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Things to do in Ho Chi Minh

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Chu Chi Tunnels
The Chu Chi Tunnels are part of a massive war museum in Ho Chi Minh. They offer visitors a sneak-peek at the underground life of Vietnamese soldiers back in 1948. The site has over 120km of underground tunnels, with trapdoors, living areas, kitchens, storage facilities, armoury, hospitals, and command centres. After the war against the French, Vietnamese soldiers expanded the tunnels and included effective air filtration systems, which helped them survive the Chu Chi carpet-bombings. It is now one of Ho Chi Minh’s most iconic attractions. You can enjoy plenty of activities during your visit. A popular option is following the narrow routes of the underground tunnel. Before entering the underground tunnels, visitors watch a short film of Chu Chi Tunnels so that they understand how the tunnel system works. Parts of Chu Chi Tunnels are also cemented and widened so that the crawl is less harrowing than it would have been in the past.
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Bitexco Financial Tower
Ho Chi Minh City’s Bitexco Financial Tower & Sky Deck stands 262 metres high at the centre of the city’s business district and offers visitors an unparalleled city view from its Sky Deck. Designed by renowned American Architect Carlos Zapata, this 68-storey tower houses offices, shops, restaurants, and a helipad. CNNGo recently ranked the building fifth in their listing of the world’s 20 most iconic skyscrapers. The structure also received an ‘Excellence in Structural Engineering’ award from NCSEA in 2011 and is currently the 124th tallest building in the world. The main attraction at the tower is the Sky Deck where visitors can enjoy dramatic views across the bustling city below. Sky Deck visitors are accompanied by an English-speaking guide and can also enjoy interactive touch screen fact boxes delivering information on points of interest regarding city landmarks seen from above.
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Cao Dai Temple
The Cao Dai Temple was finished in 1955 when the Cao Dai Army was formed following the Japanese occupation of Indochina. Caodaists believe that all religions are ultimately the same and seek to promote tolerance throughout the world. The Lord Buddha, Jesus Christ, Muhammad and Confucius, in addition to Joan of Arc and Julius Cesar are all honoured at this temple. There are nine hierarchies of worship including a pope, cardinals and archbishop with festivals, rituals and prayer all practised regularly. The temple is similar in design to a Christian Cathedral featuring side aisles and an altar, as well as a long central nave, all positioned as they would be in a Christian Church, there is even a high dome decorated with clouds and saints. The main focal point is a Divine Eye symbolising God which has the Ying and Yang icon in its pupil. Ceremonies take place daily with two services accompanied by musicians and a choir singing in English to traditional Vietnamese music.
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Jade Emperor Pagoda
Emperor Jade Pagoda, also known as Tortoise Pagoda, is one of the five most important shrines in Ho Chi Minh City. Built at the turn of the 20th Century by a community of Cantonese who migrated from Guangzhou province in Southwest China, this pagoda is a fine representation of Mahayanist branch of Buddhism that is practised widely in Vietnam. In the main hall, the Emperor Jade Chua Ngoc Hoang or the 'God of the Heavens' reigns supreme. Aided by two assistants, the Emperor decides who can enter this higher realm. Those who don't pass this gate will meet with the formidable 'God of Hell', on the left, who will send sinners to one of the 10 levels of hell. Life in purgatory is magnificent if somewhat gruesomely represented by the intricate carvings on the temple wall, depicting different kinds of punishments that await transgressors. In a different hall, the goddess of fertility Kim Hua, surrounded by figures of women and small children, blesses childless couples who pray for an offspring here. The goddess of mercy Kuan Yin, who forms a very important part of any Taoist temple, has an altar in a room on the top floor. Emperor Jade Pagoda is a living and working shrine very much in use by the locals who come here to prayer or make votive offerings of flowers and light candles and joss sticks. With worshippers coming and going, the temple can get busy and feel a little cramped. Its dimly lit, the narrow passageways filled with smoke lend an atmospheric feel to the place, adding to its charm.
