I have always wanted to come to Ho Chi Minh aka Saigon in Vietnam for the fact that this city is only 6 hours away. I finally found the right time, booked a one-way ticket, and packed for my short vacay as usual. Ho Chi Minh is a small city that takes just two days to explore, and I had good fun there. Among all countries and cities that I have been to, I find Ho Chi Minh the most mesmerizing. I had both the best and the worst memories and experiences exploring this city, perhaps that is the beauty of it.
So I left Phnom Penh on a bus at 8:30AM in the morning, and I arrived in Ho Chi Minh by 4PM. Got lucky, sat next to a handsome stranger. It was a long journey between these two cities, but it was somehow fun because I had a jolly conversation partner. The bus terminal in Ho Chi Minh is at the center of many attractions that tourists can visit. So it is recommended to book your accommodation in District 1 because it is close to many places.
My first day in Ho Chi Minh did not begin very well, my phone was snatched when I was checking the map. However, the locals were so helpful and nice so I got to contact the host of the apartment I booked to pick me up. That is one thing that you have to know when you visit busy and big cities, especially Saigon. Big cities are not safe, so you have to be extra careful with your belongings like phones, wallets, and passports. I learned that lesson a very hard way myself.
After a long night, finally I got the motivation to get over my broken heart because of the stolen phone. Ho Chi Minh is not a big city, so I had been to many places just on the second day alone. Those included:
1Saigon Cathedral of Notre Dame
This is a beautiful structure as well as one of the main attractions that many people go to. When I was there, tourists were not allowed to get inside, so everyone ended up taking photos from the outside of the cathedral. The Cathedral of Notre Dame is under renovation, so that is what it looks like at the moment. Not much to take pictures of, but the place is worth visiting. Since the famous Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris is way too far for the Asian me, this one in Saigon will do.
2Saigon Central Post Office
Just across the street from the cathedral, you will find this post office where there are many souvenirs to buy. The price of souvenirs in the post office is pretty reasonable, and there are many options that you can choose from. From cute little keychains to medium-sized marble statues, you can find them all there. This post office is not too big, so I only spent around half an hour there. After another few minutes of walking straight passed the post office, there was this fascinating street that book lovers will love.
3Saigon Book Street
The place itself is called Book Street, and that takes you to another different world of the city. There are bookstores that sell hundreds of books in both English and Vietnamese language. Apart from the stores, there are also benches where you can sit and read your favorite books there as well. This street is known to be heaven for book lovers out there, and it totally is. Would have taken better photos if I had my phone with me, but this place is simply perfect for bookworms.
It was a rainy afternoon in Saigon, so I ended up at Passio Coffee for about an hour; a relaxing coffee shop nearby. The beautiful part about the second day of this trip was that it was no rush. I got to explore each place with all the time I need, and the weather was also nice as well. It was nice spending some time at the coffee shop just sitting there watching the rainfall, exactly what I needed.
4Ben Thanh Market
The next destination was Ben Thanh market, one of the markets where tourists can find almost anything. The only thing that you have to bear in mind is that some of the sellers charge you extra high. It is important to know how to bargain, at the lowest price you can think of. So I wanted to buy this travel backpack, and the seller charged me $70 for it. I gave her $20, and the bargaining kept on going until she agreed to sell me for that price. If they don’t sell at the price that you want, just walk away. Also, remember to go shopping in the afternoon. Bargaining and walking away in the morning will leave them hating you for giving them bad luck.
One of the best places to hang out at night is definitely this café apartment. It is a vintage and relaxing building consisting of 7 floors with many coffee and tea shops. There is also one mini club there with great dancing music as well in case you are not a coffee person. I spent a couple of hours there just sitting and listening to chilling Vietnamese songs. I kinda grow to like Vietnamese songs as well, some of them are really good.
The great part is that there is a large walking area right in front of the apartment. There are street performances, food, and simply breezy air that make the night even more relaxing. You can either walk around or sit on the benches, both ways are great because the place is so nice. Café Apartment and the park in front of it are definitely great places to not miss. Highly recommended.
So that was the end of day 2, and it was fun and relaxing.
Would call it my pagoda and church hunting day for the fact that I had visited many of them. Yet, only one that I managed to get the name of. It was Monday, so the street was not as busy as at the weekends. That made walking easier, but the weather was very hot so a taxi was the main mean of transportation. There weres a few nice places that I went to on my third and last day, and it was great fun.
6Thien Hau Temple: The Temple of Love
This temple is one of the main attractions in Ho Chi Minh city, and here is why. Not many people know, but Thien Hau temple is actually where single people go to pray for love. I knew that a little late, would have done some praying in case I would have ended up with a perfect stranger. Apart from love, there are also the elderly who come to pray for health and luck as well. As a matter of fact, Thien Hau temple is the place where people come to pray for what they wish to have.
You have to buy your own incense either at the entrance or in the temple. The price is 20,000 dong for regular incense, and it is the same as the coiling ones that hang above. Despite the fact that this temple is well-known, it is actually a very peaceful and quite place. Thien Hau temple is a little far from the main city, so the best way to get there is by Grab Taxi.
7Quan Ut Ut
I had been to a couple of pagodas and churches that I couldn’t get the name of before lunchtime. It was already around 2PM when I arrived at Quan Ut Ut, a famous American restaurant in Ho Chi Minh. The food there was actually really good, both steak and pork there were amazing. This restaurant is also facing the view of Calmette Bridge and the river as well. So you can eat while enjoying the view of the city and river at the same time. It was quite nice there, just the right place for food.
Near the restaurant was this nice temple which was the last temple of the day. The design is not so much different from Thien Hau temple, but it was more quiet there. The temple might not be famous for praying for love, but it is worth praying for good luck there. Ho Chi Minh might be a very busy city, but these temples are very peaceful and quiet to go to. A great escape at some point, and I really loved the experience there.
It was a long day, so I wanted to finish my trip with some good drinks. Bui Vien aka Backpacker Street is the perfect place for nightlife where you go to drink and shake the stress away. There are many restaurants as well as pubs both big and small that you can choose from. Basically, the place is very loud and crowded especially at night. Maybe that is the definition of fun to some because you get to explore the wild night in the center of the city.
The only annoying thing was that there were people driving motorbikes and cars through the place called “walking street”. Apart from that, Bui Vien was a place worth a couple of drinks. The price was also acceptable where I went to. With all the crowd and the loud music, Bui Vien is great for groups because you get to enjoy the fun with your friends. Would be quite lonely for a solo traveler, but it is worth a try in case you want to.
In these three days despite the fact that my phone was stolen, I still got to have fun in Saigon. I got to explore places that I have never been to, and I got to try things I have never expected to have done. It is going to be a long while before you ask whether I would come back to Saigon again. Perhaps different cities in Vietnam, we shall see.
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