How to spend day trips from Ho Chi Minh – Travel Guide.
The city that has multiple names. Ho Chi Minh, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh, Ho Chi Minh City or Saigon. No matter how you reference her to a first-time visitor, she can come across as a hot steamy mess.
After leaving the airport it’s unavoidable to block out the constant honking from the noisy traffic. Commuters use their horns like morse code to communicate with each other.
Once your ears adjust, your eyes will catch sight to the numerous hazardous-looking tangled wires mangled around poles. And what sounds like people arguing, is merely a friendly, casual conversation.
It’s when you take a closer look, you will discover how balanced she is. Her demeanor is so intriguing that she continues to allure visitors into repeat goers.
These close encounters will reveal masked alleyways in perceived abandoned buildings. The obscure halls are filled with beautiful bars, cafes, and retail boutiques. Saigon is not trying to keep these places a secret. It’s part of her charm.
She is filled with rich history, French influenced architecture and delicious cuisine. All the things that showcase her story.
She’s resilient, persistent, driven and passionate. And it’s why I will come back to experience her personality over and over again.
So, once you check off your Things To Do List in Ho Chi Minh. What’s next?
It’s time to explore day trips from Ho Chi Minh.
North from Ho Chi Minh is the Cu Chi Tunnels. Famously known for their use during the Vietnam War. This day will enlighten you what it was like to live in tunnels, the ingenuity and human persistence during wartime.
In the opposite direction, head south to the Mekong Delta. It’s a fantastic day along the water to experience the Vietnamese river lifestyle. This day provides many foods and drinks tastings (and a full on lunch) along the Mekong Delta.
Both day trips are filled with experiences that are a Must Do when in Ho Chi Minh.
Cu Chi Tunnels
Where are the Cu Chi Tunnels?
About 40 – 70 Km northwest of Ho Chi Minh City. There are two areas to choose from, Ben Dinh or Ben Duoc. Ben Dinh is closer to Ho Chi Minh and because of the distance, it’s more touristy. Ben Duoc is just a bit further out but will give you fewer crowds.
How to get to the Cu Chi Tunnels.
It’s dealer’s choice; motorbike, car, bus or speedboat.
- Rent a motorbike or car (plenty of options on the streets)
- Speedboat (provided by tour companies)
- Take a bus to Ben Duoc. Bus 13# from 23-9 park to Cu Chi bus station. Transfer to bus 79# – then in reverse order. Allow 2 -3 hrs. travel time.
I recommend booking a tour that is not a big bus tour (otherwise you’ll be in large groups of 30 + other visitors). You can find many tour companies along the streets of Ho Chi Minh.
The tour group that I recommend is Les Rives Authentic River Experience.
They are professional, insightful and the experts in their field. They promote and exercise responsible tourism. Check out this page on how they build housing for orphanages, help clean up the Saigon River and sponsor Operation Smile.
Day Tour at the Cu Chi Tunnels
This day tour will give you insight of human persistence during the Vietnam War. It captivated 100% of my attention throughout the day.
Full transparency. I didn’t take a lot of pictures here.
And here is why.
Simply, I just didn’t feel comfortable taking photographs. No one told me not to take photos. Walking around an area where 45,000 people died and others had their lives completely disrupted because of wars (plural – Vietnam & French war). To me, felt awkward to photograph.
By all means, do not be discouraged to take photos. As many people do take photos, selfies and video.
Although, I did photograph my husband demonstrating what it was like to enter one of the tunnels. And how to simply vanish under a well camouflaged door.
To check out our quick vid of the experience.
Not to give away all of the juicy content about this area. As I fully encourage people to visit. It was such an amazing experience that has me wanting to visit different tunnel locations.
Here are a Few Things to Know about the Cu Chi Tunnels.
- The tunnels were first built for the French War, as a way to communicate among the villages.
- It’s 250 km (155 miles) in length that was built over a course of 25 years.
- The tunnels extent into Cambodia.
- Communities were built in the tunnels consisting of command centers, hospitals, armories, schools, kitchens – all with ventilation systems.
- Parts of the underground chambers were used to confuse intruders & trap them.
- The Vietnam War (known to Americans) is called The American War by the Vietnamese.
- Visitors can go into the tunnels (which have been made wider for more people to experience). I don’t recommend it for the claustrophobic.
- The Viet Cong used American soap and uniforms from captured American soldiers to disguise and confuse dogs that were used to sniff out tunnel entrances.
- Engineering ingenuity was used from salvaging pieces and parts from abandoned tanks or anything with metal. Back then, metal was better than cash.
- The day will intrigue you enough to continue to learn more on your own about Vietnam.
Interesting enough there is a shooting range at the end of the tour. The range provides an opportunity to pay and shoot an AK-47.
