Things to Do in Southern Vietnam - page 2
Bach Dang Wharf (Bến Bạch Đằng) is located next to the ferry terminal and close to the Renaissance hotel in central Ho Chi Minh City. The pier is a popular launching point for boat trips along the Saigon River.
From the area, visitors can get involved in all manner of trips and activities. From accessing various parts of the city to explore, to weaving through its canals on a sunset dinner cruise, both tourist and trade boats bustle in and out of Bach Dang Wharf throughout the day and night. Some operators also arrange trips to attractions further afield, such as the Cu Chi Tunnels.
As well as being a good place to find out more about tours and activities available on the river, Bach Dang Wharf has an appeal all of its own, with a number authentic coffee shops, bars, and eateries on offer. It’s a bustling area where you’ll find locals doing tai chi in the mornings and sipping drinks overlooking the river come the early evening.
Ho Chi Minh City’s answer to Bangkok’s Khao San Road, Pham Ngu Lao Street boasts dozens of affordable guesthouses, cheap pubs, and backpacker-focused restaurants. In fact, Saigonese know it simply as the backpacker district. Despite the noise, traffic, and chaos, Phạm Ngũ Lão is a mecca for travelers looking to experience Saigon’s unfiltered energy.
The Dam Sen Water Park (Công Viên Nước Đầm Sen) is a fun place to spend a few hours when the weather’s hot in Ho Chi Minh City, which is most of the time! Kids in particular will love the waterslides, wave pool, and watery rides. There are landscaped gardens, lounge chairs, and food outlets to keep parents happy, too.
Located in southern Vietnam—an hour’s drive from the White Sand Dunes of Mui Ne—Ta Cu Mountain offers a wealth of natural and spiritual delights. The giant statue of a reclining Buddha, which is a whopping 160 feet (49 meters) in length, has made the mountain a popular tourist destination and an important pilgrimage site for Buddhists.
One of the oldest art museums in Ho Chi Minh City, the Museum of Fine Arts occupies a gorgeous colonial-era building from 1929. The collection starts with sculptures from the early Funan and Cham kingdoms, dating back as far as the fourth century, but it’s also home to intriguing modern art pieces, many focused on the Vietnam War.
Built in 1744, the Giac Lam Pagoda is one of the oldest temples in Ho Chi Minh City. A Buddhist structure designated as a historic site by the Vietnamese government, the site boasts an impressive sanctuary filled with gold figures and a fat laughing Buddha. The large gardens surrounding the pagoda also contain a sacred bodhi tree.
Within the Can Gio Mangrove Reserve, the Vam Sat mangrove forest and salt marsh ecological tourist site is located within a section of forest between the Vam Sat and Long Tau Rivers. Destroyed during the Vietnam War, it's now regrown and protected as a wilderness park. Visitors here can explore Bat Swamp to fish for crab or spot for flying foxes hanging from the tree branches, and there’s a crocodile farm where you can take a boat tour and toss fish treats to the hungry reptiles. A 50-foot-tall wildlife observation tower offers a great vantage point for birdwatching or taking panoramic pictures of the marsh wilderness, and at Monkey Island you can stroll island trails among thousands of monkeys.
Paris Square (Công Trường Công Xã Paris) serves as the perfect hub for travelers looking to explore the key landmarks of Ho Chi Minh City in a single stop. The Saigon Opera House, Notre Dame Cathedral, and Central Post Office are all within walking distance, and the tree-covered parks, Versace Plaza, and bustling cafés make for great people-watching.
The gateway to the Vietnamese city once known as Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City Cruise Ports sit along the Saigon River and serve as jumping-off points for exploring the nation's largest and most dynamic city. Ocean cruises normally dock at Phu My and sometimes Cai Mep, both about 40 miles (65 kilometers) east of the city, while river cruises typically dock at My Tho, about 47 miles (75 kilometers) to the south.
You can get first-hand experience with authentic Vietnamese cooking at the Vietnam Cookery Center. Started in 1999, it is the country’s first professional cooking center offering lessons to both tourists and professional chefs, and it’s located in a French Colonial-era building on Dong Khoi, at the heart of the city. Morning classes start with a visit to the open-air Ben Thanh Market with the chef-instructor to learn about local produce and help select the ingredients for the day’s menu. The cooking lessons take about 3 hours, during which you can learn to create classic Vietnamese dishes like fresh spring rolls, caramel pork in a clay pot, lotus-stem salad, and much more, and then you can sit down with your classmates to share the meal you created together.
