Timezone : UTC+07:00
Currency: Vietnam Dong (you can also use USD. RM is accepted in most of the shops at Ben Thanh Market)
Visa: Not required for Malaysia
Others: Saigon is another name for Ho Chi Minh. Usually local will use Saigon instead of Ho Chi Minh. If you are there, you will be shocked of how many motorcycles there are!! It will look scary at first especially if you need to cross the road. One tip if you NEED to cross the road, be confident! Walk slowly. The motorcyclist there are quite good. They will avoid you instead of you are the one who need to avoid them.
When I was there for a week, there are 2 sides of the city that I can see. The backpackers area (a very busy area), where you can see a lot of shops (selling things at a cheaper price), people and motorcycles, and a more sophisticated area of the city, which I’m not so sure what they call that area. Maybe it is the city center. Here you can see a more modern building with French architecture and lots of worldwide brand boutiques.
Went there by Air Asia. Bought a ticket during promotion season for only RM200+ for a return ticket! The flight will take you from LCCT to Tan Son Nhat International Airport. The arrival hall is located at the ground floor while the departure hall is located at second floor. If you are flying back from this airport, there will be no airport departure tax.
The airport is located around 8km away from the heart of the city. To go to the city center from the airport, you may take a bus or taxi. If you would like to take a bus, turn right upon exiting the terminal. You will see Burger King. The bus will be waiting around that area. Take bus no 152 if you are staying around Ben Thanh Market (a famous area to shop!). Bus fare is around 5,000 dong per person. If you would like to take a taxi, turn right upon exiting the terminal and walk straight towards Burger King. Turn right and take the lift to second floor. Walk out and you will see the taxis. I would recommend you to take VINASUN taxi. The fare that I paid for from airport to hotel in the backpackers area is 170,000 dong. There are several other taxi from different company but I would strongly recommend VINASUN. You can see the taxi in below picture.
Stayed at Hoang Lien Hotel and booked it through Agoda. Paid around RM60+ per night. The hotel is quite nice and clean. The staffs are very friendly and they can speak English. They also provide tour booking service & I booked 3 tours from there and the tours are quite cheap! However there was one incident that almost gave me a heart attack! I was awaken by the sound of a siren. Later on I could hear people screaming and running up or down the stairs, I’m not sure. After few minutes wondering what was going on outside, I went out and to my surprise there were several fireman going down the stairs and there were smoke everywhere! Seems that the hotel was on fire but they manage to put out the fire before I went out to have look! I’m just lucky nothing bad happen.
For Muslim, it is better to stay at Thanh Thu Hotel, Hoang Hai Long 2, Saigon Pink 2, Blessing 1 Saigon Hotel or any other hotel close to those mentioned hotel since there are a lot of Halal food around that area. Just walk out of the hotel and you can see Halal food around. It is also close to Ben Thanh Market (around 2-3 minutes walk). People usually refer to that place as Malaysia Street because you can see A LOT of Malaysian there! If you stayed at the hotel I stayed in, you will need to walk around 15 minutes or more (and need to cross the super busy road several times) to reach that area.
During my second visit to Ho Chi Minh, stayed at Thanh Thu Hotel. This time around I didn’t have to walk too far to enjoy Halal food & shop at Ben Thanh Market! 🙂
Most of the hotel will keep your passport during your stay. You can choose to give your passport or a copy of it. I just give my passport for them to keep (which might be a bit risky but there are several cases of snatch thief so it might also be a good idea to do that)
Most of the time I just walk (I don’t mind walking) since most of the places around backpackers area are within walking distance. If walking is not your thing, you can take a taxi. I would recommend VINASUN taxi since they use meter and the rate is not expensive. From the hotel I stayed in to Ben Thanh market is around 27,000 dong (around RM5) only. You can also find the taxi everywhereee!! Just stop a taxi, hop on and let the driver know where you would like to go. To be on a safer side, make sure you have a name, address & picture of the place you want to go printed on a piece of paper, especially your hotel! I did that to the hotel I stayed in. The trishaw there is quite expensive. 1,500,000 for a ride! So DO NOT take the trishaw especially if you are from Malaysia. Trishaw in Malaysia is cheaper. But if you do not mind paying, you can try it.
When you shop in Ho Chi Minh, make sure to haggle!! Most of the time, try to reduce at least half (or more) of the price from the price tag. If the seller will not give you the price that you want, just walk away. Sometimes (or a lot of times) they will call you back and agree to the price that you want!
- Ben Thanh Market – This market is the most famous place to shop. You can find clothes, shoes, fabrics, bags, souvenirs, coffee, etc. I did most of my shopping here. By the way, if you want to buy coffee, you can buy from shop no 1095. The guy is so friendly and among all the shops that I went to, his price is the lowest.
- Ben Thanh night market – during the day you can shop at Ben Thanh market but during the night, there will be a night market around Ben Thanh market.
- Saigon Square – An air-condition complex with lots and lotssss of shops selling clothes, pants, accessories, souvenir, etc.