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War Remnants Museum
The War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City first opened to the public in 1975. Once known as the ‘Museum of American War Crimes’, it's a shocking reminder of the long and brutal Vietnam War. Graphic photographs and American military equipment are on display. There's a helicopter with rocket launchers, a tank, a fighter plane, a single-seater attack aircraft. You can also see a conventional bomb that weighs at 6,800kg. American troops had used these weapons against the Vietnamese between 1945 and 1975.
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Artinus 3D Art Museum
Artinus 3D Art Museum is an interactive art gallery, which gives it visitors a truly wonderful experience in the magic of 3D. This museum has more than 100 different 3D paintings, created by Korean artists. The artworks are created in a way that the visitors can step inside them and be part of some stunning 3D scenes. You will be amazed by all the optical illusions on display and surely have the chance of taking many pictures which will blow your friends’ minds. You can be trapped in a bottle, fight with a dragon and much more. Among the nine zones are the wildlife world, ancient Egypt, Renaissance art, Oceans and, of course, Vietnam. The Artinus 3D Art Museum is not overcrowded and therefore gives its visitors the time to enjoy the art and take pictures at their leisure.
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Notre Dame Cathedral of Saigon
Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral, built in the late 1880s by French colonists, is one of the few remaining strongholds of Catholicism in the largely Buddhist Vietnam. Located in Paris Square, the name Notre Dame was given after the installation of the statue ‘Peaceful Notre Dame’ in 1959. In 1962, the Vatican conferred the Cathedral status as a basilica and gave it the official name of Saigon Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica. Measuring almost 60 metres in height, the cathedral’s distinctive neo-Romanesque features include the all-red brick façade (which were imported from Marseille), stained glass windows, two bell towers containing six bronze bells that still ring to this day, and a peaceful garden setting in the middle of downtown Ho Chi Minh City District 1.
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Reunification Palace
Reunification Palace was the base of Vietnamese General Ngo Dinh Diem until his death in 1963. It made its name in global history in 1975. A tank belonging to the North Vietnamese Army crashed through its main gate, ending the Vietnam War. Today, it's a must-visit for tourists in Ho Chi Minh City. The palace is like a time capsule frozen in 1975. You can see two of the original tanks used in the capture of the palace parked in the grounds. Reunification Palace was the home and workplace of the French Governor of Cochin-China. It has lush gardens, secret rooms, antique furniture, and a command bunker. It's still in use to host important occasions in Ho Chi Minh, including APEC summits. The Reunification Palace has five levels. The basement features tunnels, a war room and telecommunications centre. The war command room has original maps on its walls. Period telecommunications equipment are also on display. Its adjoining basement rooms display war propaganda materials. On the third floor, there's a card playing room while the fourth houses a casino. Reunification Palace's rooftop terrace is fitted with a heliport.
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Binh Tay Market
Binh Tay Market, constructed by the French in the 1880s, is located in the centre of Vietnam’s largest Chinatown district. Unlike Ben Thanh Market in District 1, this market mainly serves the local population with its extensive range of fresh fruits, vegetables, poultry, meat and seafood from regions across Vietnam. Also known as Cholon Chinatown Market, Binh Tay Market occupies a two-storey building along Thap Moui Street. Travellers can also find an assortment of handicrafts, lacquerware, and textiles that are sold in bulk, though goods are not varied compared to other (more touristy) markets in downtown Hanoi. Along with the interesting historical and cultural aspect of Cholon, Binh Tay Market is great for experiencing the local lifestyle and sampling unique Vietnamese-Chinese delicacies.
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Ho Coc Beach
Ho Coc Beach, located north of Ho Tram Hamlet, is home to mostly mid-range and high-end resorts as well as one of the most pristine beaches in Vietnam. Accessible within a three-hour leisurely drive from central Ho Chi Minh City, the beach features five kilometres of white sand where you can enjoy a day of sunbathing, swimming and beach games, as well as sample fresh seafood and local Vietnamese cuisine. Ho Coc Beach is home to beachfront resorts and hotels that cater to just about any budget and preference. If you’re staying at one of the beach’s high-end resorts, the chances are you will also get to enjoy unwinding on a private beach. Sundecks are available for rent for those who aren’t staying at the resorts, and there are some parts of the beach that are still available for public use.
