This post is part of a larger trip report from my 16 day honeymoon in Southwest Asia!
Southeast Asia Trip Reports:
- Planning a Southeast Asia Honeymoon
- Park Hyatt Saigon Vietnam Hotel Review
- Ho Chi Minh City / Saigon Activities
- Le Méridien Angkor Hotel Review
- Angkor Wat / Siem Reap Activities
- Grand Hyatt Bali Hotel Review
- Bali Beach Town Activities
- Ubud (Bali) Hotels and Activities
We arrived in Vietnam at around 5pm in the evening and had two full days ahead of us. We were shocked by the HUGE city atmosphere. We pretty much had to close our eyes while crossing the street and pray that we did not get hit by a motorbike. Almost everyone in this city gets around by driving one of these vehicles. Although these motorbikes are primarily made for 2 people, it was not rare to see a family of 5 traveling through the city this way (high chairs were even placed in front of the seat for the baby)!
Day 1: Mekong Delta Full Day Tour
We booked both of our excursions with the Park Hyatt Saigon concierge desk. They do charge a very minimal service fee, but the entire charge of the tour is tacked onto your room bill. Since I was using discounted Hyatt gift cards that I picked up at Costco it actually worked out in my favor and I earned more points!
Our first day in Vietnam we took a day long tour outside of the city along the Mekong Delta. We took a rustic boat through the delta to a smaller island where they were making coconut candy. We then took a river canoe ride through the river to another island. We were fed a huge lunch, drank lots of amazing tea with honey, and saw some whiskey with a scorpion in the bottle. We even battled a massive rain storm – June is the beginning of rainy/monsoon season in Southeast Asia. We saw many interesting fruits, experienced local song and dance, and enjoyed such an interesting day!
You know all those little touristy items that are sold just about everywhere you go? When we got off the boat to get lunch we saw a little hut with a guy carving coconut souvenirs. He had probably hand carved about 500 of them and showed no signs of stopping. It made us really appreciate the work that actually goes into those items.
Day 2: Cu Chi Tunnels Tour
Our second day was more cultural where we went to the Cu Chi Tunnels. This is where the Vietnam War was fought. At first sight you cannot imagine how men were able to get through these tunnels, they are tiny! The tunnels go down multi-levels and contained kitchens and beds and places for soldiers to hide and be safe. The tunnel structure was a huge maze.
Before going in, part of the tour is a short video on the history of the tunnels and their role in the Vietnam War. If you go, just be prepared to hear a lot of anti-american propaganda. You are on their turf now. That said, they still love the American dollar. The video is pretty interesting as it shows the clear advantage the Vietnamese had in fighting the war with these tunnels. They could navigate through with ease and really surprise the American soldiers. It was almost scary thinking how much fighting was happening here.
The Cu Chi Tunnels tour was only a half day excursion, so we spent the 2nd half of the day wandering around Ho Chi Minh City. We went to the Ben Thanh Markets where you can get any souvenir for cheap! I bought a few tea sets, chopsticks and a painting. There are a few pagodas to visit and the post office is also a huge tourist spot.
Restaurants: Our average meal (after ordering whatever we wanted to eat and drink on the menu) cost about $15 (with tip and tax included)! The food is really great and one of the things we were worried about is the amount of spice (I don’t love spicy food). We quickly learned that this was not a worry. Our favorite restaurant there was called Quan An Ngon. It was short a short walk from the Park Hyatt and the food was amazing. It was also a nice atmosphere with outside seating if you desire.
Currency: You can actually use the US Dollar or local currency for everything. The US Dollar is widely used with many places advertising prices only in this currency. If you are staying in a major city, I would actually recommend changing only a little money over to the Vietnam Dong. Even for folks outside of the US, many of them changed their local currency to the US dollar instead of the Vietnam Dong. It was really interesting, but I was told this is due to all of the left over money from the Vietnam War.
Overall, I actually loved Ho Chi Minh City and thought two days was a perfect amount of time. We were originally nervous going there as we weren’t given the best reviews from friends of friends who had been there before. I am really glad we went and cannot wait to explore more of Vietnam at another time!