Self-Guided Walking Tour in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)

We didn’t want to spend 50 USD on a Saigon city tour however interesting a ride around the city on a Vespa might be, so we opted for a DIY walking tour instead.

We set out at 9 in the morning, and then came back at 3 in the afternoon. Just like our Mekong Delta tour, it was an exhausting walk, but we managed to visit a total of 7 attractions.

Ben Thanh Market

Our first stop was the famous Ben Thanh Market, probably the most complete place in Ho Chi Minh (HCM) to shop for souvenirs to take back home. It was exactly what we were expecting as far as merchandise is concerned. There were stalls upon stalls selling t-shirts, bags, fridge magnets, and other knick-knacks.

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Front of Benh Tanh Market
Suit in a Day Benh Tanh Market Inside Benh Tanh Market
Inside Benh Tanh Market Stalls

Saigon Square

Saigon Square is another shopping spot that’s not very far from Ben Thanh. Head over to this place if you’d like to check out imitations of your favorite brands (e.g., The North Face, Gucci, etc.).

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Saigon Square Front
Inside Saigon Square Saigon Square Stalls
Saigon Square Back

Ho Chi Minh City Hall

After lunch at Lotteria, we headed to the City Hall, a building known for its beautiful French Colonial style. There was nothing to do here other than to marvel at the structure and probably to cool down at a nearby Starbucks.

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Ho Chi Minh City Hall

Ho Chi Minh Statue

In front of City Hall is the statue of Ho Chi Minh, said to be the “Founding Father of the Vietnamese Revolutionary Diplomacy.”

On a side note, don’t forget to check out the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum when in Hanoi. It’s next to the Presidential Palace. Check out these top-rated Hanoi hotels to know where to stay.

Ho Chi Minh Statue

Reunification Palace

We weren’t enthusiastic about paying the entry fee, so we just spent 10 minutes at the benches facing the palace before moving on to the next attraction.

Reunification Palace

Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon

One of the most-photographed spots in HCM, the Cathedral is just a stone’s throw away from the Reunification Palace. Of course, we didn’t pass up the opportunity to take a picture with the Virgin Mary statue in front of it.

In the Northern Vietnamese town of Sapa, there’s also a Notre Dame church. Don’t forget to check it out when you spend an afternoon trekking or walking around town.

Notre Dame Cathedral Ho Chi Minh
Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon Notre Dame Basilica HCM

Saigon Central Post Office

Constructed between 1886-1891, the Central Post Office is said to be the “grandest post office in all of Southeast Asia” — at least according to this website.

Saigon Central Post Office
Inside Saigon Central Post Office Ho Chi Minh Central Post Office

Santi Chai Prakan Public Park Khao San Bangkok

A Quiet Afternoon at Khao San’s Santi Chai Prakan Public Park

During the day, Khao San Road “goes to sleep.”

The blaring music is gone, and most of its nightlife-loving guests are out to see and experience other top attractions and activities that Bangkok has to offer (e.g., Jim Thompson House and Muay Thai training at Master Toddy’s).

That or they’re beating the heat in one of those Khao San hotels with a swimming pool.

Within the Khao San area, there’s a riverfront park that you can go to for a quiet afternoon. Unlike the night markets in Thailand, only a handful of people come here. It’s called the Santi Chai Prakan Public Park.

What can you see at the park?

First on the list is Phra Sumen Fort, which according to Wikipedia is one of the remaining original forts installed to guard the Rattanakosin Kingdom (1782–1932). From afar, this structure looks impressive. At a certain point, it reminds us of our trip to Galle in Sri Lanka.

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Phra Sumen Fort

Bangkok Phra Sumen Fort

The park also gives you a glimpse of Rama VIII Bridge, an iconic bridge in Bangkok that opened in 2002 to help ease traffic at the Phra Pinklao Bridge.

Santi Chai Prakan Public Park Overlooking Rama VIII Bridge

Choose your bench.

Bench at Santi Chai Prakan Public Park

Our favorite spot is the reliefs that can be found at the western side of the park. These art works are, for the most part, a depiction of the Thai people.

Art Reliefs in Santi Chai Prakan Public Park

The Santichai Prakan Pavillion is another structure in the park besides the fort. It’s a Thai-style building, complete with a beautiful roof that includes the characteristic sloped eaves.

