I had the opportunity to travel to Vietnam earlier this year for a short getaway with my buddy and we decided to go to Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), also known as Saigon. Even though it was a rather spontaneous trip, there are many budget airlines flying from Singapore to HCMC daily and we managed to get our tickets for just 120 SGD two way with VietJet!
Here’s a 3D2N Ho Chi Minh City Itinerary from what we did while we were there.
Day 1 – Exploring District 1, HCMC’s Charming Central Business District
HCMC is divided into districts and each district has its own specialty – District 2 is the residential area, District 7 is ‘Korea town’ and District 1 is, what we in Singapore call, the central business district (CBD). As the city center, District 1 is where most high buildings are located but fret not, most attractions (and hotels) in HCMC are located in District 1 too! Although traffic can be bad at times, District 1 is rather pedestrian-friendly and most attractions are located within walking distance from each other.
Since there are many places to see and visit around at District 1, I will be splitting the itinerary into two posts. Stay tune for the second part where I will share what you can do in Day 2 & 3 of your trip to HCMC. If you do not want to miss a post, you can subscribe to my blog or like my Facebook page for the latest blog updates!
Here are some of the places to visit at District 1, Ho Chi Minh City:
Saigon Central Post Office (Bưu điện)
This post office was constructed in the late 19th century when Vietnam was still part of French Indochina which explains its rustic and slight European feels.
What surprised me about this post office was: Even though this post office is now a major tourist attraction in HCMC, it is still operational! One of the first things I noticed as I step into the post office was the crowd, both local and tourists. While the tourists were busy taking their pictures with the instagramworthy design, the locals were actually sending out mail.
At both sides of the entrance are two souvenir stores where you can buy cute Vietnamese souvenirs for your family and friends at home! We got ourselves small figurines of a lady dress in Vietnamese traditional costume and some other souvenirs and only spent less than 5 SGD in total.
HCMC Book Street
As you exit the post office, turn right and after passing McDonald’s you will see HCMC’s Book Street on your right. Newly built in 2016, the book street has become the city’s newest hang out place for a chill weekend. If you love books, you would probably enjoy spending some time here although most books were in Vietnamese.
Even for a non-book lover, I enjoyed looking around and the place was very instagramworthy! There were even some couples taking their pre-wedding photos there.
Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon
Right across the book street and post office is HCMC’s iconic cathedral. Similar to the post office, this was built during the French colonial era at the end of the 1800s. It is said that all the building materials were imported from France directly.
We didn’t have the chance to enter the cathedral due to limited time but you can always enter if you want. The cathedral is open between 5.30AM to 5PM daily. Unless you are coming for one of their Sunday mass, you will only be able to enter from the side entrances as the main gate is only opened for the Sunday mass. I heard that currently the cathedral is undergoing some renovations until the end of 2019 so until then, you may not be able to visit the cathedral for safety reasons.
Saigon Opera House (HCMC Municipal Theatre)
If you continue walking from the cathedral, you will see the Saigon Opera House, another building built during the French colonial era. This building used to be a government building until 1975 when it was then used for theatre shows.
Since we were not going to watch any shows, we did not step into the building and only enjoyed it from the outside. However if you are interested in theatre, you can catch a show here and even purchase tickets online from the different vendors.
Tân Định Church
If you are visiting HCMC soon and still want to visit a cathedral, you can visit this iconic pink church instead while the other cathedral is being renovated. This church is very hard to miss if you are walking around District 1 due to its bright pink exterior that is just so eye-catching!
While we only took photos from the outside, apparently the interior of the church is also pink! Pink lovers rejoice!
Tân Định Market
Near the Tanh Dinh Church is Tanh Dinh Market. One of the three or four local markets in District 1.
Similar to the other markets, they have the indoor area and the outdoor areas to shop. We heard that this was one of the least touristy markets around so we decided to take a look. Sure enough, we were the only tourists in the market.
We were hungry so we wanted to look for Banh Mi (Vietnamese sandwich) but we could only find one store selling it in the market. Since we weren’t sure of the taste, we bought one to share and each costed around 1 SGD only!
Ben Thanh Market
If you want to visit a bigger market, you should visit the Ben Thanh market. Open both in the day and night, the Ben Thanh market is (I think) the largest one in town selling almost everything. You can think of this as HCMC’s Chaktucak.
If you are hungry in the middle of the night at District 1, head down to Ben Thanh market because this will be where you can find most street food stalls in one area. Be careful not to be cheated though! After all, it is still a ‘tourist trap’.
One of the most beautiful places in HCMC in my opinion was this square. The square area had beautiful greeneries with colonial buildings surrounding it. This is also where Ho Chi Minh’s statue can be found.
A night walk around district one was so refreshing and nice! If you like strolling in parks, I would also recommend going to one of the parks located next to the Saigon river. It also seems to be popular date and hangout spot for many locals.
Here’s a map of where all the places in District 1 that I have mentioned are:
Stay tune for the next part! Meanwhile, remember to follow my blog on Facebook here.