Celebrating Tết in Ho Chi Minh City

Sooner or later, every Vietnam traveller will find themselves in Ho Chi Minh City. Since most people travel from north to south or the other way round, HCMC (as the locals call it) will either be your starting point or final destination in Vietnam. On my trip it was the final stop before crossing the border into Cambodia and I was lucky enough to be there during Tết, the Vietnamese New Year!

Celebrating Tết in Ho Chi Minh City Title Pic

Ho Chi Minh (or Saigon, as it was called until 1976) is the largest city in Vietnam but not the capital, which is Hanoi. Although it has once been a French colony, there are not that many buildings from this period left, mostly due to the Vietnam war.

Saigon Ho Chi Minh City City Hall

I stayed in a hostel near Bui Vien (the main backpacker street) for 2 nights and then changed to a hotel to treat myself a bit as the hostel wasn’t very nice. But since it was Tết, most of the hostels were fully booked! Advice No. 1: if you plan on staying anywhere for Tết, book in advance!

Saigon Ho Chi Minh City Skyline

In HCMC, I was finally reunited with my Australian mate Ashton who I’d met in Hoi An (read more about Hoi An here). Together, we ventured out to explore the city and somehow came across this huge festival in a park.

Saigon Ho Chi Minh City Tet Flower Festival 1

The park was full of beautifully arranged flowers to celebrate the New Year and there were competitions going on for the most majestic bonsai trees. There were tons of food stalls and little shops selling souvenirs.

Saigon Ho Chi Minh City Tet Flower Festival 3

What I loved most about the festival, was that it was more frequented by locals than travelers. We only saw a few other tourists there!

Saigon Ho Chi Minh City Tet Flower Festival 2

Locating ourselves on Google Maps, it turned out that we were only a few blocks away from the War Remnants Museum. Being quite hot in the midday heat, we decided that some air conditioning would be nice and headed for the museum.

It was very interesting although some of the pictures were a bit too graphic for me, especially in the Agent Orange room but it does give you a different perspective on what happened in this terrible war.

Saigon Ho Chi Minh City Street Scene

Through our hostel we had booked a tour to the Cu Chi tunnels, an underground network of tunnels that was used by the Viet Cong in the war to hide and attack their enemies. I didn’t take any pictures there for some reason, but it was one of the most interesting tours on my trip.

The traps they built were so advanced for how little material they had and the tunnels really made me feel claustrophic as they were teeny tiny!

Saigon Ho Chi Minh City City Hall 1

HCMC is very easy to explore by foot as all the main attractions lie within a few kilometre radius. In the evening, we walked to Ho Chi Minh’s Main Square where the nice buildings are located, including City Hall and the Opera.

Saigon Ho Chi Minh City Tet Flower Festival

The round-up

Where to stay:
Yen Trang 2 Hotel or Long Hostel (both close to Bui Vien)
What to eat:
Street food stalls around Bui Vien street and the close-by restaurants, especially the following: delicious vegan food at Saigon Vegan, Sea Food at Five Oysters & fresh summer rolls at Phuong Cafe
What to do:
Visit the Cu Chi Tunnels, find out more about the Vietnam War at the War Remnants Museum, walk to Ho Chi Minh Square and admire the beautiful buildings, such as City Hall!

I hope this blog post was helpful for anyone looking to go to HCMC. To those who’ve been there, what was your favourite part of visiting this beautiful city?


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