Tuesday , July 16 2024

From war-time operation base to river cruises: HCMC’s 10 best sightseeing tours


The Ho Chi Minh City Department of Tourism has released its list of what it deems the city’s “10 most fascinating sightseeing programs.”

The following 10 sightseeing programs are part of the department’s “Ho Chi Minh City – 100 Interesting Things” list, unveiled by the Ho Chi Minh City Department of Tourism in early December.

1. Saigon Ranger Museum

The Saigon Ranger Museum is located on the second floor of a 1963-built house at 145 Tran Quang Khai Street in District 1. The home served as a covert operating base for the Saigon Special Forces, a resistance unit led by Tran Van Lai, also known as Nam Lai.

After 1975, the homeowner divided the house into three units for sale. Presently, Lai’s family owns part of the ground floor and the remaining two floors, which have since been repurposed to establish the museum.

Không gian bên ngoài Bảo tàng Biệt động Sài Gòn, quận 1. Ảnh: Quỳnh Trần

Outside the Saigon Ranger Museum in District 1, HCMC, featuring a prominent red and blue sign, reminiscent of the colors of the old Viet Cong flag. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran

Operating since Dec. 24, 2019, the museum covers over 100 square meters, showcasing 300 artifacts related to these special soldiers. It preserves the original architecture.

During wartime, the venue was a hub for Saigon Special Forces missions, including meetings, document exchanges, and gold coin provisions in the war zone. Access to the museum is facilitated by an ancient elevator dating back to the house’s original construction. The first and second floors house artifact displays, while the third floor offers an area for visitors to rest and enjoy coffee.

The museum is open from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day of the week.

2. Double-decker bus tour of Ho Chi Minh City

The tour to explore Ho Chi Minh City by double-decker bus has been in operation since Jan. 15, 2020. This tour covers a distance of over 13 kilometers through Districts 1 and 3, passing by 30 attractions such as the Independence Palace, Notre Dame Cathedral, City Post Office, and Ho Chi Minh City Museum. With over 20 daily trips and a 30-minute interval between daytime journeys, the entire tour takes approximately 60 minutes.

Double-decker buses carry passengers past the HCMC City Hall, January 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran

Double-decker buses carry passengers past the HCMC City Hall, January 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran

The double-decker bus tour has recently introduced an additional night schedule, running from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. the following morning. A notable distinction is that the night trip operates continuously, without stopping at attractions, as most are closed during nighttime.

Ticket prices range from VND150,000 to VND500,000 ($6 to $20) per person, depending on the chosen time frame.

3. Sunset cruise on the Saigon River

The journey along the Saigon River starts from Saigon Port in District 4 and heads towards the Ho Chi Minh Museum at the Nha Rong Wharf. Guests can savor cuisine during sunset.

Tours typically depart at 5 p.m., and visitors are advised to arrive 30-60 minutes beforehand to ensure timely boarding. The tour lasts one hour, and it’s essential for tourists to check the weather before booking, as not every evening has a beautiful sunset: some days, rain transforms the tour’s experience.

Numerous travel companies in Ho Chi Minh City offer this tour, with prices ranging from VND200,000 ($8) per person.

Sông Sài Gòn lúc xế chiều. Ảnh: Bích Phương

Saigon River at late afternoon. Photo by VnExpress/Bich Phuong

4. Saigon – Imprints of Time (Dau an thoi gian)

The “Saigon – Imprints of Time” program guides visitors through the historical journey of Ho Chi Minh City spanning over 300 years. Guests will immerse themselves in tales along the Nhieu Loc – Thi Nghe Canal, witnessing key moments in the city’s history.

The journey begins at Co Ba Dong Khoi coffee shop, offering a chance to enjoy coffee while taking in the cityscape. The tour explores architectural gems like the Ho Chi Minh City Opera House, Majestic Saigon Hotel, and Ho Chi Minh City Post Office. Participants traverse Mong Bridge, observing the historic State Bank of Vietnam building. Throughout the expedition, visitors experience boat rides on Nhieu Loc Canal and double-decker bus travel.

This tour spans 9 hours and is priced at approximately VND600,000 ($24) per person.

5. Saigon – Return to a Peaceful Place (Ve chon an nhien)

This tour involves a visit to historical temples, providing an opportunity for visitors to explore the diverse culture of Ho Chi Minh City. Tourists can pay a visit and pay respects at the Temple of the Holy Mother Phu Day, where they can offer incense to honor Trung Trac and Trung Nhi, national heroines in Vietnamese history for their role in leading a rebellion against Chinese domination in the first century.

