Whether you want to walk in nature, feel life rush past you on a bike, or cool down near some water, there are many activities to enjoy out in the open. Consider these seven options, for a start…
This fascinating, fertile region lies just west of the city. So it’s easy to reach for a day or more. There’s something truly magical about drifting along its pretty canals and waterways by boat. There’s also plenty to see and do en route.
Choose from an array of tours catering to every taste. Options include historical trips that take you to see the Cu Chi tunnels, the underground network that offered protection during war times.
Then there are spiritual excursions to see sacred sites, such as the My Tho or Vinh Trang Pagodas; and foodie tours complete with cooking classes. Interesting villages to explore include My Tho and Ben Tre. Or book a trip to visit the delta’s islands.
The lively floating markets are highlights for many travellers. They offer a vivid slice of daily life, showing how many locals are dependent on the water for trade.
There’s no doubt about it – Ho Chi Minh City is intense. That’s why it’s a good idea to add a respite in nature onto your itinerary.
One great option is the Can Gio Biosphere Reserve, considered the gateway to the Mekong Delta. It includes monkey island and beach, wetlands, and mangrove forests. Mangrove forests are fascinating and valuable, carbon-dense ecosystems that are home to many marine creatures. Take time to explore them by bike, foot or boat.
Think ‘Vietnam’ and you’re bound to picture cyclos, bicycles, scooters and motorbikes. To get from A to B quickly – and feel completely immersed in your surroundings, with the wind in your hair adding to that sense of freedom travel brings – rent a bike to get around. Too cautious? Hop on the seat behind an experienced guide.
There’s a plethora of motorbike tours. Want to ride with a woman driver or be on a funky Vespa? Both can be easily arranged. But the most popular motorbike tours are undoubtedly the foodie ones. These take you to various streetfood spots to sample regional classics, such as com tam (broken rice) or bo kho (beef stew).
Curious about the nightlife? Take a tour of Saigon after dark. For a more local experience, book with one of the many student guides who’ll share their cultural knowledge. Or try one of the experiences that uncover the city’s hidden gems, as enjoyed by locals.
For an authentic cultural experience, visit an outdoor water puppet theatre. This traditional art form is on UNESCO’s Intangible Heritage list − for good reason.
Back in the 11th century, water-puppet shows were enjoyed by villagers in the northern Red River Delta during harvest festivals. They were performed within ponds among the rice paddies. Now, they’re held at outdoor theatres complete with water stages.
Watch the wooden, lacquered puppets seemingly dance on the liquid stage, as they’re operated by puppeteers standing waist-deep in water, hidden behind the stage’s water house. The shows usually involve the same characters, like Teu - the comic storyteller. And they typically convey age-old Vietnamese folk tales that carry moral messages. Beside the water stage, musicians play folk music on traditional instruments. It’s something truly memorable.
Amble along the paved walkway beside the Crescent Lake (Ho Ban Nguyet), situated in an upmarket part of District 7. Stop to sit at one of the outdoor tables of the many cafes and restaurants here to watch daily life go by.
The promenade connects to Ho Ban Nguyet Park via Starlight Bridge (Cau Anh Sao). With its neon lights and colourful water fountains, this is a romantic place to cross with your significant other after dark. Or just go solo to practice your night-photography skills.
Given the general buzz of Vietnam’s biggest city, many of its residents make the most of Ho Chi Minh City’s many parks and outdoor chill spots.
Grab yourself some streetfood and refreshments, then relax at one of them if you need a bit of downtime between sightseeing. You’ll also get to watch locals enjoying their daily exercise, such as tai chi, line dancing, badminton or hacky-sack.
The biggest park in the city, Tao Dan Park, has beautifully manicured gardens and plant sculptures. Look out for the shrine to Vietnam’s Hung Kings, as well as the mini Cham temple. Another leafy option is 23-9 Park, near Ben Thanh Market.
With an annual average temperature of 26-27 degrees Celcius, Ho Chi Minh City gets sticky. Take a refreshing break at a waterpark to cool off.
Dam Sen Water Park, in District 11, has over 30 different activities to choose from. Some of them are a real thrill. For instance, the Twister Max has you whirl and whizz through spiral tubes in only 12 seconds. Prefer things to be gentler? There’s a Solar Water Massage Pool with 70 massage fountains to soothe your worries away.
Another option, in District 9, is the Suoi Tien Theme Park, which is both a waterpark and regular amusement park. It’s Buddhist themed, and even houses actual temples, so this theme runs throughout. Sunbathe by the seawater pool; hop onto a turtle-shaped boat to cruise the Lazy River; or go on one of the more adrenaline-pumping rides.