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5 things to do when exploring Ho Chi Minh City

Looking for a short getaway full of culture, history and, of course, great food? Look no further than Vietnam’s largest city.

#1 Drop by a local market

Ho Chi Minh

Set out early for one of HCMC’s many markets. Expect a feast for the senses, with busy food stalls and vendors selling everything from fresh produce and spices to household necessities and handicrafts. A great market to visit is Ben Thanh, located in the heart of the city (District 1). Immerse yourself in the hustle and bustle, and pick up some souvenirs or T-shirts for the folks back home. (Bargain hard!) There are also plenty of evening markets for night owls to explore.

#2 Visit a war museum

Ho Chi Minh

Glimpse the horrors of the Vietnam War at the War Remnants Museum. The displays poignantly show the suffering of innocent civilians and the far-reaching effects of the war. You’ll also come up close to vehicles and infantry weapons used during the war, on display outside the museum.

#3 Explore the Cu Chi Tunnels

Ho Chi Minh

Take a day trip to the Cu Chi Tunnels, a network of underground passages used by the Viet Cong during the war. It really gives you a feel of what it would have been like to live in those dark, narrow tunnels – in a word, claustrophobic! You can see some of the booby traps that were used and sample the sort of food the soldiers ate.

#4 Discover all things French

Ho Chi Minh

Vietnam was a French colony for over half a century and remnants of its past still permeate the city in everything from its architecture to its French restaurants. Constructed in the 1880s by Gustave Eiffel (yes, that Eiffel), the Saigon Central Post Office exudes European flair – check out the classic phone booths and beautiful wall art. And don’t miss the stunning Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica, with its towering bell towers and red-brick exterior.

#5 Savour some local eats

Don’t miss a bowl of the all-time favourite, pho, a noodle soup typically served with beef or chicken and loads of fresh herbs in a distinctive savoury broth. Or try a banh mi sandwich – a baguette filled with grilled meat and vegetables. The long list of yummy Vietnamese eats also includes rice-paper rolls and banh xeo, a crisp and savoury pancake cooked with meat. The more adventurous might like to try hot vit lon, or boiled-duck embryo (adapted from the Filipino snack, balut).

Ho Chi Minh

Fast facts

• Name: Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon
• Population: 8.5 million
• Currency: Dong (1 Singapore dollar equals approximately 16,000 dong)
• Getting there: Several airlines fly daily from Singapore to HCMC (2 hours 10 minutes)

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This article first appeared in the June 2017 edition of Expat Living. You can purchase a copy or subscribe so you never miss an issue!