Escaping on a Vietnam holiday has never been easier. With a new direct route from London Gatwick with Vietnam Airlines, this mystical land is just 11 hours away. If you fancy a more extreme city break or you’d like to add Saigon (also known as Ho Chi Minh City) to your other holiday plans then this should keep you busy for 48 hours.
Saigon has great access to Vietnam’s incredible countryside, a cosmopolitan vibe with delectable restaurants, bars and bistro’s all complimented by a long, rich history and authentic experiences at every corner. Literally.
Here’s your plan for 48 hours in Saigon.
A city tour is on the books. A good guide book will come with clear and concise map. Saigon is bursting at the seams with history. Made up of about 16 districts (District 1 being the core) it is generally quite easy to navigate and most of the key sights are within walking distance or a short and cheap cab ride.
If history is your bag then make your way to the War Remnants Museum. This museum houses Vietnam’s largest collection of artefacts from the Vietnamese/America War. Alongside helicopters, tanks and shell casings the museum has an impressive collection of images and other media that really help to bring the conflict to life. Next make your way to the impressive Notre Dame cathedral. Setup by the French during the late 1800 the Cathedral is one of Vietnam’s few Catholic institutions. Another historical addition is the distinctly 60s looking Reunification Palace. A political landmark of Vietnam, the Palace is famous for the Hue helicopter on its roof and the symbolic role it played during the war and Vietnam’s independence.
If you fancy escaping the traffic for some tranquillity then head to the city’s Botanical Gardens! Alternatively, authentic shopping experiences are abundant in Saigon. Make your way to the famous Ben Thanh Market. As a modern city Saigon is also home to some of the biggest names in fashion and is resplendent with boutiques.
For good evening dining options why not try the KOTO restaurant or Quan Nuong. KOTO is run by a NGO (a similar setup to Jamie Oliver’s apprentice scheme) and Quan Nuong offers a Vietnamese cuisine with a modern edge. Both are located in District 1.
Don’t worry – there’s plenty more to see in Saigon. However, the city is perfectly located for cultural day trips out of the city.
A popular option is a day trip to the iconic Mekong Delta. I’d recommend using a more remote port like Ben Tre as these attract a fraction of the visitors and offer a more authentic insight to life on the Mekong. Around a two hour drive from the city you’ll board a small boat and get a fascinating insight to life on the Delta with its beautifully verdant and meandering tributaries. See kids swimming from the banks, visit a small family coconut plant, see how traditional weavings are made and listlessly explore these intimate backwaters of the mighty Mekong.
A second option is to make your way to the infamous Cu Chi tunnels. During the American-Vietnamese war the Vietnamese built vast tunnels networks and across the country many of these have been well preserved. Suitably widened for the Western physique you can crawl through a tunnel for yourself or just let your guide offer up a fascinating insight to their vast array of uses, from schools to weapons caches!
Accommodation in Saigon
There are endless accommodation options in District 1. In and around Pham Ngu Lao Street you’ll find a multitude of backpacker options and District 1 is home to solid 4 star options like the Renaissance Riverside or the 5 start Intercontinental.
Mekong Delta photo by williamcho on flickr