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Top 5 Secret Attractions & Day Trips From Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Updated: Dec 26, 2023

Ho Chi Minh City (HCM City), also known as Saigon, is a vibrant and bustling metropolis in southern Vietnam. The city is famous for its historical landmarks, delicious cuisine, and bustling streets. However, there are also many hidden gems and secret attractions that are off the beaten path.


These lesser-known spots offer a unique and authentic glimpse into the city's culture and history. In this article, we will explore 5 secret attractions in and near Ho Chi Minh City that are sure to surprise and delight visitors looking for something a little different. From hidden cafes and art galleries to off-the-beaten-path temples and museums, these hidden gems are waiting to be discovered.


1. Viet Congs' Weapon Bunker


During the Vietnam War, Ho Chi Minh City, then known as Saigon, was a critical location for the North Vietnamese Army. As a result, the city was heavily fortified with numerous underground bunkers that were used as strategic military bases and weapons caches. Today, some of these secret weapon bunkers have been preserved and opened up to the public, allowing visitors to explore and learn about this crucial part of the city's history.



The building is a beautiful café, Cà Phê Đỗ Phủ - Bảo Tàng Biệt Động Sài Gòn, now and there are guided tours as soon as you show up. You can take a quick tour and rest up here for some refreshing ice cold drinks and hot foods.


This particularly famous bunker played a crucial role during the Vietnam War. The North Communist government directed one of its special operators, Mr. Lai Văn Trần, a.k.a Năm Lai, to purchase and move into this house with his wife and family under the guise of opening a shoe shop.

North Vietnamese's Secret Weapon Bunker on Nguyen Dinh Chieu Street. Source: Google Images,


Lai and his men had worked in secret and finished the bunker in 8 months. To avoid suspicion, he put the dirt in carton boxes and had it dumped far outside the city. The bunker opening is 0.6m x 0.4m, barely enough for a person to get through.


The Viet Congs was able to stash nearly 2 tons of weapons here in the days leading up to the famous and deadly 1968 Tet Offensive.


2. Long Sơn Floating Seafood Village


Yes, I am not kidding. There is an entire fishing/seafood village on the water for you to enjoy. Just 2 hours from HCM city and 30 minutes from Vung Tau beach, you will find this tiny big hidden gem. Many foreign tourists do not know about this place because it is not massively advertised. However, this has been the go-to spot for HCM city's residents and locals for all thing seafood.


Watch Ser Andy's Floating Seafood Village Vlog on YouTube: Click Here.


Once you get here, either by car or motorbike, you will have to choose which floating restaurant you'll want to feast at (A list of good restaurants is given below). Then you will park in their designated parking lot. The restaurant's golf cart will take you to the wharf and get ready, you're going on a boat ride! That's the only way to get out to these restaurants.


The boat ride takes approximately 20 minutes. Meanwhile, you can enjoy the scenery, the passing blue plastic barrels where they keep/farm oysters. Rest assured, prices here cannot get any better. Oh, did I mention you get to choose from a wide selection of seafood straight out of the sea?

Ser Andy at Làng Bè Đực Nhỏ. These are the two largest mantis shrimps I've ever gotten. $100 for both.


Transport from HCM city to Vung Tau:

Here's a list of restaurant I have been to and would recommend:


3. Vũng Tàu Beach City


This seaside city offers a unique blend of modern amenities and traditional Vietnamese charm, making it an ideal destination for those seeking a beach vacation with a touch of culture. With its beautiful beaches, delicious seafood, and fascinating history, Vung Tau has quickly become a favorite among travelers from around the world.


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For residents of HCM city, Vung Tau beaches are the only options for swimming and relaxing. Very often, hotels and motels are sold out on the weekends.

Attractions:

  • Beaches

    • As a beautiful coastal city, Vung Tau possesses majestic natural scenery, many enchanting beaches that make many people fall in love at first sight.