- Parkson – located at the city center. If you are hungry, there’s a food court at the upper level and there is one Halal restaurant
- Zen Plaza – There’s not much of shops here so I guess you can just skip 😛
- Binh Tay Market – located in China Town, District 5. This market is actually a wholesale market where most sellers will buy things in bulk and re-sell. Most of the shops in this market sell in bulk but there are some which allows you to buy in smaller quantity
- Handicraft Center – here you can see victims of Vietnam war make beautiful handicraft. You won’t believe how they turn egg shells into beautiful art of work! You can also purchase the handicraft as a way to help them
- Cu Chi Tunnel – Located 60km away from Ho Chi Minh City, Cu Chi is now considered as heroic district for its role in anti-American war in Vietnam. It is legendary for its tunnels system of over 220km and is a popular spot for both Vietnamese and foreign visitors. (Entrance fee: 90,000 dong)
- Cao Dai Temple – located in Tay Ninh and built in 1926, is considered as one of the most striking structures, a place of pilgrimage for quite a few Vietnamese people and those who are interested in Caodaism. This temple is located several hours drive from Ho Chi Minh City
- Mekong Delta – Few hours bus ride with green paddy fields view along the way to the jetty in My Tho. The boat trip will then bring you through the Bao Dinh canal, with view of stilt houses and the fruit plantation along the river sides. You will then stop at a bee farm where you will be served with honey tea & some snacks. The boat ride will then continue to bring you through Tan Thach natural canal in Ben Tre, and cruise under the shadow of the water coconut trees. Next stop is a place where local makes coconut candy. You can have a try and if you like it, you can buy it. Lunch will be served at the fruit orchard and you can go for a bicycle ride after that. The tour that I paid for doesn’t provide Halal food. There’s vegetarian but then they also serve pork. Luckily I have packed with me bread with peanut butter so I just ate my wonderful lunch that I have prepared earlier. Finally you will be served with local fruits at the orchard while enjoying folk music, performed by locals.
- Floating Market, Can Tho, Rice Noodle Factory – Since I have paid for a 2 days tour, my journey (after the Mekong Delta tour) continues on a several hours bus ride (again) to Can Tho. Stayed at a hotel there (hotel included in the package). The next morning, walked to the jetty and went to the floating market. It is not similar to the floating market in Thailand. Here, there will be big boats (act as seller) and smaller boats (act as buyer). They sell mostly fruits and vegetables in wholesale. However for tourist, you may buy in small quantity. Bought sweet potatoes and it taste awesome! (also act as my lunch since it is difficult to find Halal food when we went back to Can Tho). After visiting the floating market, went to a family own ‘factory’ where they make rice noodle and later on we went to see a place where they store rice and learn how they make money from it. (not that interesting :P) Tour then ends and went back to Can Tho for lunch. Since there’s no Halal restaurant around, I just went to a coffee shop & the coffee they serve is the BEST coffee I had during my 1 week travel to Vietnam!! After lunch, went back to Ho Chi Minh city in a 4 hours bus ride! By the way, we stop at a very nice and green place which I don’t know the name. It is such a beautiful place for a toilet break 😛
- Opera House – discover Vietnamese culture with the magic of live theater at the opera house. However there will be a performance ONLY on 15th and 23rd at 5 pm every month. So there’s only 2 performances per month! Price is 800,000 dong for adult and half price for children under 12 years old. Located at the city center
- City Hall – I don’t think public can just simply enter but you can take photos in front of this beatiful building (located at the city center close to the Opera House)
- War Remnants Museum – This museum was opened in September 4, 1975. It specialized in research, collecting, preserving, and exhibiting the remnants proof of Vietnam war crime and their consequences.Through these, the museum tends to call the public to say no to war and yes to peace for world people solidarity. (Entrance fee: 15,000 dong)
- Reunification Palace – formerly known as Independence Palace. It was the home and workplace of the President of South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. (Entrance fee: 30,000 dong)
You can find several cafes & restaurants selling Halal food around Ben Thanh market, especially in the same street as Hoang Hai Long 2 hotel (and other hotel mentioned earlier)
- Amin Halal – went here to eat several times. I ordered the same thing which is chicken noodle soup (50,000 dong) and coffee (20,000 dong). LOVE IT! This roadside shop is located at the same row as Hoang Hai Long 2 Hotel.
- Basiroh – This shop is located opposite Hoang Hai Long 2. Do try their pho because it is awesome!! Pho (pronounce as fur) is a famous beef noodle soup. Also do try their coffee (Vietnam is all about coffee!). They also sell the coffee powder that they used at their shop. If you would like to try the original taste, ask for black coffee without sugar.
- Warung 1Malaysia – also located within the same street as the above
- Kampung Melayu Halal Restaurant – Located opposite Hoang Hai Long 2 hotel and next to Basiroh
- Nabil Biryani House – located close to the previous restaurants but a bit further. I can’t remember the exact location but you can just walk around the area to look for this shop
- Saigon Seri Penang -Can’t remember the exact location but close to the other Halal restaurant
- Street snack – worth trying! Love it!
- Fruits – the fruits there are HUGE!! Do try the ‘ciku’. You can buy the ready cut & packed for 1 USD at Ben Thanh night market