Of all the many things to see in Ho Chi Minh City, parks and wildlife are not the most well-known. But, though not famed for its fauna like majestic Ha Long Bay or leafy green Sapa, Ho Chi Minh City does in fact host a variety of options for the avid nature lover. Frequent public parks offer shade and tranquility for Saigon's workers; the popular tourist attraction Saigon Zoo and Botanical Garden caters to hundreds of visitors every day; and several wildlife parks or sanctuaries offer a glimpse of Ho Chi Minh City's conservation efforts. All in the context of one of the most infamously bustling cities in Asia.
If you're a fan of national parks and gardens, Ho Chi Minh City has you covered. Rural district Can Gio is famous among locals and tourists alike for its UNESCO conservation site Can Gio National Park, and many tour companies operate in this area. Back in urban Saigon, discover a surprising oasis in peaceful Thanh Da Island, where the fumes and ceaseless traffic of the city are replaced with quiet waterways and gentle ferns.
Another must-see when passing through Ho Chi Minh City is Saigon Zoo and the Botanical Gardens. There has been some concern about the animals’ living conditions among reviewers, but the zoo is none-the-less known on TripAdvisor as one of the City's top destinations for families and a fun place to bring kids. With a variety of rare and exotic animals on show, Saigon Zoo makes for a great day out.
Ho Chi Minh City is also dotted with miniature spaces of green where the average city goer can take a break from Saigon's chaotic streets. Perhaps the most well known of these is 23rd September Park on Pham Ngu Lao, District 1, in which locals and tourists alike often sit to enjoy free Wi-Fi and relax in the shade.
Beware though! If you're looking for a solitary few hours to yourself this is not the best spot to pick! Every afternoon groups of Vietnamese students descend, looking to practise their English with the many foreigners who visit their city, and it's not uncommon to see groups of people exchanging vocabulary, grammar and slang under the trees. This can be a great way to meet people and make friends in Ho Chi Minh City! And quite often English practice can turn into beer and snails on the famous backpacker strip, Bui Vien.
Historically speaking, Ho Chi Minh City’s parks each have their own interesting story. 23rd September Park is named after the day when Ho Chi Minh, known locally as Uncle Ho, rallied the Vietnamese forces against French efforts to regain control of the country in 1945. Other interesting leafy spots include 30-4 Park on Le Duan and Tao Dan Park on Truong Dinh.
There is also a conscious and active wildlife conservation effort in Ho Chi Minh City. Make a visit to Wildlife At Risk (WAR) in the Cu Chi District for a glimpse of Vietnam’s nationwide effort to address the illegal animal trade and the degradation of the nation’s lush biodiversity.