So the KTA will soon be landing in Vietnam (24th-26th Feb) and it seems most competitors and spectators will be landing in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). With that in mind we have put together a little information on dealing with the Visa issue, places to stay, things to see and most importantly, where to wet your whistle if you have a couple of days before the contest.
Just fallen off the plane and need to drop your gear and grab a much needed shower, then better head to District 1. is the obvious lodging choice in Ho Chi Minh City given its proximity to almost everything of interest, its relative closeness to the airport and its tempting array of establishments across all price ranges.
Within District 1, you can either head east towards Ð Dong Khoi for smarter options close to the city’s best restaurants and bars, west towards Pham Ngu Lao for budget accommodation and cheap tours, or somewhere in between – geographically and price wise. Around Ben Thanh Market also has decent options. From the airport just venture outside and grab one of the reputable taxis ( Mai Linh-Green, Vinasun-White) and make sure the meter is on. ( Should be roughly 180.000VND)
Lily’s Hotel- 35/5 Bui Vien District 1, Ho Chi Minh. Click here for Website
Duc Vuong Hotel- 195 Bui Vien Str Dist 1, HCMC. Click here forTrip Advisor
Vietnam Inn Saigon- 200 Le Lai, District 1 Ho Chi Minh. Click Here for Website
Elios Hotel- 233 Pham Ngu Lao Ho Chi Minh City. click here for website
Lavender Hotel- 208-210 Le Thanh Ton Ho Chi Minh City. Click here for Website
Catina Saigon Hotel- 109 Dong Khoi Street Ho Chi Minh City. Click here for Website
Park Hyatt Saigon- 2 Lam Son Square Ho Chi Minh City. Click here for Website
Rex Hotel- 141 Nguyen Hue Blvd Ho Chi Minh City. Click here for Website
Majestic Hotel- 1 Đồng Khởi, Bến Nghé, Hồ Chí Minh. click for the Website
Many of the best attractions in Ho Chi Minh (Saigon) centre around the events of 20th century war and conquest. It sounds sombre, and in parts it is, but there are some truly fascinating historical activities suitable for all ages. From classic French architecture to perfectly maintained American war planes, walking around Ho Chi Minh is like seeing the past come to life with so many famous places of interest scattered throughout the city. Of course, as Vietnam’s biggest city and business capital, times are changing and modern skyscrapers are starting to punctuate the sky combining the new and old in a uniquely Vietnamese way.
The War Remnants Museum is a sobering and unforgettable museum which details the effects of the 30 year long war between America and Vietnam. There are immaculately preserved tanks, planes and other war machines in the outside grounds, but the really hard-hitting information is found inside. Photographs, exhibits and written documentation show the horrific lengths that the American Army lowered themselves to in order to try and defeat the North Vietnamese Army.
This marvellous tourist attraction lets visitors experience what it must have been like for soldiers who used an extensive network of tunnels to move around undetected by their enemies. There is an informative movie to watch, followed by a guided tour of some mock recreations of daily life for the Viet Cong hiding in the jungle. Burnt out tanks make for a great photo prop and then everyone gets to crawl through a small section of the tunnels which has been widened and supported with concrete.
Cao Dai Temple is the centre of the Cao Dai faith, a religion that has taken bits of Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Taoism and Confucianism. Tourists are welcome to visit the temple and learn more about this faith that is practiced by a few dedicated followers. Each Cao Dai practitioner wears a white robe to enter the temple with an additional sash to signify their previous religion. The temple itself is very bright and colourful with dragons flying up banisters and a cloud mural decorating the ceiling.
Bitexco Tower is an ultra modern office tower in Ho Chi Minh, with a characteristic oval extension which acts as a helicopter landing pad. Standing at 262 metres tall, this 68 storey building is the highest in all of Vietnam with a sky deck offering 360 degree views of the city and surrounding area as well as a fantastic sky bar called Alto where you can see all of Ho Chi Minh while enjoying a cocktail and some tapas style international dishes. Head up here for sunset and don’t forget your camera!
