South Vietnam (Saigon) – Four Day Itinerary

Saigon, also known as Ho Chi Minh City, is the biggest city in Vietnam. Obviously, there is a lot of activity… scooters whiz past, vendors sell fresh fruits, locals sip on coffee… all in the wake of modern day construction.

I spent four days in Saigon, which were enough to get a feel of the place and see the main attractions. Here is my four day itinerary…

Day 1: Exploring Saigon

There is a lot of colonial architecture that was built by the French … there is Notre Dame as well! And there is a stunning post office building which seems to pop out from Europe. I spent my first day in Saigon pottering around town, admiring colonial architecture and snacking on the local food. Possibly, joining a walking tour would have been a better idea!

Later in the evening, I went to see the water puppet show near the Renaissance Palace. The tickets cost me about USD 10 and were available 30 min prior to the show. There are two shows – at 1700 hrs and at 1830. I liked how the marionettes bobbed around in the water, and how skilfully the movements were co-ordinated. The show was in Vietnamese, which made me feel totally lost …but really, who needs a story line for a puppet show?

Saigon has plenty of fine dining restaurants. At night, I was treated to a really fancy, all vegetarian meal at Hum by a Vietnamese friend who I had met in Bolivia. What food!!! I am drooling thinking about it! Jet lagged and tired, I crashed early on the first night.

Day 2: Cuchi Tunnels and the Backpacker Area

I started my day early, with a traditional bahn mi for breakfast. It cost me about USD 1.5 for this filling sandwich, made as per my tastes (with eggs, vegetables, very little mayonnaise and lots of salad).

I had heard so much about the Gureilla techniques used by the Vietnamese in the war, that the tunnels were high on my list. I took the half day tour to the tunnels, that left at 0800 hrs and got me back at 1400 hrs. Highly recommend doing this tour with a travel company so that you have a local guide to explain things to you… the war weapons, tactics and strategies. I did enter a tunnel for a few minutes and did crawl for a few meters as well. 40 km of underground tunnels … hats off to the soldiers who made this!

In the evening, I went to Bui Vien, the back packer area in Saigon, which is pulsating with LEDs, bars, clubs and restaurants. I filled up on loads of Vietnamese food… delightful and healthy stuff!

Day 3: Mekong Delta

I got up a little early and went to a French bakery for breakfast. At 7 in the morning, everything was freshly baked. I was so drawn towards the almond bread and coupled it with a little cup of authentic Vietnamese drip coffee, which is a must have if you are in Vietnam. What an awesome start to the day!

The lush, green Mekong delta is about two hours away from Saigon. I booked a day trip to chill and relax, away from the city. It was a fun day… cycling in the village, driving past green paddy fields and navigating the arms of the Mekong river. I loved the lunch that was served during the tour… simple and fresh food. I left at 0800 hrs as was back by 1730 hrs.

Needless to say, I was exhausted after a full day in the sun and the evening called for some relaxation. I went to one of the many spas at Bui Vien and got myself a one hour foot massage for USD 5… ahhhh … joys of travelling in South East Asia.

Day 4: Vung Tau

I had heard so much about the beaches in Vietnam and wanted to visit one. Sadly, I had no time to visit the stunning beaches in Central Vietnam. But my desire to spend a day at the beach took me to Vung Tau for a day trip. In hindsight, I think it would have been better if I would have checked into a resort at Vung Tau and spent the night there.It took me about 1.5 hours to get to Vung Tau from Saigon by hydrofoil. I rented a scooter and went around this beautiful town. Flowers bloomed during the spring months and the sea was blue-green. I went to a few key points, including the Christ, which made me climb 800 steps in the scorching sun, but was totally worth it… the views from top were great and the whole place was covered with blooming bouganvillae and desert rose.

I took the last boat back at 1600 and reached Saigon by 1745, in good time to shop a little for souvenirs and pack for the early morning flight the next day!

Au revoir Vietnam … until we meet again!

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12 Responses

  1. I think you covered a lot in 4 days really. It’s always good with hindsight to say I wish I’d spent longer here and less time there but you covered all the main sights. I’m not keen on going in the tunnels either, I get a bit claustrophobic but still for me seeing them was one of the highlights of Saigon too.

  2. Reading your post reminded me how I did exactly the same thing as you: before I left for the Mekong Delta tour I went to a French bakery to have breakfast and ended up eating my first European meal in probably over a month. Saigon is such a beautiful city and so different from all the rest in Vietnam. I would love to go back, maybe next year, because Vietnam is my favorite country in the world.

  3. What a great itinerary, you got to see and do quite a bit. The food looks so delicious and the architecture is quite lovely. Now I am intrigued and want to go!

  4. Priyadarshini Rajendran

    Lovely pictures you got there. Wants to make me go there right now. As I love beaches, I would not miss Vung Tau. Saving this itinerary for my next trip.

  5. Vung Tau looks lovely! I’ve never been and I have to admit I’m a little lazy when it comes to visiting HCMC, since I’ll always just visit my tried and tested favourite locales. Good to get motivated and reminded there’s more to the city than just the busy center!

  6. Vietnam is so high on my wishlist. The itinerary you shared is so useful. I might go here soon and this comes handy. I am relieved to read that it is possible to find vegetarian food in Vietnam.

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