Great Indoor and Outdoor Activities in HCMC

By: Kristian Goodchild

Finding your way around Saigon’s various attractions can be a headache. Once you’ve exhausted all the obvious tourist traps you may feel like you’ve seen all the city can offer.

But lurking beneath the surface of this gloriously varied city lays a wealth of options. Whether you want a chilled out afternoon, an adrenaline fuelled adventure or a cultural journey of discovery, here are some of the great activities Ho Chi Minh City has to offer.


Water Ski Viet Nam

Thrill seekers on the hunt for an adrenaline fix need look no further than Water Ski Viet Nam. With a full array of white-knuckle watersports on offer, there is no better way to experience the excitement of wakeboarding, waterskiing, barefoot waterskiing, wake surfing or double waterskiing. Featuring high-end Mastercraft and Malibu boats and O'Neill equipment, safety is a top priority here.

Nguyen Duc Canh, Phu My Hung, D7

+84 90 977 2612


Shoot Your Friends

What better way to bond with your friends, loved ones and complete strangers than by firing a round of paint at them? Get down to the Thu Duc Paintball Club or Paintball Saigon and lock, load and fire at will. Without a doubt one of the best outdoor activities in Ho Chi Minh City.

Thu Duc Paintball Club

19, Duong 48, Hiep Binh Chanh, Thu Duc District

+84 28 6283 5788

Paintball Saigon

14, Duong So 11, An Phu, D2

+84 90 681 9001

Paintball in HCMC


Climb a (Mini) Mountain

Saigon may be short on mountains, but it’s not short on climbing opportunities. District 2’s Vertical Academy features a huge top rope wall, as well as bouldering and training facilities. It’s so much fun, you won’t even notice you’re working out. X-Rock Climbing is another great option.

Vertical Academy

18 Truc Duong, Thao Dien, D2

+84 96 692 0612

X-Rock Climbing

Phan Dinh Phung Sport Center, 75 Nguyen Dinh Chieu, D3

+84 28 6278 5794


Saigon Pony Club

District 2’s Saigon Pony Club is host to ponies and stallions of varying size. With two foreign teachers adept at instructing riders of all ages, the facility provides excellent tuition for children and adults alike. Set up 10 years ago, the Saigon Pony Club remains the best riding school in Saigon.

38, Duong So 42, Le Van Thinh, D2

+84 91 373 3360


Relax in the Botanical Gardens

Since 1864, the Saigon Botanical Gardens have been a top destination for busy Saigonese to take a break and engage with nature. Skating enthusiasts can visit the roller rink for a little spin around the circuit. Animal lovers may want to avoid the nearby zoo, with its tiny cages and run-down facilities.

Saigon Zoo/Botanical Gardens, 5, 2 Nguyen Binh Khiem, D1

+84 28 3829 1425

Saigon Botanical Zoo

Photo by: Captianp2001


Slip and Slide on Ice

The new Vincom megamall in D2 is home to HCMC’s coolest new attraction. Climb to the 5th floor to find a huge ice skating rink. With 900 m2 that can comfortably accommodate 100 skaters at a time, it’s insanely popular with locals, especially at weekends. Services such as skating lessons and medical care make this kid-friendly.

L5-09 Level 5, Vincom Mega Mall Thao Dien, D2

+84 1900 6677, Ext. 9


Sign Up for Beer School

Craft beer has become huge in Saigon. What started with HCMC’s first true microbrewery, Pasteur Street Brewing Company, has exploded into a city-wide phenomenon. To get your head and tongue around the craze, look no further than the Saigon Beer School. Learn how to identify nose, notes and finishes with expert tutelage, tour some breweries and organize beer events.

Various locations

+84 12 0710 1450


Street Food Tours

With such a huge range of delicious foods, Saigon is a foodie’s paradise … if you know where to look. Luckily, a number of tour guides have cropped up. Back of the Bike Tours takes you on an exhilarating race around town with all sorts of delicious treats thrown in, while Street Foodies Tours takes much the same plan, albeit at a more sedate, four-hour pace. XO Tours and Vietnam Vespa Adventures are two of the most established companies of their kind in the city, so be sure to check them out as well.

Street Foodies Tours

+84 93 210 3985 or +84 12 0898 6388

Back of the Bike Tours

+84 93 504 6910

Vietnam Vespa Adventures

+84 93 850 0997

XO Tours

+84 93 308 3727

Street Food tours


Saigon’s Best Flea Market

For a break from the usual rip-off merchants at Ben Thanh market, why not take a trip down to the Hello Weekend Flea Market? With a wide array of new and used products and a friendly, almost hippyish vibe, the market is a true gem. You still might have to haggle a little, but it’s nowhere near as cutthroat as the other markets in town, and the variety on offer is pretty astounding.