Jade Emperor Pagoda is one of the most revered temples in Ho Chi Minh. Originally built in 1909 by Chinese immigrants this Taoist temple now welcomes Buddhist worshipping and is incredibly atmospheric with incense smoke hanging heavy in the air. Intricate architecture, carvings, statues of Gods and Goddesses and Chinese characters create an exotic and timeless ambiance.
Mariamman Hindu Temple is a beautiful example of the bright and vibrant architecture of Hindu places of worship. As the only active Hindu temple in Ho Chi Minh, it acts as a community base for the small community of Hindus living in the city. Open every day from 07:00 to 19:00, non Hindus are also welcome to visit, just remember to dress conservatively and take off your shoes before entering the inner temple.
The centre of the allied command and the place where the North Vietnamese claimed victory in the American War, Reunification Palace has played its part in some incredible scenes. This ageing palace has essentially been frozen in time since a North Vietnamese Army tank smashed through its gates in 1975. Visitors will get to discover secret rooms, grand reception halls and the command bunker where General Ngo Dinh Diem conducted his war strategies.
A great family friendly activity when all the heavy historical attractions get too much, Ho Chi Minh City Zoo is home to a diverse range of animals from across Asia and the world. Elephants are some of the star attractions here along with monkeys, tigers, hippos and a wide variety of reptiles. Other than the animal exhibits, there is a large botanical garden and a small children’s play area which is a little outdated. Be advised that conditions at the zoo are not as good as similar attractions in Europe or America.
The Central Post Office in Ho Chi Minh is a glorious example of French colonial architecture, perfectly preserved with as much style as when it first opened in 1891. The building still functions as the city’s main post office and sending a letter or postcard home is highly recommended for a taste of living history. Beautiful from any angle, this building was designed by Gustave Eiffel, who also designed the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
Located next to the Central Post Office, Notre Dame Cathedral is another relic of French colonial times, but it is kept in perfect condition and is still holding masses every Sunday. Many of the building materials were imported from France and it has an unmistakable Gallic touch with two long spires measuring 60 metres tall. In front of the cathedral is a beautiful statue of the Virgin Mary or ‘Notre Dame’.
Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) restaurants cater to a wide range of budget, ranging from decades-old food stalls by the roadside to sophisticated restaurants with picturesque surroundings for affluent diners. Inexpensive, hearty and enjoyable at any time of the day, Vietnamese dishes such as banh mi (French baguette) pho noodles, spring rolls, and banh xeo (savoury rice-flour crepe) are must-tries for any first-time visitor to Ho Chi Minh City.
Catering to travellers worldwide, Ho Chi Minh City’s constantly evolving culinary scene has also resulted in stylish dining venues all over the city, with menus that encompass not only delicious Vietnamese cuisine but also international flavours including French, Indian, Mexican, Italian, Japanese, Thai and Chinese.
For a Full Overview of what’s on offer in Saigon please visit this awesome website. http://www.vietnam-guide.com/ho-chi-minh-city/dining/
Ho Chi Minh City’s nightlife scene varies from one district to another, though venues that play live music close soon after midnight due to Vietnam’s rather strict laws. If you’re looking to party in style, District 1’s rooftop bars and swanky nightclubs stay open until 03:00 or later, offering excellent service, dance tunes, stylish ambience, well-dressed crowds, and panoramic views of the vibrant city and beyond.
Moving down several kilometres into Districts 3 and 5, Saigon’s Pham Ngu Lao is lined with boisterous street bars and pubs, cheap eats, live music, and casual ambience – great options for backpackers looking to mingle with fun-loving locals. Embracing about any mood, price point, and style.
For a full overview of where to go when the sun sets check out this awesome site. http://www.vietnam-guide.com/ho-chi-minh-city/nightlife.htm