Chaos prevails in Ho Chi Minh City. Gridlocked traffic is a way of life, pavements are packed with people and motorbikes constantly use them as a shortcut.
If this hasn’t convinced you to visit, let me try again. The scars from the Vietnamese-American war are very fresh and the brutality of war is evident everywhere you look. The War Remnants Museum is just one example; it is deeply shocking, but a must for all visitors. You can also step back in time at the Chu Chi tunnels, as you find yourself crawling through tiny spaces and examining deathly traps created for the Americans.
Don’t worry, there is some relief from the chaos and shocking history. There are brilliant tours available to the nearby Mekong Delta. In the city, there’s multiple sky bars, an excellent variety of restaurants and historic temples to explore.
War Remnants Museum
Be prepared to be shocked beyond belief by the atrocities of war. The museum is a hard pill to swallow, but it helps comprehend Vietnam’s brutal recent history.
The most shocking display is the one dedicated to Agent Orange – a highly poisonous gas dropped by the Americans – which is still affecting lives today. On display are numerous photographs showing humans disabled and decapitated, dead babies killed by the poison, and information boards providing very one-sided accounts of the war.
Despite this, you do leave with a greater understanding of Vietnam’s past, even if it does leave you running to the nearest bar.
Chu Chi Tunnels
The tunnels offer a shocking glimpse back into the past: rifle shots still ring around the woods, the majority of guides served in the Vietnamese war and you’re forced to crawl on all fours through dusty, boiling hot spaces.
The complex tunnel system stretches for miles and has several different layers. The North Vietnamese built the tunnels to hide from the Americans and they devised numerous ways to outwit them. These included barbaric floor traps, which hundreds of Americans died in.
Mekong Delta Tour
An endearing floating market, picturesque islands and exotic fruit farms are all on the agenda in the stunning Mekong Delta.
Our two day tour along the Mekong river was our highlight from HCMC. The tour took us to the two main towns in the Delta, My Tho and Can Tho. During this time we visited several amazing places, including a sweet factory, unicorn island (unfortunately there was no unicorns), a honey farm, and we even saw some crocodile fishing. It should definitely be renamed the eating tour, as we were constantly offered free samples and ate enormous meals.
To find out more about our time in the Mekong, read my post here.
Bui Vien Walking Street
Also aptly named backpacker street, this road is closed to traffic at the weekends and is turned into a street party. Tailors, corner shops and houses turn into makeshift bars with tiny plastic table and chairs. Music blares from every direction, tourists and locals push through the crowds, and street food vendors compete to be heard. Probably the best part of Bui Vien is how popular it is with the locals; you really feel like your experiencing authentic Vietnam!
Although we did find a few bars were hostile towards us, preferring the locals to sit outside and us to be tucked away at the back, it was still a great experience. What’s better, the beer is cheap!
After reading about these cafes on a blog, we just had to try it for ourselves and we certainly weren’t disappointed. This old apartment block has been transformed into cafes and restaurants. The unimpressive dingy entrance dashed our expectations, but as we climbed the original stairwell and explored each floor, we found several tiny eateries offering an amazing variety of food.
Chill Sky Bar
Matt, who joined us on our trip to HCMC, is obsessed with sky bars and wouldn’t let us not visit at least one. We are now converts after our amazing experience at Chill Sky Bar.
We got there for when it opened at 5pm and began snapping away. The sun soon started disappearing and the sky turned the most beautiful shades of red.
HCMC looked equally as stunning at night and we spend hours just watching the city move below us (and of course drinking copious amounts of alcohol).