  • Gò Găng Island

    • Go Gang Island is located in the Long Son commune of Vung Tau and is about 3 km southwest of the city center of Vung Tau. The 30km2 island borders rivers on three sides and the sea on another. Surrounded by tributaries of the Mekong Delta and Dinh River, its topography includes also a system of forests, ponds, and lakes.


  • Ngọc Island

    • In the past, Ngoc Island had a multitude of rare and precious pearls. At night, the pearl brighten up the whole sea, so said the legend. Local legend also tells that boats from afar could see the glowing pearly light, hence the name Ngoc, which means "pearl" in Vietnamese.


  • Christ the Redeemer Statute

    • Tallest Christ statute in Asia. You can climb up to the sleeves and have an amazing view of the city and the ocean below.


  • Nghinh Phong Cape

    • In addition to Linh Quy Phap An in Da Lat, Anh Giang in Cao Bang, O Quy Ho in Sapa and Quan Ba in Ha Giang, Mui Nghinh Phong completes the top 5 legendary Gates of Heaven in Vietnam.


  • Pig Hill

    • Great panorama point to check out the entire city of Vung Tau from above.


  • Vung Tau Lighthouse

    • Vung Tau Lighthouse is considered the oldest among 79 lighthouses in Vietnam. It is especially the symbol of Vung Tau City. France built this site in 1862 to signal and instruct ships to cross.


  • White Palace, or Villa Blanche

    • Was a resort for Governor-General of Indochina Paul Doumer. Currently, this place still keeps 19 cannons.


  • The Robert Taylor Museum of Antique Weapons

    • This is the largest private antique weapons museum in Vietnam (Vietnam Record Organization, 2011) with about 4,000 antiques of all kinds of ancient weapons, military equipment and tools dating from the 12th to 20th centuries. collected by owner Robert Taylor from many countries around the world.


  • Dog Racing

    • At Lam Son Stadium (15 Le Loi St., Ward 1). The race takes place at 07:00h PM - 10:15 PM every Saturday. The ticket price for the grandstand is usually 90,000 VND a turn, the ticket for the VIP stand is 180,000 VND. You can bet as low as 10,000 VND.


  • Xóm Lưới Open-Air Market

    • The market is located near Bai Truoc park, right at the junction of Phan Boi Chau - Nguyen Cong Tru streets. Seafood here is considered fresh and affordable. Visitors have many choices from fish, shrimp, squid to snails, mantis shrimp, octopus, crabs, crabs.


Foods:

  • Seafoods: The typical seafood dishes of the coastal region you should enjoy include grilled razor clams with green scallion oil, blood cockles stir-fried with garlic butter, mantis shrimp dishes, steamed grouper with ginger served with vermicelli, add a plate of fried rice with garlic, or enjoy it as a special dish.


  • Bánh Khọt: The famous dish of Vung Tau is Banh Khot. Goc Vu Sua restaurant is a famous Banh Khot spot for locals and tourists. It's located on Nguyen Truong To Street, Ward 2, Vung Tau City.


  • Stingray Hotpot: If you're in Vung Tau, you have to have stingray hot pot. It's a must. Stingray meat is white, delicate, and has a distinct taste. The locals here often cook the fish sweet and sour Thai Tom Yum style, pairing it with a variety of fresh vegetables, herbs, and noodle.


  • Banh Mi with Fish Cake: Costs about 10,000 - 15,000 VND a loaf. In Vung Tau city, visitors can easily find trolleys and small stalls selling this popular specialty on Hoang Hoa Tham, Vo Thi Sau, Ba Cu, Truong Cong Dinh, Le Lai streets.


Transportation:

Tips:

  • Sunscreen. Lots of it!!!

  • Bring hats and wear loose fitting clothes.

  • Nigh activities in Vung Tau are lit!!! Lots of street foods, bars, and people hanging out at the beach.


