Known as the Pearl of the Orient, it’s easy to assume the capital of Vietnam is simply famed for just strong coffee and insane traffic. With its rich history, we explored the cultural Saigon in the span of two short days and came to understand why Ho Chi Minh City truly is the Paris of the East.

Stay:

Located in the city center, we chose to drop our bags off at the Pullman Saigon Centre, and were more than satisfied with their unbeatable service and luxe amenities. We kickstart the day with an amazing breakfast spread that offers local delicacies and western favorites alike. Tummies filled, we hopped onto the hotel’s complimentary shuttle service, which provides drop off and pick up at major tourist spots in the area, to visit the first destination on our itinerary.

After a jam-packed day of activities, rest those aching bones by taking a dip in the Pullman’s rooftop pool and end the night with a drink at the poolside bar. 

Sightsee:

Pop by the Ben Thanh market for cheap wares and souvenirs that range from tees to coffee beans. For those who have been to the night markets of Taiwan or flea markets in Thailand, the Ben Thanh market might come across as a bit of a disappointment. We’d suggest choosing to visit once, either in the day or night time, where the market is outdoors instead.

The War Remnants Museum is a must-see for those who wish to learn more about the world wars and Vietnam’s significant role in it. While some of the harsh displays are not for the faint of heart, the museum provides visitors with a deeper understanding of the cruel price of warfare that’s very much still happening in modern society and yet still very often overlooked.

A stone’s throw away from the War Remnants Museum, visit the Reunification Palace for a rare glance into the well-preserved home and workplace of the former South Vietnam president. It is also where the Vietnam War officially ended, lending deeper significance to the official staterooms and dining halls where important foreign dignitaries were entertained. Be sure to check out the rooftop helipad for a bird’s eye view of the city.

We recommend venturing out of District One to visit the iconic pink (and highly Instagrammed) Tan Dinh church. Other noteworthy sites that recall French influence include the Notre Dame cathedral and the Municipal Theatre, also known as the Opera House.

The best way to travel in between destinations is to take a cab. Keep a look out for Mai Linh and Vinasun taxis as these are the most trusted companies that operate via meter, similar to Singapore only without those pesky surcharges.

All pink everywhere – you’ll want to get your cameras out for this church.

Eat:

Get a taste of the delicious Hanoi-styled bun cha noodles at Bun Chả 145 Bui Viện, where the famed dish is served with mouthwatering broth and meat patties. Order some sides to go along with your meal, which are small in portion in an almost tapas-like style. The fried banana dessert makes for a perfect ending to the meal.

If you fancy a side of shopping with your meal, go to L’usine for its hipster boutique and equally quaint cafe setting. The dining area serves up a delectable selection of East meets West fusion dishes while the retail store is a well curated selection of high-end labels such as Comme Des Garcons.

For those who prefer to check out homegrown labels, Vietnamese brands such as Phuong My and Nosbyn have their own standalone boutiques that’s worth a visit as well.

A bowl of Bun Chả is only just about S$2, how’s that for a good deal?

Unwind:

What’s a vacation without some scheduled relaxation? Drop by the Temple Leaf Spa for a well-deserved massage that doesn’t break the bank – an hour long full body massage is only about S$20!

For the party animals, hit up Chill Sky Bar for amazing DJ sets and, you guessed it, a sky high view of Ho Chi Minh City.

Featured image courtesy of L’usine, background image courtesy of Pullman Saigon Centre and bottom image courtesy of Chill Sky Bar.