There isn’t a dull moment in the Vietnamese city of Ho Chi Minh. Everywhere you go, you feel life reverberating — from the honking of bikes to the aroma of street food. Imagine tasting native Vietnamese coffee and craft beer, and making sense of delectable Asian flavours while dining in the dark. If you’re more a roadie than a foodie, there is a world-class bamboo cirque you can visit, or you can explore the city’s Chinatown in a massive escape room game. Where the past and present meet, Ho Chi Minh city is a place to experience some of the most unique sights and sounds. And here, we unravel all this idyllic city has to offer.

Beer and coffee, Vietnamese style

The wind blows hot and cold in the city, a lot like their much-loved beverages: craft beer and Vietnamese Robusta coffee. Ho Chi Minh’s craft beer scene exploded in the past five years and today, its top player is Pasteur Street Brewing Company. The pub, opened by an American trio, offers over 200 brews. Vietnam’s jasmine flower, Phu Quac black pepper or passion fruit from Da Lat make up some of their most popular locally inspired beers.

Pasteur Street Brewing Co tap rooms in Ho Chi Minh City

Hop on the back of a Vespa for a five-hour pub crawling tour to the hottest bars and independent home brewers in town. Photo credit: Pasteur Street Brewing Co

If you’re not one for alcohol, fret not for the city’s coffee will win you over. Sip on the local iced coffee, ca phe sue da, (ca phe pronounced as ‘café’), from a humble roadside coffee shop; or check out one of the chic coffee shops like Trung Nyugen Coffee, aka the Vietnamese version of Starbucks, and The Workshop, the first specialty roaster in town.

Local coffee house The Workshop in Ho Chi Minh

Fun fact: The French introduced the Robusta coffee to the country in late 19th century and since then, Vietnam has become the world’s largest producer of it. Photo credit: The Workshop

Taste the flavours of Vietnam through its food

The best way to enjoy the vibrant food culture in Ho Chi Minh is to do as the the locals do: seated on plastic stools by the road. The glorious Vinh Khanh street, for instance, is the place to go for lip-smacking seafood. A favourite amongst the hip young crowd of Ho Chi Minh, gorge on shellfish, crabs and oysters, as amplifers tied to motorbikes blast karaoke music over the honking traffic. Or be captivated by the Tran Khac Chan street, where the aroma wafting from grilled meat trolleys passing by is almost impossible to resist. Tip: The crab noodle soup is the most sought after delicacy at the Banh Canh Cua joint here!

Scenic view from The Deck, Ho Chi Minh City

Arrive at The Deck in a private sunset cruise complete with wine. Photo credit: The Deck

But street food is not all that Ho Chi Minh has. If you’re craving for a more luxurious experience, The Deck offers the ultimate combination of fine dining and a stunning view. Imagine sipping on sunset cocktails while savouring a classic pan-Asian brunch — all on a spacious wooden deck as you overlook the glistening Saigon River. No wonder it’s a hot spot amongst locals, expats and travellers alike.

Get a glimpse of traditional Vietnam through bamboo cirque

Snippet of the A O Show in Saigon Opera House

The A O Show is performed in the Saigon Opera House, a 121-year-old opera house built by the French in 1898. Photo credit: Lune Production

Food is not the only way to experience Ho Chi Minh. Enliven your evening with the Saigon Municipal Opera’s A O show, aka the Vietnamese Cirque du Soleil. The show has toured around the world and is a mix of theatre, drama and circus acts that involve bamboo props. It is a re-telling of traditional life in south Vietnam’s Mekong Delta, which has been historically important for trade in the region and its inhabitants who have lived through the Khmer and Cambodian kingdoms. The performances will keep you engrossed with its humour and jaw dropping aesthetics!

Explore the city’s Chinatown by solving a murder mystery

Urban Tales city tour

Opt to be picked up in a vintage car at your hotel and drive off into the mystery in style.

Cholon is the city’s largest Chinatown and home to Binh Tay market that was built by the French in 20th century. With its distinct Chinese and French heritage, it offers interesting insights into Vietnam’s past. And what better to way to explore that than to get your Sherlock on and help solve a murder mystery! A unique walking tour offered by Urban Tales, it tells a story of the murder of local resident Dr Lam. While the police are still working on the case, you may be their best bet to solve the mystery. Armed with a map, compass, and a magnifying glass, traipse around century-old temples, pagodas, traditional Chinese medicine shops and more, as you play hunt for the killer. The tour lasts half a day and costs a little over 40 USD.

Where the past and future converge, Ho Chi Minh offers a panorama of urban exploration, nightlife, and glorious street food. Whatever gets you going as a traveller, there’s bound to be something that intrigues your wanderlust. Ho Chi Minh is the definition of unconventional, and the city will give you one of the most unexpected experiences of your life.

Best time to visit

The best times to visit are between December to March during the drier season when temperatures range from 24 – 31 Degrees Celsius.

Transportation

Public buses, motorcycle taxis and private taxis are easy ways to get around.

Currency

The official currency of Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam is the Vietnamese Dong (VND)

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