The continued article of “Popular activities in Ho Chi Minh City (Part 1)”.
7 Central Post Office and Notre-Dame cathedral
Designed and built by French architect Gustave Eiffel (yes, he designed another fairly famous building or two), the Gothic-styled Saigon Central Post Office began its life in 1886 and remains one of the country’s most celebrated structures. Inside, beneath a long, domed roof, walls decorated with French colonial maps flank a portrait of Ho Chi Minh, while the elaborate tiled floors complete the refined look. Opposite, the neo-Romanesque Notre-Dame cathedral, built between 1863 and 1880 by French colonists, is equally impressive.
8 Daring food
Fertilised duck eggs, fermented scorpion wine, deep-fried snake dishes: Vietnam is synonymous with cuisine to put hairs on your chest. Try to avoid restaurants prone to killing the snake in front of you (some diners like to feast on the still-beating heart). It’s not kind to the snake and it won’t increase virility. Reputable hotels can point you in the direction of a good restaurant with such creatures on the menu, or look out for glass bottles of snake wine known as “ruou thuoc” at most markets. Don’t worry, the venom is neutralised by the ethanol.
9 Reunification Palace
Home of the president of South Vietnam during the “American War”, as locals prefer to call the Vietnam War, this is the site where the first communist North Vietnamese tanks crashed through the gates on the morning of April 30, 1975, resulting in Saigon’s official surrender. It is preserved almost exactly as it was in 1966, and you can look around at your leisure or take one of the free guided tours that depart every 15 minutes. (Open 7.30-11am and 1-4pm, Dinh Thong Nhat.)
There isn’t much you can’t buy from a market here, and although haggling is an art form requiring practice, it’s still easy enough to pick up a bargain. District 1’s Ben Thanh Market is certainly the most famous — there are more than 3000 stalls — but prices can often be inflated for tourists. For a lesser-known alternative, District 1’s Tan Dinh specialises in silks and clothing material, while Ben Thanh night market is popular for those who prefer bargain hunting free from the noon heat.
Equivalent to Bangkok’s famed Khao San Road, Pham Ngu Lao Street is HCMC’s backpacker district, and it’s where the revelry goes on long into the night. If you’re looking for a more urbane option, try a rooftop bar hop of three of the city’s most famous hotels, the Rex, Caravelle and Majestic. Yes, drinks are nosebleed expensive, but there’s a colourful history and impressive view from each. For a refined colonial feel, Temple Club serves up a mean gin and tonic in a former temple guesthouse, while the Dong Khoi area is home to several live-music venues and more upmarket bars. anyarena.com.
Hope you have a wonderful time visiting Ho Chi Minh City.
For more Things to do, please return to our front page.