Saigon, the capital of Vietnam has plenty of attractions around this city. The deep history that the country has gone through, the irresistible Pho and Manh Mi, the vehicle honking and crazy motorbikes roaming around the city have made it a unique character of this city. Saigon has developed rapidly, office building, hotels, cafe, restaurants and pubs are growing, it is definitely worth to visit and understand about this city.
Here are the 8 things to do in Saigon.
Saigon Post office
The Saigon post office located opposite the Notre-Dame Basilica was built between 1886-1891 during the French Indochina period. This is still an operating post office serving the locals and tourist. You are able to buy stamps, postcard and mail it from here. The high ceiling and spacious area make this a cooling place to rest your feet.
You can enter the telephone booth to make a call or write a letter to your friends. There are 2 big painted maps on the left and right of the post office, the one on the left is the map of Southern Vietnam and Cambodia, the one on the right is the map of Saigon.
This place has been preserved with every detail since the French Indochina period, a great place to view the architecture of those days.
War Remnants Museum
To avoid the scorching sun and crowds, we decide to visit the War Remnants Museum in the early morning. Opening hours is 0730 to 1200 and 1330 to 1700. It opens daily including public holiday. Entrance fee is 40.000d per person.
You can see the aircraft, tanks, and helicopter left behind by the US army during the Vietnam War at the Museum entrance. There are 2 torture chambers on the left of the entrance.
There is a total of 3 stories which display photographs, artifacts, and weapons used during the war. The exhibition “Requiem” on the 3rd floor displays the photographs captured during the Vietnam war. Requiem is by two press photographers, Tim Page, and Horst Faas who collect photographs captured by 134 press photographers from various countries.
I salute these press photographers who risked their lives to capture these heart touching photos.
Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon
The French colonist built the Cathedral between 1863 and 1880 and located right opposite of the post office. The construction materials are imported from France and Cathedral is surrounded by roads leaving no expansion space.
Right in front of the entrance, you will be able to see Virgin Mary statue. Some of the people have seen her shed tears in 2005 which attract locals and tourist to visit the Cathedral.
Saigon city hall
The French colonial style Saigon city hall was built in 1902-1908 and is not opened to the public. This is the Peoples Committee headquarters and only workers are allowed to enter.
You are able to see a Ho Chi Minh statue right outside the city hall making it a popular attraction.
The Independence Palace is a 5 stories office and residence area.
There are quite a few rooms in this palace, some used to host the guest, dining, bedroom, war command room, and telecommunication room.
Cu Chi tunnel
The 220 kilometers Cu Chi tunnel are divided into 3 levels which consist of a 6 meters, 8 meters and 10 meters underground tunnel. It was constructed during the 1940’s Indochina War and expanded during the 1960’s Vietnam War. A section of the tunnel is for resting and cooking. Smokes generated when cooking is channeled out to a different tunnel to misled the soldier. The tunnels are dark, lack of oxygen and often visited by insects.
Tourist can now crawl through the widened tunnel. I can imagine the size of the Vietnamese soldier, who is able to crawl through them easily. I crawl into the tunnel and felt the pressure in this small dark tunnel. There are no lights in some part of the tunnel and have to figure out where the exit was. It wasn’t really a comfortable crawl for a tall man.
There are many booby traps around the Cu Chi tunnel ground area, some traps are meant for US military dogs while the most of them are meant for the human.
Pho is one of the staple food in Saigon. It’s chicken or beef stock with rice noodles, prior eating you have a choice to add Thai basil leaves, mung bean sprouts, mint leaves, culantro and a good squeeze of lime. The Thai basil, mint leaves, and the lime makes it so extra delicious.
Chicken Pho = Pho Ga
Beef Pho = Pho Bo
Pho Thin Hanoi
This stall sells mainly only beef pho, they have a rice option too.
Address: 13 Lò Đúc, Ngô Thì Nhậm, Hai Bà Trưng, Hà Nội, Vietnam
This is a 24-hour stall selling chicken and beef pho, this is one of the better stalls that I have tried in Saigon. It’s a corner stall with 3 stories high and often visited by the locals and tourist. I had the chicken pho, the clear soup is full of flavor and definitely worth visiting.
Address: 323 Phạm Ngũ Lão, Phường Phạm Ngũ Lão, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
Pho2000 is located just opposite of Ben Thanh market. Bill Clinton had visited this outlet in the year 2000 and I think that where the shop name came by. Bill Clinton is the first US prime minister to visit Vietnam after the Vietnam war.
The chicken pho soup that I had was on the mild side. The noodles have lost it texture as it had been overcooked.
Do take note that this shop is above a coffee bean stop, it’s on the 2nd floor.
Address: 1-3 Phan Chu Trinh, Phường Bến Thành, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
Banh Mi is a baguette introduce during the French colonial period. It has all sorts of filling, normally with one or 2 meats (sausages, roasted/ grill chicken, roasted/ grilled pork, chicken floss and some vegetables and sauce. There is no limit to what you want.
There is a stall which personally likes and it’s near to the Saigon City Hall. The crust is crispy, bread is soft and the filling is nice.
Banh Mi Ba Lac
Address: 66 Nguyễn Huệ, Bến Nghé, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam