Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) is the business and financial hub of Vietnam, with a prominent history going back hundreds of years. The Khmers originally settled the region, with the Vietnamese taking over in the 17th century. The French conquered Saigon, as it was then known, in 1859, and made it the capital of Cochin China in 1862, which resulted in numerous elegant architecture and broad boulevards that are still present to this day. At the peak of the Vietnam War in 1969, the city had 4.5 million inhabitants who were all evacuated when Saigon and the rest of the South fell to North Vietnam in 1975.
The city has recovered in the 30 years since then, with the current population at over 7 million. It was renamed Ho Chi Minh City, after the spiritual leader of Vietnamese Communism, but residents were so reluctant to adopt the new name that authorities kept the official name but the city centre is still called Saigon.
Today, Ho Chi Minh City is a popular tourist destination due to its fascinating culture, classic French architecture, and sleek skyscrapers as well as ornate temples and pagodas. The city is also filled with rooftop bars that overlook Saigon and beyond, while fantastic restaurants offer a combination of French, Chinese, and, of course, local Vietnamese cuisine.
Hoi An Bike Tour
Hoi An Bike Tours
Choose from a full- or half-day countryside bicycle tour and get to see a glimpse of the beautiful areas surrounding Hoi An. The Hoi An full-day bike tour includes a river ride on the Hoi An river and one hour’s biking around Kim Bong carpentry village. Both bike trips including cooking and enjoying lunch with a local family, and the chance to wander round local markets and vegetable villages. Hoi An Bike Tours also offers motorbike tours to the most famous attractions around the city: Marble Mountain, My Son, etc…
Joining kayaking in Halong Bay, tourists will have a great opportunity to explore the monumental bay with breathtaking scenery of numerous distinctive cliffs and pretty waterfalls, as well as the typical lifestyle of local fishermen on fishing villages.
Saigon Motorcycle Tour
If you’re looking to travel like a local during your holiday, joining a motorcycle tour is an exhilarating (and safe) way to visit popular landmarks and districts within Ho Chi Minh City. Priced at VND 1,000,000 onwards, the package is usually inclusive of hotel transfers, lunch, drinks, helmet, insurance, and an English-speaking tour guide.
While prices and locations vary from one tour operator to another, a motorcycle tour usually stops at iconic sites such as Saigon Opera House, Notre Dame Cathedral, Saigon Central Post Office, where the tour guide will provide a brief history and interesting facts on each locale
The cyclo is a three-wheel bicycle taxi that appeared in Vietnam during the French colonial period after a failed attempt to introduce rickshaws. A double seat (for Vietnamese – an average foreigner would find riding with a companion a bit of a squeeze) is supported by the two front wheels, with the driver sitting behind. The design in Ho Chi Minh City differs from the Hanoi variety in that the driver sits much higher (as do the prices!).
In the big cities, their use as a means of passenger transport has all but vanished over the last two or three years. Taxi fares have dropped, and fleets of buses with low fixed fares have greatly undercut the market – a journey from one side of either of the major cities to the other cost less than half a kilometre in a cyclo.
Nevertheless, they remain as a popular tourism attraction, but are not generally useful the vietnam’s cyclo for touristsfor city tours because they are banned from many major roads as traffic hazards.
They still reign supreme in carrying awkward loads along city roads, sometimes much to the annoyance of other road users. For visitors, it’s a good idea to have a camera to hand to snap the unlikely loads they carry – complete bedroom suites, live pigs, ten-metre scaffold poles and much more.
If you want to hire a cyclo, always negotiate the fare in advance. If you fail to do so, the driver will often ask for an exorbitant price and then blackmail you into paying it by making a major fuss in the street that will immediately attract a crowd. This is particularly so in Ho Chi Minh City.
The Saigon-style cyclo – the driver sits on a much higher saddle than the northern versionGenerally speaking, you should offer about a third of the sum quoted, and haggle up to no more than a half. Walking away will often turn an unacceptable price into an agreed sum.
However, it’s likely that the driver will not drop to the Vietnamese price, though – dual pricing has only recently been phased out, and cyclo drivers still stick to their belief that all foreigners are rich and can therefore afford to be more generous. Mostly, they’re right!
Walking street in HCM
Bui Vien Street is the main street of the so called ‘backpackers area’ of Ho Chi Minh City. Here you find a wide variety of inexpensive restaurants, bars, souvenir shops and hotels/hostels. While being seated at one of the places you can soak up the local lifestyle and culture. You can shop, dine and party on Bui Vien Street.
The total ‘backpackers area’ consist of roughly four streets and some small interconnecting alleys. To have dinner here is very affordable and will cost you around VND 100-200.000 (US$ 4-8), for this amount you will have a decent meal including a drink. The options vary from Vietnamese, Indian, Italian to Chinese and Western.
On Bui Vien street you also find many bars that offer drinks with a view of the busy city life. Depending on the location you can have a beer for VND 10.000 to VND 80.000 (US$ 0.5-3). Besides this there are many souvenir shops that sell affordable gifts ranging from paintings, statues to clothing and bags. As this is the heart of the city centre it can easily be reached by foot or taxi and almost all locals in here speak English. It gets busiest from early evening, around 18:00, with the many bars and pubs popular until 02:00 or even later.
Water pupet show
Water puppetry (Vietnamese: Múa rối nước, lit. “Making puppets dance on water”) is a tradition that dates back as far as the 11th century when it originated in the villages of the Red River Delta area of northern Vietnam. Today’s Vietnamese water puppetry is a unique variation on the ancient Asian puppet tradition.
The puppets are made out of wood and then lacquered. The shows are performed in a waist-deep pool. A large bamboo rod supports the puppet under the water and is used by the puppeteers, who are normally hidden behind a screen, to control them. Thus the puppets appear to be moving over the water. When the rice fields would flood, the villagers would entertain each other using this form of puppet play.