Where to shop in Ho Chi Minh

Where to shop in Ho Chi Minh

From original handcrafted souvenirs to fancy items from boutiques, there's something for every kind of shopper and every kind of whim in Ho Chi Minh City. Shopping is one of the most exciting activities in Saigon. Glimmering shopping malls bring the downtown area to life, with a display of international fashion brands - boutique fashion is particularly distinguished in Saigon compared to the rest of Southeast Asia. It is in the markets, however, where you can see the real Vietnam. Markets still play a vital role in the lives of locals and they remain popular amongst visitors.

If you are looking for high-end boutiques, high quality silk, department centres and luxurious items, head to Dong Koi. If you prefer, instead, art pieces and intricate handmade items, head to the shops on the nearby streets of Hai Ba Trung, Le Loi and Le Thanh Ton. If you'd rather shop for cheaper and simpler goods, move westwards to Ben Thanh Market.

Ben Than Market

The best shopping to be had is in Ben Thanh Market, Ho Chi Minh's shopping mecca. From knick-knacks, electronic devices to souvenirs, you name it, they've got it and you will be able to find it from one stall to another in the maze of narrow aisles. This is a fun way to spend your day and night. This is where locals buy their fresh fish, fruit and vegetables in the morning. There are also large range of fashion stalls scattered around throughout the day. As the sun sets, a night market brightens up the main hall, housing everything from clothing, apparel and souvenirs. After all that shopping, you might need some energy and luckily a large number of food stalls line the main hall, so you can indulge in some local delicacies.

Dong Khoi Street

Although this street is a colossal display of French colonial buildings, when the Communists took over Saigon in the late 1970s, they changed the name to Dong Khoi, which literally means Total Revolution. The street, however, still retains some of its French past beyond its buildings and that is manifested in its commercial life, art and high quality embroidered silk pieces. There are also quite a few good tailors in the area. From international brands to boutiques, stylish cafes and high-end restaurants, this little French enclave in the city is one of the few places where you can admire what is left of the colonial architecture.

Vincom Centre

With over 250 shops spread out over two separate buildings, Vincom Centre is Saigon's largest shopping mall. This luxurious colonial building comprises many flagship stores for international fashion houses, the likes of Ralph Lauren and Hugo Boss.

Binh Tay Market

Situated in a beautiful spot of Chinatown, at the edge of District 5, Binh Tay Market is a great place to soak in the local Buddhist culture and to buy wholesale goods, handicrafts, lacquerware, textiles and fresh produce. Even if you are not interested in shopping, it is worth walking around this market as it is blessed with a vibrant atmosphere and an ostentatious display of Chinese architecture. The market also houses a food fair where you can sample Vietnamese noodles, banh bao (steamed bun with pork filling), and even Chinese sausages.

Diamond Plaza

If you have some extra bucks digging a hole in your pocket, head to the luxurious Diamond Plaza. This glitzy department store houses international brand name goods and fashion boutiques. Even if you are on a budget, it's worth seeing this department, at least to escape the heat at noon.

Saigon Square (in photo)

This two-storey wholesale fashion mall is a bargain hunter's paradise. From t-shirts to men's and women's apparel, swimwear, shoes, handbags, textiles, luggage and jewellery, you can shop till you drop in this department store. Before you start having too much fun, remember to haggle to bring the price down. This might seem counterintuitive at a department store, but the prices are slightly inflated for this purpose, so don't be shy and try to have some fun while you are at it. Compare before shopping as different stalls might sell the same good at different prices.

An Dong Market

Although this is primarily the place where locals buy clothes, the top floor houses fantastic craft stalls. With skilled artisans fashioning traditional handicrafts from lacquer and woodwork, this is the best place to buy crafts.

What to do and see in Hanoi

What to do and see in Hanoi

Located in the north of Vietnam, the capital of country is one of the main destinations for visitors. With a history that reveals periods of French and Chinese occupation, Hanoi is a fascinating place to explore offering a mixture of Eastern, Colonial and French styles. With spectacular street food, a large variety of regional cuisines, historic gems, a tsunami of scooters riding around the city, religious heritage and a new wave of artistic manifestations, you won't get bored in Hanoi.

Apart from the touristic sites, you can see a show at the theatre, go shopping or relax in the parks. There are other activities you can pursue such as cycling and swimming.

You will also have a range of vibrant festivals to choose from, which will open a windows into the culture and religious spirit of the city. An unmissable festival for culture lovers, if you get the chance, is the Co Lao Festival; the highlights of the festival are traditional cheo theatre performances, wrestling competitions and cockfighting. If you visit the city in spring, you will see yourself immersed in the annual elephant festival.

Old Quarter

Riddle with a maze of streets, Hanoi's Old Quarter is the right place to soak in the local culture and experience Asia at its raw. This is also the place where you want to base yourself if you are on a tight budget, as there are plenty of cheap places to eat and reasonably priced rooms here. As you stroll through the historic streets of the Old Quarter, get your eyes ready to see a number of buildings that date back more than 2,000 years, such as Joseph's Cathedral and Huyen.

