10 romantic things to do in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)

10 romantic things to do in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)

Picture-perfect pagodas, mesmerising puppetry, wondrous wildlife… Alexandra Gregg has handpicked ten romantic things to see and do in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

There's much more to Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh City - otherwise known as HCMC or Saigon - than bustling people and gridlocked traffic. Beneath the shade of towering trees, inside one of the many historical buildings and amid abundant temples lies a sensual, romantic haven. More so than any other city in Vietnam, HCMC is a unique spot where you can delve into a busy market one moment, and relax beneath a riverside pagoda the next.  For lovers the romantic activity list is endless; here's just ten to keep you busy:

1. Hit the ice at the Crescent Mall

The ice-rink at HCMC's Crescent Mall may be relatively miniature, but in a city where the average temperature is around 30°C, ice-skating is a novelty. So what are you waiting for? Grab your skates and take to the frozen platform, hand-in-hand with your partner. It's the perfect spot for a romantic first date in Saigon.

2. Watch water puppetry

Water puppetry in Vietnam puts Punch & Judy to shame. Bursting with light and colour, it's a tradition throughout the country, embedded with mystical origin, dancing and singing. Seeing it with your belle or beau is obligatory; try the Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theatre where dozens of puppets perform acrobatics above a shimmering aqua surface.

3. Take a romantic stroll

With tree-lined promenades amid well-delineated parks and squares, HCMC is ideal for a bit of light perambulation. Candy-coloured narrow buildings - remnants of the city's French colonial heritage - interrupt verdant green spaces making for diverse, interesting views as you stroll along with your loved one at your side.

4. Grab a drink from a sky-high bar

If you really want to get a feel for the size and sheer grandeur of any city, get up high. With Saigon's countless rooftop bars, that's easily done. For a touch of romance try Chill Skybar. A confection of neon lights and mirrored luxury, it's a great place to grab a cocktail and take in panoramic views of the city and the bright lights below.

5. Cruise the Mekong Delta

Whether it's for a week or just two days, aboard a speedboat or an opulent cruiser, a scenic boat trip along the majestic Mekong Delta - starting from Saigon River - is a must. If you love wildlife as much as you love your spouse, this is the romantic trip for you: Javan rhinos, Indonesian tigers and Irrawaddy river dolphins inhabit the waters and its bankside jungles.

6. Relax on Thanh Da Island

'Saigon's Secret Island' (aka Thanh Da Island) is a serene, verdant gem, a corner of paradise hidden within one of the world's busiest cities. It offers a snapshot of rural Vietnamese life within a thriving metropolis, making it a great place for giving back to the local community. Its riverside location means it's good for a touch of romance too: enjoy a candlelit dinner next to the water or rent a boat and row between the traditional villas and stilt houses.

7. Get cultural at the Saigon Opera House

Big band jazz, acrobatics, beautiful ballet, and orchestral, ensemble, solo or opera music… The Saigon Opera House has every kind of performance you might want. The architecture is astounding too, offering decadent ornaments, balustrades and cartouches beneath a roof directly imported from one of the world's most romantic countries: France.

8. Explore the Mariamman Hindu Temple

The sweet smell of incense hangs in the air at the Mariammam Hindu Temple, a 19th century masterpiece decorated with colourful deities and columns. If you'd like your relationship to be blessed this is the place to go - the temple is believed to bestow luck and wealth upon those who worship there. Doors open from 7am-7pm daily; remember to dress conservatively and take off you shoes before going in too.

9. Delve into Vietnamese history at Reunification Palace

The dissonant sixties architecture of the Reunification Palace doesn't exactly ooze romance, but this government building is a great spot for history buffs and a not-to-be-missed icon for those who want to understand Vietnam's past. Home to the president of South Vietnam during the Vietnam War, the new palace was reconstructed in 1962 after being partially destroyed, and was declared a national and cultural relic in 1976. It is a constant and important reminder of the country's troubled story and how it has since recovered.

10. Taste great coffee

Vietnam is the biggest coffee exporter in the world, which is why HCMC's coffee is to die for. It's cheap too, and available almost anywhere! Black coffee with ice (ca phe da) is strong and sweet with an almost chocolate-like richness. Condensed milk can be added, giving you coffee milk ice, or ca phe sua da. In terms of romance, grab your hot beverages from the Panorama Café, on the 33rd floor of the Saigon Trade Centre. It's high position means it offers stunning views of the city - one for the honeymoon photobooks.

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Image: Dreamstime

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