As a backpacker of Vietnam and now a resident, I can say that there are countless amazing places to visit. Vietnam is a country filled with breathtaking sights, delicious foods, and gracious people. This blog is a list of the “must-see” spots of Vietnam for those travelers who are on a time crunch. If you hit up these regions, I can assure you, you will not be disappointed!
The country’s capital, Hanoi, is by far my favorite city in Vietnam. So much so, that I chose to move here two months ago. Hanoi was founded over 1,000 years ago, and it is truly charming. During our tours, many of our clients say that Hanoi is their favorite stop. Unlike Saigon, Hanoi seems to move at a slower pace. Wake up early, and you'll find locals exercising (from dancing to tai chi) around Hoan Kiem Lake, a picturesque focal point of the city. Stroll through the maze that is the Old Quarter region of Hanoi and find amazing local foods (be sure to try Bun Cha for lunch) and a plethora of different shops. Each street in the Old Quarter is known for something. For example, Hang Gai street, nicknamed silk street, is where you can barter for beautiful silk outfits or even get them custom made. At sunset, grab a drink at a rooftop restaurant near the main roundabout and enjoy the smells, sounds, and sights of Hanoi. While in Hanoi, be sure to visit the Women’s Museum and visit the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, where you can walk past Uncle Ho’s embalmed resting body (take note: Uncle Ho is sent to Russia for touch-ups from October to November).
Saigon is another must-see of Vietnam. Saigon is unlike any other city I have visited. With over 7.4 million motorbikes, Saigon is nothing short of a sensory overload. My favorite parts of Saigon are the museums, the bustling nightlife, and the food. If you are interested in learning more about the Vietnam-American conflict, Saigon is the place to visit. I highly recommend a visit to the War Remnants Museum and the Chu Chi Tunnels (the tunnels are several hours from the city, but tours run back and forth on a daily basis).
The nightlife of Saigon is also amazing! Be sure to grab a drink in the backpacking district and people watch (a word of advice - sit with an elevated view in order to see as much as you can without getting hassled by people selling knick-knacks on the street). Also, the food in Saigon is AMAZING…You can never eat enough Pho, Banh Mi, and Bot Chien. Saigon is known to be a foodie's heaven. If you see a local restaurant packed with Vietnamese, it is a good sign that you need to try it out! Don't worry if you can't speak any Vietnamese; God gave us fingers so we can point to delicious foods when we don’t speak the local language. Also, try out your bartering skills at the Ben Thanh Market...from sports jerseys to hand woven artwork this market has it all...just be careful to not get lost...it is massive!
Saigon or Ho Chi Minh City? If, like me, you have ever been curious about which name to use when referring to the city, I have discovered that most Vietnamese who live in the south refer to the city as Saigon, its former name, and people in the north call the city by its proper name, Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC). The name switched from Saigon to HCMC after the North’s communist government took over the country in 1975.