4. Mekong Delta Tour


If you're looking for a day trip from Ho Chi Minh City, a tour of the Mekong Delta is a must-see destination. The Mekong Delta is a vast and fertile region in southern Vietnam, known for its scenic beauty, charming villages, and bustling markets. The delta is home to a network of rivers, canals, and streams that flow into the South China Sea, creating a unique ecosystem of wetlands and waterways.


A typical Mekong Delta tour will take you on a journey through the heart of this region, where you'll see rice paddies, fruit orchards, and traditional stilt houses. The delta is known for its fresh seafood, tropical fruits, and unique dishes like Banh Xeo (Vietnamese pancakes) and Hu Tieu (noodle soup).


Overall, a tour of the Mekong Delta is a perfect way to escape the hustle and bustle of HCM city and experience the natural beauty and cultural richness of southern Vietnam.


The tour company that has been running this one-day tour from HCM city for many years and loved my many is Vietnam Adventure Tours. I have listed their contacts and itinerary for the trip below. Feel free to reach out to them.


I am not sponsored by or affiliated to Vietnam Adventure Tours in any way.***


TripAdvisor: Visit Vietnam Adventure Tours

How Long is the Drive: 2 hours 30 mins.


Starts at 8:00 am & ends at 5:00 pm in Ho Chi Minh City.

  • Departing from your Ho Chi Minh City. During the 1.5 hour drive, pass by green rice fields before arriving at the beautiful rural My Tho.

  • The first stop is Vinh Trang pagoda. It is the biggest pagoda in the Mekong Delta region.

  • Your morning trip continues from here by motorized boat on the Tien River to the Qui (Tortoise Islet).

  • On the way, see the fishing port, boat-building workshops, and the Dragon, Phoenix and Unicorn Islet.

  • Walk into the village, where you can visit a local fruit garden and enjoy the tropical fruit while listening to Southern Vietnamese folk music performed by islanders.

  • Here you also can join daily activities of the local people and take in the atmosphere of this beautiful natural countryside.

  • Visit the bee house, and take the picture of the snakes.

  • Lunch will be served right in the heart of the orchard garden.

Duration: 3 Hours

  • The boat cruise will lead you through Bao Dinh canal, entering Ben Tre province — "the land of coconuts." Here you'll see a typical agricultural model called "Garden - Pond – Cage,” before visiting the coconut candy-making shop.

  • Next, enjoy a rowing boat trip on the small canal, fully covered by the shadow of the water coconut’s trees.

  • After your boat ride, relax in a hammock or take a bike ride around the island before returning to the bus.

  • You will arrive back in Ho Chi Minh City at around 4:30 pm to 5:00 pm.

Departure details:

  • Traveler pickup is offered.

  • Pick up & Drop off at CENTRALLY located hotels in District 1 only. Other districts, please make your way to the meeting point at: 123 Ly Tu Trong street, District 1 by 7:30AM

  • 123 Lý Tự Trọng, Phường Bến Thành, Quận 1, Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam

  • Hotel pickup is offered. View the hotel list on our checkout page to see if yours is included among the pickup points.

Return details:

  • Returns to original departure point.

Tips:

  • Sunscreen and bug spray. Lots of it!!!

  • Bring hats and wear loose fitting clothes.


4. Can Gio Biosphere Reserve


Can Gio Biosphere Reserve is a protected area located in southern Vietnam, near Ho Chi Minh City. It was recognized as a biosphere reserve by UNESCO in 2000 and covers an area of over 75,000 hectares. The reserve is home to a diverse range of ecosystems, including mangrove forests, mudflats, and canals.


The mangrove forests in Can Gio Biosphere Reserve are some of the most extensive in the world and are home to a variety of flora and fauna, including rare and endangered species such as the saltwater crocodile, the smooth-coated otter, and the silvered langur. The mudflats and canals provide important habitat for migratory birds, such as the Asian dowitcher and the spotted greenshank.


GOOGLE MAPS LOCATION: Can Gio Monkey Island

How Long is the Drive: 2 hours


You can choose either Vietnam Adventure Tours or with Klook's Can Gio Tour. I do not get paid by or am affiliated with these two agencies in any way.


