Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Vietnam - Roaming Around Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh City used to be called as Saigon City. The French colonizer gave this westernized name until it was changed to Ho Chi Minh in 1975 when the communist took over South Vietnam. However, it seems to me that the name Saigon City is still widely used outside Vietnam.

Boulevard across The Reunification Palace

Being a previous colony of French, it came as no surprise that HCMC was sometimes called as Paris of Asia due to its French colonial architecture, wide boulevards lined with fully grown trees and magnificent French villas. While Hanoi is the political capital of Vietnam, HCMC is considered as the economic capital of the nation. Not to mention that it is the largest city in Vietnam.

with my wife
One of the famous landmarks in HCMC that boasts a classical Euro-style design is the Notre Dame Cathedral. It is more than a century old Catholic church. It used to be an abandoned Buddhist Pagoda until it was converted into church during the early years of French colonization. All original construction materials used for building this church were directly imported from France. Beside this Cathedral is the Post Office, another Euro-designed structure worth visiting while in HCMC. By the way, you can attend Mass during weekend here and if you are lucky you might see couples having their pre-nuptial or wedding shots in front of this church.

My wife and I stayed in HCMC for 3D/2N. I thought that was enough for us to have a good look of the city. I was wrong; we were able to explore only District 1 of HCMC. This place is considered as the center of the city; better book your hotel within this area if you prefer to be near touristy places.

On our third and last day in HCMC, we decided to explore District 1 by trekking to Reunification Palace, Notre Dame, Saigon Square, Ben Thanh market then back to our hotel. Wife was upset after 30 minutes of walking because we got lost due to incorrect city map we got from our hotel. Luckily, one local lady showed us the way to Reunification Palace.

More so, don't be surprised if you see our very own Jollibee in HCMC. There are several Jollibee outlets in Vietnam; this make me feel proud as Filipino. My colleague dined at Jollibee with his family when they visited HCMC. I told him, that was the most expensive way to eat at Jollibee.

The Reunification Palace

Ben Thanh Market

Saigon Square - Buy your TNF here

Metered taxis are readily available in every nook; fare is cheap as well. Likewise, our college classmate residing at HCMC with her family advised us to take Vinasun or Mai Linh (not Mai Lin or Mei Lin) taxis as often as possible because other taxi companies are not using their meters when hired by tourists. On the other hand, there is nothing to worry if you plan to explore HCMC by foot, just make sure you have a correct map, LOL.

One thing any newbie in HCMC would definitely notice is the ant-like numbers of motorcycles plying its streets. See related post: HCMC - City Riders. Beware though that like in any other bustling Asian cities, there are petty thief using motorcycle to prey on unsuspecting tourists especially around Ben Thanh Market. Take a firm hold on your DSLR and bag.

While coming back to our hotel from our day trip to Chu Chi Tunnels, my wife and I noticed that the locals are very fond of kite flying. Their kites are normally big, colorful and having various designs. This is the first time I have seen large crowds enjoying this kind of activity.

It was unfortunate that we had limited time to spend in HCMC. I would love to see their "Cho Lon" or Chinatown and some of their Buddhist Pagodas. Further, foodie will find HCMC an interesting place to indulge.

Finally, there is one thing that I noticed with Vietnamese ladies, most of them if not all are slim. I never saw any chubby local lady while we were there; no offense meant for those on the chubby side. Having observed this, I was not surprise anymore when we visited Chu Chi tunnels. Given their size, surely they would find it easy to maneuver in those tiny holes underground.


  1. I have heard a lot of stories and seen a lot of pictures of HCMC and it never fails to tease on my senses to go. I have only been to north Vietnam and with your post you are making me want to explore the south.

  2. I've never been to North Vietnam and given a chance I'd love to visit that place also. Considering the history of both North and South I am sure that you will find South Vietnam in direct contrast to North due to its historical connection to France and America. An added treat in visiting the South is the cheap TNF products, LOL.