Hoa Lu Stadium, 2 Dinh Tien Hoang, D1

+84 90 180 4858


Jeep Tours

Want to turn heads and learn something about the city you live in? Look no further than Jeep Tour Saigon. With a range of tours, from the Cu Chi tunnels to Saigon by night, it’s a great way to explore the city and beyond, all while looking classy in a little monster of a Jeep.

20, Street 48, D4

+84 28 3943 4606

+84 91 338 1109

Jeep tours in HCMC


Craft Your Own Leather

Taking elements of traditional Vietnamese leather craft with a contemporary twist, the products at the Saigon Leather Workshop are stylish yet simple and minimalist. And best of all, you can make them yourself. With guidance on sourcing, techniques and style, the workshop is a masterclass in leatherworking.

116/19A Tran Quoc Toan, D3

+84 12 8515 7571


Throw a Bowl

Vietnamese ceramics date back millennia, predating Chinese domination and incorporating a mix of Khmer, Indian and Cham influences. You can learn all about the craft at the Overland Pottery Studio.

Overland reopens February 2017 at

54B Nguyen Thi Huynh, Phu Nhuan District

+84 28 3820 9734


Scale the Bitexco

With stunning views of downtown Saigon, some of the higher floors of the city’s iconic Bitexco tower host EON51 Fine Dining . The prices are steep, but the unparalleled vista of the Saigon River and beyond are worth it, if only for a drink and a view.

Level 50-51-52, 2 Hai Trieu, D1

+84 97 950 5152

Bitexco Tower

 


Discover, Grow and Cook Vietnamese Food

With a plethora of cooking classes, it’s easy to get lost for choice. Take a trip out of town to the Ho Chi Minh Cooking Class. Set in the magnificent Agricultural Village near Cu Chi, the facility lets you grow traditional Vietnamese food, learn traditional recipes and techniques, or simply enjoy an expertly prepared meal from the school’s top chefs. If you don’t want to travel that far, the popular Saigon Cooking Class is the go-to place for both residents and tourists, with small class sizes and English-speaking staff catering to all skill levels.

Western Asian Travel Service Company

275 Tinh Lo 2, Ap 3, Phuoc Vinh An, Cu Chi District

+84 28 3794 2175

Saigon Cooking Class

74/7 Hai Ba Trung, D1

+84 28 3825 8485


Get Your Art On

Vin Space in District 2 has quickly made its mark as one of Vietnam’s top art workshops. With classes for all ages, it offers everything from fun kids’ activities to wine-and-painting nights for grown-ups. Local partnerships ensure that you’ll be well-fed with snacks from artisanal producers. Superb!

+84 90 772 9846 / +84 28 3519 4581 

6 Le Van Mien, Thao Dien, D2


Golf in Vietnam

By: Simon Stanley


Golf in Vietnam. Great Experience

 


Although Vietnam has only 30 golf courses in operation, they are all very high quality and some outstanding designs by the top golf architects in the world. If you get the opportunity to play, you will not be disappointed and you will be made so very welcome wherever you go. As yet, there are no public golf courses in the country and golf is seen as a sport for the elite. Many of the top-position politicians and businessmen play golf as they see it as a good way to discuss business together.

 


Golf here is not as expensive as you would think. During the week, special offers mean you can play golf for around $60. This will include the green fee and caddie. Please note that caddies are mandatory and more about them later. Although many golf courses are ok for walking, due to the heat and the time taken to play 18 holes, it is wise to take a buggy. Prices vary from course to course, but a shared buggy charge will be around $15 per person.

 


golf in vietnam

 


Photo courtesy of Sea Links Golf Resort

 


When you arrive at the golf club, you will be welcomed by the Valet, who will direct you to Reception where you will book in. If you need rental clubs and shoes, the Receptionist will get them for you. Most golf clubs will offer acceptable rental clubs for about $25 for 18 holes or higher quality sets, such as Titleist or Taylor Made for $40. The price for shoes is usually $15. The Golf Shop will stock tees, gloves and golf balls and some clubs offer used golf balls for sale. They will also have a selection of shirts and caps for you to buy as souvenirs. You must be aware of the dress code. Each club will expect you to wear a proper golf shirt, golf shorts, not swimming trunks or very short shorts, golf shoes and each golfer must have their own set of golf clubs, Sharing is not allowed. All golf clubs have locker rooms and you will be given your own locker and key. Do not lose the key, otherwise they will charge you for a replacement.

golf in vietnam


Photo courtesy of Do Son Seaside Golf Resort


The caddie will help you on the golf course. When you book a tee time, insist on a caddie who can speak English. You will be spending 4 or 5 hours with them, so you do want to find out more about their life and you will find they are so interested in you. They will do everything for you except hit a golf ball. They will take care of your clubs, clean your golf balls, fill in divots, rake bunkers and repair pitch marks. They will describe each hole for you, tell you where the hazards are and even give you the line of the putt. As their salary is small, then you should give them a tip at the end of the round. The amount of tip is up to you, but the usual tip is 250,000 to 400,000 Vietnam dong per caddie ($13 to $20).



