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Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral, a 60-metres tall neo-Romanesque cathedral was built in 1959 with materials all imported from France, with beautiful ornated stained glass windows. Six bronze bells are contained inside the twin towers, and will chimes at certain hours in the day. The grand architectures makes a beautiful contrast to its surroundings which are mainly modern buildings. Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral also have a very beautiful and relaxing garden filled with flowers and trees. Here you can also see a Virgin Mary statue that is considered special for the locals. It's because some locals claimed that they saw the statue shed tears in October 2005. The church has debunked the rumor, but it doesn't stop thousands people to come and see the statue, hoping that they will be the next lucky witness.
Just nearby the Notre Dame Cathedral is Saigon Opera House, another French colonials-influenced building and become one of the most beautiful city landscape. The 3-storey building is used for various art performances, ranges from classical music and dance performances, and even Vietnamese traditional dance and theatrical plays also take place here. As you're stepping inside the building, it is hard to ignore the grand and smooth architectures. It's every photographer dream to snap perfect photos of every corner from this building. For those who enjoy art performances, the Saigon Opera House can hold 800 people inside its building. The building is also constructed perfectly to nullify echo effects so you can enjoy your favorite performances to the fullest. You can enjoy wonderful ballet performances presented by The Ho Chi Minh City Ballet Symphony Orchestra and Opera. The most famous show is AO show, which is a combination of Cirque du Soleil and some traditional Vietnamese art elements. After the show is over, you'll left satisfied with not only interesting experience but also tons of beautiful pictures of the opera house.
Bitexco Tower and its Sky Deck is one of Saigon's modern building which is famous for its unique architecture which ranked as fifth world's most iconic skycrapers.Though Bitexco Tower's original purpose is as trading centre, the tourists know it better as a perfect viewpoint for those who wants to watch the whole city by skyview. Just head to the Sky Deck located on 49th floor using fast elevators to get a dramatic 360 degree view of the whole Saigon City. There are some binoculars provided to enable you to get better view of the scenery. When the Sky Decn becomes too crowded with people, you can opt for 50th and 51th floors for equally breath-taking view. While you're in there, you can also go on a shopping spree by purchasing textiles and locally-produced tea as souvenirs.
Walking around Ho Chi Minh Square is a great way to fool your own mind by tricking yourself as if you're actually in France instead of in Saigon. The spacious town square are literally surrounded by French-style buildings from the City Hall, the luxurious five-stars Rex Hotel, and even the elusive shopping mall. The similarities with French's town square is so uncanny, though it is understandable since all the buildings are constructed by French architects. The only thing that will reminds you that you're in Saigon is a statue of Ho Chi Minh or uncle Ho, which was the founding father of Vietnam. Exploring Ho Chi Minh Square mostly is about enjoying afternoon time with friends and taking tons of stunning pictures. The park shows its true charm during sunset when soft lights starting to illuminate the whole park, including the fountain shows in the middle of the boulevard. It's hard to not take pictures of the beautiful sceneries, it's even harder to not staying and enjoy the night while watching locals and tourists alike passing by along the boulevard. Whether you're a photographer looking for some stunning town's scenery at night, or you're just a random tourist who wants to chill and enjoy the rest of the day, Ho Chi Minh Square is definitely should be in your bucketlist.
Phang Ngu Lao Street is a district which is known as all backpackers' dream. Here you can find cheap accomodations, cheap and tasty foods, you can even find bars which provide you with affordable drinks and non-stop entertainments. Like many backpackers district in South-East Asia, Pham Ngu Lao are divided into two paralleled streets, Bui Vien and Pham Ngu Lao. There are various hotels and hotels offering affordable accomodation fees. You can also find shopping centers, vendors selling various street snacks, bars, and even major attractions in Saigon such as Reunification Palace, Notre Dame Cathedral, and War Remnants Museum are only few meters away and accessible only on foot. The alleyways doesn't look like grim slums at all, in fact some Vietnamese local families also live here which enable you to have some simple interactions with them.
If you want to have an unforgettable shopping experiences while you're in Saigon, be sure to shop at Ben Thanh Market because you can find much cheaper items here. The market boasts hundreds of stalls, ranges from food stalls, clothing and accessories stalls, spices, and even some artsy souvenirs. Arm yourself with your best ability to haggle prices, though be careful to not haggling too low or you might irritate the vendor. Some prices are also strictly fixed, so you won't win the fight no matter how hard you tried. But don't worry! You still can try your luck by visiting another vendor. You'll also have chance to merge with locals, which of course giving some authentic experiences.
Emerge from ashes of Vietnam War, Saigon becomes a lively and vibrant city attracting tourists from around the world each year. You will not only falling in love by the uniqueness of Saigon's most historical buildings. Preserved colonial-esque buildings, Chinese-influenced temples and modern skycrapers all become interesting elements that will catch your attention as you explore every corner of this densest city in Vietnam. So when you are landing on Saigon, here are top tourist attractions you ought to visit.
How to Get Tickets?
The open markets are usually free of charge, you only need to spend money to buy the stuffs they sell. But for other attractions, ticket are usually available online and offline. Buying tickets online in advance can save much of your time since you don't need to queue again. You can purchase your tickets right now on this website.
How To Get Around?
Taxis are the most common and convenient transportation in Saigon as they're easy to find outside hotels, landmarks, and restaurants. For cheaper transportations, you can try Xe Om (Motorcycle Taxi) and Cyclo. Xe Om is basically like a taxi but the vehicle is motorcyle. There will be a driver who drives the motorcycle while you sit as a passenger, so there can only be one passenger per ride. Cyclo is a three-wheeled transportaion where up to 2 passengers get to sit at the front and an operator will cycle behind them. Most of the operators are friendly and are happy to give you information about the city. Bus is also a pretty good option for cheaper rides. They have green and white all over them so they're easy to spot. You can travel by yourself by renting a motorcycle or bicycle. But do anticipate facing bad traffic jam. Lastly, going around by foot is also very possible, but you need to be patient since crossing the street might take longer time to wait and the streets are quite crowded.
What Should I Wear?
Don't wear clothes that show too much skin such as tank tops, short skirts, or short shorts because Vietnamese are quite conservative about clothes. Since Vietnam is warm or hot most of the times, wear clothes that aren't too thick. Wear comfortable shoes like sandals or sneakers since you will walk a lot. Wear proper and covered clothes when you visit the temples or pagodas.
Best Time to Visit
December to April is considered to be the best time since it's the dry season. While March to May is the hottest season, there's less humidity, which makes it more bearable.
Vietnamese Dong (VND)
Will I Need a Guide?
Exploring on you own is fine since you can walk around or easily find the public transportations to take you to the tourist attractions. But hiring a guide can add more local experience since guides can take you to places that aren't flocked with tourists, show you the best local food, and make you feel like you are locals. So, if you have more budget, you can try hiring a local guide for just a day or two.
How To Get There?
Catching a plane to Tan Son Nhat International Airport is the best option for international tourists. If you're going to Saigon from other Vietnam cities, you can try the train or the bus, which has a lot of route options. To enjoy a different kind of view, you can travel by boat, which departs and arrives in Saigon and Vung tau.
Don't be afraid to bargain when you're buying stuffs or using any services in the streets or shop if they don't show any fixed price. Leave your valuable things in the hotel. Don't put your bags where it can be easily snatched. Drink a lot of water since the weather is usually warm or hot. Don't take any pictures of military installations and anything to do with the military. Don't wander around at night to unfamilliar places.