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Mariamman Hindu Temple
Mariamman Hindu Temple is a sacred Hindu Temple dedicated to the goddess of the Rain ‘Mariamman’. This temple was built in the late 19th century by traders coming from India and has been well preserved. This complex is the only Hindu temple in Saigon and is believed to have miraculous powers giving luck and wealth to its visitors. The outer wall of the Temple has a collection of interesting statues of different gods and goddesses like Mariamman, Vishnu, Brahma and Ganesha. The main hall of the complex (The Rajagopuram) stands twelve metres tall and inside you find a well-maintained statue of Mariamman flanked by her protectors ‘Maduraiveeran’ and ‘Pechiamman’. If you would like to enter the Mariamman Hindu Temple than do not forget to take of your shoes and dress appropriately. To favour the goddess of the rain you can also take some offerings such as joss sticks, jasmine, lilies and gladioli. These can be bought in front of the entrance. In the near vicinity of this temple, you can also find Ben Thanh Market. Entrance to the temple is free of charge and can be visited from 07:00 – 19:00.
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Saigon Central Post Office
The Central Post Office in Ho Chi Minh is a beautifully preserved remnant of French colonial times and perhaps the grandest post office in all of Southeast Asia. Located next door to Notre Dame Cathedral, the two cultural sites can be visited together and offers visitors a chance to imagine life in Vietnam during the times of the Indochinese Empire. The building was designed by Alfred Foulhoux and features arched windows and wooden shutters, just as it would have in its heyday in the late 19th Century. The Central Post Office in Ho Chi Minh was constructed between 1886 and 1891 and once inside, the looping arches, intricately designed marble floors and antiquated telephone boxes all serve as a reminder of the importance the post office played in days before email and mobile phones. Although the architecture is distinctly French, the large portrait of Ho Chi Minh hanging high above everyone at the far end of the building reminds everyone we are definitely in Vietnam. Painted onto walls overhead are two maps of the region; one of them showing the telegraph lines that crisscross Vietnam and Cambodia and the other displaying a map of the Saigon region in 1892. Although the experience is a fascinating glimpse into history, the fact that this is still a functioning post office makes the experience even sweeter, and we encourage everyone to send a letter or postcard from here – it’s a piece of living history where even the old fashioned glue pots are still in use for sticking stamps to letters. There are two wings branching out from the main office, selling souvenirs, postcards and lacquerware but the prices are inflated and the same products can probably be found elsewhere for a better price.
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Saigon Opera House
The Saigon Opera House in Ho Chi Minh is an elegant colonial building at the intersection of Le Loi and Dong Khoi Street in District 1, very close to the famous Notre Dame Cathedral and the classic Central Post Office. The restored three-storey 800-seat Opera House was built in 1897 and is used for staging not only opera but also a wide range of performing arts including ballet, musical concerts, Vietnamese traditional dance and plays. Performances are advertised around the building and information can be found in the state-operated tourist information centre close by. The exterior has the appearance of polished pearl and makes a great place to photograph – especially at night when bathed in a soft, orange light. The entrance is through a vaulted archway that is kept in immaculate condition; inside, expect swathes of red velvet, classical friezes and hardwood floors. Although the official name of the building is The Municipal Theatre of Ho Chi Minh it is by far more commonly known as the Saigon Opera House and after the restoration work in 1995, the building is just as it was at the turn of the 19th Century.
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Galerie Quynh
Spending time with Quynh Pham, founder and director of Galerie Quynh, is always a delightful experience, and highly recommended as a starting point for one’s expedition into Saigon’s dynamic art scene. Her eyes alight with passion during one-on-one tours. For more than a decade, Galerie Quynh has been Saigon’s leading art space, championing the country’s most established and emerging artists.