Ten tips on what to do in Ho Chi Minh, a city that has nothing to offer

A lot of tourists that come to Vietnam either don’t bother visiting Ho Chi Minh City (or Saigon – the westernised version of the original Vietnamese name Sài Gòn that’s still used in daily speech nowadays) or they do and the verdict seems to be the same – “there isn’t much to do”. While I am of the opinion that this city indeed doesn’t have much going on, I have composed a list of ten “must see” and “must do” things and activities while visiting the business hub of the Nam.

  1. Go to the Saigon pool party that’s held every Saturday at the New World Hotel. I bet you won’t have seen so many tattoos, six packs and inter-racial inter-generational couples in your life. If you are a fairly well-rounded intelligent individual, the median IQ of people at this place will be increased dramatically when you visit.
  2. Pay a visit to one of the many speakeasy coffee shops and order a cà phê sữa nóng (Vietnamese hot coffee with condensed milk) and expect the staff to serve you a cà phê sữa đá (Vietnamese iced coffee with condensed milk). The Vietnamese are obsessed with ice and iced drinks and drinking hot coffee is almost unheard of amongst the Vietnamese – “but the hot coffee is hot, lady” is usually the response I get when I return the iced coffee back and ask for a hot one again.
  3. Visit one of the many rooftop bars, but I would advise you do this only after sunset. During the day, the view is spoilt by the unattractiveness of this city. This unattractiveness is cleverly camouflaged by the lights at night.
  4. Spend a day at Thao Dien, the expat bubble. It really is a completely different world out there. You may hang out at a bar pool, get your hair and nails done at western beauty salons, do your grocery shopping at a western supermarket or get a good quality massage (not the crap massage you get in District 1).  I’d say that the majority of expats who have been living in Saigon for a while eventually move to this area for its convenience. One thing to mention – parts of Thao Dien get flooded really badly during the rainy season. So if you are visiting Saigon between May and October, bring your raincoat and wellies.
  5. Spend a day sightseeing. The sights you should visit include the Independence Palace, the Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica, the War museum, the Ho Chi Minh City Hall and the Municipal Theatre. I guess the sights will take less than a day. Now, if you do not visit the aforementioned sights, you haven’t missed much.
  6. Explore the famous Cu Chi tunnels, the immense network of connecting underground tunnels built during the war around Ho Chi Minh. If you are tall (i.e. over 180 cm) or fat, you may wish to reconsider as you may not be able to fit into the narrow spaces, designed for the tiny Vietnamese. If you suffer from claustrophobia, you may wish to give the Cu Chi tunnels a miss altogether.
  7. Go on a Mekong Delta tour. I haven’t been and I still live. Do the maths!
  8. Grab a bike or uber a moto and see the city from a different perspective. Sit back and enjoy the ride, relish the adrenaline and watch the chaos, craziness, dirtiness, ugliness of this city. If you think that grab / uber bikers have mastered the traffic or driving in Ho Chi Minh, think again. I’ve already been in an accident while taking a grab bike.
  9. Visit one of the many markets and buy all the clutter that you don’t really need while celebrating the victory of having haggled the price down slightly (hint: you still get ripped off anyway).
  10. Hang out in the backpacker area. Get drunk and be ridiculous – show the Vietnamese how absurd the Western people can be.
Advertisements