Vietnamese Women's Museum

Another highlight of the city is this surprising museum which celebrates the strength and sensuality of women. A collection of propaganda posters, costumes, tribal basketware and fabric motifs from the country's ethnic minorities showcase women's role in Vietnamese society and culture, particularly the contribution of heroically brave women during the Vietnam War.

Hoan Kiem

Situated around the colossal Hoan Kiem Lake (in photo), this district houses some of Hanoi's most outstanding attractions, including temples, museums, theatres and restaurants. One of the favourite activities in Hanoi is to walk at dawn with the t'ai chi buffs along Hoan Kiem Lake.

This neighbour also houses Ngoc Son Temple, a quaint temple in the heart of tranquil grounds. This temple is a great place to learn more about Vietnamese history and get a glimpse of gigantic turtles.

West Lake

If you are into that kind of activities, you might want to visit West Lake, which features some excellent restaurants and bars. Located to the north of Hoan Kiem, West Lake is very popular among expats and it houses some great tourist spots such as the Tran Quoc Pagoda and the Museum of Ethology, which pierces together Vietnam's cultural pot of ethnicities.

Ba Dinh

South of West Lake lies Ba Dinh, which used to Hanoi's French administrative centre. Here you can visit one of Hanoi's highlights, the Temple of Literature, where you can escape the hustle and bustle of the world to enter the mystic world of books. This neighbourhood also houses the One Pillar Pagoda and the Botanical Gardens.

Hai Ba Trung

Steeped in tradition, the neighbourhood of Hai Ba Trung is the best place to soak in the local culture and see the real Vietnam. While you admire the traditional Vietnamese life, you can also relax by Thien Quang Lake or take a stroll in Lenin Park. If you are up for some action and you want to indulge your inner shopaholic, there are a myriad of colourful markets and shops in this neighbourhood.

Guided Tours

Some tourists prefer to discover a city through the eyes of a tour guide, and fortunately, there a many different travel companies in Hanoi to cater to every taste and need. These tours are a great way to get your bearings and tick all the major sightseeing attractions from your itinerary. These daylong tours include sides such as Ngoc Son Temple, the Dong Xuan market, the Old Citadel, the Quan Thanh Temple and Tran Quoc Pagoda, the Ethnology Museum, the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and Museum, the One Pillar Pagoda, the Literature Temple and Quoc Tu Giam.

Vietnam is a backpacker paradise

Vietnam is a backpacker paradise

Boasting some of the best cuisine in Southeast Asia, idyllic landscapes, heart-pumping activities, the largest cave in the world, mesmerising beaches, interesting history and heritage, and all of this for your money's worth, Vietnam truly is a backpacker's paradise.

Ideal for travellers on a budget

While some other countries might be closer to travel to, Vietnam is a great travel destination for a backpacker because it is not expensive. You will probably will spend more money on your travel ticket then in the actual country. This takes the anxiety due to your budget out of travelling, and you can fully enjoy eating whatever you like, visiting as many attractions as you like and enjoying all that this wonderful Southeast Asian country has to offer.

Vietnam is the a great place to visit for the thrifty traveller, where you can find private rooms for just $10 per night, and you won't spend much more on food for the whole day. You can eat out for only $5, having what could be the best meal of your life. Tours that take you to explain major cities such as Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi won't cost much either.

Diverse and top-class cuisine

Thanks to geography, Vietnam has received influences from China and other neighbouring countries, which has led to a very complex, diverse and fascinating cuisine that varies drastically from one region to another. Vietnamese cuisine is particularly delicious as chefs heavily rely on food markets to get their ingredients up to twice a day. Therefore, most ingredients are seasonal and fresh. This combined with intricate techniques leads to dishes that are an explosion of flavours with mouthwatering textures.

Some of the best Vietnamese dishes are to be had from street vendors, which means they are also very economical as well. As a traveller, you will have the opportunity to sample a myriad of traditional dishes, such as pho (noodle soup with beef or chicken), goi cuon (spring rolls), com tam (broken rice), bot chien (Vietnamese fried rice flour cake), banh trang tron (rice paper salad), goi kho bo (green papaya salad with beef jerky), sup cua (Vietnamese crab soup, banh mi, among others. Every dish will amaze you as they combination of ingredients results in an original flavour, topped with some delicate and wonderful gasnish.

Paradisiac beaches

If you escaped to Southeast Asia to enjoy the sun on the sand, Vietnam won't disappoint. With turquoise water framing sandy beaches and beautiful islands, this country is an oasis for travellers. Some of the best beaches can be found in Phan Thiet, Coc Dao, Nha Trang, Hoi An, Da Nang, and Quang Ngai.

Historical sites

Steeped in a very interesting History, like the Vietnam War, the country is scattered with fantastic historical sites, including My Son Sanctuary, Hue monuments, Hoi An ancient town, among others.

If you are interested in the Vietnam War, there are many historical war sites where you can learn more about this tragic event. After decades of conflict, the aftermath of the war was catastrophic for all sides involved.