Make sure you are properly prepared for your round of golf. Drink plenty of water before you play and during the round. All golf courses have rest houses on the golf course and many return to the club house after 9 holes. Bringing your own drinks and food is a no no and should not be done.



After your round of golf, make sure you give yourself time to relax at the clubhouse with a welcoming and refreshing cold drink. Golf clubs are excellent places to eat, very reasonable in price and will offer both local and international menus.



Most of all enjoy yourself and take in the beauty of where you are. You are in a very special place with some friendly, smiling people who want to do their best for you and hope you will come back and see them again.


golf in vietnam



Other Golf articles by Simon Tinkler:
Golf in the North of Vietnam
Golf in Nha Trang
Golf in Da Nang
Golf in Phan Thiet and Mui Ne
Sea Links Golf Course - Heaven or Hell
Holes-in-One for BRG Group


Escape Hunt and Ubiquest in HCMC

By: Aleksandr Smechov

City Pass tries out two of Saigon’s most popular live detective games, Escape Hunt and Ubiquest, playing the role of a hard-nosed detective investigating a murder mystery.

Outside of theatre and video games, you don’t see much role play or interactive activities in Ho Chi Minh City. Luckily, we uncovered two detective games that drop you in the middle of a murder mystery, letting you live out those Sherlock Holmes fantasies (minus tobacco pipe and risk of death). Escape Hunt and Ubiquest are difficult (to an extent), immersive and rewarding – read on to find out exactly why they are some of the most fun you will have in Saigon.

Escape Hunt

Located somewhat furtively above The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf is the quietly decorated lobby area of Ho Chi Minh City’s Escape Hunt office. Four rooms sit at various angles, blocked off by tall curtains. These are the escape rooms, and you will know nothing about them until you walk in, have the door shut and locked on you, and be given one hour to solve the mystery and find the key to unlock the door.

Escape Hunt HCMC

Escape Hunt is the brainchild of an English Psychologist who, after experiencing health issues and moving to Thailand, developed the idea of a detective game that has 2-5 players pitted against an intricate mystery.

Escape Hunt now has 25 locations, with a slew of others set to open in North America. The Ho Chi Minh City Escape Hunt branch was opened in September and has been popular with teens, universities, companies, tourists and expats.

Escape Hunt Saigon

Three of our staff stopped in for a 60-minute sleuth session. We were ushered into a low-lit room, explained the rules and left to solve the mystery and find the key to the door within an hour timeframe.

We heard the door sadistically lock and some moody music creep up. The game master was available for hints, but each time we asked for help from her we got minutes shaved from our remaining time.

Escape Hunt in Ho Chi Minh City

The puzzles are tricky, teamwork-oriented, and require some outside-the-box approaches. Few if any have solved the mystery and escaped the room without at least a few hints from the game master. Finding the next clue or coming upon an item you were searching for feels highly rewarding, and you get sucked into the role quickly. Time flies as you use a whiteboard to jot down notes and figures, collect pieces of evidence and nervously glance at the large LED clock ticking away.

It’s thrilling, addictive and relies on individual strengths working in unison rather than outsmarting the other person. As a team-building exercise or a rainy-day diversion, Escape Hunt is ace.

To check out available mysteries and booking options, check out the Escape Hunt booking page.

Ubiquest

Ubiquest Vietnam

Ho Chi Minh City’s second live detective game takes players outside the claustrophobic confines of a room and throws them in the streets of Saigon.

This doubles as a self-directed walking tour, but you may want to do the tour part after the live game – you’ll be too busy role playing a hard-nosed detective, questioning actors in various roles, finding mafia-tied ancient artifacts or any of the other challenges Ubiquest presents.

For our experience, we chose the Urban Tales game, a murder mystery set in Cho Lon, Ho Chi Minh City’s China town. We were picked up by a cute yellow 1967 Citroen 2CV, a happy-go-lucky young driver creaking away at the ancient dashboard. We arrived at a dilapidated living space, escorted up to the top floor and into one of the rooms, a few curious residents peeking at us through open doorways.