Duration: 9 Hours

  • "Explore Monkey Island and get a chance to feed and take photos with the cute monkeys that live in the area. You might even get to experience one climbing on your shoulder!

  • Afterwards, meet the crocodiles that locals have been protecting since the Vietnam War and enjoy the optional activity of crocodile fishing.

  • Next, take a thrilling speedboat ride to the “Sac” guerilla camps located in the deep jungle. See what jungle life was like during the time of war as you go around the reserve. This popular site has been listed by UNESCO as an important biosphere reserve.

  • After a morning filled with fun activities, tour the local seafood market and head to the Phuong Nam Resort for a delicious lunch. Before the day ends, spend your free time soaking in the sun and splashing around in the resort’s swimming pool, a perfect way to end an exciting trip to Can Gio!"

Awesome Activities at Can Gio Biosphere Reserve with Klook's Booking. Source: Klook.

Tips:

  • Sunscreen and bug spray. Lots of it!!!

  • Watch out for your glasses/sunglasses. Them monkeys will snatch 'em real quick.

  • Be prepared for extremely hot, humid, and buggy environment.

5. Cu Chi Tunnel Tour


Yes, the Cu Chi Tunnel tour is a popular day trip from Ho Chi Minh City, located about 40 km northwest of the city. The Cu Chi Tunnels are an underground network of tunnels that were used by the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War.


The tour provides a glimpse into the underground life of the soldiers during the war, as well as the harsh living conditions and the ingenuity of the Vietnamese people in creating the tunnels. Visitors can crawl through sections of the tunnels and see various booby traps and weapons used by the soldiers.


GOOGLE MAPS LOCATION: Cu Chi Tunnels

How Long is the Drive: 1 hour 15 mins.


You can choose to go with Vietnam Adventure Tour. They have various Cu Chi Tunnel Tours at various price points. So, take a look a choose one that suits your schedule and budget the most. I do not get paid by or am affiliated with them in any way.***


  • "The tunnels (BEN DUOC) are located approximately 70 km from Ho Chi Minh city. The tour departs at 8:00 am or 12:45 from Vietnam Adventure Tours office or from your hotel in District 1.

  • Enjoy the scenery along the way, as we pass the lush, endless rice fields and the ducks are water buffaloes swimming in the rivers. You might find it hard to imagine that once the area was almost completely destroyed by bombs and mines from the war, when Cu Chi was a “free target zone “.

  • Once we arrive, you will get a chance to walk through some of the tunnels, discover the hidden corners and imagine what life was like here for the resistance soldiers. If you like, try to cook with the smokeless stoves used by Vietnamese soldiers to cook during the war. You can even try foods which the soldiers lived on. If you’re feeling brave, or curious, you can even try your hand at shooting at AK-47, one of the guns used during the war.

  • Head back to the city in the afternoon; the tour finishes at 2:30 PM.

  • TOUR INCLUDES:

    • Air-con van (max 12pax).

    • English speaking tour guide.

    • Mineral water.

    • Entrance fee.

    • Pick up and Drop off at selected hotels in Central District 1 only.

  • TOUR EXCLUDES:

    • Beverages Tip ( not mandatory).

    • Travel insurance."


Tips:

  • Sunscreen and bug spray. Lots of it!!!

  • Be prepared for extremely hot, humid, and buggy environment.

  • The tunnels are extremely hot and claustrophobic.


Ho Chi Minh City is not only a vibrant metropolis, but it is also surrounded by beautiful destinations that are perfect for day trips. Whether you are looking for a historical site, a natural wonder, or a peaceful retreat, there is something for everyone. From the majestic Villa Blanche in Vung Tau to the lush greenery of the Mekong Delta, these five secret spots will surely leave you in awe of the beauty and diversity of Southern Vietnam.


So, take a break from the bustling city and embark on a journey to these hidden gems to experience the best of what the region has to offer.





































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