Ho Chi Minh City Day Trips
Cu Chi Tunnels © Mimsie
Cu Chi TunnelsThe Cu Chi Tunnels system is an underground network of tunnels dug in the 1940s by the Vietnamese as a place to hide during the fight against the French. The network was later expanded and used in the American War. Today the system is more than 150 miles (250km) long. It is comprised of winding tunnels and unlit offshoots, secret trap doors connecting narrow routes to hidden shelters, local rivers and tunnels reaching to the Cambodian border. It was once a sprawling city of improvised hospitals, living quarters, kitchens and fresh water wells, with some tunnels barely large enough to wriggle through. The plan was to launch surprise assaults on the enemy, and then disappear; this strategy was so successful that the superior firepower of the French and American armies was insufficient in the face of continuous ambushes in which the assailants seemed to vanish into thin air. Today many of the tunnels have been enlarged to allow visitors the dirty and claustrophobic experience of crawling through a portion of the underground network, past secret trapdoors and booby traps laid against invasion. The two main sites, Ben Dinh and Ben Duoc, are different in that one was constructed specifically for tourists (Ben Dinh) and the other was actually used in war (Ben Duoc). Due to their popularity with tourists, hard-sell vendors can be a constant hassle among the touring throngs.
Address: Ben Dinh is 22 miles (35km) northwest of Ho Chi Minh City at Tay Ninh and Ben Duoc is 31 miles (50km) in the same direction. ; Telephone: +84 3794 8830; Transport: The tunnels are best visited on a day tour, otherwise a bus from Ben Thanh bus station stops in Cu Chi where public transport services the site.; Opening time: Sunday to Friday 7am-6pm, Saturday 7am-5pm. It is best to arrive before 3pm as it gets quite dark towards late afternoon/evening.
Mekong Delta © William Cho
Mekong DeltaThe delta is a vast network of waterways formed by the Mekong River. It is surrounded by a fertile patchwork of endless green rice paddies, orchards and swamplands, where most of the country's rice is grown. Not only does the Mekong River irrigate what is known as 'the rice bowl of Vietnam', it also serves as a vital form of transport. A unique way of life has evolved among the villagers that have lived on or beside the river for centuries. The best way to experience the delta is by boat, joining the rowing boats and fishermen, rickety houseboats, ferries and traditional sampans on the brown water. On the banks are small villages, vegetable gardens, fish farms and stilted houses. Trading is carried out between boats at floating markets, where whole sections of the river are covered by bobbing merchants who advertise their wares, often hung from long bamboo poles. There are several towns in the region from where visitors can arrange boat trips, if not already on an organised tour. Tourists should try to avoid the rainy season, as the tides may be too high for canal travel. There is an impressive range of local dishes on offer and, besides seafood, there are opportunities for adventurous travellers to sample snake, eel and bat.
Transport: It is best to use a tour operator or local guide to navigate the region.
Mui Ne Harbour © Martin Fisch
Mui NeMui Ne is Vietnam's most western style resort beach. The city itself is a typical Vietnamese fishing community sporting a fleet of beautiful fishing boats but with little to see or do in town. The beach beside it, however, is home to luxury resorts and hotels, while cheaper guesthouses can be found across the road or closer to town. A variety of water activities are available including surfing, kite surfing, jet-skiing, and sailing. The young and tireless will enjoy the beach and roadside bars where cheap drinks and electro music carry on late into the night. Most parts of the long six mile (10 km) stretch of beach resemble the tropical paradise Mui Ne has always been toted as, but other sections have experienced coastal erosion. Travellers should keep this in mind when selecting a resort. There are red-coloured sand dunes close to town, but beyond those lie much larger white sand dunes, which are worth the extra half-hour trip. For a small tip, children will rent out sand sleds and demonstrate how to surf the dunes. One of Vietnam's top golf courses is also just outside the city. Mui Ne is a scenic five-hour motorbike trip from Vung Tau or five to seven-hour highway bus ride from Ho Chi Minh City.
Address: Mui Ne, Phan Thiet, Binh Thuan; Transport: Buses from Ho Chi Minh City cost between 105,000-140,000 VND (up to 7 USD), while the total train journey will be around 400,000 VND (around 18 USD). Scooters or motor bikes are available for hire in Mui Ne, but taxis are safer.