6 Great Weekend Getaways from Saigon
Great weekend getaways from Saigon don't have to involve air travel. Beach lovers can sunbathe just 2 hours away from the city. Wild jungle trekking can be done in just 2 days.
Ho Chi Minh City is a place like no other, a seething and densely-populated mess of traffic, people, construction sites, pollution, narrow alleys and towering skyscrapers.
There are quiet spots and there are parks, but sometimes, visitors and expats are seized by an urge to flee the chaos and the noise.
But where to go? Especially if an overseas jaunt isn't financially viable.
Here's a 6 of the lesser-known places that can provide a soul-soothing return to nature or relaxing beach break, all just a few hours from Ho Chi Minh City.
Cat Tien National Park - 3,5 hours from HCMC
Image source: Vyacheslav Argenberg
The last Javan Rhinoceros in Vietnam, which the Cat Tien National Park was set up to protect, was, sadly, killed in 2010. But there is still a range of interesting and exotic wildlife to see in this national park, 3.5 hours by road from Ho Chi Minh City.
The 720 square kilometer park is home to elephants, sun bears, several species of monkeys, deer, gaur, civets and dozens of bird species. The park can be explored on foot, by bicycle, jeep or kayak. It's also possible to visit the primate and bear rehabilitation centres, both close to the national park headquarters, and stay overnight near Crocodile Lake.
The Ta Lai Longhouse, 12 kms from the park headquarters, is a great base for exploring the national park and the nearby villages, which are home to people from the Ma, Tay and S’tieng ethnic minorities. The longhouse was set up in partnership with the World Wildlife Fund and an NGO, and a portion of the profit goes to support the four Ta Lai villages.
The staff at the Ta Lai Longhouse can organise pre-dawn gibbon treks and half-day or longer treks, as well as visits to Crocodile Lake and other parts of the national park.
Ho Tram Beach Resort - 2 hours from HCMC
With or without kids, Ho Tram Beach Resort is a relaxing beach break only two hours from Ho Chi Minh City. The resort is a stylised traditional village, with winding stone paths leading to the various bungalows and villas, two swimming pools, a tranquil pond and the beach.
Relax on the beach, at the spa, the pool or the beachfront bar, or in your room, either on the balcony, in the four-poster bed or in the full-length bath, a standard feature in the jungle-ish outdoor bathroooms.
Ho Tram Beach Resort
The resort is quite isolated, with dining options limited to the in-house open air restaurant, which serves Vietnamese and Western dishes and overlooks the children's playground on one side, and a stream on the other.
Stu's Explorer Club - Two-day weekend activity
Image source: Stu's Explorer Club
For a real back-to-nature experience, join Stu's Explorer Club on a weekend "rumble in the jungle" adventure that involves hiking, swimming, camping under the stars and eating hearty home-cooked Vietnamese meals. You can choose to drive your own motorbike to the Dong Nai forest, or opt for a transfer in a private car.
These jungle adventures are only overnight excursions but they leave you feeling as refreshed as if you've been away from the city for several days. As an added bonus, Stu provides free leech socks!
Victoria Cruises - 2/3 days cruises
Image source: Victoria Cruises
Tune into the gentle rhythm of Mekong Delta life with a luxury cruise on your own private sampan. Victoria Cruises has several join-in cruises that explore the waterways of the Mekong Delta. But a most peaceful and private option is a private two- or three-day cruise aboard the Song Xanh Sampan, which usually includes a stop at the historic family home of Huynh Thuy Le in Sa Dec.
The character of The Lover in the book of the same name by French author Marguerite Duras was based on Mr Le. The house, built in 1895, remains much as it was when Duras' mother taught at the local school, with photographs on the walls of the actors who starred the 1992 film, The Lover, as well as the real Mr Le and Ms Duras.
A Mekong Delta cruise usually includes delicious food, cycling along narrow local paths and visits of local cottage industries. ,
Mekong Delta Homestay - 3,5 hours from HCMC
For a land-based Mekong Delta getaway, consider a homestay.
Green Village Homestay and Nguyen Shack Homestay near Can Tho, Mekong Riverside Resort near Cai Be and Mango Home Riverside near Ben Tre are all great getting-away-from-it-all choices with comfortable facilities and quiet country settings.
Floating Market In Can Tho
You can use your homestay as a place to loll about in a hammock and recharge your depleted batteries, or as a base for exploring local villages on foot or by bicycle. Most homestays have fishing equipment, and some offer cooking classes and/or cooking demonstrations.
Phan Thiet - 4 hours from HCMC by train
Just 12 kms from Mui Ne is the fascinating fishing village of Phan Thiet, a completely different world to its resort-centric neighbour.
There's no tacky tourist trade here. Phan Thiet is a lively town that's perfect for a weekend of pottering about, eating well and strolling on the beach.
The cost of food and accommodation in Phan Thiet is a fraction of what it is in Mui Ne. So this town, just four hours by rail from Ho Chi Minh City, is ideal for adventurous types who prefer to spend less so they can see more of the fabulous country they're in.
These are just a few examples of great weekend getaways from Saigon. Have you traveled to one of these destinations? What is your favorite spot to escape the city's stress?
About the Author
Barbara and her husband Vu lead street food tours in Ho Chi Minh City's back streets through Saigon Street Eats. Since their first bundle of joy arrived five years ago, Barbara, a former journalist, has become a family travel expert. Follow Barbara's blog here.
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