By: Louise Rose of Go Vietnam!
Saigon is the former name of Ho Chi Minh City and was the capital of Indochina under the French rule. It was given its new name at the end of the Vietnam War and for the country’s independence in 1975. Saigon however is still commonly used, notably by the tourists and the expat community. As the largest city in Vietnam, Saigon is home to most attractions and activities you should try, including museums and pagodas, finest restaurants to tastiest street-food stalls and any other kind of entertainment you are looking for. Here are the top 5 things to do while visiting Saigon.
- Visit a pagoda
A pagoda is basically a Buddhist temple, designed as a tiered tower with multiple eaves. Saigon has many pagodas and visiting them can be a divine treat for the eyes as well as the soul. One of the most famous pagodas in Saigon is the Jade Emperor Pagoda, which is actually not a Buddhist temple: it was built by the Cantonese in 1909 in honor of the supreme Taoist God (the Jade Emperor or King of Heaven, Ngoc Hoang). As Vietnam was under over a thousand years of Chinese domination, Vietnamese worship and culture has been therefore strongly influenced by Chinese culture.The Jade Emperor Pagoda is one of the most spectacular temples in Saigon, filled with statues of divinities and heroes. Outside you will find a small pond with turtles which have Chinese inscriptions on their shell.You can find this pagoda on Mạc Thị Bưởi Street in District 1. Remember to dress formally when visiting pagodas or temples, just as if you were visiting a church.
- Have fun with your friends at a Karaoke
Karaoke is a widely popular entertainment activity where you simply sing along to your favorite tunes. Karaoke is really big in Vietnam, and is an activity that is enjoyed whether it is a birthday party or a company event. The fact is that almost every block of the city has its own karaoke place. The karaoke bars usually have their own list of tracks, whether it is American rock and roll, classic and contemporary music and beautiful Vietnamese songs. You can rent a room or a suite and enjoy the karaoke with your friends. One of the most famous karaoke in town is the Nice Karaoke franchise, which you can find on Nguyễn Thị Minh Khai Street in District 1 or Võ Thị Sáu Street in District 3.
- Go to a local market and bargain for your souvenirs
Your visit to Vietnam will simply not be complete without going to a local market. You can get everything from clothes to jewelry or other crafts you may want to shop. Vietnam is a manufacturing country, so products are cheaper as comparing to other countries. You can just walk down the aisles and buy your goods after bargaining. You might be able to significantly reduce the price of your souvenirs if you’re successful. Just remember to stay calm, smile a lot and simply try the next stall if the price is not good enough for you. Bến Thành Market in District 1 is definitely the place to go if you are looking for souvenirs (food, or crafts for instance). If you’re looking for cheap clothes you should head on to Saigon Square 1 and 2, also located in Saigon’s center district.
- Explore Saigon street food through a motorbike tour
There are many motorcycle tours in Saigon that will gladly take you visit the city’s landmarks or try Vietnamese street-food. This is also a great opportunity for you to do your shopping, as the local guides will help you bargain for prices, but also learn a lot about Vietnamese culture and history. Plus riding a motorbike in Vietnam is definitely an experience you will not forget. Most tours can be customized, which means you will be able to choose your own itinerary, or you can let the tour guides make one based off your interests.
- Enjoy a nice relaxing massage after a long day
One thing you should not miss while visiting busy Saigon is getting a Vietnamese massage. It will relax your body and mind and treats you from the tiredness and heat of your journey. Vietnamese massage comes from Chinese methods and has been proven to relax each and every tired muscle in your body. You can find massage services right in your hotel, guest house or ask your receptionist or tour guide for a recommendation of some reliable and reasonably priced massage services.
These tips should definitely make your visit to Saigon an unforgettable experience. This city has so much to offer and plan your stay well before your travel in order to make the most out of your holiday in Vietnam.