If you start your tour in South Vietnam, you might want to visit The Reunification Palace in Saigon, which is where the Vietnam war ended. The palace was the capital building for South Vietnam. There's a bunker in the basement which was home to a the strategic command centre for efforts against the North Vietnamese forces.

Also in Saigon, you can visit the War Remnants Museum, which showcases war artifacts, unexploded ordinance, and photo galleries. Northwest of Saigon you'll find the Cu Chi Tunnels, a massive network of underground tunnels that once served as a command post for North Vietnamese forces. This tunnel system housed weapon factories, hospitals and even entertainment facilities.

If happen to go to the beach in Nha Trang, you want want to take a break from the sun and visit the Cam Ranh Air Base, which was one of the most important U.S. Air bases during the Vietnam War.

Culture features

Home to 54 ethnic communities, Vietnam is a wealth of cultures and when you visit the country, you'll be able to get a glimpse of their traditions, fashions, language, lifestyle, customs and beliefs.

Friendly Locals

Although Vietnamese locals don't seem as interested in tourists as their neighbouring Thais, they will be willing to help you if you approach them with a smile. People are particularly welcoming and warm when you visit rural areas, where the sense of community is stronger

Phong Nha-Ke, Vietnam's best kept secret

Phong Nha-Ke, Vietnam’s best kept secret

Designated a Unesco World Heritage site back in 2003, Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park spans 885 square kilometres of unspoilt jungle, caves and underground rivers. Home to the oldest karst mountains in Asia, which were formed 400 million years ago, the park is also famous for being riddled by mesmerizing underground rivers and hundreds of cave systems, including the world's largest cave Hang Son Doong (Son Doong Cave).


Thorough explorations began in the 90s when cavers from the British Cave Research Association and Hanoi University first penetrated deep into a Phong Nha Cave, which stands out for being of the longest cave systems in the world. Paradise Cave was discovered in 2005 and the world's largest cave - Son Doong - was discovered in 2009.

You can only access Phong Nha Cave by dragon boat from the little jetty in Phong Nha town. In Dark Cave (Hang Toi) you can zipline, explore through the mud, swim in the cold water and go kayaking. If you prefer a dry cavern, head to Paradise Cave, but don't let small entrance deceive you; it's a majestic cave. There, the stalactite and stalagmite formations will send you through the roof. If you are up for some exercise, Hang Va and Hang En require some demanding trekking.

Paradisiac landscapes

Many refer to Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park as Vietnam's last paradise on Earth, and that's because above the ground, the park boasts nearly untouched tropical evergreen jungle, out of which 90% is primary forest.

The park is home to threatened large-antlered muntjacs, langurs, macaques and Asian black bears, apart countless birds, reptiles and amphibians. To keep this park protected, you can only see a part of the park. Although the park is free to enter, you might have to pay to see certain attractions.

Given the park's growing popularity, you might want to book overnight caving tours for Tur Lan, Hang va and Hang En in advance.

Tun Lam Cave

The Tu Lan cave trip starts with a countryside hike. You need an intermediate fitness level then to swim through two river caves before reaching a spectacular valley. You continue hiking through a lush rainforest until you reach a beach which is the meeting point of the two rivers.

Hang Toi

This tour is one of the most comprehensive adventures to be had in the park. You won't only get to swim into the cave, but you will also enjoy ziplining above-water to get here. You can also explore a pitch-black passageway of oozing mud. After visiting this cave, you can make it back to the jetty by paddling on a kayak.

Paradise Cave

Visiting this cave is a one-way ticket to Middle Earth. You'll feel like part of the fellowship of the ring when they enter the mines of moria. As you descend wooden stairs, you are greeted by titanic stalagmites and shimmering stalactites. If you want to go deeper inside Paradise Cave, book a tour which might include swimming through an underground river.

Hang En

Three kilometres from Hang Son Doong lies the third biggest cave in the world, Hang En. If you like trekking, this is a great opportunity to explore the area and camp in this colossal cave beside an underground river. You must be prepared, however, to hike 12 kilometres through the jungle.

Scenic Drive

One of the activities you can undertake is a scenic drive through the park which is an absolute treat to the senses. From your window, you'll be amazed by wet tropical evergreen forest clinging to craggy karst. If you are lucky, you might also see langurs or other creatures. You can also accreate this drive from a two-wheeled vehicle as the breeze brushes your face. From your motorbike, you will enjoy more seeing the ethereal scenery of flat rice fields framed by massive karst sprouting from the earth. Then head down the Bong Lai Valley and stop for a swim or at least for a bite.


You might want to avoid embarking on a journey to the Phong Nha area from September to November as it is the rainy season and the valleys might get heavily flooded, and thus some treks and caves are off limits. During the dry season from February to August, however, streams can dry up. If you are planning on camping near caves,you might want to avoid trekking from December to February as it can be very damp and cold, particularly at night. If you are a trekker at heart, the best time to visit this park would be from February to May where you will find pleasant temperatures accompanied by drier conditions.