I have a special affinity towards Vietnam, having been to Ho Chi Minh (HCMC), Halong Bay, Sapa Valley, Hanoi and Hoi An in 2000, and then for a charity expedition in Danang, followed by an extension in Hoi An, Dalat, Nha Trang and HCMC in 2001, and back again to HCMC in 2017 and in February (2023) for a work trip. With every trip I take to the heartbeat of Vietnam, I have witnessed how HCMC has embraced modernisation, shedding what doesn't work in the name of progress.
Even two decades after the 20-year Vietnam War had ended, the Vietnamese were still picking up after themselves and recuperating from the devastating repercussions of the devastating war. In the two decades since my first visit to the country, I have witnessed first-hand its transformation. Nevertheless, a few things have remained constant – their hardworking people who are up at dawn and late into the night, the ubiquitous motorbikes plying every street (including the walking ones), its local rich and aromatic coffee served with a generous dollop of thick and ultra-sweet condensed milk and of course the heartwarming pho and delicious banh mi hawked along the streets.
Ho Chi Minh City is an excellent choice for a short and affordable getaway from Singapore. Plus, it is a refreshing change from Singaporeans' go-to cities such as Penang, Bangkok, Bali and Tokyo. Starting at only S$218 round-trip on Singapore Airlines, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, a mere two hours away, is a sure winner for a pocket-friendly holiday destination for your next long weekend. So book your tickets early to secure the best prices!
We sussed out more cheap ticket prices for you via Trip.com, and if you fly Scoot, a round-trip to HCMC from 2 to 12 April 2023 only costs you S$166 onwards!
Are you pressed for time and wish to tap into the city's top sights, experiences and food? Look at the ala-carte travel menu I have prepared below and customise it according to your travel kakis’ interests and time allowance. With a mix of must-have historical experiences (cue Cu Chi Tunnel), food exploration, bike tours, under-the-radar activities and spas thrown in (our second home Bangkok won't be able to beat these competitive prices!), you are in good hands. Read on, and happy holidays!
Vietnam. It grabs you and doesn’t let you go. Once you love it, you love it forever.Anthony Bourdain
But first, coffee
Deep-dive into all that Vietnam has to offer
Street food is a highlight and a must-try when in HCMC. Even chef and author Anthony Bourdain waxed lyrical about the excellent food options in Vietnam and dedicated airtime on his popular travel shows No Reservations (2005) and Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown (2013). To top that off, the ex-President of America, Obama, joined Bourdain for a dish of bun-cha in Vietnam! Suffice it to say that you must dig deep into the country's glorious food before leaving Vietnam. Live like a local and take a scooter tour to explore the local street food. Consider taking a cooking class to relieve withdrawal symptoms when you return home.
Sights & culture
Here's a good mix of tradition in the city: Catch Vietnam's traditional arts in the form of the Golden Water Puppet, then take in the city view at the Landmark 81 Saigon Skyview, followed by a Junk Dinner Cruise on the famous Saigon River.
If you are looking for (safe) adventures but not necessarily adrenaline-filled, a day out at the famous Cu Chi Tunnels and the Mekong Delta tour should be on your travel itinerary, no matter how tight your schedule is. At slightly over an hour away from Ho Chi Minh City, I have been to the Cu Chi Tunnels three times (with different travel mates) and still highly recommend it to everyone who has yet to partake in the slice of Vietnamese history. Kudos to the government for retaining most of its original look, offering visitors an authentic feel. For those with no claustrophobia, you must try squeezing through the tunnel's 60 cm wide entry hole. I have seen how big-sized and tall foreigners fit into it, much to the surprise of everyone present. It warrants a tick on anyone’s bucket list. After that, why not throw in a shooting session?
Can Gio Day Tour from Ho Chi Minh Explore Monkey Island - Crocodile Farm - Can Gio Biosphere Reserve
No overseas trip is complete without a relaxing time at a spa. Think Johor, Batam, Bali and Bangkok. But Vietnam does it better – try the Noir Spa in the Dark Experience and return home to boast about your new experience to your travel-loving friends who have yet to step into Vietnam.
I have stayed at the Pullman Saigon Centre Hotel and would recommend this fabulous hotel stay which is centrally located and comes with all the frills of a first-world traveller, such as a well-equipped gym, pool, sauna and a delectable breakfast buffet spread.
And while making plans, travel insurance is a must for any overseas trips. Safe travels!
Book your holidays with Yahoo’s travel calendar
Check airfare here: Skyscanner | Trip.com | Expedia
Book accommodations and activities here: Agoda | Booking.com | Klook | KKday | HotelsCombined
General info here: Tripadvisor
Affordable data plans here
And while you are at it, be sure to get your travel insurance with Alliance Assistance | Income | Prudential!