Where we stayed – Lala Hostel
We arrived into Ho Chi during the early hours of the morning to find La La Hostel. It was down an unlit alley which was a little unnerving, but we had explained to the hostel we would be arriving at that time.
When we eventually found the place, it was all locked up – just what we needed. We had to ring the doorbell 3 times for someone to let us in who advised we had woken him up!
We had to squeeze through multiple mopeds that were parked in the small welcome area. However, we were given our key and shown our room which was very pleasant, clean and nicely decorated and fell to sleep.
We had a private room with a shared bathroom, but the only room on the same floor as us had an en-suite so the bathroom was all ours anyway. The hostel was small, quiet and the staff were really friendly. Also, breakfast was included (useful for budget travellers).
The location was pretty good too – we walked everywhere (although fairly substantial walks at times) and were only 5 minutes away from Bui Vien walking street.
Things to do in Ho Chi Minh City
Watch a football match (Vietnam vs Malaysia Suzuki Cup Final)
Our first day was a catch-up day of laundry (use Wash n Go on Bui Vien Street, cheapest we found!) and further travel planning as well as a quick stroll up walking street. We had the feeling that Ho Chi was a cross between the touristy Phuket but with the atmosphere of New Delhi!
In the evening, was the final of the AFF Championship between Vietnam and Malaysia. We already had our headbands from the match we watched in Hanoi (you may have seen the pictures) so we set out wearing those which brought a smile to locals faces – especially our hostel staff!
The atmosphere was electric! The walking street was covered in chairs, tables, big screens, performers and a sea of red and yellow (Vietnam colours).
As we were slightly late and arrived just as the game stared, there were no seats outside so we sat in a bar in front of a screen and watched the first half with a beer. Vietnam scored within 6 minutes and the crowd outside the bar went WILD!
Due to the price and the better atmosphere outside, we decided to watch the second half standing in the street with a supermarket can (classy)! James had a few stored in his back pockets, typical James!
During half time, there was even a DJ on a balcony and a party erupted on the street! The vibe was contagious and everyone was united as one.
Vietnam won the final (1-0), and I have never seen anything like it – thousands of people cheering, shouting, chanting, dancing and singing to celebrate! Confetti was everywhere and the party remained strong.
To the point we could still hear chanting from our hostel a few hours later. A lot of sore heads in the morning I’m guessing!
I am not a football lover but I would enjoy it much more if the atmosphere was like that every time!
Bui Vien Walking Street
This street is at the heart of the city and especially comes to life at night with the many themed restaurants and bars on offer.
War Remnants Museum
I won’t say too much about this place as I suppose you have to witness it yourself, but the museum paints the horror story of the Vietnam war.
It offers the timeline, statistics, supporters and protestors of the war, prisoners of war and how they were treated, as well as really hard-hitting photographs from the time and the still current effects of Agent Orange (a gas that the US used to contaminate Vietnamese Jungle areas).
Portrayed were the numerous victims, both adults and children, who were physically and/or mentally impaired through the generations.
Something that James found most interesting was an American soldier who had donated his medals with a message saying “I’m sorry” to the museum.
I felt as though I learned a lot from this museum but came out feeling really solemn. Really worth a visit just to understand what happened in the country.
Cu Chi Tunnels
Following on from the museum, we took a trip to the famous Cu Chi Tunnels to learn how one village built and used very clever underground tunnels to defend themselves and attack US troops. It took about 2 hours from the City to arrive.
You sit and watch a documentary for around 10 minutes to understand the origin of the tunnels and are then guided to the first tiny hidden tunnel to take pictures in – we didn’t get a chance to first time around but James had a go just before we left!
We were shown numerous traps set up by the Vietnamese to either kill or slow down US soldiers – they were similar to animal traps using numerous spikes hidden underneath unstable ground. You can imagine the pain! Very clever and cost effective to make!
There is an opportunity to shoot guns for about £1 a bullet, but we skipped this!
You also have the opportunity to go through one of the tunnels. It is the only one open to the public, and according to James had been made bigger for tourist purposes.
I was unsure if I wanted to do it but felt I needed to try, plus, there were exits every 20 meters.
When I got to the entrance I nearly turned back – you have to crouch down and arch your back. It is very dark and very hot, so I did get a little panicky – I would have been useless in the war!
The entire distance is 150 meters, some parts you have to jump down to deeper sections and climb back up. I made it to 60 meters before I got out as the guide told us it gets a lot narrower. I was not willing to put myself through that and I was proud I got that far!
To my surprise, James came out with me! I thought he would go the whole way but turns out he was getting a little claustrophobic too and it didn’t help that he had to make extra room for the backpack!
A worthy and interesting half day trip, but it is definitely set up for tourists!
Ben Thanh Market
We came across this market numerous times as it is quite central. We only whizzed around it as we aren’t really on a shopping holiday! However, you can get lost down the numerous lanes of clothes, bags, scarves, trainers, toiletries, food and nuts and shop to your hearts content if you wish.
The market closes at around 5pm and a night market starts setting up around 7pm with similar clothing, shoes and bags on sale.
