Ho Chi Minh City
8 million people with 3 million motorbikes winding through the streets of the former Capital of Vietnam. This claustrophobic city has bountiful riches that can be viewed without the crowds.
Below the Jungle floor
An insight into the bloody Vietnam War is a must and the intriguing Cu Chi Tunnels, a series of underground tunnels that were used by the Viet Cong, is a thrilling adventure. Navigating through the insanely narrow underground labyrinths will definitely leave an impression, but the site of ‘Ben Dinh’ is especially claustrophobic due to the hordes of visitors. Being trapped above and below ground is not the most fun, so instead, venture to ‘Ben Duok’ (ĐT6, Phú Mỹ Hưng, Hồ Chí Minh). Here, it is likely that you will be the only visitor traversing the unaltered, war trodden ground.
Above the High-rises
The Bitexco Tower is the city’s tallest building and its lotus inspired design draws in visitors year round. Most opt for the observation deck that offers unrestricted views or they sip a cocktail at the bar. However, both will confront you with crowds obscuring your view. So why not savour the sights whilst satiating your appetite by dining in the clouds at EON51 (51 Floor, Bitexco Financial Tower, 2 Hải Triều, Bến Nghé. +84 8 6291 8750). The food is exquisite and your taste buds will applaud your decision.
The bustling city of Ho Chi Minh is loitered with parks that transport you away from the chaos of the congested streets. Tao Dan Park (Nguyễn Thị Minh Khai, Bến Thành) has a tradition of bringing the locals together to practise singing. In a quirky twist, it is not the locals themselves that are singing but their pet birds. Witness this glimpse into a pleasant Vietnam custom in the early morning when the heat has yet to reach its peak.
Jostling for bargains in a busy market may be eventful but for those wanting to shop away from the hassle then district 7 is the place to visit. The Crescent Mall (Hưng, 101 Tôn Dật Tiên, Phú Mỹ. +84 8 5413 3333) is rejuvenating Saigon South and its lakefront view is perfect for a picnic. The mall and its surrounding area has plenty to offer including sumptuous churros and Asia’s latest craze ‘Escape Rooms’.
Fancy eating on a beach or on safari? Then you can – if you use your imagination that is! Noir (180D, Hẻm 178 Hai Bà Trưng, Đa Kao. +84 8 6263 2525) is the most inspirational restaurant where you will eat a three course meal entirely in the dark. Served by blind, death and mute waiting staff you will be left in awe. Even on a Friday evening you won’t feel that you are in one of the hottest establishments in the city as you won’t be able to see anyone. Tasting tantalising treats will test your taste buds in deciphering what food is before you.
Whilst many whisk off to Cai Be along the Mekong Delta for a chance to experience rural life – why not remain firmly in the city for a similar experience that won’t be filled with snap happy tourists. Thanh Da (Cư xá Thanh Đa, phường 27, Bình Thạnh) is an island where villagers go about their daily lives. Rent a bicycle and peddle past rice fields and vibrant vegetation. Stop by a riverside café and enjoy the fresh soursop or mango juices whilst gazing onto the meandering river.
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