Santichai Prakan Pavillion

Doi Inthanon National Park Tour

At Thailand’s Highest Point, It Wasn’t What We Were Expecting (Doi Inthanon Tour)

Conquering Mt. Agung (Indonesia) and Mt. Kinabalu (Malaysia) gave us the confidence to go around Southeast Asia to climb some more mountains. Thailand was hot on our list, and right from the start, we’d had our eyes set on Phu Chi Fa and Doi Inthanon.

Unfortunately, the enthusiasm over these Thai mountains was quickly dampened when we discovered that they are highly established tourist spots.

As we have posted here, Phu Chi Fa is a famous destination that attracts visitors because of its beautiful blanket of clouds at sunrise. To those who are expecting a challenging hike, don’t get your hopes up. Even a pair of flip flops will get you to the peak and back.

As for Doi Inthanon, if you’re a peak bagger, this is going to be the easiest to check off your list. Taking pictures at the marker is part of a tour that takes you to several scenic spots in the mountain. Once again, there will be no hiking involved – at least if you sign up for a similar tour.

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Here, we’d like to give you the highlights of our trip to Doi Inthanon.

Sirithan Waterfall

Our first stop was at Sirithan Waterfall. To get to the view point (image below), we had to go down a hundred or so steps, which can be slippery during the monsoon season. Also read what to expect in Laos during the wet season

Sirithan Waterfall

A Karen Village

According to our guide, the people who now live in this area came from Myanmar through the mountains. Selling their crafts (image below) is a major source of income.

Karen Village in Chiang Mai

Karen Village Weaving Thailand

Wachirathan Waterfall

At this spot, we had our free lunch.

Wachirathan Waterfall

Royal Botanical Garden

The original itinerary did not include the Garden, but because of heavy traffic that day, we had to make a detour.

Flowers at Royal Botanical Garden Chiang Mai Flower Cabbage Royal Botanical Garden
Royal Botanical Garden Chiang Mai

Marketplace

Traffic did not get any better even after about an hour at the Botanical Garden, so we had to make another detour, this time, at a marketplace filled with strawberries and other fruits. We were on the lookout for some exotic fruit such as Bali’s salak (snake fruit), but we didn’t notice anything strange-looking, just lots of strawberries.

Strawberries in Chiang Mai

Doi Inthanon Highest Peak

When we got there, there was a long line of cyclists waiting for their turn at the marker. It brought back memories of Mt. Fansipan.

Highest Spot in Thailand

Twin Chedis

The last part of the tour was spent at the Twin Chedis, a place dedicated to the King and Queen of Thailand. Each chedi (or stupa) has a beautiful garden.

Chiang Mai Royal Chedi

Chiang Mai Twin Chedi

Twin Chedis

White Temple Chiang Rai

Inside Wat Rong Khun (White Temple) | Must-See When in Chiang Rai

There are three main reasons why we went to Chiang Rai. Aside from taking a short sunrise hike to Phu Chi Fa and checking out Wat Rong Seur Ten, we also wanted to see Wat Rong Khun (White Temple).

It’s possible to take the bus, but we opted for convenience, so we took a tuk-tuk from our hotel near the Golden Clock Tower.

White Temple from a Cafe

We can still remember how we felt as soon as we caught a glimpse of the White Temple. We were awestruck by its beauty.

The images we saw online did not give it justice. They were dull and uninteresting no matter the angle, no matter the filter. On a positive note, we thank those images because they did not give everything away.

The temple had a one-way policy, so we spent enough time at each spot to make sense of what we read – the symbolism, the statues, etc.

We initially thought that the “hell” part would scare us, and perhaps it would have had it not for the crowd. There wasn’t a lot of people inside the temple, but we couldn’t go about our business because from time to time, someone would ask us to take their picture.

On a side note, Bounleua Sulilat’s eerie statues at Buddha Park (Vientiane) were more frightening than those skulls and hands.

Of course, we were hoping to chance upon the artist himself, Chalermchai Kositpipat, but we had no luck.

Hell Hands White Temple Chiang Rai Hell White Temple Chiang Rai
Hands in Hell Chiang Rai

A lucky leaf cost 30 baht last February 2017.

Lucky leaf White Temple Pathway Filled with Lucky Leaves
Lucky Leaf Tree

Here are other structures/statues inside the complex.

Chiang Rai White Temple Statue White Temple Statue in Chiang Rai
White Temple in Chiang Rai
White Temple in Chiang Rai Thailand White Temple Complex
Structure inside White Temple Thailand