Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City is now one of my favourite Asian cities; it's colourful, vibrant and intense plus the food scene is amazing! We happily rounded off a month in Vietnam in this fast-paced city, it took us a day to acclimatise after our relaxing beach cocoon, but once we were back in city-mode we really began to appreciate the city's energy.
I've put together a top-five list of our favourite things to do in Ho Chi Minh City. You can tick most of these off within a couple of days, but there's more to see if you plan on staying longer.
1. The Independence Palace- we really enjoyed our informative visit to this government building. The architecture is worth a visit alone, and if walls could talk, I'm sure these walls would have some very interesting stories to tell. The Palace feels as if it's trapped in a 1970s time-warp as not much has changed since the Communist tanks rampaged through the gates in 1975. If you have time, try and stay to watch the documentary film as you make your way out of the Palace, it really helps put the Palace in perspective.
2. The Fine Art Museum is housed in a beautiful Colonial building and the first building is crammed full of Modern art from Vietnam and a few international artists. It's a nice escape from the heat of HCMC streets and you can happily while away a couple of hours exploring the three separate galleries. The floor-tiles also got my attention and I spent a good amount of time trying to capture their beauty for an Instagram-worthy shot.
3. Simply wandering around the streets and pleasant parks of HCMC. We usually spend the first half a day just walking around a city to get a feel for it. As we were ambling along the HCMC boulevards, we realised it is a pretty green city by Asian standards and we were there in time for the New Year celebrations, so the streets were particularly lively. I especially appreciated this family of dogs we found, made from colourful blooms.
4. The restaurant and food scene is amazing! We ate some of the best food of our trip in HCMC and we savoured every bite. There's some incredible vegetarian restaurants, we had a very memorable dinner at Hum, a beautifully designed restaurant with amazing Vietnamese food. You have to visit if you're in HCMC. Even if you're not vegetarian, the food will blow you away!
We also had some tasty food at Poke, a new Hawaiian restaurant specialising in poke bowls (you can have them made veggie or vegan). It's a fun spot for a casual lunch. We enjoyed a romantic Valentine's dinner at The Racha Room, innovative cuisine in a elegant setting, a good one for a long evening meal.
5. Chinatown in HCMC is worth a visit, the market is heaving and chock-full of exotic fruit and vegetables. I couldn't even identify many of the veggies they were selling! I did get hit by a scooter in this area though, so beware of the tiny lanes and erratic drivers! If you're in the mood for pagodas then this is the area for you, there are many, beautiful temples in this area and if it's not too hot you can walk from one to the other.
We also visited the War Remnants Museum, which is exceptionally harrowing. I couldn't go in to some of the exhibits because I found them to be too upsetting. If you're a sensitive soul like me, I suggest visiting, but with the awareness that you might not be able to visit the whole museum. It houses an important record of the atrocities carried out during the American war.
A trip to Ho Chi Minh City is a must for all those visiting Vietnam, for us it was a great place to round off a month in this vibrant country. Next up is Cambodia!