Mekong Delta 1 Day Tour
Vinh Trang Temple
After a two hour shared bus journey this was our first stop of the trip.
It was a fairly pretty area with 3 large white buddhas – a fat happy buddha (James was happy to finally see one of these!), a reclining buddha and a standing buddha. There was however a lot of reconstruction work going on.
The inside of the temple had a lot of wooden carvings and was fairly intricate. It was interesting but not overly different to other temples we have seen so far. Although this was the first big, fat, happy buddha we had seen!
On our tour we enjoyed a boat ride around 4 of the islands – turtle, unicorn, dragon and phoenix (Vietnamese animal symbols – I think I mentioned this before somewhere?!) and a row boat ride (complete with Vietnamese hats) along one of the small, calm and quiet canals.
We were told there were crocs in the water so to keep hands inside of the boat. We obeyed the rules (I am not risking losing my hand!) but none of the creatures were spotted! We enjoyed the scenery of leaves and trees making a tunnel of green above our heads.
Coconut Candy Factory
We were also shown how coconut candy is made by a family business (yum – we bought a packet!) and enjoyed honey tea and traditional Vietnamese music at a bee farm.
I understand this building has historical value, however, it kind of just looks a bit like a grand UK council building to me! We stopped outside to take a quick snap and left it there. Maybe I should read up about it and I would understand the importance!
Notre Dame Cathedral
Very pretty cathedral resembling the famous Notre Dame in Paris. Well kept flower beds are laid out the front but apart from the 2 front towers, the rest of the building is covered in scaffolding and green netting for renovation works!
So, we didn’t get the wow factor we were expecting. Didn’t stop us taking some pictures as a memory though!
The City Post Office
The City Post Office is right next to the cathedral, which is also a fairly grand building. We popped inside to look at prices to send stuff home (we definitely packed way too much!) but I was a little pricey so we will carry on for now!
The Opera House
We walked a little further past the expensive designer shops to the Opera House. Strangely feels like it is the middle of a busy road, but an attractive, traditional building suitable for the like of opera – not that I have ever seen one!
The City Hall
Lastly, we found City Hall for the last photos of a very busy day! Another grand and traditional building of the city. I was difficult to get a decent photograph as there were trees and bushes in the way, not to mention it was on a busy road!
We wanted to make the most of our ticket so went up to the 40th floor around 4.45pm so we could see the view of the city during the day, at sunset and when it lights up at night. It meant a little hanging around but there was no time limit of your visit.
Touch screens give you information on the buildings you are looking at and there was even a traditional clothing exhibition and a shop. There is also a café to enjoy if you wish.
It was a rather breath-taking view, especially at night. Worth a visit, especially as it wasn’t too expensive in comparison to other worldwide towers!
The World of Heineken Tour
This tour was an extra £1.50 on our Skydeck ticket and so worth it! It was even higher up in the building on 60th floor. It is a very new attraction (probably why the price is still so good) and a really enjoyable 30 minutes.
You receive a guided tour with information regarding the Heineken family and the factory in Vietnam, and the ingredients of the beer – you even get to smell/taste them. You are then shown how it is made through virtual reality, which was humorous!
You are further shown how to pull your own perfect draft and have your own go – I am an expert of course (James needs more practice) – and enjoy the drink after saying cheers in Vietnamese!
Further to this, you are taken to an interactive games room with DJ set, racing car game, football game, foosball table and photo booth for 15 mins of fun!
Lastly, you get taken to the bar with lights and music and an even higher view of the city! The tour provides 2 free beers (can, draft or bottle) a bottle of water and crisps each! You can stay in the bar as long as you like. It was a fun end to our stay in Vietnam!
On leaving, you are given a complimentary bottle of Heineken with your name on! What a nice touch! We plan to save these for Xmas day!
Really fun and interactive tour, even if you aren’t that interested in beer! James enjoyed this mostly, as he also got my free beers.
Where to eat
Nhu Lan Restaurant
We found this street food place just outside the Skydeck! We spotted what looked like gammon on a spit and tried a kebab/bahn mi and it was delicious!
We got 2 more on our way out for lunch the next day! They also had BBQ and spring rolls on offer and a seated section with other Vietnamese meals.
All for so cheap too – find it if you can!
Ben Than Street Food Market
We also experienced the street food market around the corner from the shopping market. I will give them their due, it was full of variety – Vietnamese, Thai, Italian, American and Mexican food to try.
Although, I feel the prices were inflated for tourists as it was a fairly new and quirky indoor food area with seating. Worth a go if you fancy some variety, but it won’t be cheap if you want numerous dishes (in comparison to proper street food)!
James had found this place on Trip Advisor and tucked in a side street off Bui Vien we found it. They let us have the couples offer (even though we were 20 minutes too late) and we enjoyed a pork quesadilla and chicken burrito and fries with a Vietnamese taste twist.
It really was delicious and soft drinks came in the deal. Definitely recommend!
A very busy and hot (yay, no rain) visit to Ho Chi Minh but it had a great atmosphere about it! Next stop is Cambodia – Phnom Penh!