The journey then proceeds to Giac Lam Pagoda, the city’s first temple with ancient architecture from over 300 years ago. The tour includes a visit to the Jade Emperor Pagoda and an introduction to the Mendicant sect at the Minh Dang Quang Dharma Institute, one of the nine major sects of the Vietnam Buddhist Sangha.

6. Saigon’s vibrancy on Saturday afternoon (Saigon rong ca chieu thu bay)

This tour combines a double-decker bus and a river bus for a 4-hour exploration of key city attractions. Double-decker buses with acoustic melodies guide tourists through Ho Chi Minh City, covering landmarks like the Saigon Opera House, Dong Khoi Street, Tran Hung Dao Monument, History Museum of Ho Chi Minh City, War Remnants Museum, Ben Thanh Market, Independence Palace, Notre Dame Cathedral, and Nguyen Hue Walking Street.

A brief stop at Bach Dang Wharf Park precedes the continuation on the river bus, offering a view of the Saigon River. The river bus journey concludes at Thanh Da Village, with an optional visit to Binh Quoi Tourist Village and a buffet experience.

The tour is priced at around VND800,000 ($32) per person.

7. History – Green (Su – Xanh) Tour

The “History – Green” tour is an activity that combines historical exploration with environmentally conscious initiatives. In 90 minutes, visitors travel down the Nhieu Loc – Thi Nghe Canal, admiring bridges associated with Ho Chi Minh City’s historical journey, such as Hoang Hoa Tham, Bui Huu Nghia, and Kieu.

A notable feature of the tour is the hands-on experience of crafting lanterns with bamboo paper (biodegradable paper used for fish food) and releasing fish, contributing to the enhancement of the Nhieu Loc – Thi Nghe Canal’s ecosystem.

The tour is priced at VND199,000 ($8) per person.

8. Thu Duc City by the river

In this tour, tourists depart from Bach Dang Wharf, District 1, traveling by river bus to Linh Dong Wharf, Thu Duc City. The tour commences with a visit to the Ao Dai Museum, dedicated to preserving and showcasing the traditional beauty of Vietnamese national costumes. Here, visitors can try on ao dai, hear stories related to this costume, and engage in discussions about the art of lullabies from three regions.

The program also includes visits to the National Cultural and Historical Park, the Hung Kings Memorial Park, and Buu Long Pagoda – a religious structure recognized by National Geographic among the world’s most beautiful Buddhist monuments in 2019. Moreover, Thu Duc City boasts several must-visit destinations such as Hoi Son Ancient Pagoda, Minh Dang Quang Zen Monastery, Long Truong Ecological Garden House, and Tam Da Lotus Pond.

Kiến trúc chùa Bửu Long, TP Thủ Đức. Ảnh: Quỳnh Trần

The outside of Buu Long Pagoda is covered in shiny gold. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran

9. From Saigon in the past to Ho Chi Minh City today

This tour incorporates walking, cycling, and bus travel. It begins at Ho Chi Minh City Book Street, then tourists proceed to walk to Notre Dame Cathedral, situated across from the book street, and visit the nearby Ho Chi Minh City Post Office.

Throughout the tour, participants get the chance to personally brew typical Vietnamese coffee and explore the city’s distinctive coffee shops. The journey continues along Dong Khoi Street, passing commercial centers like Vincom Center, Parkson Plaza, and Union Square.

The tour also guides visitors through historical landmarks, including the Continental Saigon Hotel, People’s Council Headquarters, President Ho Chi Minh’s monument park, and Bach Dang Wharf. The tour concludes with a panoramic view of the city from the Saigon Skydeck inside the Bitexco building.

Departing on Sundays, the half-day tour is priced at approximately VND400,000 ($16) per person.

10. Bicycle tour

The only suburban tour on our list, this day-long adventure begins on Ly Tu Trong Street in District 1. After a bus journey to Cu Chi, participants embark on a cycling tour along Tam Tan route, exploring historical sites such as the Cu Chi Tunnels, a symbol of Vietnamese resistance during the Vietnam War, and Ben Duoc Temple.

Additional activities in the tour involve cycling to visit a rubber farm, explore a fruit garden in Trung An Commune, and enjoy don ca tai tu – a genre of chamber music in the traditional music of southern Vietnam.

The day-long tour is priced at about VND1.9 million ($77) per person.

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