South Vietnam, an authentic and chaotic place
The first city we visited in South Vietnam was the chaotic Ho Chi Minh City and from there we headed to the Mekong Delta, where we passed first through Can Tho and then Vinh Long, two cities on the banks of the Mekong River.
We didn’t know anything about Vietnam, other than a little bit of history about the terrible Vietnam War, so we went without expectations. After a month in Thailand, a new adventure in Vietnam began. Here I tell you our first experience in this country, visiting South Vietnam for almost a week.
What to see and what to do in Ho Chi Minh?
1. The traffic of Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh is the name given to ancient Saigon in honor of the national hero. Although we were only in Ho Chi Minh for two nights and it’s not much time to draw conclusions, at first glance the city seemed to me that there was little to see and that it was very chaotic.
One of the biggest attractions of this city is the traffic in Ho Chi Minh City. I recommend to go to a roundabout, see the great amount of motorcycles circulating, the noise they make and, above all, how they drive avoiding each other without respecting any sign. You can even cross in the middle and you will see that nobody tells you anything and that you are not going to be run over. It’s quite an experience.
2. A walk through the center
Also, if you take a walk downtown you can see a few interesting things:
- Ben Thanh Market: full of food stalls where you can taste the most typical dishes of Ho Chi Minh City.
- The colonial buildings: Notre Dame Cathedral and the Central Post Office are the highlights.
- Some nice parks where you can walk a little quietly away from the noise of the motorcycles and watch the daily life of the Vietnamese.
3. The War Museum
If you want to learn something about the history of Vietnam; a visit to the War Museum is a must. The War Museum is a museum dedicated to the Vietnam War, so that the horrors of the war are not forgotten and so that they will never be repeated.
Just passing through the main door one is already shocked when one sees that in the main enclosure there are numerous American helicopters and planes displayed as war trophies. Then, once you enter the building, through stories about the Vietnam War you are informed of what happened chronologically. The explanation of what happened is accompanied by heartbreaking photos, press clippings, statistics on the war, videos and even the weaponry used in the war by the respective sides.
The tour of the museum leaves you increasingly perplexed. You can notice how the sadness of the visitors increases on each floor until the silence is broken by the tears of one or another visitor on the top floor.
South Vietnam: from Ho Chi Minh to the Mekong Delta
What to do in the Mekong Delta?
1. Visiting the floating markets of Can Tho
Disappointed with ancient Saigon, but very satisfied to have absorbed some culture, we headed to our next destination. This time we went south to the city of Can Tho, the most populous city in the Mekong Delta.
The best thing you can do in Can Tho is an early morning boat tour to see some of the most typical and interesting floating markets in the Mekong. The boat ride is really worth it, especially if you like photography. With a bit of luck you will not only visit the floating markets but also take a short route along the narrow streams around the Mekong.
2. Cycling Vinh Long
After one night we went to Vinh Long Province, also in the Mekong Delta. Just to get to Vinh Long we took a ferry that took us to what appeared to be an island in the middle of the Mekong River. There we stayed in a Homestay, a kind of guest house but in a Vietnamese house with all the family.
We spent two days with a very nice family. We were very comfortable and ate spectacularly well, especially fish from the Mekong. Besides, they left us a couple of bicycles to ride all over the island. Although the bike rides were good, it turned out to be less fascinating than we had been told. Still, our stay in Vinh Long was worthwhile.
From South Vietnam to Long Hai, Mui Ne and Nha Trang
Once we saw part of South Vietnam we were ready to go to North Vietnam. This first week in Vietnam I’ve seen how different it is from Thailand. I still can’t say whether it’s better or worse. There are less tourists, people look at you much more and very few people speak English. Next destination: the beaches of Vietnam. It almost seems like the real adventure starts here!
Comment, evaluate and/or share if this post has been useful to you. Subscribe if you want to receive travel updates. If you are planning to travel to Vietnam, you may also be interested in our list of Travel Tips for Vietnam or the post about our Halong Bay tour.