Now, if you’ve watched Morgan Spurlock’s, Super Size Me and had the same response as me. Which was, an immediate turn off from McDonald’s (for months). This is the same elicited affect I had after learning about death, war and the destruction of lives driven with weapons.
The last thing I wanted to do was to shoot a gun.
I was more amp’ed to fire up my guns (aka arms) and hands to the skies and shoot up my double deuces. But that’s me.
Many fellow visitors immediately que’d up to shoot (Ummm…was I on a completely different tour?). Welp, maybe the shooting range is there to get the full experience (and additional revenue).
Needless to say, the day was a full-on eye-opening pupil dilated experience.
On a personal side note: my Dad served 3 tours during the Vietnam War as a Lieutenant Commander in the United States Navy.
On one of his tours, he was on a swift boat sailing down the Bang Cung River (known as Rocket Alley). During a patrol, his boat was hit by a B-40 rocket. He was injured and later in 1968, was decorated with the Purple Heart Medal.
When I told my Dad about my day. I mentioned that I couldn’t imagine what he went through.
His response was,
“What I went through was nothing compared to what many Viet Cong and Army of the Republic of Vietnam troops went through some of whom spent decades in those tunnels.”#MyDadIsMyHero
This Day Trip is a definite must see and do when visiting Ho Chi Minh. I can’t recommend it enough.
The Mekong Delta Day Tour
Where is the Mekong Delta from Ho Chi Minh?
It’s about 75 kilometers south from Ho Chi Minh.
How to explore the Mekong Delta.
For this day, I chose Asiana Link Travel tour company. Check out their website as they also offer services in Cambodia and Laos.
Mekong Delta Day Tour.
This day tour was a full day of learning about history, religion, and families living along the Mekong Delta river. During the ride down, my guide provided insider knowledge about Ho Chi Minh and personal life stories about living in the city and along the river.
Because the various modes of transportation and activities. I couldn’t imagine orchestrating this day on my own. And this is why I book tours. It’s a nice break to not having to think, organize and plan logistics.
The modes of transportation were much more diverse than visiting the Cu Chi Tunnels. It was a mini van, motorboat, another motorboat, tuk tuck, a small boat like canoe, motorboat and back onto a mini van.
Our first stop was Vĩnh Tràng Temple.
A Buddhist temple with 3 buddahs. One that stands, another sits and one that lounges. Supposedly, these buddhas represent the past, present, and future.
It was very beautiful to walk around, take in the incense and see monks have their lunch and prayers.
Our first of many boat rides was along the river to Honey Town. Okay, it wasn’t called that, but it was a honey bee farm. We tasted raw honey, learned about Vietnamese bees and tried honey tea as well.
Being serenaded by locals while eating local fruit and more tea the honey farm. Was a nice way to infuse music with the sight, smell and taste of Vietnamese lifestyle.
Back onto a boat to caramel and coconuts on Cồn Phụng island.
We came to an area where we watched caramel be made. And of course another tasting. They had all sorts of caramel treats to try. Coconuts were full on display, especially how to remove the husk. And yes, the snake wine.
At this time, I had my head turned as I was still fascinated by watching the caramel being made. Next thing I knew I was handed a shot. Yes, I tried it and it tasted like vodka. Probably with zero alcohol as I felt nothing. And thankfully I didn’t vomit or more importantly have an allergic reaction. I guess snake wine agrees with me.
During our tour, it began to rain. May to October is the regions highest rainfall. Which living in Singapore is a non-issue. I embrace the rain as it’s better to be under clouds versus full exposure to the relentless sun.
Rain doesn’t stop nor delays the tour.
Rode in a tuk-tuk to Nhà hàng Diễm Phượng for lunch.
Lunch was a beautiful array of local foods served family style. Family style is becoming my favorite new way to share a meal.
Walking the grounds after lunch I was surprised to see crocodiles in a pit.
After watching them for a hot second, we were guided to take a boat ride down the Mekong Delta. It was a beautiful and calming ride down the Mekong Delta.
And that was it. We were all taken back to our hotels and filled with a full day of experiences.
Things to Know for Day Tours and Ho Chi Minh – in general
Floating markets will be the next adventure on my Things To Do List. As it’s thought to be a dying lifestyle in developing areas. Visit them before they become an inauthentic tourist attraction.
Prior to visiting. Perform a Visa status check and ensure your passport is within 6 months of expire and has extra pages.
Sim cards are widely available here.
Poncho and or umbrella.
Bring cleaning wipes.
Walking shoes that you don’t mind getting a bit muddy.
Better and easier to pay everything in cash. Keep credit card transactions to reputable restaurants and hotels.
Definitely download the Grab App and experience it here on both motorbike and car.
If you’re looking for additional Things to Do in Vietnam that’s not listed on same óle same óle Things and Places to Go. Check out the Landed Vibe. They have an extensive list that you will not find anywhere else.
As mentioned, I can’t wait for my next adventure in Vietnam.