Vietnam is one of the most underrated countries in Asia. Barely touched by globalization, it has given foreigners exotic experiences with just a occasional glimpses of modernity. Locals are still deeply rooted to their tradition and culture while being competitive in the global scene. Two major cities are the go-to places in Vietnam: Hanoi, the capital, and Ho Chi Minh or more popularly known as Saigon. If you are in Ho Chi Minh, here are some things you absolutely must do:Dekor okno
Also known as the Ho Chi Minh Municipal Theater, the Saigon Opera House bears a classic European design similar to the architectural style of the French Third Republic. It was built in 1897 by Eugene Ferret and was restored in 1995. It is located somewhere in the heart of Ho Chi Minh, and plays are still regularly being held here. It is conveniently located near malls as well, so if you want to have a cultured night after a fun shopping day at the mall, you can easily get to it.
The Mekong Delta is a good two hours away from the city and the easiest way to get here is by bus, especially for tourists. The river encompasses three countries, and is known for its murky water. It is also said to be infested by crocodiles so tourists who go for a canoe trip are highly encouraged to observe strict safety precautions. Lunch and other activities are included in the tour and you can taste fresh tropical fruits, try their honey tea, and watch how they make candies out of coconuts. It is definitely a refreshing trip for those who want to explore yet relax at the same time.
Saigon is heavily influenced by France, and this influence is apparent from the architecture of some of the tourist sites in the area such as the Notre Dame Cathedral. Notre Dame is essentially a replica of the one in France; in fact, the French built it themselves, making the site a surprisingly good treat for those who don’t expect a European-looking church in Asia. Being one of the buildings at a plaza in Ho Chi Minh, the cathedral provides a beautiful visual contrast against the modern buildings in the city. Right beside it is a park where you can sit and go on a picnic while enjoying a view of the Cathedral. In addition, literally just a few steps away is the Central Post Office which is also built in the same colonial architectural style.
A few steps away from Notre Dame Cathedral and the Postal Office would be the Reunification Palace, a majestic architectural beauty. There are tours available where you can visit the palace and understand its cultural, historical, and political importance. Though some parts of it had been destroyed during the Vietnam War, much of the interior is still preserved while some parts had to be rebuilt.
Only two hours away from Saigon, the Cu Chi Tunnels, a left over from the war, have become a major tourist attraction. It is a network of underground tunnels that used to be passage ways for soldiers, whether it be looking for a strategic location for combat or replenishing of basic supplies. Tourists can actually crawl into these tunnels, if they can manage to fit as some of them are very narrow.
Starbucks doesn’t stand a chance in Vietnam. Although you could still see this renowned coffee chain in the city, Ho Chi Minh is sprawling with local coffee shops that the Vietnamese actually prefer. Vietnam is the second-largest coffee producer in the world and you can literally find coffee anywhere in Ho Chi Minh. What’s unique about how coffee is served here is that they put crushed iced with coffee in a cup. If you want it to be sweeter and creamier, there’s also an option to add condensed milk to your coffee.
Vietnam is known for the war it won against the U.S., but as is the case with all wars, casualties could not be prevented. Ho Chi Minh has an entire museum dedicated to the war, its stories plastered on the walls to help people understand and remember what had happened, at least from the point of view of the Vietnamese. Stories are a mix of heroic acts and heartbreaking memories, all capable of provoking emotions.
Ho Chi Minh has a lot of things to offer to tourists and explorers, some out in the open, some hidden and waiting to be discovered. If you are new to the city, these 7 things should be at the top of your list to jump-start your journey.