Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City 2023 travel guide

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We’d just wrapped up a great week in Cambodia, finishing in the Ko Kong Conversation Corridor on the Tatai River – we were looking forward to out next adventure – Vietnam.

We were flying on an evening flight direct from Phonm Penh airport (PNH) to Ho Chi Minh City (SGN) with Cambodia Ankor Air.

Phonm Penh airport was relatively new, but small. The concept of queuing was new to most people on the flight, but we had no problems checking in, dropping bags and going through exit immigration.

Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City

Saigon, also known as Ho Chi Minh City, is the biggest city in Vietnam, home to over 8 million people.

The vibrant streets, historic landmarks, and delicious cuisine were a big difference from the Cambodian jungle and Angkor Wat, where we’d been the previous week.

Saigon was my favorite place in all of Vietnam; the museums, food, and markets really made it a great visit.

We explored the city’s rich history, visiting iconic landmarks such as the Reunification Palace and the War Remnants Museum, which provide insight into Vietnam’s past.

District 1, Saigon

We enjoyed our first morning by going straight to District 1 – walking through the maze of narrow alleyways. Our guide showed us around various alleys and we go to try some of the food offered by the street vendor. Key sites in district 1 included the Notre Dame Cathedral to the Central Post Office.

We stopped to observe a Viet Cong secret weapons store, where undercover commandos of the Viet Cong collected munitions before the Tet Offensive.

The weapon store, now recognized as a National Historical Site, went undetected for many years and played a key part in the VC’s Saigon offensive. Much of the extensive weaponry kept there is still on display and we learnt about the methods used to smuggle and conceal it.

War Remnants Museum, Saigon

I was particularly looking forward to visiting The War Remnants Museum in Saigon and it was a highlight of our time in the city.

The museum is spread across multiple floors and is a poignant and thought-provoking depiction of the Vietnam War.

There is a huge collection of exhibits and artifacts that vividly portray the harsh realities and devastating consequences of the war. From graphic photographs to military equipment and personal testimonies, the museum offers visitors a glimpse into the war’s brutality – in particular the use of Agent Orange.

Saigon Craft Beer Tour by Vespa – Saigon – highly recommend

This was undoubtably the highlight of our time in Saigon, if not all of South East Asia. We rode on a Vespa for a tour of local craft beer restaurants.

Vespa Adventures picked us up from the hotel around 6pm, navigating the crowds of people and motorcyclists going home. We toured several districts in Saigon before going to several beer restaurants to sample the beer and food pairings.

We had a blast – took tons of photos and ended up being quite drunk given the very generous servings at each restaurant.

Cu Chi Tunnels

On our final morning in Saigon, we made an early morning visit to the Cui Chi Tunnels.

The Cu Chi Tunnels are an extensive network of underground tunnels located about an hour and half away from Saigon. The tunnels served as a vital part of the Viet Cong’s military strategy during the Vietnam War.

The tunnels were used by the Viet Cong to hide and move around undetected by American troops. They were also used for communication, supply routes, hospitals, storage facilities, and living quarters for the soldiers.

You have the opportunity to enter one of the tunnels, which have been expanded slightly to fit larger Western tourists. Note that even with this expansion, the tunnels are extremely narrow and can be claustrophobic.

Seeing the hidden entrances, learning about the conditions in which the Viet Cong lived in these tunnels was particularly interesting.

A demonstration of a booby trap with punji sticks.

I enjoyed reading about the tunnels on the drive back to Saigon. The Cui Chi facility has some basic information and a video, but nothing compared to what you can find online.

Overall, it was a very long drive for what turned out to be a short tour. I’m glad I saw the tunnels and traps, but expected there to be far more information and more to do after traveling a long distance. Personally, I wouldn’t move everything around to fit this in.

Following the Cu Chi Tunnels, we headed to the airport for the next stop in our adventure – Danang, Hoi An.

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