5 Awesome Things to do in Saigon

If you know me, I’m one of the biggest history buffs around; especially modern history. For instance, I find the Vietnam War fascinating. I find it fascinating that it only ended in 1975 and I know a lot of people who fought in the war. So I’ve seen just about every Vietnam War movie, documentary and have read a ton of books on it. So you have a preconceived notion of what Vietnam will be like when you visit.

The Reunification Palace

The Reunification Palace

In two prior visits, I had realized those preconceived notions were completely wrong. So for my third visit, this time with Azamara Club Cruises, I was thrilled to be back to simply enjoy and try not to get nailed by a motorbike!

There are over 8 million motorbikes in Vietnam

There are over 8 million motorbikes in Vietnam

I flew into Ho Chi Minh City also known as and I prefer to call it Saigon. Saigon was so important during the Vietnam War and has such a mysterious connotation to it that I can’t help but be drawn to it. Not to mention it’s a fantastic city with lots going on. Here are 5 awesome things to do in Saigon!

Cu Chi Tunnels

The Cu Chi Tunnels are located about 70km from Saigon or about 1.5 hours driving depending on traffic. In my opinion, the Cu Chi Tunnels are the best thing to see or do in Saigon. The history is amazing and if you know your Vietnam War history it’ll really add to the experience.

5 Awesome Things to do in Saigon

Map of the Cu Chi Tunnel System

The Cu Chi Tunnels were and still are an elaborate underground tunnel complex where the Viet Cong, VC or North Vietnam soldiers secretly hid, fought and planned attacks. This is the famous place where they planned and launched the Tet Offensive against the largest US base in Vietnam.

5 Awesome Things to do in Saigon

Popping up out of a rabbit hole at the Cu Chi Tunnels. I barely fit in!

The Tet Offensive, while ultimately unsuccessful in terms of war, managed to change the attitudes of many Americans at home. It made them realized the US Government had essentially been lying about the status of the war, as it was already wildly unpopular. The US would go onto to withdraw troops in 1973 and eventually Saigon fell in 1975 to end the war and reunify the country.

5 Awesome Things to do in Saigon

I barely fit in any of the tunnels or holes!

Today, the Cu Chi Tunnels are the most solemn and vivid reminder of how brutal the war was and how much of a disadvantage the Americans were operating under.

5 Awesome Things to do in Saigon

Inside the Cu Chi Tunnels was very tight and claustrophobic

We saw and crawled through the tunnels and saw many of the traps the VC used against the enemy. If you’ve seen some of the epic Vietnam War movies like Platoon (My all-time favorite movie) then you’ll know what I mean. It was hard to fight against an unclear enemy who had a major home field advantage.

5 Awesome Things to do in Saigon

Shooting an AK-47 at the Cu Chi Tunnels

The Tunnels are phenomenal and at the end you can even shoot AK-47 and others guns used during the war for a separate fee. Of course my favorite part of the whole tour was trying to wiggle into one of the VC rabbit holes. I managed to get in but couldn’t close it because my shoulders are too wide! Needless to say the VC didn’t build them for Americans during the war!

War Remnants Museum

The War Remnants Museum was my favorite thing from the first time I visited Saigon back in 2004 and it’s still awesome! This museum details the Vietnam War or as the Vietnamese call it, the American War. It basically details American War atrocities and crimes including their use of Agent Orange, napalm and its effect on people. It’s fascinating as an American to see and hear things from the other perspective.

5 Awesome Things to do in Saigon

The Agent Orange exhibit at the War Remnants Museum in Saigon

Be sure to check out the multiple levels to get to full extent of the museum. Also, leave time to check out some of the old tanks and other US military hardware on display from the war. Again, a fascinating look into the war from a perspective you never hear at home.

Binh Tay Market

I’m not usually a big market guy. In fact, I generally think they’re all the same and kind of boring. The famous Binh Tay Market in Saigon is pretty cool though. It is massive, bright and in your face. It’s a sensory overload but in a good way.

5 Awesome Things to do in Saigon

Inside Binh Tay Market in Saigon

It’s an essential stop on any Saigon tour. Even if you don’t buy anything, it’s a good place to sample food, smell strange things and see every knockoff known to man. It’s a lifeline of the people and a big tourist attraction so get a little bit of everything.

Go Up the Bitexco Financial Tower

For the best views and likely most expensive drinks in Saigon, head up to the sky deck of the Bitexco Financial Tower. You can’t miss the building; it’s the ultra modern looking, tall building with a massive helicopter pad sticking out of it. Of course the helicopter pad is no longer in use because it was determined to be unsteady.

View from atop the Bitexco Financial Tower of Saigon

View from atop the Bitexco Financial Tower of Saigon

The sky deck and observation deck gives you 360-degree views of Saigon, easily the best in the city. If you get lucky and get a clear day you can see forever. Here’s a tip, go to the sky bar for free and just buy a Diet Coke or something to save some money and get the same view!

Pham Ngu Lao Street

Pham Ngu Lao Street and the surrounding area are located in District 11 of Saigon and is a hub on nightlife and crazy streets. It is mainly a backpacker area with lots of clubs, bars and hostels but a must see for any tourist in Saigon in my opinion.

Walking around the Pham Ngu Lao Street area in Saigon

Walking around the Pham Ngu Lao Street area in Saigon

It is reminiscent of Khao San Road in Bangkok, Thailand with a little Soi Cowboy mixed in as well. It’s sheer madness that must be seen to be believed.

It's always busy at night in the Pham Ngu Lao Street area

It’s always busy at night in the Pham Ngu Lao Street area

It’s also a good place to get good street food for super cheap prices. Food is such an important part of visiting Vietnam and Saigon street food is as good as anywhere. Try the Pho, you won’t regret it!

Pho off the streets is so good

Pho off the streets is so good

There are so many more than 5 awesome things to do in Saigon but I’d be here forever telling you all of them. But my biggest recommendation is simply to walk around during the day and again at night. Let yourself get lost and find little treasures you didn’t know existed.

Colorful streets of Saigon at night

Colorful streets of Saigon at night

Saigon is one of the best cities in Asia. In fact, it’s a microcosm of what many big Asian cities are without being too overwhelming like a Bangkok, Jakarta or Manila. I love Saigon and when you visit don’t forget to listen to that old Vietnam War era favorite ‘Hello Vietnam’!

Disclaimer: I was in Saigon to join a cruise with Azamara Club Cruises. I work as a global ambassador for Azamara and receive financial compensation. Everything written here and experienced in Saigon was done by me and has not been influenced in any way.

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  1. Saigon is my favorite city in Asia. It’s a smaller Bangkok with better traffic and less pollution but equally as fun.

  2. Great Post, Lee!

  3. I remember being in Saigon in the 80’s. It was the Wild West! Those were great days to be an expat! I’d love to return but the flight turns me off in my old age.

  4. I like Saigon much more than Hanoi. I find is less hectic if that’s possible plus the weather is much better. It can get chilly up in Hanoi. Glad you liked it too.

  5. Food should be #1-5 IMHO!

  6. I saw your ship and I didn’t realise you were on it! Glad you enjoyed your revisit.

  7. Awesome post! Lee. Glad to find your post. You captured great pictures in your post. Thank you.

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