Ho Chi Minh City, or also known as Saigon, is the capital of Vietnam and a huge metropolitan city on the southern edge of the country. With its great food, year-round hot weather, untouched nature, and cheap prices, Vietnam is known as a great place to vacation and relax. We want to show you the best places to go for a short trip to Ho Chi Minh from South Korea, which is just a 5-hour flight away.
Arriving in Vietnam
Before you depart, make sure you check out if you need to apply for a visa. Unlike a lot of countries, Vietnam does not allow Americans to enter freely for 30 days as a tourist. But don’t worry, it’s not that hard of a process.
Visit the website here, to apply for a tourist visa. You’ll get an email with a letter that you’ll need to print out (black and white print is okay). When you arrive at the airport in Ho Chi Minh, stop at the “Visa on Arrival” window. Submit your documents (if you don’t have a photo, they’ll take one for you) and get your passport stamped. Easy!
Vietnam’s Growing Resort Destination – Ho Tram Beach
While most people imagine Vietnam and Ho Chi Minh as bustling city centers with tons of motorcycles, just outside of the city hosts amazing, white sand, blue water beaches. In an effort to see some nature in Vietnam, we visited Melia Ho Tram, a newly-opened beachside resort with brand new facilities and amazing views. Known for fresh, underdeveloped beaches and pristine coastlines, Ho Tram is poised to become a major resort destination as the region develops. Ho Tram was also rated #3 on the Top 5 Places to Visit Around HCMC by Lonely Planet. If you want to be an insider, we recommend you visit this place before it gets popular.
Choose one of the villas or a room in the tower at Melia Ho Tram, and enjoy their three restaurants including a beach club, three swimming pools, a swim-up bar (yes please!), a coffee shop, a 10-treatment room spa, an executive lounge, a ballroom and conference facilities, a kids club, gymnasium, and gift shop. At night, Breeza Beach Club becomes an exciting lounge with live music. You MUST try one (or two, or 3) of their mojitos for just 4,000 won! Or for a romantic night, pick Muoi, the restaurant just upstairs with delicious Vietnamese food. Catch the sunset at either of these places for an amazing dining experience.
Near Melia Ho Tram, you can venture into Vung Tau, a local beach town or to Binh Chau for the hot springs. However, as we only had the long weekend, we chose to head back for more time in HCMC.
Ho Chi Minh City Highlights
When you’re ready to head back into the city for sight-seeing and a bit more of a cultural experience, we’ve made you a short list of things you MUST do while in Ho Chi Minh. Grab a water bottle and a backpack, download Grab (like Uber for motorcycles and taxis) and go!
This is one thing we recommend doing first on your trip to the city. Why? The content is incredibly heavy and you’ll appreciate things in Vietnam a lot more once you understand the turmoil that the war brought upon the country.
The War Museum is multi-leveled and each floor has a different exhibit tackling a different topic. The hardest to get through without crying was easily the Photographer’s Exhibit. It showcased real photos from wartime and the stories behind the photos.
After the heaviness of the museum, pass by the other tourists chain-smoking from the stress outside and view some of the old machinery kept around from the war.
Street Food – For The Foodies
Lighten your spirits with some authentic and delicious street food. As our Vietnamese friend Hieu (shoutout to Hieu!) said, “Vietnamese food is great because you can eat a lot, and not gain weight”. Here are some MUST TRY foods in Ho Chi Minh:
Pho: isn’t this obvious? The famous Vietnamese noodle soup is everywhere in the city
Banh Mi: another, “duh!”. These amazing baguette sandwiches are cheap and filling.
Banh Xeo: a flat pancake packed with bean sprouts and sometimes shrimp and other meats.
Che: (not pictured) A sweet, fruity dessert that’s the perfect treat on a hot day.
And as to where to find these foods? Check out the Vietnam Coracles list of “5 Best Street Food Streets“. His blog is awesome for seeing the real Saigon. While these are the obvious choices for food, we recommend keeping an open mind and being adventurous!
Bui Vien Walking Street – Nightlife For Party Animals
If you’re a person who hates touristy locations when traveling, hear me out on this one. The Bui Vien Walking Street is home to bars, clubs, restaurants and more. You can find many expat and tourist bars in this area (usually attached to hostels), who run pub crawls most weekend nights. During the later hours of the evening, businesses place tables and chairs so far into the street that there’s only enough room for 2 people to get by in the very center. It’s a very high-energy, bumping place to be on a weekend night. For solo travelers who are looking to meet other travelers, this is the place to do it!
Water Puppet Show – Cultural Entertainment
Originating from the rice farms of the Red River Delta in North Vietnam, you can find water puppet shows at The Golden Dragon Water Puppetry Theatre and at the Villa Song Saigon (formerly Thao Dien Village). Depicting the culture, traditions, and folklore of Vietnam, the puppets entertain the visitors with live old-fashioned music played on authentic instruments.
Although the stories are told completely in Vietnamese, the exaggerated puppet movements are enough to follow along with the stories and enjoy the music.
Rooftop Bars – For a Relaxing Evening
How do you wind down from a hot, sweaty day in Saigon? At a rooftop bar of course! The city is covered in rooftop bars, and you can find one that suits your taste here. We obviously recommend the OG, Chill Skybar, located on the 26th floor of the AB Tower. For a more laidback vibe, head to Saigon Saigon Rooftop Bar at the Hotel Caravelle, which is famous for hosting many American journalists during the Vietnam War.
We know we left out a lot of great things to do! Let us know your favorite things to do in Saigon in the comments below.