We were briefed, told to search the evidence room and given our gear (map, notebook, water, etc.), including cell phones for further instructions from the head detective.

Urban Tales takes three to four hours to complete. Be sure to go when the wind blows and the sun’s behind the clouds – you can easily get exhausted walking around in the unbearable heat on a cloudless day. Sun block and a decently wide hat are all but mandatory. You’ll be provided water but it’s a good idea to bring a bottle of your own too.

Ubiquest detective game

For entirety of the game, we set out into the streets of Cho Lon with our map and collection of evidence, going from actor to actor, uncovering details of the murder. The characters drop you clues and hints when you press them for information, sometimes refusing you if you don’t put enough pressure or reasoning into your argument. The acting is hilariously campy, and the game would benefit from some natural English speakers with an acting background, but the campiness is tolerable in the grand scheme, and allows you to play out your own amateur detective fantasies without judgment.

Ubiquest Cho Lon

We were pitted against two other teams, and although we were the first to find out the murderer, another team found the sacred artifact before us. Afterwards we all took cyclos to a Chinese restaurant for free lunch.

Urban Tales is an eclectic way to discover Cho Lon – or any other part of Saigon – just be sure to go when the sun isn’t blazing.

For more games, check out the official Ubiquest page.


Best Things to Do with Kids in Saigon

By: Barbara

Many of Ho Chi Minh City's things to do are suitable for families with kids of all ages. If you are living in Vietnam as an expat or just visiting, we list the 10 best things to do with your children in Saigon.

Don’t forget to comment below to let us know what are your recommendations!

City Parks and their Playgrounds

The city's parks are places where childish exuberance, which can be hard to contain in a hotel room, can be unleashed. Van Thanh Park in Binh Thanh District has paths and a field for little people who just need to run, as well as a small playground and a swimming pool. While the kids are busy being energetic, adults can relax in a bamboo hut over a small pond or work up a sweat on the tennis courts.

Saigon Parks

Listening to Songbirds

Tao Dan Park in downtown District 1 also has room to move, making it a popular spot for city dwellers to take their morning and evening exercise. And it's not just people who visit the park. Songbirds are taken to the park's little cafe (fronting Cach Mang Thang Tam Street) every morning, their cages hung from purpose-built frames to encourage them to sing. It's a fascinating experience to visit the bird cafe, especially watching the bird owners take their beloved pets home by motorbike.

Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theatre

The park, which has large playground and an indoor play centre, is a short walk from the Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theatre. The 55-minute water puppet shows, all in Vietnamese, need to be booked a few days ahead.

You could continue the bird theme with a visit to Pet Me Coffee in Phu Nhuan District. This small drinks-only cafe has a resident mini-owl and several parakeets, which can be petted, as well as some larger more exotic birds who hang out at the front of the coffee shop.

Photo Source: Golden Dragon Theatre

Family-Fun in Suoi Tien Amusement Park

One of the city's wackiest attractions in town is the Buddhist-themed Suoi Tien Amusement Park. Allocate a full day here, especially if you plan to visit the vast water park section. The amusement park can be quite baffling if you're not well versed in Buddhist stories because there is limited signage in English. Still, a stroll through the strange displays, which include a wish tree and The Royal Herbal Wine Palace, can be very entertaining. There is also an aquarium, 4D cinema, a dolphin show and the Snow Castle, the perfect place to escape Ho Chi Minh City's heat ... by plunging into a sub-zero world of ice and snow.

Photo Source: Suoi Tien - Andrea Hale

Pretending to Be Adults in Kizciti

Younger kids will enjoy learning about the world of work at Kizciti in District 4. The staff here usually has enough English to explain how each activity centre works. Each child receives a small amount of kizo, the Kizciti currency, on entry and they must decide how to manage it. Some activities cost kizo, and some earn it. A small open-air cafe serves basic food and coffee to sustain the "kiz" and their parents through a long day of "work", which can entail learning to be a pilot, a paediatrician, a delivery person or a firefighter.

Photo Source: Kizciti

Indoor Kid’s Play Centres and Playgrounds

Ho Chi Minh City has several indoor play centres and amusement arcades. In the city centre, Vincom Center has a play area and a game zone in its basement. In District 2, there's a play area in the garden of Snap Cafe and in District 7 there's an air-conditioned indoor playground inside Bee Bee Premium Kid's Cafe (4th floor, 96-98 Cao Trieu Phat, Phu My Hung).

Older kids can while away a few hours at Paintball Saigon, X-Rock Climbing, in the pool at Lan An Sports Club or at the bowling alley on the fourth floor of Diamond Plaza.

