Our first day in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam was packed to the brim. After arriving in our Airbnb, we rested for a little bit and head out to have some pho for brunch. In order to maximize our time, we decided to walk around the city to see the famous spots in the area. First to cross in the checklist is the famous City Hall of Ho Chi Minh. Search Ho Chi Minh on Instagram and you wouldn't miss this iconic landmark.
Of course, I have to get mine too, right?
Sadly, we can't go inside so we decided to look for the next landmark. Before ever reaching it, we got distracted by sidestreet vendors selling exotic juice, mangosteen, and Tau Hu (similar to Taho in the Philippines).
We walked around the corner and finally saw the Notre Dame of ho Chi Minh City. Called the "Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral", it was built by the French and modeled it from the famous Notre Dame Cathedral of France. All materials used were said to be from France. Ironically, it's located in a square called Paris Square. As one of the symbols of the city, it's truly an architectural masterpiece.
It was under construction when we went there and the gates are closed. I'm not sure though if there's a door somewhere where you can go in and see the magnificent architecture inside.
Be careful in people offering to take your pictures and telling you it's for free. There was somebody, who was selling ice cream, offered to take our group picture. We did decline at first because we know they will ask for payment. But he insisted that it was free. "No pay, no pay", he said. So we agreed. We got 5 pictures and when we got our phone back, he said, "Money, money". We sign language telling him that he said "No money, no money". But he just wouldn't leave us. So we gave him 20,000VND. From a Filipino viewpoint, that was very expensive. It was an honest mistake, really. But when he saw the 20,000VND, he threw it on the ground and said some (probably) bad words in Vietnam. I got heated up, picked up the money, said some Filipino words to him also, and then left him. Nobody, even if it is the smallest bill on earth, should throw away money. That is unacceptable, people.
Anyway, after leaving the man, we crossed the street and saw the famous Post Office of Ho Chi Minh, another landmark of the city. It was beautiful! The architecture is so European. We went inside and learned that you can send any mail there to anywhere in the world. There were counters for stamps, domestic parcels, and international parcels.
Crossing another two streets in Ho Chi Minh was fun. There's no stoplight or police who can stop the traffic for pedestrians but there were a lot of motorcycles whizzing past you at any moment.
After walking for a mile or two, we finally reached the famous Independence Palace, also known as Reunification Palace. It was magnificent. The structure demands respect and awe.
The palace is huge and as far as I can remember, it has 5 floors, which includes the basement and the top floor. It's definitely a must-visit for tourists in Ho Chi Minh City because you will be walking in a time-capsule mansion.
Upon entering the gate you can see two of the original tanks used by North Vietnamese to crash through the main gate of the palace ultimately ending the Vietnam War. Rooms notable inside are the President's Office, the old war room underneath the palace where original maps are still on its walls, the Banquet Chamber, Conference Hall, Minister's cabinet room, and the helipad in the rooftop. The place is still being used to host important occasions in Ho Chi Minh, including APEC summits.
The Reunification Palace is open from 07:30-12:00 and 13:00-16:00. You can buy tickets at the main gate, located on the east side of the palace gardens. Security will check your bags for safety reasons. Its address is 135 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia, Ben Thanh, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, close to the Ben Thanh Market. You can check their ticket prices on their website.
We were definitely exhausted after walking that five floors of a mansion plus a side building that houses a museum that clearly explains the history of Vietnam. But it is a perfect way to start our tour in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
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