Two days in Ho Chi Minh city

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Ho Chi Minh City is the unmissable commercial hub of  Vietnam, with wide boulevards, tall colonial buildings, cultural sites and a dynamic interweaving of narrow paths, all framed by a kinetic river of traffic. From noodle of breakfast to drinks in the evening, here’s how to enjoy a weekend in Saigon.

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Day one

Morning

Large cone-shaped coils of incense hang from the ceiling of Thien Hau Pagoda, incense sticks give off smoke, while a visitor lights a candle below
Take a stool at the Ben Thanh market for a hearty breakfast consisting of Pho (noodle soup) loaded with herbs and ca phe sua da (iced coffee with milk). From the famous Ben Thanh Clock Tower, the Ho Chi Minh City Museum , a building with the elegant architecture of the French colonial era, is just around the corner. The galleries feature a centuries-old statuary and a superb collection of propaganda art and other works inspired by the tragedy of war. (Art lovers: consider a longer visit to the city’s art scene.) From the Beaux-Arts Museum’s heritage, continue the skyrocketing modernity of the 68-story Bitexco financial tower. Go up to Saigon Skydeck, located on the 48th floor, to admire the impetuous growth of the economic capital of Vietnam, or pay the entrance ticket instead of an Italian café with the same views as the 52nd floor EON Heli bar.

The entrance to the market is a white facade with a clock tower that stands tall against a blue sky. Several motorcycles speed by in the road in front of the market building

From the tower, head to the charming tree-lined Dong Khoi, one of the oldest streets in Saigon. It now houses fashionable boutiques and luxury boutiques, but still retains traces of its French colonial origins through converted heritage buildings and elegant hotels. The street is reserved by the Majestic Hotel (opened in 1925), towards the river, and by the Caravelle Hotel, where reporters reported on the war in America from their bar stools. Head to the same Saigon Saigon Bar, located on the 10th floor, for breathtaking views of the city center. The Café de l’Opéra located on the ground floor, opposite the magnificent Opera House, is also a good stop for refreshments and snacks.

Afternoon

HCMC's Notre Dame Cathedral and the leafy surrounding square and street on a sunny, clear day © Efired / Shutterstock
For homemade Vietnamese cuisine, head to Secret Garden, a few blocks from the old CIA building, where the last helicopter evacuation of Saigon took place in April 1975. However, this roof is much nicer, in the shade of small trees at the top of a residential building. Choose from the extensive menu of tapas-sized dishes that favor more rustic country food than typical restaurant dishes. After lunch, walk about 5 minutes to the red brick colonial elegance of Notre Dame Cathedral. In front of the cathedral, discover the interior of the glorious central post office of Ho Chi Minh City, built between 1886 and 1891. Among the highlights of this elegant building (which is still very much used), you will find wall maps historic city. Then continue through the 30/4 park to the Reunification Palace, accessible by crossing iron gates that were removed by communist tanks when the city fell into the hands of the North Vietnamese army on April 30, 1975 More than forty years later, the building’s architecture and memory-laden rooms make it one of the city’s most intriguing attractions. Do not miss the basement, a labyrinth of tunnels filled with maps, meeting rooms and telecommunication equipment from the 1960s.

Evening

A busy street in HCMC with a crowd of scooters passing by in a blur
It is now time for someone else to do the work. Jump on the back of a motorcycle or scooter for a city tour after dark. Crossing the traffic noise in the evening in Saigon could be the most fun of the two wheels. Vespa Adventures and XO Tours incorporate a lot of street food into their nighttime adventures. Grilled seafood and ice-cold 333 beer in District 2 is one of the city’s attractions. Your discovery of the city on two wheels could also include noisy rock clubs or bohemian cafes. For a nightcap, take a seat in one of the city’s most interesting rooftop bars. Discover the Air 360 innovation of the 21st century or the view of the river from Majestic Hotel’s bar .

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Day two

Morning

The interior of cafe-bar Propaganda Bistro, its walls completely covered in brightly coloured murals in the style of old propaganda art
In previous centuries, the bustling Chinatown of Cholon was a separate colony, but the district south-west of the center of HCMC is now an integral part of the city’s modern sprawl. Start your second day with another local breakfast, this time with the friendly merchants at Cholon Market, Binh Tay, before negotiating the surrounding urban labyrinth. The streets are fragrant with medicinal herbs, the storefronts are adorned with Chinese language signs, and the Taoist and Buddhist temples stand near the 19th century Catholic churches. The Thien Hau pagoda, dedicated to the Chinese goddess of sailors, slowly frames reels of fragrant incense; and near Phuoc An Hoi Quan pagoda, a riot of red, gold, green and yellow creates one of the most beautiful and flowering temples in the city. For a more in-depth walking tour of DIY in the area, get a copy of local historian Tim Doling’s excellent Exploring Ho Chi Minh City (available in some Fahasa bookstores, including Nguyen Hue’s Great). .

Afternoon

Patrons sit and drink at a long narrow bar while a server pours a beer at Pasteur Street Brewing Company
Lunch in the center of HCMV at Propaganda Bistro – overlooking the 30/4 Park and serving regional dishes from all over the country – then continue about 1 km west of the War Remnants Museum. The human tragedy of the decades of conflict that ripped Vietnam in the 20th century is poignant and often confronted with details, but visiting this museum is essential. Do not forget to go upstairs to see the Requiem exhibition, a striking showcase of images taken by legendary war photographers killed in the conflict, and see if your country is represented in the poster collection and of ground floor photographs supporting the anti-war movement. After visiting this fascinating museum, continue to the lush botanical gardens of the city for peaceful reflection.

Evening

Start with a craft beer at Pasteur Street Brewing Company – some of their breweries use local ingredients such as Dalat coffee or rambutan and lemongrass – before tasting the elegant flavors of Southeast Asia at The restaurant and bar. Racha Room. For a more refined experience, gather the locals at Quan Ut Ut. With a name that roughly translates to “Oink Oink Cafe,” this laid-back riverside spot serves an American barbecue cooked slowly with a Vietnamese twist. From the energetic moments of Quan Ut Ut, it will only take you 5 minutes by taxi to visit the observatory, one of the best places in the city, The Observatory, where DJs and other artists follow one another. Alternatively, head to the Acoustic cabaret style in District 3, near the War Remnants Museum, and join the crowd of Vietnamese live music fans for an eclectic mix of everything from punk to flamenco to pop cover. .

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