Photo Source: Snap Café

Visit a Witch-Themed Café

Younger kids can be entertained for hours at the witch-themed Ba Cay Choi (Three Broomstick) cafe on the third floor of The Vista Walk in District 2. Activities at the cafe, which can be entered via the stairs or a giant slide, include candle-making, baking, hat-making and painting. Make sure you order something with a suitably disgusting name from the food and drink menu, such as bug mud or ghost pumpkin spaghetti.

There are more cool cafés for you to bring your children to: A long rainy Saigon afternoon can be spent playing board games and snacking on poutine at Monopolatte Au Play Cafe, while a long scary evening can be spent eating ribs. (There's a pool in the outdoor section).

Photo Source: Witch Coffee

Playing Detective in Escape Hunt

Escape Hunt is a game played indoors with a group of two to eight people. You are locked inside a room with a mystery murder to solve. It is one of the best thing to do in Saigon for families with teenagers. You must work together to find clues that will help you find out who is the killer and how to escape.

Learning Arts in Vinspace

In the expat area of District 2, there is a range of activities for older kids. Some of the more interesting include taking a workshop or joining a summer camp at Vinspace art studio.

Photo Source: Vinspace

Saigon Reunification Palace

The Reunification Palace is a prime example of a must-visit family-friendly attraction that has a special appeal for kids. The roomy but slightly run-down public areas could be the backdrop for a princess fantasy, while the basement war rooms will appeal to hero-types. Making the palace even more appealing is its location, a short walk from the Haagen-Dazs ice cream cafe.

Families traveling to Vietnam with kids should not worry about things to do in Saigon. We only listed our top 10 attractions but there are many more great ideas that will make your stay memorable. You may also want to read our article What to Do in 24-hour in Saigon.


Arabian Night in HCMC

By: Quang Mai

Funds raised from the event will be donated to Nguyen Dinh Chieu School for the Blind in District 10 to renovate and buy equipment for a Multi-Sensory Room that supports 305 students here to develope their academic learning. Multi-Sensory Learning happens when more than one sense is used to acquire and retain information – so applicable for children with multi-disabilities.

Date:

Saturday, 15th September 2012

Time:

From 7pm till late

Venue:

InterContinental Asiana Saigon
Corner of Hai Ba Trung & Le Duan St., Dist. 1, HCMC

Ticket cost:

VND3,165,000 per ticket
VND31,650,000 per table of 10

Bookings:

events@auschamvn.org
Tel: (84-8) 3832 9912

Please click here to visit Arabian Night micro website

XO Tours: Much imitated but never replicated!

By: Barbara Dorothy Clarke

We all know that it is near on impossible to copyright an idea and protect intellectual property in Vietnam.

But what does that mean for your day to day business when you have an original idea and an excellent product?

Luckily although people can steal your ideas – in minute detail – and almost totally replicate your offering - it’s the little things that make a brand – and ensure that brand still stands head high above any pale imitations.

Spend 5 minutes with Tung who is the founder of XO Tours and his passion and enthusiasm for what he does is palpable. It is a simple idea – tourists want to see the real Saigon but not on the back of a grubby motorbike and behind an even grubbier driver. Step up XO Tours with female drivers with class, style and excellent English who are also able to provide a female perspective on life in Vietnam.

XO Tours was the first company in Vietnam to offer affordable motorbike tours with attractive female tour guides dressed in traditional Vietnamese Ao Dai. All the XO guides are handpicked and fluent in English but it is Tung’s focus on service that really sets XO Tours apart.

Tung invests heavily in every detail of his brand and his employees imbue the same high brand values. All his employees are trained to the highest standards – whether it is presentation, language skills, driving skills or personability . All employees are full time and their bikes are upgraded at Tung’s expense to ensure maximum comfort and safety for clients.

This is a business where the customer experience is king – people are buying memories and that is what he aims to deliver. Staff retention is key and bonuses and profit sharing make for motivated and loyal employees who are focused on growing the company by providing the best experience they can.

Customers come from all over the world and a high percentage of business comes from word of mouth – simply the best publicity you can get – being number 1 on Trip Advisor for 2 years can’t be bad either.

Bristling with new ideas, Tung started with basic tours – he was the first to do night tours – then first to do foodie tours. Now others are jumping on the bandwagon - some good -some not so good….

In spite of this, XO Tours is expanding and bookings are full – anything between 18-24 guests go out on any one night.

So competitors can steal his ideas, follow the same routes , and visit the same areas, cosy up to the same suppliers…..

Imitate they may – replicate never!

Do you know of any businesses with similar experiences?

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