have them used against us, both in Vietnam and then again in Iraq and Afganistan.

    Reply
    • Rochkirstin Santos

      Yup, it’s cool that Americans also get to learn about the side of the Vietnamese soldiers and their people when they read about the history in the museum and the galleries.

      Reply

Leave a Reply to ashleigh Cancel Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.