More Things to Do in Southern Vietnam
If you’re looking for a remote island wilderness where you can hike jungle trails, swim at remote beaches and scuba dive in rich coral reefs, Côn Đảo National Park can deliver it all. The park surrounds the Con Dao Archipelago, including a large area of the ocean around the islands as well. At the middle of this group of 15 islands and islets is Con So, the largest of the island, and it’s here that most visitors spend their time. The island was formerly used by the French and South Vietnamese as a prison camp, but today you can find a handful of hotels and a dive shop that offers boat trips to the surrounding reefs. Just a few minutes outside of the town, you can visit the National Park Headquarters to arrange trips to other islands, hire guides for treks into the interior, and buy permits for access to certain parts of the forest.
Home to the largest Buddha statue in all of Vietnam at 160 feet long, Ta Cu Mountain is not only a popular attraction for visiting travelers but also a point of pilgrimage for local Buddhists. While it is possible to climb the 2,100-foot mountain on foot, most visitors opt instead for the cable car, which delivers passengers to the Linh Son Trong Pagoda and offers overhead views of rice fields and dragonfruit plantations during the six-minute ride. From the cable car drop off, it’s a still a short, but somewhat steep, stair climb to the Buddha itself. You can also visit the Long Doan pagoda. Both have a variety of statues and towers where you can enjoy panoramic views down the mountain.
Established in 2006, the Cu Chi Wildlife Rescue Station rescues animals from the illegal animal trade in Ho Chi Minh City and the surrounding region in Vietnam. These animals, including gibbon, langur, bears, loris, wildcats, and some rare endangered species, are rehabilitated and returned to the wild. Other species benefiting from these rescue efforts include pangolin, cobras, turtles, and numerous types of birds.
Visitors to the rescue station can head to the multimedia display center to learn about the illegal wildlife trade, hunting, and the efforts being made to protect Vietnam's natural biodiversity. Travelers can also observe some of the animals currently in recovery or rehabilitation from a safe distance. A visit to the center is often combined with a trip to the nearby Cu Chi Tunnels.
Please note Cu Chi Wildlife Rescue Station is currently closed indefinitely.
Travelers can enter the Quan Am Pagoda (Chùa Quan Âm), a charming 19th-century Chinese-style Buddhist pagoda, via an ornate gatehouse. This leads the way to an impressive courtyard and several altars that make up one of Ho Chi Minh’s most popular pagodas.
Visitors will find brilliantly colored artwork that pays homage to Thien Hau and Manjusri decorating the altars and hallways of Quan Am. And while travelers agree the traditional pagoda is the main attraction, a nearby garden complete with quiet reflecting pond, rocky landscapes and a covered pavilion offers an equally impressive opportunity to explore.
One of Vietnam’s tallest buildings, the Bitexco Financial Tower dominates Ho Chi Minh City’s skyline—its unusual tapering structure pierced by a circular observation deck and helipad. Designed by the American architect Carlos Zapata, the 68-floor building offers sweeping views across the city.
In addition to white-sand beaches and tropical jungle, the island of Phu Quoc—off the coast of Cambodia—is home to the Coi Nguon Museum (Bảo Tàng Cội Nguồn), a natural history museum that exhibits more than 5,000 artifacts. If you find yourself in one of Phu Quoc’s unpredictable downpours, the natural history museum provides a great place to explore until the skies have cleared.
Da Ban Stream (Suối Đá Bàn) originates from the Ham Ninh mountain range on the Vietnamese island of Phu Quoc. Also known as Da Ban Spring, it’s a popular spot for tourists and nature-lovers, who come to picnic, barbecue, hike, and relax. Although it’s hard to avoid the growing amount of garbage that is left in the area, the natural scenery steals the show, with the stream making its way through huge flat stone slabs against a lush green background. You might spot birds, fish, frogs, and lizards, along with wild fruit, orchids, mushrooms, and other flora that grow in the area. Plan a trek, take a stroll across the suspension bridge, and have a refreshing dip in the water for a full day of natural fun.
You can combine your visit to Da Ban Stream with a trip to a fish sauce factory, a pepper farm, and a sim wine factory to learn about the island's industries. Alternately, you can take a private six-hour tour of the island instead, including a barbecue lunch at the stream and round-trip transportation.
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- Things to do in South Coast
- Things to do in Central Vietnam
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